Portable Temples

These are the notes for a talk I gave which some of you may find useful. Most of the quotes are from NIV but you can also see the ESV also if you wish.

John Robertshaw  

Bible References - Touch or hover over the Bible references to bring up some of the verses in ESV. Follow more» to get the whole passage. If it's not working, touch another part of the page and try again.


Have you ever been camping?

  • It may surprise you to know - I have an old tent that is over 70 years old
  • It was made a couple of years after the 2nd world war
  • It's getting a bit frayed around the edges but I am very attached to it
  • Surprisingly, they actually still make the same model today
  • The manufacturer only made 2 models
  • Diane (my wife) has one of the other model - it's not quite as old as mine
  • Diane and I agreed some years ago to share ownership of our tents
  • We both sleep in our own tents every night but next to each other
  • And I’ve got mine with me right here!!
  • In fact we are all campers in our tents
  • How is your tent today?


2 Corinthians 5:1-2 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,

  • Paul was a tent-maker and knew a lot about tents!


2 Peter 1:13-14 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.

  • Paul and Peter both thought of their bodies like tents which were not going to last forever
  • And they knew very well what their body was for.
  • It was for serving God and specifically for  spreading the good news of the gospel
Your Body
  • Your body is your only real asset here on earth
    • Its your mind - what you think
    • It's your ears- what you hear
    • Your eyes - what you see
    • It's your mouth - what you say
    • It’s your hands - what you do
    • It’s your feet - where you go
  • Our job here is not to just survive in our bodies or enjoy our bodies
  • It is to use our bodies to see God’s kingdom come on earth
  • That is the purpose of our bodies, our tents
  • That is why we need to look after our tents very carefully!

A couple of verses for your encouragement. These are two verses I look at in my prayer times:

Psalms 91:9-10 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

  • Its a great promise that God will look after our tents - if..... there is a condition to this promise
  • Disaster or plague can mean illness or disease

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

  • So good to have the Holy Spirit in us giving life to our mortal bodies, our tents

So you have all been camping - every day and every night of your lives!

Camping and Tents are a big thing in the Bible

  • Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lived in tents and kept animals rather than crops in Canaan
  • They only bought one field with a cave in Canaan - a burial site
  • Jacob and his family went to Egypt - it would have been with tents - 70 people
  • Over 400 years - this family increased to over a million - they probably continued to live in tents
  • They became slaves
  • Moses came as a great deliverer.
  • They left Egypt with their tents - they certainly needed them in the desert
  • First month of year evening of 14th day Passover and leaving Egypt
  • Crossed the Red Sea miraculously
  • God provided Manna and Quail and Water from the rock
  • Battle with the Amalekites
  • Visit from Jethro who gives advice about delegation to Moses
  • After about 2.5 months arrived at Sinai

Exodus 19:‚Äč1-2 On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

  • The next 3 months or so were spent in various encounters with God.
  • God delivered the 10 commandments speaking verbally from the smoking mountain and out of the fire
  • The people were terrified

Deuteronomy 4:36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.

  • Moses approached the thick darkness in the mountain and God gave him extended laws - sometimes called “the book of the covenant”
  • Then there was a covenant ceremony where the people promised to obey God’s laws.
  • The 70 elders of Israel had a meal in the presence of God.
  • Then Moses went up into the mountain for 40 days and nights and God wrote his laws on tablets of stone.
  • But God did not only give Moses tablets of stone:
  • God gave Moses a design for a special tent which the people were to make - in great detail - the tabernacle
    • the dimensions
    • the materials
    • the contents
    • even the names of people to do special artistic work.
  • This was to be a portable temple in the middle of the Israelite camp.
  • Unfortunately the people sinned made a Golden Calf
  • When Moses saw this, he broke the tablets of stone with God’s writing on.
  • After sorting out the problem, Moses went for another 40 days and nights. He had an amazing experience of God, he was given more laws and came down with two more tablets of stone and with his face shining.
  • It was now about 6-7 months since setting off from Egypt
  • The next few months were spent making the special tent, the portable temple for God.
  • It was assembled on the first day of the first month just two weeks before the first anniversary of the passover and leaving Egypt.
The Tabernacle - Tent
  • Outer Court - with bronze altar for sacrifice and bronze water bowl
  • Holy Place - gold covered - lampstand, table with bread on, altar for incense
  • Most Holy Place - The ark of the covenant - most holy item - where God revealed his presence
What was it for:
  • It was a portable temple
  • It was a place of Offerings and Sacrifice
  • It was a place to draw near to God
#  Offerings

Complicated - but three main types all involving sacrifices of animals

Sin and guilt offerings - for forgiveness of sins - sometimes the priest would carry the blood of the animal into the holy place and once a year into the most holy place before the ark of the covenant and God.

  • I’m sorry God - please forgive me

Whole burnt offering - just giving everything to God - everything burnt up - element of atonement - regular sacrifices

  • I give everything to you God

Fellowship offering - free will offering - idea of sharing a meal with God

  • I want to know you God
#  Draw near to God
  • God appeared over the ark of the covenant in the most holy place
  • He revealed himself as a Pillar of Cloud by day and Pillar of Fire by night
  • This was a sign that God’s presence was with them
  • It was a reassurance that God was with his people

So - what happened to this Portable Temple - the Tabernacle?

  • It remained in the middle of the camp of the Israelites for the forty years in the desert

Exodus 40:34-38 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

  • When they got to the promised land, Joshua eventually set up the tabernacle in Shiloh which is where it remained for a long time during the time of the Judges
  • It was in Shiloh that God called the boy Samuel in the night.
  • During the time of Saul and David, the tabernacle was moved around but eventually it was replaced by Solomon’s magnificent Temple
  • The ark of the covenant was put in the most holy place and the glory of the Lord filled the temple
  • This temple was used for over 400 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonians and the ark of the covenant was lost forever
  • About 70 years later, the Jews returned from exile and built a much more modest temple. Which was modified and developed over about 500 years until the time of Jesus.

