As a “royal priesthood,” God’s called-out ones serve a special function today and will fulfill an even greater purpose in the World Tomorrow, teaching all people how to talk to their Creator!
During the Philadelphia Church of God’s first groundbreaking ceremony in September 2000, our pastor general dedicated the Church’s original 40 acres to God, saying that without God, the campus would be just another 40 acres. But with God, he said, it would be God’s land, ruled by God, and filled with the very hope of God. One hundred and seventy acres, eight buildings, and several homes later, this campus would still be just another plot of land without God.
Any property or any building, no matter how nice, is nothing without God! Unless God is at the center of all we build, it will all come to nothing in the end.
Anciently King David was dwelling in a nice house, while the ark of God was still in the same tent that had constantly moved with the Israelites in the wilderness. God told David through the Prophet Nathan that it was time for Israel to build a permanent house for Him to dwell in. For over 40 years, the tent had continually been set up, taken down, and moved (2 Samuel 7:4-6). But now, the Israelites had finally reached the Promised Land—their permanent dwelling place.
In 1 Kings 8:12-13, it was prophesied that Solomon’s temple would be a temple in which God would dwell forever!
In verse 22, Solomon began his temple dedication prayer before all the people of Israel. He first asked God to hear his solemn prayer, and then he prayed that God might always see and hear the prayers of anyone who prayed in the temple (verse 30). The words “toward this place” are better translated “in this place” (see Bible margin). Notice that Solomon specifically prayed that God would hear any prayers offered in this place—in the temple.
This is the only time Solomon asked that God would hear prayers yet to be offered in the future. He went on to ask God to always hear seven specific types of prayer:
Prayers asking forgiveness of a false oath (verses 31-32).
Prayers asking God to rescue His people from military defeat (verses 33-34).
Prayers offered during times of droughts (verses 35-36).
Prayers offered while in the midst of plagues on the land (verses 37-40).
Prayers offered by strangers, or Gentiles (verses 41-43).
The Israelites’ prayers when they were at war, as long as they prayed toward Jerusalem (verses 44-45).
The Israelites’ prayers when they were led out of their land into captivity, as long as they prayed toward their land (verses 46-50).
Solomon’s first five petitions to God concerned prayers that were offered in the temple itself, while the last two covered any prayers offered outside the temple. But even though these prayers were offered outside the temple, they still revolved around God’s house. Notice Solomon said “in this house,” or “toward this house,” whatever the case may be (verse 38). Obviously, the Israelites were not limited to praying only while inside the temple, but all of their prayers still revolved around the temple. Their prayers were to have a headquarters focus!
Notice the last part of verse 43. In the Hebrew, “this house … is called by thy name” means, “Thy name is called upon this house” (see margin).
The point is, this was to be a house, or temple, of prayer. More than just a place for God, it was intended to be a place of worship—a place where God would communicate with His people.
What does this mean for you and me? Solomon’s temple has long since been destroyed, and yet, as Solomon said in the dedication ceremony, it was to be a place for God to dwell in forever. Where does God dwell today?
A Spiritual Temple
The Jews started building the second temple 53 years after Solomon’s temple was destroyed. There were still some among them who had seen the original temple in all of its glory, and they knew that the first temple was far more glorious physically than this second one that Zerubbabel and the Jews were building (Haggai 2:3).
In verse 6 of Haggai 2, the prophecy shifts to a time just ahead of us now. God says He will shake the heavens and the Earth shortly after an end-time Zerubbabel dies.
In verse 7, God says He will “fill this house with glory.” The house He is talking about here is not the temple Zerubbabel and the Jews were building. God was referring to another temple.
“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 9). The glory of Zerubbabel’s temple was nowhere near that of Solomon’s, but here God is speaking of an end-time spiritual temple. There is also an end-time physical application to this verse, as our booklet on Haggai points out. But spiritually, God is talking about a temple that is far more glorious than anything Solomon ever built.
