“Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations” (Haggai 2:6,7. All scriptures are from the NASB).
by Ernie Kuenzli
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Eighteen years after Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity, the temple still had not been rebuilt.1 Even though Cyrus, king of Persia, had issued a proclamation to rebuild the temple and the foundation had been laid with much rejoicing, the effort had been stymied by Israel’s enemies (Ezra 1:1-11, 3:6,8-11, 4:4-24).
Now, in the second year of Darius the king, the word of the Lord came by way of Haggai to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘This people says, ‘The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.’ … Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?’ ” (Haggai 1:2,4).
Israel Neglects Rebuilding God’s House
Hampered by their enemies, the returned Israelites had shifted their focus to rebuilding their homes and temporal lives to the neglect of rebuilding God’s house. This neglect had hurt them in temporal ways, as God explained, “Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes. … Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,’ says the LORD” (Haggai 1:5-8).
Bro. Charles Russell wrote, “A considerable portion of the difficulty lay in a lukewarmness toward religion. The people, it would seem, had provided themselves with comfortable houses, gardens, etc., while the Temple, the Lord’s house, lay desolate.”2 Therefore, God sent Haggai to the Jews to both reprove and encourage them (Ezra 5:1,2, 6:4).
This connection between Israel’s service to God and their temporal prosperity was part of God’s promise under the Law Covenant. If Israel was “careful to do all His [God’s] commandments,” they would be blessed (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). On the other hand, if Israel did “not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes,” they would be punished (Deuteronomy 28:15-45). Because of their neglect of rebuilding God’s house, the curses of Haggai 1:5-8 had befallen the Jews.
Today many Christians mistakenly think temporal prosperity means a good spiritual standing with the Lord. They forget that the Christian is under a covenant by sacrifice (Psalm 50:5). Today wickedness and evil prosper and are rewarded, not righteousness. “So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape” (Malachi 3:15).
For the true Christian, the reward for their sacrifice and service to the Lord is shown in their spiritual, not temporal, prosperity — nearness to God and His son Jesus in their heart condition, character, and way of life. By being conformed to the image of God’s dear son, they will have followed the apostle Paul’s advice to build upon the foundation of faith in Christ with gold, silver, and precious stones (Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). If the Christian adds to his faith moral excellence, knowledge [of God, His Truth and His son], self-control, perseverance [in obeying God], godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, an “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:5-11). This is the prosperity the true Christian seeks.
(1) Editor’s Note: Cyrus released the Jewish people in the first year of his reign. He reigned 9 years total, his son Cambyses 8 years, and the book of Haggai begins in the 2nd year of Darius Hystaspes (Haggai 1:1). Thus, Haggai’s prophecy was 18 years (9 + 8 +1) after Israel’s return to the land.
(2) Bro. Charles Russell, Reprints of Zion’s Watchtower, “Encouraging the Temple Builders,” page 2520.
Israel Responds to Haggai’s Message
“Then Zerubbabel … and Joshua … with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the words of Haggai the prophet. … And the people showed reverence for the LORD” (Haggai 1:12). The Israelites’ positive response showed their reverence to God. This changed Haggai’s message from rebuke to encouragement. “ ‘I am with you, declares the LORD,” which further stimulated the Israelites’ rebuilding efforts (Haggai 1:13). “So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel … and the spirit of Joshua … and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (Haggai 1:14).
Haggai’s message of encouragement continues in chapter 2, even though the rebuilt temple would not be as glorious as Solomon’s. “ ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua … and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you’ ” (Haggai 2:3-4).
Once Again Shake the Heavens and the Earth
Haggai’s message then became a prophecy of a future time when a greater temple, pictured by Solomon’s temple and Zerubbabel’s temple, will be completed. “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory … The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former … and in this place, I will give peace’ ” (Haggai 2:6,7,9).
Perhaps the reference to shaking reminded the Jews of the scene at Mount Sinai when the Law Covenant was given to Israel, and “so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling’ ” (Hebrews 12:21). However, Haggai’s reference was to the future — when “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
The apostle Paul quotes Haggai’s prophecy in Hebrews 12:26-27, writing “ ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ (27) This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” The institutions of this present evil world — religious, financial, social, and political — will be swept away so that a “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells,” can take their place (2 Peter 3:13).
The new (spiritual) heavens were illustrated by both Solomon’s temple and by the temple that Zerubbabel and the Israelites were then building. The Apostle Paul describes Christ and the church as a temple, saying “You are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21). He adds, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Building the Spiritual (Anti-Typical) Temple
The rebuilding of God’s house in Haggai’s day is a beautiful picture of how the church, God’s spiritual temple, is being built during the Gospel Age, individual by individual. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of this temple and all of his faithful followers are being shaped, fitted, polished, and prepared as copies of him (living stones) for a place in this spiritual temple, whose builder and maker is God (1 Peter 2:5,7, Hebrews 11:10).
As God’s workmanship, we are being prepared for a place in this spiritual temple (Ephesians 2:10). “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God” (Revelation 3:12).
The glory of this spiritual temple will be greater than the glory of either Zerubbabel’s or Solomon’s temple. Through this spiritual temple, God will bring peace to all nations. Jesus, the temple’s chief cornerstone, will be the prince of peace. Through the Christ, head and body, God will extend peace as a river both to Israel and all mankind (Isaiah 9:6, 66:12, Zechariah 9:10).
God Will Bless Israel’s Efforts
Haggai continues, “But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the LORD … Yet from this day on I will bless you” (Haggai 2:14,15,19). God saw the intent of the Israelites’ hearts and their desire to rebuild His house and was prepared to bless their building, that they might be successful. In a similar way, God blesses the church throughout the Gospel Age though their efforts outwardly seem feeble and are accepted only through the merit of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” and when the spiritual temple is completed, it will be filled with the glory of God (Philippians 2:13, Revelation 15:8).
Haggai’s Last Words
In Haggai’s final words, God emphasizes the grand scope of the future shaking, saying, “I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another” (Haggai 2:22). The shaking will overthrow the authority (thrones) and power of the nations and overthrow the doctrines (horses), leaders (riders) and worldly organizations (chariots) of mankind by the sword of each other.
What a succinct description of the work of the Lord’s Great Army and the resulting battle of Armageddon, when every man’s hand will be against his neighbor (Ezekiel 38:21, Zechariah 14:13). This trouble will prepare the way for the spiritual temple, when completed, to bring peace to all.
Haggai’s message reminds us that the construction of the spiritual temple (new heavens) has been underway during this Gospel Age. Its glory when completed will be greater than either of Israel’s earthly temples and it will bring peace to the people. May Haggai’s words spur us on to greater service in the building of God’s spiritual temple, especially in helping one another become stones for this new temple.