The throne of God’s presence


When David wanted to build a temple, God was reluctant to accept: heaven is his dwelling and the earth his footstool. But Yahweh overlooked his transcendence and entered history – first the ark and the tabernacle, next the temple, were then symbols of His presence among His people. In the fullness of time, Jesus’ flesh is the real throne of God’s Presence.




Worship in the Old Testament consisted in sacrifices of animals, performed in an official place, the temple of Jerusalem, by a specialized priestly group, the tribe of Levi. Animals took the place of human beings (substitution); the blood, the symbol of life, was the seal of the covenant that meant binding us with the strength of life itself. To violate the covenant was to deserve to die.

In the beginning, sacrifices were done in the open air. Classic examples of sacrifices of animals in important moments of the history of the covenant were the ones performed by Abram in Genesis (15:1-21), where God passed as a flaming torch between the halves of the victims, and in Exodus (24:1-8), when Moses sprinkled the blood of the victims on the altar – the symbol of God, and on the people.

“The mercy seat”
It was at this moment that the two tablets of the ten commandments appeared and with it, the ark of the covenant to house them. The lid of the ark was plated with solid gold and it held the statues of the two cherubim at the two ends. In the middle was the most sacred space called “the mercy seat” or “God’s throne”. “God was enthroned upon the cherubim” (Psalm 80:2). It suggested that the ark was the throne upon which Yahweh stood invisibly upon the cherubim. Since there was no image of Yahweh, only the footstool was represented. God’s throne was empty.

All the same, the ark was the symbol of Yahweh’s personal presence, the place where atonement was received, where divine communication was granted. It was carried into battle to symbolize Yahweh’s kingship and leadership. It was also the symbol of the covenant of Yahweh with Israel: He was present because He had elected them as His people and imposed upon them the commandment which the ark contained.

The mobile tabernacle which hosted the ark was the house of God among His pilgrim people. The shape of the tabernacle became the model of the future temple: the outer court (of the Gentiles), the holy and the holy of holies. In the holy of holies was the ark with the “throne of God” (Leviticus 16).

Longing for the temple
The first temple, David’s dream, was built by Solomon and inaugurated with solemn prayer and abundant sacrifices. During all the vicissitudes of the exile, the wandering Jews had a strong nostalgia for the temple of the Lord. Every restoration, with Esra, with the Maccabees, etc. was centered around the temple where regular sacrifices were resumed as symbol of the normality which had returned to Israel.

The temple was the object of devotion: longing, love, joy: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of hosts. My soul is longing and yearning for the courts (the temple) of the Lord. The sparrow finds herself a home and the swallow a nest for her brood…” (Psalm 84:1-3).

The whole section “The Psalms of ascents” (120-132) develops the spirituality of pilgrimage, the various sentiments, worries and joys of the pilgrims going up to the temple of Jerusalem.”I was glad when they said to me: ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ Our feet are now standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” (Psalm 122:1-2).

A polemic against the temple and the sacrifices was developed by the Prophets and that finds echo in the Psalms (Psalm 50:9-15). The tragic destiny of prophet Jeremiah was due to his words against the temple where the official worship became corrupted and about the temple’s coming destruction in the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. This was a prophecy and a preparation for the New Testament.

Jesus’ body
The episode of the cleansing of the temple by Jesus is related in all four Gospels. John places it at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus as a keynote declaration: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” (John 2:19). Jesus here affirms that He Himself becomes the cultic center, the place where God is present in His dwelling: as such He is greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6). It is in harmony with this saying that he should have predicted the destruction of the temple, as all the Synoptic Gospels relate.

The passion and resurrection of Jesus is the true sacrifice of the New Testament. The sacrifices of animals are declared obsolete i.e. finished and Jesus appears as the high priest of the New Testament, making the offering of His body once and for all.

Jesus, facing death as an act of supreme obedience and filial love, becomes the true temple that is destroyed by men’s evil power but raised to a new life by the Father. Jesus’ priesthood is not ritual but personal. Jesus is the mediator of the New Testament, bridging the infinite gap between God and humanity with His obedience and sacrificial love.

According to Jesus’ example and command, all Christians are constituted priests because of their baptism, continuing in the world Jesus’ mission through their mediation of love. The Eucharist, which is the memorial of Jesus’ Paschal Sacrifice, is the worship of the New Testament, “the source and the summit of the Church’s life.”