God has brought us into His Family—His household (Ephesians 2:19). Jesus Christ, the apostles and the prophets are our foundation—Christ being the chief corner stone (verse 20). Read verses 21-22. There is a temple on Earth today wherein God dwells—a spiritual temple. It is a holy temple, far more glorious than what Solomon built. We are that temple!
God’s people collectively make up the spiritual temple in which God dwells today—the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16). But this holy temple is much more than just a structure in which God places His name.
The first part of 1 Peter 2:5 reveals that we in God’s Church are built up—or, as it says in the margin, “be you” built up—as a spiritual house of God. We have our part in being that spiritual house, as revealed in the last half of verse 5: to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God.
Solomon’s temple was to be a house of prayer. And as one of the temple’s “lively stones,” we have to be active participants in our house of prayer. The fact that we fill seats at Sabbath services does not set us apart from anyone else in this world. What sets us apart are the spiritual sacrifices we offer God through prayer. We are that house of prayer! This is what sets us apart—what identifies us.
Read verse 9. We are a royal priesthood. We are king-priests. The fact that we are a house of prayer is what sets us apart. It’s what makes us holy—what makes us so peculiar.
In his temple dedication, Solomon prayed, God, when your people come to you seeking forgiveness, hear their cry—as long as it’s in this house. If they suffer a defeat at the hands of the enemy, hear their cry for salvation in this house. If they fall upon hard times and turn to you in this house, hear them. If strangers come along and convert to this way of life, hear their prayers in this house. And even when they are far away, alone, isolated, and fighting against the enemy, or perhaps on the brink of defeat or captivity, if your people pray even toward this house, hear their prayer, God!
God hears prayers from this house of prayer that He does not hear anywhere else on Earth. Do we take full advantage of that awesome privilege and honor? We are the temple of God! That means we must be a praying people—a temple of prayer.
As Hebrews 13:15 points out, God expects us to offer spiritual sacrifices of praise to Him continually! Anciently, the priests were the only ones who offered the actual sacrifices. Today, however, we all have a part in offering those spiritual sacrifices. That is why God refers to us collectively as a “royal priesthood”—He calls all of us king-priests. There may only be a few ordained ministers today, but God has numbered all of us among that royal priesthood! As God’s priests, prayers are your ministry! That’s how you can offer up holy and acceptable sacrifices before God.
Following prayer with good deeds is also essential (Matthew 7:20) and should certainly be considered part of your ministry, but it all begins with prayer.
Revelation 4 describes God’s majestic throne room. But spiritually speaking, where is that throne room located? The seven lamps in verse 5 refer to the seven Church eras—or the spiritual temple. God’s throne is inside the spiritual temple, and inside this Church is where God dwells. Being in this Church, then, gives us access to God—but that must come through prayer.
Gerald Flurry wrote, “Look at the royal environment in which your prayers are handled. Look at the priority God gives your prayers! You must place the same supreme importance on your prayers! You must remember where they are going. This has a lot to do with how God’s people are judged today. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much [James 5:16]. Do your prayers avail much today?” (Unveiled at Last: The Royal Book of Revelation ; emphasis added throughout).
Notice Revelation 5:7-8. This sweet incense, beaten fine, represents the detailed and fervent prayers of the saints, offered to God in a humble attitude. How sweet are your daily sacrifices? Are they beaten as fine as incense—so specific that they are like handfuls of dust?
The spirit beings described here are responsible for our prayers! God has specific angels monitoring all of our prayers, and Christ, as our High Priest, also intercedes on our behalf when we pray. This shows how seriously God takes our prayers.
In a Royal Vision series on “The Royal Book of Revelation,” Mr. Flurry wrote, “The ministry must lead God’s people in building their entire lives around the incense altar! Our primary focus in life must be on how we talk to God in prayer! That is our number one priority. That is how we grow in God’s royal Family.
“The ark represented the throne of God. The golden altar was placed just before the ark in the physical temple. This altar was where the prayers of the saints were offered. It symbolized faithful prayers which were acceptable to God!” (May-June 1998).
Can we see what we are a part of? Are we aware of what we alone have access to in this spiritual temple?
