As a “royal priesthood,” God’s called-out ones serve a special function today and will fulfill an even greater purpose in the World Tomorrow: teaching all people how to talk to their Creator!
During the Philadelphia Church of God’s first groundbreaking ceremony in September 2000, our pastor general dedicated the Church’s original 40 acres to God, saying that without God, the campus would be just another 40 acres. But with God, he said, it would be God’s land, ruled by God, and filled with the very hope of God.
One hundred and seventy acres, 10 buildings and several homes later, this campus would still be just another plot of land without God. Any property or any building, no matter how nice, is nothing without God! Unless God is at the center of all we build, it will come to nothing.
In 1 Kings 8:12-13, it was prophesied that Solomon’s temple would be a temple in which God would dwell!
In verse 22, Solomon began his temple dedication prayer before all the people of Israel. He first asked God to hear him, and then that God might always hear the prayers of anyone who prayed in the temple (verse 30). The words “toward this place” are better translated “in this place” (see Bible margin)—speaking of the temple.
This is the only time Solomon asked that God would hear prayers yet to be offered in the future. He went on to ask God to always hear seven specific types of prayer: 1) prayers asking forgiveness of a false oath (verses 31-32); 2) prayers asking God to rescue His people from military defeat (verses 33-34); 3) prayers offered during times of drought (verses 35-36); 4) prayers offered amid plagues on the land (verses 37-40); 5) prayers offered by strangers, or Gentiles (verses 41-43); 6) the Israelites’ prayers when they were at war, as long as they prayed toward Jerusalem (verses 44-45); and 7) the Israelites’ prayers when they were led out of their land into captivity, as long as they prayed toward their land (verses 46-50).
Solomon’s first five petitions to God concerned prayers that were offered in the temple itself. The last two covered prayers offered outside the temple, but that still revolved around God’s house. Notice Solomon said “in this house” or “toward this house,” as the case may be (verse 38). Obviously, the Israelites were not limited to praying only while inside the temple, but all their prayers still revolved around the temple. Their prayers were to have a headquarters focus!
Notice the last part of verse 43. In the Hebrew, “this house … is called by thy name” means, “Thy name is called upon this house” (see margin).
The point is, this was to be a house, or temple, of prayer. More than just a place for God, it was intended to be a place of worship—a place where God would communicate with His people.
What does this mean for us? Solomon’s temple has long since been destroyed, and yet, as Solomon said in the dedication ceremony, it was to be a place for God to dwell in. Where does God dwell today?
A Spiritual Temple
The Jews started building the temple some 70 years after the initial Babylonian invasion. There were still some among them who had seen the original temple in all its glory, and they knew it was far more glorious physically than this second one Zerubbabel and the Jews were building (Haggai 2:3).
In verse 6, the prophecy shifts to a time just ahead of us now. God says He will shake the heavens and Earth shortly after an end-time Zerubbabel dies.
In verse 7, God says He will “fill this house with glory.” This “house” is not the temple Zerubbabel and the Jews were building. God was referring to another temple.
“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 9). The glory of Zerubbabel’s temple was nowhere near that of Solomon’s, but here God is speaking of an end-time spiritual temple. There is also an end-time physical application to this verse. (For more information, request a free copy of Haggai: God Has Begun to Shake the Nations.) But spiritually, God is talking about a temple far more glorious than anything Solomon ever built.
God has brought us into His Family—His household (Ephesians 2:19). Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, and He and the prophets and apostles are the foundation of a spiritual building—a “holy temple in the Lord” in which God dwells through His Spirit (verses 20-22). There is a temple on Earth today wherein God dwells—a spiritual temple. It is a holy temple, far more glorious than what Solomon built. We are that temple!
God’s people collectively make up the spiritual temple in which God dwells today—the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16). But this holy temple is much more than just a structure in which God places His name.
The first part of 1 Peter 2:5 reveals that we in God’s Church are built up—or, as it says in the margin, “be you” built up—as “a spiritual house” of God. As part of this spiritual house, we have a responsibility “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
Solomon’s temple was to be a house of prayer. And as one of the temple’s “lively stones,” you must be an active participant in this spiritual house of prayer, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through prayer. We are this house of prayer! We are a royal priesthood (verse 9). We are king-priests.
