In 1999 Gerhard Lohfink published a wonderful book titled “Does God Need the Church?” He answered yes and provided a great exegetical overview of this theme throughout the breadth of scripture. I play off his theme here and note some key moments in its development in particular relation to the temple.
1. In his eternal election God chose not to be God without us (Eph.1:3).
2. In his creation dream God created a garden sanctuary/temple (place where God and his people meet) and appointed humanity to tend and extend that sanctuary over all the earth (Gen.2).
3. In his effort to reclaim and restore his erring creatures and wayward creation God chose Abraham and Sarah to raise a people through whom he will bless the world (Gen.12:1-3).
4. God rescues this people from Egypt in order to make them a people with and in whom his glory/presence may dwell (Ex.40).
5. God leads this people on a rocky journey from Sinai to the promised land in order that they become a people in whom God’s presence and wisdom is a beacon to the nations (Dt.4:5-8).
6. Solomon builds and dedicates a temple in Jerusalem praying for wisdom to follow God’s will and way (1 Ki.8).
7. Israel’s almost total failure to live in unbroken fidelity to and love for God ended up with the people in exile and God’s presence leaving the temple (Ez.10:18)
8. I say “almost” because there was finally one faithful Israelite, Jesus of Nazareth, who, fully and truly God, did what only God can do to reclaim and restore sinful humanity to himself, and as fully and truly human offered God the love and loyalty befitting humanity as God created it, becoming in himself God’s temple – the place where henceforth God and humanity would meet in fellowship (four Gospels)
9. At Pentecost the Spirit incorporates Jesus’ followers “in him” and builds this corporate Christ into the fullness of the new temple he is (Eph.2:20ff.; 4:12ff.); “living stones” built onto the “cornerstone” of Christ as God’s new temple (1 Pet. 2:5-10).
10. John’s picture of the end state in Rev.21-22 shows the New Jerusalem, shaped as the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the temple, covering the whole of the new creation thus completing God’s dream for just such a creation in Gen.2.