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Haggai: Building the Temple of God

Commentary and Notes on Haggai 2:10-23

Paul J. Bucknell

C. Restoring His Favor upon Them (Haggai 2:10-23)

1) Christ the Priest (Haggai 2:10-19)
2) Christ the King (Haggai 2:20-23)

God tells us, in somewhat concealed terms, but equally specific and challenging the full

A. Identifying the Problem (Haggai 1:1-11)
B. Responding to His Message (Haggai 1:12-2:9)
C. Restoring His Favor upon Them (Haggai 2:10-23)

significance of this latter glory. Once the greater glory is mentioned, one can hardly go on speaking about the honor of the first. The honor of the physical temple is only in that it predicts a greater one. So this last section focuses on the two special significances of this rebuilt temple. He shares of the glories of the coming age of the Messiah. More is said about Christ as the New Temple but this is insufficient on its own in a world dominated by earthly kings. He would conclude how the Messiah would also be king. Let's look at these two sections now in somewhat detail.

1) Christ the Priest (Haggai 2:10-19)

How interesting how hard the people of God worked once they agreed to do God's will.

The essential problem never is the money.
    The real problem is not the lack of workers.
        Nor is the problem the lack of trained workers.

Nothing is made holy from holy things. If the holy temple couldn't make something holy, then we should stop thinking that the transfer of holiness is made by touching holy things.

The real problem must always be traced back down to the heart of the people. They are disobedient. This is why we see the exhortation starting in Haggai 2:10 to speak so powerfully.

The message seems rather awkward at first. We first see a ruling from the priests.

They are asked whether something holy can by contact with the holy object make something holy? The question is very insightful. The priests answered, "No."

"If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?" "And the priests answered and said, "No." (Haggai 2:12).

In this simple answer of "No," the 'magic' of the temple is put aside. The people are not going to be holy because they have a new holy temple in their midst. Instantly, we see all of our holy water, holy charms, holy Bible, etc., cannot make the average man holy. These means of becoming holy are mere vain imaginations of man. Nothing is made holy from holy things. If the holy temple couldn't do it, then we should stop thinking that the transfer of holiness is made by touching holy things.

But then, Haggai asks another question.

Then Haggai said, "If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?" And the priests answered and said, "It will become unclean." (Haggai 2:13).

We again see both an insightful question and answer. If a man is unclean from touching a corpse, what will happen if he touches one of these holy priests? They of course will become unclean and need to take their turn in going through a seven day purification process (Numbers 19:11). The spiritual truth is that which is unclean can make holy people unclean.

Haggai taught them basic spiritual truths from the Old Testament Law. Notice his conclusion in 2:14.

Then Haggai answered and said, ""So is this people. And so is this nation before Me," declares the LORD", and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. (Haggai 2:14).

Haggai seems to bring both of these truths together in one powerful conclusion: "Every work of their hands ..what they offer there is unclean." He is pointing out the need for a real genuine temple that serves better than the one they have just made.

#1 The need: They are sinful. They need to be holy.
#1 The problem: They cannot get holy by visiting or even touching the temple.
       So how can they become acceptable before God?

#2 The need: Anything that touches the dead is unclean.
#2 The problem: Their flesh is defiled and spiritually dead. Anything they touch to offer is contaminated.
      So how can they offer any holy before God?

People are plagued by their uncleanness. Every where they go they are reminded of how unacceptable they are before God. Haggai is not just referring to their reluctance in rebuilding the temple of God but the ongoing problems after the temple is rebuilt. They are an unclean people. The things they have offered up are defiled sacrifices. All their service has been defiled.

Haggai is here speaking about the greater glory of the rebuilt temple. The old temple just can't do the needed job. We find all through the Book of Hebrews the theme of the insufficiency of the Old Covenant.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14).

Notice the Lord is making a contrast in how He would deal with them. Before by their own works, they would suffer under the curse of the Law.

"I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew, and hail;
yet you did not come back to Me," declares the LORD. (Haggai 2:17).

Something special has happened, almost magical though, when the temple was founded. What happened on that 24th day of the ninth month? This is clearly the day the temple of the LORD was founded.

"Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the LORD was founded, consider: (Haggai 2:18).

Something special happened on that day. In fact it refers to not to the rebuilding of the physical temple. This is the greater glory that was referred to earlier in 2:5,9. Haggai shows us that the physical temple cannot really meet our spiritual needs. This is why there would be a spiritual temple that was prefigured in the rebuilding of the old one. The glory of the second one would be greater.

The first time this date is used refers to Christ's first coming and His glorious work on the cross. This was the day that would usher in a day of great blessing. We understand this only by looking back and seeing from John 2:19 that the temple will be raised up in three days on His resurrection.

Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19).

We can understand this only to mean that Christ is the true temple and through His work on the cross and the resurrection the New Temple is erected. He is the means by which we come to God. True holiness and righteousness that enable us to come before God does not originate by touching holy things but from entering God's presence through Christ's work. We are saved through faith in Christ Jesus, not by works. Our works cannot make us holy because we start out with sin.

The same can be said for a Christian's practical righteousness. It only comes through faith in Christ's work. It cannot be done from the flesh. Anything that the flesh touches is corrupted. It cannot bring any holy thing before God. The flesh is the corpse. Anything that comes from the flesh will be corrupted and unacceptable before God. Only those things that come from Christ's work, the Spirit, have life.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-5).