Ultimately, the theological significance of the temple in the New Testament is based on the saying of Jesus which identifies His body as the new temple. His body in turn is identified with the Church, and the Church herself is the new temple. The Church is the place of God’s presence, not merely symbolic but real through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and the prophets are the foundations of the temple and Christ is its corner stone and principle of unity. The Christians are the living stones of this temple and its consecrated priesthood.

When the earth is renewed by the descent of the heavenly city as in Revelation 21, there is no temple in the city, because the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple. This is not inconsistent with the vision; rather here, in the last page of the Bible, the symbolism of the temple arrives at His fullness. For the symbolic presence of God among His people is at last replaced by His dwelling among them.

Share Your Thoughts

All comments are moderated

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage


Presents, discusses and draws readers to reflect on issues of outmost relevance to the world today.


Very often, mission is carried out in frontier situations around the world. Those who embrace these situations have much to share.


Writer Ilsa Reyes will be exploring the richness of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti with a view of helping our readers to get a grasp of the this beautiful papal document.


Puts to the front committed and inspiring people around the world who embrace humanitarian and religious causes with altruism and passion.


Focus on a given theme of interest touching upon social, economic and religious issues.


As the Philippines prepares to celebrate 500 years of the arrival of Christianity. Fr. James Kroeger leads us in this series into a discovery journey of the landmark events in the history of faith in the Philippine archipelago.


Aims to nurture and inspire our hearts and minds while pondering upon timely themes.


The large archipelago of the Philippines, in its richness of peoples and cultures, offers varied and challenging situations for mission.


Reflections and vocation stories that shape up the lives of young people.


As humor and goodness of heart are qualities of Christian and missionary life, the new column “Mission is fun” will be publishing some anecdotes and stories that have happened in a missionary context to lighten up the spirits and trigger a smile in our faces.


To help readers of World Mission live this year dedicated to Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, Tita Puangco, writer and lecturer, shares in this section insights on the spirituality of communion.


A historic view of the Catholic movements that emerged from the grassroots as an inspiration by the Holy Spirit.


On the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, radio host and communicator Ilsa Reyes, in her monthly column, encourages Christians and people of good will to be one with their fellow people of other sects, religions and tribes.


Questions to a personality of the Church or secular world on matters of interest that touch upon the lives of people.


News from the Church, the missionary world and environment that inform and form the consciences.


A feature on environmental issues that are affecting the whole world with the view of raising awareness and prompting action.


The editor gives his personal take on a given topic related to the life of the Church, the society or the world.


A monthly column on themes touching the lives of young people in the Year of the Youth in the Philippines by radio host and communicator I lsa Reyes.


A missionary living in the Chinese world shares his life-experiences made up of challenges and joyous encounters with common people.


Life stories of people who deserve to be known for who they were, what they did and what they stood for in their journey on earth.


Stories of people whom a missionary met in his life and who were touched by Jesus in mysterious ways.


Critical reflection from a Christian perspective on current issues.


Comboni missionary Fr. Lorenzo Carraro makes a journey through history pinpointing landmark events that changed the course of humanity.


A biographical sketch of a public person, known for his/her influence in the society and in the Church, showing an exemplary commitment to the service of others.


Gives fresh, truthful, and comprehensive information on issues that are of concern to all.


A column aimed at helping the readers live their Christian mission by focusing on what is essential in life and what it entails.


Peoples, events, religion, culture and the society of Asia in focus.


The human heart always searches for greatness in God’s eyes, treading the path to the fullness of life - no matter what it takes.


The subcontinent of India with its richness and variety of cultures and religions is given center stage.


The African continent in focus where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world.


Well-known writer and public speaker, Fr. Jerry Orbos, accompanies our journey of life and faith with moments of wit and inspiration based on the biblical and human wisdom.


On the year dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyala, Fr. Lorenzo Carraro walks us through the main themes of the Ignatian spirituality.


Fr. John Taneburgo helps us to meditate every month on each of the Seven Last Words that Jesus uttered from the cross.


In this section, Fr. Lorenzo delves into the secrets and depths of the Sacred Scriptures opening for us the treasures of the Sacred Book so that the reader may delight in the knowledge of the Word of God.


Reflections about the synodal journey on a conversational and informal style to trigger reflection and sharing about the synodal path the Church has embarked upon.

Shopping Cart