Haggai, Prophet of the Greater Temple: Part 1
Issue No. 337
The prophet Haggai ministered in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity while Zerubbabel was the governor. His main focus and calling was to give the word of the Lord to those constructing the second temple. But, as we will see, his prophecies had applications far beyond his time, and his revelation was actually of a greater temple that was to be built out of living stones.
The first appearance of Christ laid the foundations of this spiritual temple, described in Eph. 2:20-22,
20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Paul wrote this letter more than two decades after the Foundation had been laid for this temple. This new temple had been filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, but this occurred while the temple was yet “being built.” If we look at the pattern of Solomon’s temple, we find that his temple was filled with the glory of God after it had been completed. Further, it was filled with the Spirit at the feast of Tabernacles, not at Pentecost.
For these reasons, even though we value Pentecost and the partial glory that it brought, we must look for a Tabernacles fulfillment at the end of the Age of Pentecost—in other words, in our time—when this temple is completed. It cannot be completed until the final generation, when the last of the “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) have been placed in its walls.
We believe that we are living in that final generation. We base our hope and belief in the fact that the Pentecostal Age was patterned on a 40-year period in the Old Testament, which (we believe) prophesied of a 40-Jubilee allotment for the Age of Pentecost. The 40 years is seen in Israel’s journey in the wilderness and also in the reign of King Saul, who was crowned on Pentecost. The 40th Jubilee of the church in the Pentecostal Age occurred on May 30, 1993. Hence, we are now in a post-Pentecostal interim, making ourselves ready for the Tabernacles Age of the Kingdom.
Both manifestations of Jesus Christ in the earth come with a measure of glory. His first coming secured the glory of Pentecost in Acts 2. His second coming brings a greater measure of glory through the feast of Tabernacles. It is greater because His glory will fill a fully-built temple.
Not in Jerusalem
This temple will not be built in the earthly Jerusalem. If the Jews succeed in building a temple in that location, it will not be filled with God’s glory, because it was abandoned by the presence of God six centuries before Christ. Ezekiel saw the glory depart (Ezekiel 9:3; 10:4; 11:23).
Jeremiah, his contemporary, prophesied in Jer. 7:11 that Solomon’s temple had become “a den of robbers.” He then compared it to Shiloh, the place where the glory of God first rested when Israel entered Canaan (Joshua 18:1).
Three centuries later, the glory of God was taken from Shiloh when God judged the corrupt house of Eli, the high priest who refused to correct his sons. When this happened, Eli’s grandson was born, and he became a prophetic sign, as we read in 1 Sam. 4:21, 22,
21 And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband [who had both died]. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”
When the Ark was taken from Israel (that is, Ephraim), it was given to Judah after David conquered Jerusalem. So Psalm 78:67-69 tells us,
67 He also rejected the tent of Joseph, and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, 68 but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved. 69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which He has founded forever.
Of course, when this psalm was written, they did not realize that the priesthood in Jerusalem too would become as corrupt as it had been in Shiloh under Eli. Two centuries later, Jeremiah finally issued God’s verdict upon that temple. And because so many thought that Jerusalem was the final abode of God’s presence in the earth, the prophet reminded them of what God did to Shiloh. Jer. 7:12-15 says,
12 “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the Lord… 14 “therefore, I will do the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim.”
Did the people really think that God would remain in Jerusalem when He forsook Shiloh for their corruption? God is not partial in His judgments. When God left Shiloh, He never returned or looked back. Instead, he chose a new dwelling place. Likewise, when God left Jerusalem, He never returned or looked back, but chose a new dwelling place in a temple made of living stones. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 3:16,
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Since Pentecost, each of us individually is a temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. But collectively, we are being built as a new temple built on the chief corner stone of Christ and the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Pentecost makes us each Spirit-filled temples of God, but only the feast of Tabernacles can fill the collective temple, built with the many “stones” that Pentecost has filled.
