Bible Insights

Who Was Supposed to Build God’s Temple?

Nathan’s Prophetic Words May Carry a Double Meaning

Once King David has his kingdom established, he wants to build the temple for God and tells the prophet Nathan. Nathan gives him his blessing to proceed, but later God gives Nathan a different message.

Nathan returns to David and says, “You are not the one to build a house for God. Instead your offspring will build God’s temple.”

Then Nathan shares a prophecy about David’s legacy and his offspring who will build God’s house (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

Solomon Builds a Physical Temple

In expectation that David’s son Solomon will erect the temple, David amasses resources for its construction. After Solomon assumes the kingship, he proceeds to build God’s temple in Jerusalem.

The finished temple is a stunning tribute to the Lord God. It’s a grand edifice that will serve as a center of Hebrew worship for centuries. It’s completion fulfills Nathan’s prophecy.

Or does it?

Jesus Establishes a Spiritual Temple

Read Nathan’s prophecy again—carefully. Consider every word. Is the prophet speaking of Solomon or about Jesus?

Nathan prophetically says that after David dies, God will raise up one of David’s offspring to succeed him, one of his own sons (Solomon succeeds him, but this happens before David dies, not after).

This king will build God’s temple (Solomon does), and God will establish his rule forever (Solomon’s rule ends, but Jesus rules forever).

God promises to be this future ruler’s father, who will be his son (Jesus, the Son of God, fits this perfectly).

Furthermore, God promises to never take his love away from this future ruler (though God strips the kingdom away from Solomon’s son, God’s love for Jesus is without question).

Last, God will establish this future king’s rule forever. His kingdom and his reign will never end (Solomon dies. Jesus rules eternal).

When Jesus becomes our perfect sacrifice in payment for all the wrong things we have done, he fulfills the Old Testament. This includes the practice of worship. There is now no more need to go to a physical place to worship God.

We become living stones used to build God’s temple, a spiritual house for him. We become his priests and offer spiritual sacrifices to him (1 Peter 2:5; also see Ephesians 2:22).

Who Fulfills Nathan’s Prophecy?

Who builds God’s temple, Solomon or Jesus? Who best fulfills Nathan’s foretelling? David certainly understood this prophecy to be speaking of his son, Solomon. Solomon acts accordingly and constructs the temple for God.

But I don’t think this is what God intended with Nathan’s prophecy. God was looking much farther into the future. He wasn’t speaking in literal terms about Solomon as much as speaking in figurative terms about Jesus, his son.

Though both Solomon and Jesus emerge as fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy to build God’s temple—albeit in different ways—Jesus accomplishes it more fully than Solomon.

Many prophecies are like this, carrying a double meaning. But we can best see Jesus as fulfilling this prophecy.

Thank you, Jesus!

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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