The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
During one of my RCIA classes, we discussed the timeline of the gospels. Not chronologically, in regards to history, but when they were physically written down. It was somewhere between 70 and 90 A.D., i.e. after the second temple had been destroyed.
It wasn’t the gospels I began contemplating at that point, but the temple itself. I kept coming back on this timeline. I considered this seemingly insignificant fact—that the written Gospel didn’t exist until after the temple’s destruction—and I knew that it was no accident. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, would’ve known this too.
In John 2, right before the verses above, Jesus was livid. The temple had been turned into a marketplace. He was so angry that he literally flipped tables. He preached of the temple’s destruction, with the promise to rebuild it in three days. The Jews thought he was a crazy man. But we know now that he spoke of himself, not the physical building.
The physical temple was destroyed, about a hundred years later. And it was never rebuilt.
On my drive home, I kept on circling back to this point. And God revealed some interesting revelations:
1) Jesus is the temple. It says so in John 2:21 (“But he spoke of the temple of his body”). Jesus specifically said the temple would be rebuilt in three days—and so he was. But to take this further:
2) The second temple was destroyed. And it hasn’t been rebuilt. When you look at it, we’re still in the “three days” period. And we will continue to be so, until the end times. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” (Revelation 21:2) A new Jerusalem, after the old has been destroyed. A rebuilding. Fun fact: this new city will be a perfect cube—equal in height, width, and length—just like the holy of holies in the Jewish Temple.
The Gospels couldn’t have been recorded while the temple still stood. At that point, the people wouldn’t understand—how could such a magnificent structure be rebuilt in three days, let alone fall? It’s only when the building comes down, and there seems to be no hope left, that Gospels can be written down for all to see—during this time of no hope. When that physical building didn’t magically respawn after three days, it was obvious that Jesus had been talking of something—or someone—besides the temple.
The temple will be rebuilt, just not how everyone expected it to. That building’s destruction is proof of Jesus’s divinity. We’re not talking about just a physical structure. Jesus is still the temple. Not only in his resurrection, but in his return as well.