Many, however, believe that the earthly Jerusalem will again see a temple, where the presence of Christ will dwell. They do not understand that when He left Jerusalem as Shiloh, it was because He declared Ichabod on that place. Other prophets do tell us that Jerusalem will be blessed by His presence, but most people fail to understand that there are two Jerusalems: earthly and heavenly.
The Hebrew name for the city is Ierushalayim, which means literally “two Jerusalems.” The Old Testament prophets never clearly distinguish between the two cities in their prophecies. It remains for the New Testament writers to clarify the difference between the two cities. Hence, in Rev. 21 John takes the prophecies of the city in Isaiah 60 and applies them to the New Jerusalem.
This is the key to understanding the mind of God in regard to the new temple that He is building. It is also the key to understanding Haggai’s prophecies of the temple, for even though on the surface he stirred up the people to build the second temple, his prophecies really applied to a greater spiritual temple yet to be built.
In the end, the proof is in the fact that the second temple contained no Ark of the Covenant. Neither was it glorified by God’s presence like what was seen in Solomon’s temple. It appeared that Haggai hoped to see the glory of God fill that temple in Hag. 2:9, a word that was given on the 7th day of Tabernacles (Hag. 2:1). But this did not happen. Neither was that temple “greater than the former” (Hag. 2:9), for it was only a shadow of the greatness of Solomon’s temple.
The fact is that the glory of God could never fill the second temple, even though they built it by divine instruction. The place itself had Ichabod written on it, and the glory will never return to the earthly Jerusalem. His glory has been promised to a greater temple made of living stones.
Thus, Haggai is a prophet of the greater temple, while the one that was built in his time was only a type and shadow, a temporary place to worship and offer sacrifice.
Haggai’s name literally means “festive,” from the Hebrew root word hag, “feast, festival.” Names have meaning and often signify one’s calling or character. In this case, the prophet’s name reveals his calling to prepare the hearts of the people for the feast of Tabernacles and the coming of God’s glory to fill His temple.
The Timing of the Prophecy
Hag. 1:1 says,
1 In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying…
This “Darius” was Darius the Great—the Persian king—not Darius the Mede who took Babylon in Dan. 5:31. The first year of Darius the Great was in 521 B.C. The 31st year of his reign (when he died) was in 491 B.C. His reign is confirmed by a lunar eclipse on Nov. 19, 502 B.C. in his 20th year, and another on April 25, 491 B.C. in his 31st year. The dates of his reign are fixed by astronomy.
The temple was completed toward the end of the sixth year of Darius, according to Ezra 6:15,
15 And this temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
The regnal year began on the first month in the spring; Adar was the 12th month (March), near the end of his 6th year, which historians date as March 15, 515 B.C.
The word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet to both Zerubbabel the governor and to Joshua the high priest in August of 521 B.C. (Darius’ first year). It was the first day of the 6th month, the traditional start of the 40 days leading to the Day of Atonement.
The Time Has Come
Hag. 1:2 gives us the word of the Lord that they received:
2 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’.”
The foundation for the new temple had already been laid when the people first returned to Jerusalem in 534 B.C. Yet the work had stopped, due to Samaritan opposition. This gave rise to the belief that the temple would be restored by the Messiah, so it was useless to try to rebuild it earlier.
Strangely enough, they were right, but not in the way that they thought. The time for building the temple of living stones was indeed yet future and had to await the Mediator of the New Covenant. Their problem was that they did not know that they were supposed to build an interim temple.
If they were aware of Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks, then they may have argued that the Messiah’s coming was yet far off. Cyrus had issued his decree in 534 B.C., and this dispute arose just 13 years later in 521. (Actually, the 70 weeks did not begin its countdown until a second decree—the decree of Artaxerxes was issued in 458 B.C.)
It is likely that the people in Haggai’s day believed that the Messiah would build the second temple, with wood and stone, perhaps by miraculous signs and wonders. It is highly unlikely that they would have discerned a spiritual temple, such as Paul described in Eph. 2:20-22, but yet they were correct in saying that the Messiah would build it.
The Homeless God
Haggai then tells them the real problem:
3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate? 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! 6 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.”
