Christ came to the temple with an invitation and a warning. Jesus stood in the last temple and invited everyone to come under his merciful wings of protection. He called out to the blind, the sick, the leprous, the poor, the lost, everyone to come and find healing and forgiveness. But the religious crowd refused his offer. So Christ testified of them, “You would not!” (Matthew 23:37).
As I read this, a question arises: here in the New Testament, would God dispose of an old work the same way he did in the Old? Would he abandon the old thing and raise up a new one? Would he cast off that which rejected his offers of grace, mercy and awakening? Yes, he would. Jesus answered those who rejected him by saying, “Your house have left you desolate” (23:38). He told them, “This temple is now your house, not mine. I’m leaving it. And I leave what you wasted and deserted.”
He then added, “I say unto you, You will not see me from now on, until you will say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord” (23:39). He was declaring to them, “My glory is no longer in this old work. I’ve now rejected it. And the remainder of your religious life will be conducted without God’s presence. I also turn over this old work to the flesh. Your shepherds won’t be spiritual men, but ministers of flesh.”
Doing the King’s business is never an excuse for neglecting the King.
The disciples couldn’t believe Jesus’ words. They urged him, “Master, look at the magnificence of the temple, the awesome structures. Consider its history, the centuries of tradition. This can’t possibly be left in ruins. Are you saying it’s over?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it’s over. This old work is finished. It’s dead and gone in my eyes. I’m going to do a new thing now.”
Think of it: here stood mercy and grace Incarnate, saying, “This old thing isn’t mine anymore. I now leave it utterly desolate. It has absolutely no chance of being revived.” Then Jesus moved on to Pentecost, to the beginning of a new thing. He was about to raise up a new church, not a replica of the old. And he would make it brand-new from the foundation up. It would be a church of new priests and people, all born again in him.
Meanwhile, the old work would drag on. Crowds would still come to the temple to observe their dead rituals. Shepherds would still rob the poor, adulterers would sin at will, and people would drift into idolatry. Each day, the old work would grow increasingly dry and weak. Why, you ask? God’s presence was no longer in it.
This brings us to the church of the present day. Let me ask you: is what you see going on in the church today representative of who Jesus is? Is what we’re seeing truly the church triumphant, the spotless bride of Christ? Does it reveal to a lost world the very nature of God? Is this the best that God’s Spirit can produce in these last days?
Or, has the modern-day visible church become the old thing? Has it become defiled, teetering on the very brink of being replaced by some new work? In short, will God make a change one last time before Jesus returns? Will he abandon what has become corrupt, and raise up a final, glorious church?