In Who Is ‘That Prophet’?, Mr. Flurry admonishes each one of us to “be praying to God about an hour a day (at least 30 minutes just to survive), but in crises, we really need to be crying out to God! [A] crisis in the Church is a test from God to get His people to cry out to Him.”
We simply cannot worship God without prayer. Your prayers will determine your success in worshiping God and your success in life.
A House of Prayer
In Isaiah 56, God addresses His people—“the man” who keeps the Sabbath (verse 2). God is seeking people who put God’s pleasures above their own. That means prayer and Bible study must be first in our lives, or we are putting something between us and God!
“Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (verse 5). Our name will be on the Bride of Christ, or the mother, level—and with Christ, we will bring forth many children. In addition to our everlasting name, we should also remember the everlasting place God is offering us. God says He will give us an eternal place within His house and within His walls!
Revelation 3:11 is the last specific warning God gives to the Philadelphians in this end time. But it is followed in verse 12 by the last specific reward the Philadelphians will receive if we remain steadfast. Here again, God draws attention to the name we will be rewarded with—and the place we will forever dwell in.
Our position in the Kingdom is so unique compared to the other firstfruits because of the place where we will dwell. All of the firstfruits will enter into the Family of God on the Bride and mother level, but only the Philadelphians are rewarded with headquarters positions! Our permanent place of residence will be in the temple of God—and we will go no more out!
God told King David He would plant the people of Israel, and move them no more (2 Samuel 7:10). That’s what God is doing with us—preparing us for our permanent dwelling place. We are actually the fulfillment of the hope King Solomon expressed when he dedicated the temple anciently. We are the temple in which God will abide forever!
God will bring us to His “holy mountain”—His headquarters in Jerusalem—where He will make us joyful in His house of prayer and where He will accept our spiritual sacrifices (Isaiah 56:7). Look at the value God places on our contact with Him! Look at the value He puts upon our prayers.
God is our Father—the most perfect, loving Father there ever has been or ever will be. As a loving Father, God is intimate with His children. We are able to love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). In other words, because of His love for us, we are obligated to return that love. Any loving father desires the attention of his children, and when a child appears disinterested, the father will only try harder to get his or her attention. God is trying to get the attention of His people. He wants an intimate relationship with them! But there comes a point where He has to draw the line: at the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.
Remember the instance where Jesus found money-changers in the temple. He was upset, and He had every right to be! What He found in God’s temple was no different than what you might see out on the street—out in the world. “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).
How angry do you think God is about what is going on inside His spiritual temple? God’s temple is supposed to be a house of prayer, not just another church. God has called us to be a part of this Work so that we might learn to worship Him—that we might become a praying people. Yet, look at how many people today have turned away from that calling. Still, God would quickly forgive them, if they would just turn back. Like a child who eventually comes around and seeks the attention of his father, many repentant Laodiceans will do the same in the Tribulation.
Isaiah 66:2 shows where God dwells: in His people. This is where God’s power is, where He reveals His truth—in His spiritual temple!
Concerning the phrase “to this man will I look,” the Soncino Commentary says it means, “to this man will I take note of, [and] listen to his supplications.” Our editor in chief wrote, “[God] wants a one-on-one relationship with you—His begotten son! God is your loving Father, and He does not neglect His sons!” (Isaiah’s End-Time Vision). God really is a Family, and our physical families are a type of His Family.
Teaching the World How to Pray
Notice Isaiah 56 again to see how this all ties in with the wonderful World Tomorrow. “Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people” (verse 7). What a vision this is! We will be rewarded with positions in this house of prayer, but the house of prayer is not just for us—it is for all people!
The Isaiah booklet continues, “God is speaking to His own converted people today. He is discussing the turbulent end times. Then He goes on to state how His house of prayer will soon be accepted by the whole world. God will bring the firstfruits to His holy mountain today, then use them to help bring the whole world into God’s spiritual house! They will teach the whole world how to pray.”
Can that really be true? Are we worshiping God so that we might soon teach the whole world how to have a Father-son relationship with God?
