Let’s take a trip back to the early 1st century. It’s a few days before Passover and the Jews are heading to Jerusalem for the Feast. As they travel, they sing the songs of ascent like they do every year. On this particular year, though, there’s an extra level of excitement. A man named Yeshua (Jesus) arrived on the scene a few years ago and many think he could be the Messiah. He’s even riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, as Zechariah said the Messiah would.
“Hoshiya-na! Baruch haba B’Shem Adonai!” they call. Save us now! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
As Yeshua rides in, the people spread their garments in the way. They also cut palm branches as if they were here for the Feast of Tabernacles instead of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They’re expecting the Messiah to kick the Romans out, redeem Israel, and restore the kingdom. They’re hoping for the fulfillment of Tabernacles — the Messiah, son of David, ruling in power and might.
Instead, this Yeshua turns his donkey toward the temple. Once there, he “drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers’ tables and the seats of those who sold the doves.” Instead of driving the pagans out of Jerusalem, he drove corruption out of God’s house, saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers!”
Judgement Starts With God’s House
I had the opportunity last weekend to hear Jacob Prasch speak on topics related to the Passover season. One of his comments that I’ve been pondering had to do with the story we just looked at in Matthew 21:1-13. Judgement always beings in the house of God and with purifying the priesthood. God cares more right now about the sin in His peoples’ lives than about the sin in the world.
This idea didn’t originate with Mr. Prasch. The Apostle Peter wrote, “for the time has come for judgement to begin with the household of God.” God’s judgement “begins first with us,” not with the world (1 Pet. 4:17-18). The world will have a time of judgement, for Yahweh of Armies says to the nations, “I begin to work evil at the city which is called by my name, and should you be utterly unpunished?” (Jer. 25:29, WEB). However, the final judgement on the nations will wait for Jesus’s second coming. The judgement on His people started with His first coming.
Throwing A Light On Sin
We don’t usually talk about judgement in relation to Jesus’ first coming. Our focus is usually on salvation, because we all know “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him” (John 3:16-17, WEB).
Christ didn’t come for the purpose of condemnation, but for salvation. He came to save His people from sin and open up salvation to the entire world, not to sort-out the whole world and render judgement on it. However, simply by coming as the Light of the world, Jesus made it very clear who was and was not following the ways of God.
“He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:18-21, WEB)
Those who rejected Him brought judgement on themselves by not believing in Jesus as the Messiah. They fled the light instead of coming to Him that their works might be corrected, tested, and proved before God. Refusing to listen to Jesus’ message, repent, and believe in Him as the Messiah resulted in people who thought they were following God getting thrown out of His temple and even cut out of His people (see Romans 11).
No Corruption In God’s Temple
I find it interesting that the letters the Apostles wrote, which are now part of the Bible, aren’t focused on evangelism. Unlike so many modern churches, the Apostles didn’t spend a whole lot of time telling believers to get out there and save the world. Their letters focused on urging those who already believe to keep walking faithfully. And if any of the readers aren’t yet walking in-step with Jesus, the Apostles told them to get their lives cleaned up right now.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t preach the gospel. In fact, we must share our Father’s desire that all people will be saved, repent, and come to knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). But scripture makes it very clear that God is ultimately the one who chooses whom to call and whether or not to place them in His family (John 6:44,65). We have very little role in that process. But we do have control over how we, personally, respond to the gift He offers us and over what we contribute to the body of Christ.
When God does call new believers, He wants to be able to put them in a healthy church. Not one that’s full of the sort of people Jesus threw out of the temple. Today, the collective body of Christ’s followers are the temple of God. “If anyone destroys” (corrupts, spoils, depraves) “God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, which you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). God will not tolerate a temple filled with corruption and darkness. That truth should motivate us to make sure we’re not corrupting His temple in any way.
Things That Get Thrown Out
Jesus said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness.” He wasn’t here to judge those who don’t believe (they’ll be judged by His word in the last day), but to enlighten those who do believe and show them how to continue walking faithfully (John 12:46-48).
For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord. Walk as children of light … Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that reveals is light. (Eph. 5:8, 11-13, WEB).
You can’t have fellowship with Jesus and keep doing the sorts of things He threw people out of His Father’s temple for, or any of the other things the Lord considers an abomination. “Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness who utters lies, and he who sows discord among brothers” are things that will not be tolerated in the temple of God (Prov. 6:16-19).
Walk In Light, Not Darkness
Those with an authentic, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ keep coming back to the light. We’re not perfect, but we don’t love darkness. We choose to follow Him and walk in his light. And as we do that, the blood of Jesus continues cleansing us from all sin.
This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7, WEB)
Ideally, pointing each other toward Jesus Christ and encouraging each other to walk in the light will result in a healthy church. But there are times when more direct action is needed to protect the health of the body. When something corrupts the temple of God or His royal priesthood (which we’re a part of), then He’s going to take action to cleanse His temple just as Christ did at His first coming.
Unleavened Temples of God
As we’ve already talked about, judgement begins at the household of God. And somewhat surprisingly, Paul says the church actually has a role to play in cleansing the temple.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole lump? Purge out the old yeast, that you may be a new lump, even as you are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed in our place. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old yeast, neither with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-12, WEB)
This is what we were talking about last week. In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the symbolism of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread to tell us how important it is to God to have an “unleavened,” sinless church. The old leaven must be purged out.
I wrote to you in my letter to have no company with sexual sinners; yet not at all meaning with the sexual sinners of this world, or with the covetous and extortionists, or with idolaters; for then you would have to leave the world. But as it is, I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who is called a brother who is a sexual sinner, or covetous, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or an extortionist. Don’t even eat with such a person. For what have I to do with also judging those who are outside? Don’t you judge those who are within? But those who are outside, God judges. “Put away the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Cor. 5:9-13, WEB)
While we have no right to cast ultimate judgement on someone, we are supposed to be able to discern between good and evil. And when we see someone else in God’s family heading into darkness, we’re supposed to share correction with the intention of pointing them back to the light. We also have to be open to accepting correction if we’re the ones going the wrong direction.
Judgement begins with the household of God in the temple that we’re a part of. Thankfully, God rejoices in showing mercy and He does not desire for anyone to come under condemnation. Jesus’ first coming brought light and hope to all people and we’ve now been invited to follow Him in a close, personal relationship. We don’t have to be something Jesus would throw out of His Father’s house. We can choose life by following the Light and letting Him make us part of His family.