In his temple dedication, Solomon prayed, God, when your people come to you seeking forgiveness, hear their cry—as long as it’s in this house. If they suffer a defeat at the hands of the enemy, hear their cry for salvation in this house. If they fall on hard times and turn to you in this house, hear them. If strangers come along and convert to this way of life, hear their prayers in this house. And even when they are far away, alone, isolated and fighting the enemy, or facing defeat or captivity, if your people pray even toward this house, hear their prayer, God!
God hears prayers from this house of prayer that He does not hear anywhere else on Earth. Do we take full advantage of that awesome privilege and honor? We are the temple of God! That means we must be a praying people—a temple of prayer.
God expects us to offer spiritual sacrifices of praise to Him continually! (Hebrews 13:15). Anciently, the priests were the only ones who offered the actual sacrifices. Today, we all have a part in offering those spiritual sacrifices. This is why God refers to us collectively as a “royal priesthood.” There are only a few ordained ministers today, but God has numbered all of us among that royal priesthood! As God’s priests, prayers are your ministry! This is how you can offer up holy and acceptable sacrifices before God.
Following prayer with good deeds is also essential (Matthew 7:20) and should certainly be considered part of your ministry, but it all begins with prayer.
Revelation 4 describes God’s majestic throne room. But spiritually speaking, where is that throne room located? The seven lamps in verse 5 symbolize the seven Church eras—or the spiritual temple. God’s throne is inside the spiritual temple; inside this Church is where God dwells. Being in this Church, then, gives us access to God—and that must come through prayer.
Can we see what we are a part of? Are we aware of what we alone have access to in this spiritual temple?
We simply cannot worship God without prayer. Your prayers will determine your success in worshiping God and your success in life.
A House of Prayer
In Isaiah 56, God addresses His people, those who keep the Sabbath (verse 2). God seeks people who put His pleasures above their own. That means prayer and Bible study must be first in our lives, or we are putting something before God!
“Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (verse 5). Our name will be on the Bride of Christ, or the mother, level; with Christ, we will bring forth many children. In addition to our everlasting name, we should remember the everlasting place God is offering us: an eternal place within His house and within His walls!
Revelation 3:11 is the last specific warning God gives to the Philadelphians in this end time. But it is followed in verse 12 by the last specific reward the Philadelphians will receive if we remain steadfast. Here again, God draws attention to the name we will be rewarded with—and the place we will forever dwell in.
Our position in the Kingdom is so unique compared to the other firstfruits because of the place we will dwell. All the firstfruits will enter the Family of God on the bride and mother level, but only the Philadelphians are rewarded with headquarters positions! Our permanent residence will be in the temple of God—and we will go no more out!
God told King David He would plant the people of Israel and move them no more (2 Samuel 7:10). This is what God is doing with us: preparing us for our permanent dwelling place. We are the fulfillment of the hope Solomon expressed when he dedicated the temple anciently. We are the “temple” in which God will abide forever!
God says that those of any nation or race who “join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain [His headquarters in Jerusalem], and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their [spiritual] burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:6-7).
Look at the value God places on our contact with Him! Look at the value He puts on our prayers!
God is our Father—the most perfect, loving Father there ever has been or ever will be. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). In other words, because of His love for us, we are obligated to return that love. Any loving father desires the attention of his children, and when a child appears disinterested, the father will try harder to get his or her attention. God seeks the attention of His people. He wants an intimate relationship with them! But there comes a point where He must draw the line: at the Tribulation and Day of the Lord.
Remember the instance when Jesus found money changers in God’s temple. He was rightfully upset: What He found in the temple was no different from what you might see on the street in the world. “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).
How angry do you think God gets when His spiritual temple becomes polluted? God’s temple is supposed to be a house of prayer, not just another organization. God has called us to be a part of this Work so we might learn to worship Him and become a praying people. Yet look at how many people in this last era of His Church have turned away from that calling (Revelation 3:14-22). Still, God would quickly forgive them if they would just turn back. Like a child who eventually comes around and seeks the attention of his father, many repentant Laodiceans will return to Him in the Tribulation.
Isaiah 66:2 shows where God dwells: within His people. This is where God’s power is, where He reveals His truth: in His spiritual temple!
Concerning the phrase “to this man will I look,” Soncino commentary says it means, “to this man will I take note of [and] listen to his supplications.”
God says, “To this man will I look”! This is where God’s power is! This is where God’s Work is done! This is where God reveals His truth! This is where the omnipotent God dwells! … He wants a one-on-one relationship with you—His begotten son! God is your loving Father, and He does not neglect His sons!