We don't want to stretch the scriptures and yet this seems to be the powerful message here. The blessing of the New Covenant came with Christ's first coming. Christ came humbly without all the fanfare of the glory of the first temple. He came in the form of man, humble and simple living. Yet He accomplished the greatest glory possible. Christ is the temple of God. He is the means by which we can commune with God and live in His presence. The Gospel age brought this blessing to all who would trust in Christ.

"Yet from this day on I will bless you." (Haggai 2:19)

The Church, the Temple of God

Perhaps, we should add one more note. The blessing began at the rebuilding of the temple. There were earlier attempts to rebuilding the temple but they failed. But this one was sure. Christ is called the temple.

Christ's body, however, the church is also called the temple of God.

In whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; (Ephesians 2:21).

Perhaps this lag of time from when the temple was being rebuilt and its completion refers to the building up of the body of Christ until its completion. We further see that the building will take a bit longer to build. God's people were to be living stones that formed the temple. The Spirit of God would make each one of them a stone. The temple was founded on that one day, but it would take more days to build it.

And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." (1 Peter 2:4-6).

The completion is not mentioned here perhaps to show the indefinite time required for this process. When the elected all come to believe, then the temple will be built in its fullness. The Great Commission will be finally accomplished when the completion of the bride that was purchased by His blood is saved in time.

"I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine; and all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. (John 17:9-10).

2) Christ the King (Haggai 2:20-23)

This last section of Haggai starts and ends on the same date. The last time the date is used in 2:20 shows the Word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the same day. Christ would come as the Great Priest (temple) as is seen in the point above, but the temple would not have any security in a land where foreign kings ruled. So this last section is a quick confirmation that the greater glory of that house will also give Christ rule over the countries, not only some hearts. Here in Christ alone is the position of the priest combined with the position of king. Christ is both Priest and King and in this sense is Melchizedek.

What does is mean for Christ to be king?

This is briefly described by prophetic language in verses 2:21-23. We first see that the Lord speaks to the political governor. The Lord is going to shake up the heavens and earth.

"Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah saying, "I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. (Haggai 2:21).

Remember that the significance of this latter temple will be much greater than the second. God is going to overthrow all the kingdoms of the earth. There are many New Testament verses that confirm that this is what is going to happen in the end of the latter days upon Christ's return.

However, before we look for our guns and missiles, we need to understand that the kingdom of God is not of this world. Christ is now king but His kingdom is not of this world. God's kingdom advances through prayer and righteous deeds.

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36).

In a twist, Zerubbabel is used to represent the Davidic ruler. As a royal descendant, we see that the royal line would continue right to Christ Jesus.

And after the deportation to Babylon, to Jeconiah was born Shealtiel; and to Shealtiel, Zerubbabel; (Matthew 1:12).

Christ is God's servant. He is like the seal that is engraved on a ring that is kept right next to the Master. All authority is given to Christ. True comfort is given to the Israelites of Haggai's time by showing them that God had something more and greater in mind than the simple temple construction that they were working on. Just as Christ's priestly work was humbly done on the cross, so Christ's kingship is hidden behind the scenes for a little while.

Although Christ is priest and king now, we see that the fullness of these positions is being hidden for a while until all things are fulfilled.

Whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. (Acts 3:21).


Clearly we are first instructed to find our holiness not in some temple that might be here or there but in Christ Himself. When anyone turns from His own life and believes on Jesus Christ, he becomes a new creature in Christ. He enters the new age of blessing. We must refuse to think this blessing is only one of the future. It has to do with the here and now.

Today, the temple of Christ is being built on the foundation. This is not complete. God has called us to participate in this process of evangelism by which we help others into His kingdom. This is the age of His blessing. We can ask whatever we wish and find that He hears. Christ is truly living in our midst.

However, just as they sought Christ rather than the things that they had, we should also even after believing Christ not seek things but Christ.

If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1,2).

He alone is Lord and will soon shake all the things that we see. We should not trust what we build up here but instead put our full hope in Christ who is to come.

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." (Revelation 19:7).

Our purity as His people will depend upon how Christ-focused we will be. If our hearts get involved in things on the earth, then we will miss the significance of the new temple.

And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. (Revelation 21:22).

Summary of Theology

  • We are awed by seeing numerous truths painted so clearly before our eyes by the pen of Haggai.

  • The inability of man to escape his sin and find a way to God. Give man opportunity and the temple still wouldn't be built. Man is always to preoccupied on his own earthly comforts. God needs to come and build the temple.

  • The inability of religion even of the highest quality to save man for man at best is a good sinner. He is unclean and all he offers is unclean. He needs a righteousness beyond himself such as in Christ. Man is to repent from his ways and focus on Christ.

  • The greater glory is in Christ Jesus, both as priest and king. And yet the less glorious rebuilt temple well typifies Christ's earthly ministry. We see the humble service of Christ as He readies Himself for the coming glory.

  • Christ as the true Temple. The Temple speaks of all the services necessary to come before God. In summary, Christ is the priest who is able both to offer and to perfectly intercede for His people.

  • Christ as the true King. King Darius and other kings might last a bit. We need to be patient and work under their authority, but they must work under Christ's authority. In time He will reveal His glory.

  • God is busy building up the Temple, the church at this time. He is preoccupied with making every one present that should be present. We ought to be diligent in working with Him in this last Great Work of His before Christ returns.

  • True blessing comes only when a person comes to the New Temple, that is Christ. The old things are taken away, behold all things have become new. Blessing is redefined starting with spiritual union with God through Christ but incorporates everything else that we would ever need to complete His will.



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