When you understand our reward—the fact that we will enter into God’s Family as the wife of Christ, soon to be the mother of billions of God beings—it makes perfect sense. Just as a mother points her children to the father of the house, we will have the unique privilege of teaching the finer points of true spirituality to all of God’s children in the World Tomorrow. We will have qualified—because of the intimate relationship we are now partakers of—to teach the whole world how to have an intimate relationship with their Maker!
In the World Tomorrow, God will once again dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, on His holy mountain, and Jerusalem will be called a city of truth (Zechariah 8:3). Jerusalem will be the designated capital of the world—the center of Earth’s peaceful, law-abiding activity. Keep in mind, this is also the place where we will dwell in the World Tomorrow.
Verses 7-8 show that salvation will be brought to this world through Jerusalem! Jerusalem will be the city of peace—the city of truth—the city where we will work.
Part of our job description will be gathering all people together in Jerusalem to worship God (verses 20-21). If you think it is exciting to gather your things to go up to the Feast in Stone Mountain or Ireland, just wait until the whole world packs their bags for the Feast in Jerusalem! Millions of people from all around the world—of one mind, one Spirit—will gather together to worship God in one place: Jerusalem.
But what will they do in Jerusalem? “And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (verses 21-22). The word speedily in verse 21 can be translated “continually” (see margin). In the World Tomorrow, people will go up to Jerusalem continually to pray before God! Pray can also read, “to entreat the face of” (see margin). In Jerusalem, they will be able to communicate with God face to face.
Even though God’s throne will not yet be set up on Earth, Jesus Christ will rule from the temple in Jerusalem. That temple is also where we will rule! This means that people will come to Jerusalem regularly so that we might teach them how to pray to God!
This doesn’t mean, of course, that people will only pray while at the temple. Remember, Solomon prayed that God would hear the prayers offered inside the temple, as well as the prayers offered toward the temple. It means that all prayers will have a headquarters focus!
“[M]any people and strong nations”—all of them—will come to Jerusalem to seek God (verse 22), to pray before the Eternal! They will be looking for spiritual Jews to accompany them to Jerusalem (verse 23). Teachers will be in great demand in the World Tomorrow. And one of our primary objectives as headquarters employees will be to teach the world how to pray.
Anciently, God made Solomon’s temple the most famous building on Earth. But He also made David famous, even though he was a mere shepherd before his calling (2 Samuel 7:8). David became a witness to the people—a leader—a commander (Isaiah 55:3-4). What about us? People that we have never known—nations that have never heard of us—will come running because our fame will have spread throughout the land (verse 5), just like David’s did. They will come running because God will have glorified us. Compare that with Haggai 2, where God says He will fill this latter house with glory far greater than that of the first. We are what make that house glorious—as long as we remain a people of prayer. There is a reason God places Philadelphians in His house of prayer forever: because they are praying people!
When Christ gets back, He will not change human nature with the snap of His fingers. The Bible says He will begin His rule among enemies (Psalm 110:2). To establish lasting peace in the World Tomorrow, we must reeducate the world. We will help Christ change man’s nature—and that all begins by teaching people how to establish a relationship with their Creator.
The inward man is renewed day by day, through prayer (2 Corinthians 4:16). There can be nothing more fundamental in reeducating this world than teaching people how to pray.
Is this our approach in our prayers today? Do we pray with this World Tomorrow vision in mind? Remember, God’s temple will be called a house of prayer for all people in the World Tomorrow, and we will work in this house of prayer. Are you becoming a professional at prayer?
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). The word “established” would be better translated prepared. This is what God is doing right now—preparing His house of prayer! Once it’s prepared, God will establish His house on Mount Zion in Jerusalem—and then all nations will flow to it. That is where their reeducation will begin (verse 3).
Everyone, in all nations, will go up to Jerusalem from year to year to worship God—to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16). And worshiping God begins with prayer. That’s how God’s Spirit will be renewed in man in the World Tomorrow, and that’s how our spirits are renewed today. We are here to worship God, and that begins with our fervent prayers before Him every morning in His house of prayer.
Royal Vision, July-August 2007