I believe Isaiah 66:2 is one of the most important verses in the Bible. Salvation is between you and God. You and I must tremble at God’s Word, or God can’t work with us.
Isaiah 56:7 is a vision of the wonderful World Tomorrow, when God’s house “shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” What a vision! We will be rewarded with positions in this house of prayer, but this house is not just for us—it is for all people!
God is speaking to His own converted people today. He is discussing the turbulent end times. Then He goes on to state how His house of prayer will soon be accepted by the whole world. God will bring the firstfruits to His holy mountain today, then use them to help bring the whole world into God’s spiritual house! They will teach the whole world how to pray.
Can that really be true? Are we worshiping God so that we might soon teach the whole world how to have a Father-son relationship with God?
When you understand our reward—the fact that we will enter God’s Family as the wife of Christ, soon to be the mother of billions of God beings—it makes perfect sense. Just as a mother points her children to the father of the house, we will have the unique privilege of teaching the finer points of true spirituality to all God’s children in the World Tomorrow. We will have qualified—because of the intimate relationship we now have—to teach the whole world how to have an intimate relationship with their Maker!
In that day, God will again dwell in Jerusalem. “Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain” (Zechariah 8:3). Jerusalem will be the capital of the world, the center of Earth’s peaceful and law-abiding activity. Verses 7-8 show that salvation will be brought to this world through Jerusalem!
Keep in mind, this is also the place where wewill dwell!
Part of our job description will be gathering all people together in Jerusalem to worship God (verses 20-21). If you think it is exciting to gather your things to go to the Feast of Tabernacles today, just wait until people from all nations pack their bags for the Feast in Jerusalem! Millions of people from around the world—of one mind, one Spirit—will gather together to worship God in Jerusalem.
But what will they do there? “And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (verses 21-22). Speedily in verse 21 can be translated “continually” (see margin). In the World Tomorrow, people will go up to Jerusalem continually to pray before God! Pray can also read, “to entreat the face of” (see margin). In Jerusalem, they will be able to communicate with God face to face.
Even though God the Father’s throne will not yet be set up on Earth, Jesus Christ will rule from the temple in Jerusalem. That temple is also where we will rule! This means that people will come to Jerusalem regularly so we might teach them how to pray to God!
This doesn’t mean that people will only pray while at the temple. Remember, Solomon prayed that God would hear the prayers offered inside the temple, and toward the temple. It means that all prayers will have a headquarters focus!
“[M]any people and strong nations”—all of them—will come to Jerusalem to seek God (verse 22), to pray before the Eternal! They will be looking for spiritual Jews to accompany them to Jerusalem (verse 23). Teachers will be in great demand. And one of our primary duties as headquarters employees will be to teach the world how to pray.
Anciently, God made Solomon’s temple the most famous building on Earth. He also made David famous, though he was a mere shepherd before his calling (2 Samuel 7:8). David became a witness to the people—a leader—a commander (Isaiah 55:3-4).
What about us? People we have never known—nations that have never heard of us—will come running because our fame will have spread (verse 5), just as David’s did. They will come because God will have glorified us. Compare that with Haggai 2, where God says He will fill this latter house with glory far greater than that of the first. We are what make this house glorious—as long as we remain a people of prayer. There is a reason God places Philadelphians in His house of prayer forever: because they are a praying people!
When Christ returns, He will not change human nature instantaneously. Psalm 110:2 says He will begin His rule among enemies. To establish lasting peace, we must reeducate the world. We will help Christ change man’s nature—and that all begins by banishing Satan and teaching people how to establish a relationship with their Creator.
The inward man is renewed day by day, through prayer (2 Corinthians 4:16). There can be nothing more fundamental in reeducating this world than teaching people how to pray.
Have this approach in your prayers today. Pray with this World Tomorrow vision in mind!
Remember, God’s temple will be called a house of prayer for all people in the World Tomorrow, and we will work in this house of prayer. Put in the work today to becoming a professional at prayer!
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). The word “established” would be better translated prepared. This is what God is doing right now: preparing His house of prayer! Once it is prepared, God will establish His house on Mount Zion in Jerusalem—and then all nations will flow to it. That is where their reeducation will begin (verse 3).
People of all nations will go up to Jerusalem from year to year to worship God—to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16). And worshiping God begins with prayer. This is how God’s Spirit will be renewed in man in the World Tomorrow.
And this is how our spirits are renewed today. We are here to worship God, and that begins with our fervent prayers before Him, every day, in His house of prayer.