All God’s promises (including those relating to the temple, the people of God, and the land) are fulfilled in Jesus, 2 Cor 1:20. It is in him that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden, Col 2:1-3. It is this which gives a reliable hermeneutic for understanding the entire Bible. We are not at the mercy of idiosyncratic interpretations of individual verses.
How are we to understanding Christ as the fulfilment of the Bible’s teaching about the Temple?
The essence of the temple
Jesus explicitly referred to his own body as the temple, Jn 2:19-21. Now the point of the temple was that it was the place where heaven and earth met; it was the meeting-place between God and his people.
The temple as the dwelling-place of God is made clear in Ezekiel 40-48 (see esp. Ezek 48:35; cf. Rev 21:22). God’s desire is to dwell with his people, Lev 26:11f: this passage itself echoes the dwelling of God with Adam and Eve in Gen 1-3 (see, e.g. Gen 1:28; 3:8) and anticipates God’s pervasive dwelling with his people in the age to come. Just has, in the beginning, God’s presence was not limited to a building, so in the New Jerusalem God will dwell with humanity in the context of the entire New Creation.
Of course, Adam and Eve sinned, and were expelled from the garden temple. And the New Creation has not yet come. In between, Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were constructed as temporary and limited provisions for God’s meeting with his people. See 1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48; 17:24.
Christ as the temple
The NT presents Jesus as the fulfilment of all that God promised concerning the temple. He is the dwelling place of God with humanity. He provides the ‘living water’ (Jn 4:14) that, according to Joel 3:18, will flow ‘from the house of the Lord’. Mark’s Gospel begins with a reference to Mal 3:1, which, in context, is a prophecy concerning the return of the Lord to his temple. Mk 14:58 contains a further reference to Christ as the temple, forming an inclusio with the reference at the beginning.
The people of God as the temple
Then, the epistles extend this thought to include the people of God. Jesus is indeed the cornerstone of the temple, and those who are in him complete the building, Eph 2:19-22. They do so by virtue of the fact that God dwells with them and in them by his Spirit. Paul uses the Mal 3:2 passage to discuss God’s temple – with Christ as the foundation, and God’s people as the superstructure – in 1 Cor 3:9-13. It is clear from 2 Cor 6:16 (alluding to Lev 26:11f; Ezek 37:26f) that Paul sees this as the fulfilment of OT prophecy.
The consummation of the Temple
The promises of Lev 26:11f and Ezek 37:26f are alluded to in Rev 21 as fulfilled in the New Jerusalem. The entire description of Rev 21-22 makes it clear that the city is, in fact, a temple. It is the place where God dwells with his people. From another angle, we may regard this city, this temple, is the entire renewed cosmos. And the description is not that of a building, but of a garden (Rev 22:1f.).
In conclusion: ‘All that God has purposed in the temple is fulfilled first in the person of Christ, then in the NT people of God, and will climax in the eternal abiding of God with his people in the New Jerusalem.’
Based on: Rob Dalrymple, These brothers of mine: a biblical theology of land and family and a response to Christian Zionism. Wipf & Stock, 2015. Chapter 5.