New Testament 

Herod's Temple
  • At the time of Jesus there was a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. This was built by Herod the Great commencing in 19 BC.
  • The main structure was built in about 10 years but work continued until AD 64!
    The structure was made of cream stone and gold and was magnificent and was barely finished (AD 64) before it was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.
  • It was a magnificent structure but there was a problem - the most holy place was empty - there was no ark of the covenant - God was not there.
Empty Religion
  • In fact Herod’s Temple was a picture or illustration of the empty religion of the day - lots of laws, rituals, priests, talk - but God was not in it.
  • Jesus spent a lot of time exposing this sham religion of the Pharisees
  • The problem is that empty religion is so easy to get into
  • Whole churches can be so taken up with programmes that God doesn't get a look in.
  • These churches can be traditional, evangelical, charismatic or Pentecostal - none are immune
  • And as individuals, we can become just church attenders and lose our fire. Get absorbed with the things of this world.
  • Downhill is the natural gravitational direction of travel!
  • This is where the devil wants us to go.
  • Empty religion is no threat to him.
  • Make sure that the living God is at the centre of our church and your individual lives.
  • Keep climbing upwards - defy gravity!
Jesus in the temple
  • It was an empty temple but something amazing happened one day when a young couple brought their baby boy into the temple.
  • God had told an old man, Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah
  • Simeon was in the temple and for him a light flashed on. The Holy Spirit revealed that the Messiah was in the temple.
  • Simeon took Jesus in his arms.
  • Lord, let your servant depart in peace….  Luke 2:29-32
  • Whenever Jesus was in the temple, the glory of God was there
  • As a 12 year old when he surprised the teachers of the law by his wisdom
  • As an adult when the taught in the temple courts

John 2:14-16 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a market!”

  • Jesus was annoyed because money had become the god of the temple
  • The temple was a market and a money-making racket

John 2:18-20 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

  • This was a complete game changer
  • There was now a new temple around!

Jesus was a portable temple

  • Somebody once asked Jesus where we should worship God - on a mountain in Samaria or in Jerusalem? Jesus said neither.

John 4:19-24 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem....23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

  • Buildings and special places are no longer relevant
  • Herod's Temple was actually now redundant
  • A new portable temple was around.
  • It was the actual body of Jesus
  • He was like the tent in the desert - his body was that tent

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  • “Made his dwelling” - is the tent word - he camped with us in his tent - his body

What was that tent, that portable temple for?

  • It was a place of Offerings and Sacrifice
  • It was a place to draw near to God
# A Place of Offering
  • When Jesus died on the cross, he was the final and perfect sin and guilt offering
  • The Old Testament sacrifices were only visual aids of the real sacrifice
  • This was the real one
  • As he died, the curtain to the most holy place was torn in two
  • This was symbolic of something big happening in heaven
  • Jesus was the high priest and the sacrifice and carried his own blood into the very presence of God as a sin and guilt offering for you and me.
  • He was effectivley saying to his Father “I have died for these people”

Hebrews 9:11-12 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

# A Place to draw near to God
  • While Jesus was around teaching and healing, people recognised something different in him.
  • They knew that coming to to him would get them close to God.
  • He was like that tent in the desert with the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night
  • He carried the presence of God with him

Have you come to God through Jesus?

If you are reading this today and you have never come to know God personally then this is an opportunity! It's the best thing you can ever do in your life and it is the most important thing you can do. Here are a few simple steps:

  • Repent - acknowledge that you are not perfect, that you have sinned, and that you need to come to God. Turn away from your sins. (Rom 3:23, 1 John 1:9)
  • Believe - that Jesus Christ died on a cross for you to pay the penalty for your sins and to open the way to the Father. (John 3:16, 14:6)
  • Receive - ask Jesus to come into your life decide to serve him as your Lord and follow him for the rest of your life. Ask him to fill you with the Holy Spirit. (John 1:12, 14:16-17, Rom 10:9)

You could pray to God using these ideas and tell someone you know who is a strong Christian about your decision to follow Jesus.

We are now portable temples of the Holy Spirit

  • There are two main verses about this
  • The first is about us together

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

  • The second is about us individuals - we are portable temples

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Consider that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit

  • What is your temple like
  • Is your temple holy - are you honouring God with your body?
  • Who do you consider the owner of your body? - You were bought at a price
  • Is your temple empty - is the Holy Spirit there?
  • Is your temple a market place - is money and materialism the main thing going on?
  • What is happening in your temple?
  • Is it a place of offering and sacrifice #
  • Is it a place where people draw near to God #
# We are a place of Offerings and Sacrifices

• Spiritual Sacrifices

1 Peter 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

• Our bodies - whole burnt offering

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

  • I give everything to you God
  • I am yours

• Our Prayers

Acts 10:4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.

• Our Substance

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

  • You could tithe to your church
  • You could give to missions
  • You could give to the poor

• Our Praise

Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

• Our Love

Ephesians 5:2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

# We are a place to draw near to God
  • If someone asked you where you can get close to God in your town or city - what would you say?
  • Would you point them to a selection of church buildings?
  • The answer is a temple but not a building
  • You are that place - we are called to be the places where people can find God
  • You carry the information and the presence of God that can bring salvation to your fellow human beings
  • Remember that you are now a portable temple of the Holy Spirit!

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Other verses for response

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 1:20-21 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.

Last Edited: 2018-08-22   

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