The Romans vengefully destroyed the temple in 70 AD to put down three rebellious Jewish factions. They burned it perhaps accidentally. But the fire melted much of the gold in the temple which then seeped between the stones. Hence, to retrieve the gold, the soldiers pulled apart all the stones, thus inadvertently fulfilling Jesus’s prophecy in Matthew 24:2 (NET), “I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
However, God permitted the temple to be destroyed for other reasons. The Jewish temple had a typical significance. It foreshadowed a greater spiritual temple, one that would never come to ruin. With the advent of Jesus, all the tangible aspects of Jewish worship – the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the sacrifices, the priesthood – were replaced by their antitypes. Hebrews 10:1 (RSV), “the law has but a shadow of the good things to come.”
The fulfillment of these types is found in Christ. Unlike the animal sacrifices that had to be repeated yearly, Christ died sacrificially once. His death on the cross redeemed all mankind. The typical, animal sacrifices would therefore cease, and the temple was no longer needed. Hebrews 10:4-10, “‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me…Lo, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Hence that temple was destroyed; Jerusalem was sacked, and the Jews who crucified Christ were dispersed and sent into exile. The tangible would now be replaced by the intangible, the spiritual. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” John 2:19.
This new temple began to be built with Jesus’s resurrection. He is the cornerstone of this spiritual temple. All faithful Christians, one by one, become a stone in this temple. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” I Corinthians 3:16,17.
From the death of Christ through the present, God has been selecting, chiseling and polishing these precious stones. Once the last stone has been added and the temple in heaven is complete, the kingdom of Christ will be inaugurated upon the earth. This new heavenly temple, Christ and his church, is to be the dispenser of true worship to reinstate all humanity into favor with God.