The True Temple — the gospel in Haggai

For other entries in this series, click here.

Over the past year and a half, i have heard one too many (better: way too many) legalistic, eisegetical, Christless sermons on the book of Haggai. As such, i am compelled to make it the next book i discuss in this series.

The book of Haggai, in its original context is assuredly about the rebuilding of the temple of God, and that should assuredly be discussed in preaching through the book. So please don’t hear me saying that the book is not about that.

Haggai was a prophet to Israel after the people returned from exile in Babylon. Haggai was one of the last seven books of the Old Testament to be written (i consider 1 & 2 Chronicles the same book; the others being Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Malachi, and Esther). Cyrus of Persia had ended the Jewish exile in 536 B.C. Sixteen years later, in the second year of the reign of Darius of Persia (cf. Haggai 1:1), the people are back in the land but the temple has not been rebuilt. For this reason, “the word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” (1:1).

The book can be broken down into the following outline:

  • God’s first speech (1:2-11)
  • The peoples’ response (1:12-15)
  • God’s second speech (2:1-9)
  • Haggai interviews the priests (2:10-19)
  • God makes a promise to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)

God’s first speech to the people is accusing them of neglecting their worship of Him. They respond by beginning their work on the temple. About a month later (cf. 1:15-2:1), God’s word comes back to Haggai, and He gives a second speech; this speech can be broken into two parts: 1) The newly built temple is nothing like the old one [2:3-5], and 2) A future temple will be even more glorious than the old one [2:6-6].

I believe the thesis statement in this book is found in Haggai 1:5, primarily because it gets repeated in 1:7, 2:15 (sort of), and 2:18 (twice). God tells the people, “Think carefully about your ways.” Or, in my own words:

Do some introspection on the quality of your worship of God!

I realize that my paraphrase is more than Haggai 1:5 says, but in context, this is exactly what God is telling His people to do. For an Old Testament Jew, the way they worshipped God was at the temple. So if there was no temple, there was no worship of God.

For a Christian, the way we worship God is through the body and blood of Christ. In essence, Jesus is our temple. This is why God allowed Titus to destroy the Jewish Temple in 70 AD, as Jesus had prophesied (cf. Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2). Jesus is the avenue in which people come to worship God now; to allow the Temple to stand—the old way people were to approach God—is to confuse people on how God desires to be worshipped. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He did not say, “No one comes to the Father except through Me or the Temple.” And rightly so. Jesus is better. In the Old Testament, only the High Priest was allowed to be in God’s presence, and that only once a year; in the New Testament, we are told to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (Hebrews 4:16).

If Christ is absent from our worship services, our worship is wrong, and we must take some time to reflect on how we can rebuild our worship so that it becomes pleasing to God.

And even in Haggai, the grace of God and promise of Christ—as a better Temple—is clear. Haggai 2:6-9 says,

For the LORD of Hosts says this: “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations so that the treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD of Hosts. “The silver and gold belong to Me”—⌊this is⌋ the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the LORD of Hosts. “I will provide peace in this place”—⌊this is⌋ the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.

There are several clues in this text that show that Christ is in mind. God is the subject of all of these verses, and God is the author of salvation (cf. Ephesians 1:3-13). Nations are mentioned as coming into the temple. Jesus commanded His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). God will provide peace. Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace” according to Isaiah 9:6.

This is not a text about tithing. It is not a text about how to make your church bigger. This is not a text about why God has promised to bless your local church.

This is a text about Christ. He is better. He is our access to God. We cannot twist these words to make them about us in any way. We must interpret this as being a promise of Christ.

And if Haggai 2:6-9 is not enough, God inspired Haggai to write 2:20-23 as well. Here we read:

The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah: I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and destroy the power of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overturn chariots and their riders. Horses and their riders will fall, each by his brother’s sword. On that day”—⌊this is⌋ the declaration of the LORD of Hosts—“I will take you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, My servant”—⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration—“and make you like My signet ring, for I have chosen you.” ⌊This is⌋ the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.

The first thing to notice is that verse 21 contains the exact same phrase as 2:6. “I am going to shake the heavens and the earth.” This connects both of these passages. God promises here that judgment is coming. In essence, God is promising the Conquering Messiah—a promise that has yet to be fulfilled, but most assuredly will. It is verse 23 that is important. “On that day—⌊this is⌋ the declaration of the LORD of Hosts—I will take you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, My servant—⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration—and make you like My signet ring, for I have chosen you. ⌊This is⌋ the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.”

“On that day” refers to the day of Messiah’s judgment.
“I will take you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel . . . and make you like My signet ring” means that God’s promises will be confirmed through Zerubbabel.
“I have chosen you” means that Zerubbabel belongs to God, a HUGE encouragement and sign of grace.
“⌊This is⌋ the declaration of the LORD of Hosts” is repeated three times and explains that God certainly means what He says here.

To fully make sense of what God is promising Zerubbabel, we must look at a list of names in Luke 3:23-27. “Jesus was about 30 years old and was thought to be the son of Joseph, ⌊son⌋ of Heli, . . . ⌊son⌋ of Joanan, ⌊son⌋ of Rhesa, ⌊son⌋ of Zerubbabel, ⌊son⌋ of Shealtiel, ⌊son⌋ of Neri.” Zerubbabel is eighteen generations ahead of Christ.

God chose Zerubbabel to carry on the line through which all of God’s promises would be “Yes!” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20). And all of those who are in Christ are chosen along with Zerubbabel, and we will be protected from Christ’s Judgment when He returns.

The book of Haggai is hugely Christ-centered. I pray that you can see it from this brief blog post.

More than that, though, i pray that you are a believer in Christ. In Haggai 2:10-19, God explains to the people that everything they do is defiled by sin, but He promises blessing to them anyways because of the promise of the future temple—Christ. We must place our faith in Jesus—the one who took the defilement of sin for us—so that we can be made right with God and allowed to worship Him forever. Christ died. God judged Him. But He rose again! Place your faith in Him and His holy life will be applied to you!

He can return any moment! Trust Him today!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura

Thanks for reading.

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