It is apparent from this that most of the people were quite poor and unable to support such a building project. Perhaps this was one of the reasons they thought it was not yet time to build a temple. Their building fund was empty.
However, Haggai turns this question around and uses their poverty as evidence that the temple should be built.
7 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways! 8 Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. 9 You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”
In other words, their poverty was brought about by their failure to build the temple. Most of them, though poor, had houses, while God was homeless. So who was the poor one, them or God? In a way, says Haggai, God had deprived them because they had deprived God of a home.
God Seeks a Home
When Solomon had finished building the first temple, he prayed, saying in 1 Kings 8:27,
27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!
In his wisdom, Solomon knew that an earthly house, no matter how splendid, was not suitable for the Creator of the Universe. Yet he offered no solution to this problem, for it was not until Christ had finished His first work that the Holy Spirit came to indwell human flesh. Only then did the believers really understand the true desire and plan of God.
The revelation of Sonship, which was unknown in previous ages, was made plain by the virgin birth of Christ and its extension in the experience of all who have been begotten by the Spirit. Paul tells us in Col. 1:25-27,
25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”], which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Paul considered himself to be a steward of the word of God, specifically of the secret of Sonship. The truth—that we are living temples of God and dwelling places for the Spirit of God—is considered blasphemous among carnal religions which see only servanthood and submission as the highest goal attainable by those seeking God. The idea that one might attain Sonship is too much for them to believe.
Even those who believe the word of Sonship often have very little understanding of it, not knowing how to apply it to their creeds and teachings. Unfortunately, many Bible translators and scholars have not understood Sonship either, and for this reason they have mistranslated Sonship passages without realizing it.
The New Testament Greek word gennao holds one of the keys to understanding Sonship. Dr. Bullinger comments on this word in his notes on Matt. 1:2 where we read that “Abraham begat Isaac.” He explains the word “begat.”
“begat. Gr. gennao. When used of the father = to beget or engender, and when used of the mother it means to bring forth into the world.”
Hence, Matt. 1:2 says “Abraham begat Isaac,” for if the apostle had been speaking of Sarah, the word gennao would have meant to say that Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Men beget, while women give birth. The same Greek word carries both meanings, and it is for us to understand if it applies to a father or a mother.
Though all good Bible translators know this technically, their lack of understanding of Sonship often causes them to render gennao incorrectly. The sons of God are those begotten by God, who is their heavenly Father. The motherhood of God nurtures and brings to birth, but the fatherhood of God begets sons in the earth.
The KJV translates 1 Cor. 4:15 correctly, saying,
15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten [gennao] you through the gospel.
Here Paul pictures himself as a spiritual father to the Corinthian church, and the translators tell us that Paul had “begotten” them by the gospel. Continuing this metaphor, the gospel was the spiritual seed that had impregnated them with “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
However, we find the translators to be in error in 1 Pet. 1:23, where the KJV reads,
23 Being born again [gennao], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Here Paul was comparing two kinds of “seed.” The “corruptible seed” is what produces flesh, which is both corruptible and mortal. So Peter backs up his statement in the next verses, telling us,
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; 25 but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
Fleshly seed begets fleshly sons, for we know that Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:6,
6 That which is born [gennao] of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born [gennao] of the Spirit is spirit.
While it is unclear whether Jesus was referring to birth or conception, His point was that only spiritual seed could bring forth spiritual sons. Fleshly sons, as Peter tells us, are begotten of corruptible seed which “is as grass.” Like beautiful flowers, they spring up for a while and then die. It is clear, then, that because Peter was speaking of “seed,” verse 23 above should have been rendered:
23 Being begotten [gennao], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Such mistranslations may seem insignificant, but they have contributed to a lack of understanding. For this reason, Christians talk about being “born again,” rather than being “begotten from above,” as John 3:7 ought to read. The term “born again” puts the focus upon the “son,” rather than on the seed that begat him by the will of God.
The impregnation of Christ in you satisfies God’s desire for a house like no structure of wood and stone can do.