The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (6c)

As noted earlier the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Now, Christians themselves are the Temple.

‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph 2:13-22)

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are..” (I Cor 3:16-17)

“Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (I Pet 2:4-6)

The point of all of this is clear. The Temple in Jerusalem was the presence of God on earth. For Jews, there was nothing as holy as this. So, when Jesus identifies His body with the Temple and claims authority over it, He is telling us that He Himself is that locus of Holiness, both in this world and the next. And we ourselves as baptized Christians are ourselves become temples of the Lord. We may fail to live up to this standard, but we do indeed partake of God’s holiness. And, of course, there will be no temple in heaven. The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible describes heaven in this way:

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; … And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day — and there shall be no night there; they shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21: 1-3, 22-27)

It seems that the Ark of the Covenant was taken from the Temple when the Babylonians sacked the Temple in 585 BC. It’s location now is a matter of conjecture.

Some Jewish sources suggest that the Ark was hidden in caves beneath the Temple when the Babylonians were attacking the Temple. On the other hand, there is a strong, ancient tradition in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that they possess the Ark of the Covenant. Other sources suggest it was in Rome or someplace else in Europe. Even now people search for the Ark. But this is difficult. Because of the political situation in Jerusalem, excavation beneath the Temple Mount is restricted. Also, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church while claiming that it has the Ark refuses to show it to the world. As far as Rome goes, Rome itself was sacked by the barbarians, so what happened to the Ark after this?

The Ark also occurs in secular culture. We may remember the 1980 movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The search for the Ark is the theme of this movie. In general, we see many instances in popular culture from movies, books, video games, etc. But we should never forget that the Ark is a holy Jewish and Christian relic. It does not have magical powers but is a reminder of God’s covenant and presence with humanity.

Fr. John