Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | March 24, 2008

How does Jesus response to the Jews point to His three-fold office (Lesson 6: Question 4 Answer)

4. How does Jesus response to the Jews point to His three-fold office (munus triplex)?

When we consider Jesus Christ as the mediator between God and men, that mediation is characterized in at least three significant ways (WLC Q&A 42).  These three different ways are identified as the offices of Prophet, Priest and King and provide a robust sense of the depth and extent of our Savior’s role in salvation.  All three of these roles are either explicitly or implicitly implied in our text, which is as follows:

18So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

As we alluded to in the opening section of our passage we find the convergence of the munus triplex in the midst of this text.  We have already pointed out how our Lord’s response to the Jews who demanded a sign for His actions qualifies as a prophetic utterance.  In considering the content of this prophecy we realize that its scope contains a subject whose fulfillment was of no ordinary value.  As Calvin puts it, “for no greater approbation of the divine power in Christ could be desired than his resurrection from the dead.”118 In prophesying about His resurrection from the dead it pertains to a matter that is most precious for our faith and indispensable to fulfillment of the covenant of grace.  Not least to mention, that the fulfillment of this prophecy renders the qualifications necessary to ensure it as an authentic and certain utterance worthy of a genuine prophet of God.  Consequently, Jesus’ mediatorial office of Prophet being evident in this text should be without controversy and absent of any formidable doubt.  Hence, we will proceed to elucidate how the next mediatorial office is seen within these verses.

From the beginning of the fourth Gospel, it appears as though the apostle John has been building up to this text.  We see this beginning when we are told that the Word became flesh (John 1:14) and also “tabernacled” with men.  The allusion in the use of the word εσκηνωσεν ties God’s earthly sanctuary, where the only authorized sacrifices for atonement occurred, to its antitype Christ the heavenly archtype incarnated.  The context is further refined in John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Lamb of God” was in Israel’s midst (John 1:29).  This title signified the propitiatory nature of Jesus’ work appointed to Him in the incarnation. In the calling of the disciples this emphasis is further fortified in the acknowledgement that Jesus is the one who Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote (John 1:45).  The implication of this conclusion leads one to deduce that the content of the Old Testament pointed to Christ. 

Consequently, things such as the sacrificial system (i.e. the Lamb of God), the temple/tabernacle and significant characters within the Old Testament had their chief end in foreshadowing the coming Messiah.  Finally, at the conclusion of chapter one we find in the dialogue with Nathanael, Jesus equating Himself with the vision of “Jacob’s Ladder” (John 1:51). Jacob’s ladder signified man’s access point with the covenant Lord, which was subsequently identified with the Mosaic tabernacle/temple. Thus, we have here another predecessor to our current text that is drawing a parallel between Christ and the temple sacrificial system being the proprietary access with the covenant Lord.               

All of this background information provided by the apostle finally reaches a climactic culmination in the incarnate “temple”, from heaven, entering the precincts of the earthly temple to bring a cessation to its irreverence and defilement.  This rebuke of the treatment of the ectype earthly temple by the archtype heavenly temple manifests the planned obsolescence of the ectype, which was imperfect, unable to objectively cleanse the sinner’s conscience (Hebrews 10:1-4) and destined to pass into existence once the archtype arrived (Hebrews 8:13).  The coming of this archtype was foretold since the days of Samuel when the covenant Lord pronounced to the wicked house of Eli that He would raise up a “faithful priest” who would fully perform His will (1 Samuel 2:35).  The fulfillment of this prophecy was coming to pass in Jesus the perfect Lamb of God (Hebrews 7:26-28) who unlike the priests from the old order, offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 9:11-12).    

The promise was that this “faithful priest” would “be anointed forever”, which suggests that He would never die.  Although, Christ does ultimately suffer the pain of death in His priestly work, His prophecy declared in the midst of this text reveals that in due course the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:15-16) would be manifested in His resurrection.  Our Lord’s resurrection was not only the turning point between His humiliation and exaltation, but also the event that made effective the atoning sacrifice for our justification (Romans 4:25).  Thus, as previously noted the content of our Lord’s prophecy uttered points to His priestly office.We have thus far demonstrated how our text points to two of the three offices of our Lord, in the rest of our time we will seek to affirm the final office from our passage.  This is the most difficult to establish and will require a combination of historical and biblical arguments to prove. 

We will begin with a brief overview of the salient historical evidence.The second temple period from the time the exiles returned to the time of our Lord’s first advent was a tumultuous period for the area of Palestine.  During this period the dominion of this land changed hands approximately 5 times.  Of these 5 successions of power the one we would like to begin the focus of our discussion on is the Maccabean period.  This period of Jewish self-rule spanned approximately 100 years between the ruling of the Seleucid and Roman Empires.  It was the policy of the Seleucid Empire who ruled over the Jews in Palestine to appoint a high priest in Israel who was loyal to the empire.119 The Maccabean revolt was instigated when the ruling high priest, who sympathized with the pro-hellenizing policies of the Seleucid Empire, went as far as to acquiesce to the desolation of the temple with pagan sacrifices to Zeus.120 After ten years into this self-rule a figure emerges from the house of Hashmon who brought stability and security to Palestine named John Hyrcanus.  As a formative figure to the party of the Sadducees, he was opposed by the Pharisees during that time in the assumption of his dual role as high priest and king over Israel.121 In his Antiquities Josephus attributes to him as being accounted worthy by God of the three “greatest privileges – the rule of the nation, the office of high priest, and the gift of prophecy” (Ant. 13.10.7).  Thus, we find that this notion of the munus triplex being assumed by one person as something achievable during the second temple period.

Nonetheless, others have pointed out that Hyrcanus’ gift of prophecy was hardly worthy of a genuine prophet of God.  They were more accurately characterized as “allegedly knowing at a distance the outcome of events in which he was vitally interested.” 122 Moreover, Hycranus’ reign which began in 134 BC ultimately came to an end after his death in 104 BC.  Therefore, despite his questionable realization of the munus triplex it is evident by his susceptibility to the ravages of sin through the fall, he was not the fulfillment of the “faithful priest” (1 Samuel 2:35) who was to possess the “power of an indestructible life.”

Another historical figure, whom we have already made mention of in our preliminary assessment of this topic, is Herod the Great.  Of course, this figure has been memorialized with his inclusion in the biblical accounts of Jesus birth (Matthew 2:1-18).  The biblical witness of Herod the Great reveals a cold blooded maniacal Roman tetrarch who slaughtered innocent children after hearing of potential threats to his rule.  Although the extra-biblical material corroborates his merciless and petty behavior testified in the Scriptures, he is renowned for his temple building project in Jerusalem.  The rabbis’ said of this temple “He who has not seen Herod’s temple has not seen beauty.”123 Herod who was from Idumea (an Edomite) was a Jew by religion.  (Incidentally, this region had been assimilated to Israel under Hycranus who compelled them to be circumcised after his subjugating them through conquest).  However, his efforts to build the temple were primarily for political reasons to appease his subjects who resented being ruled by an Edomite.  Although, Herod’s temple building project may have been brilliant in solidifying short term political security among the Jews whom he ruled, in the eyes of the covenant Lord it could be classified as a presumptuous or even foolish endeavor.  The undertaking of this task, was only to be sanctioned upon a Divine decree, as was indicative in the first temple under David/Solomon (2 Samuel 7:5-16) and the second temple under the Persian king Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-2).  Moreover, as manifested by the prophet Zechariah, any subsequent pursuance of this endeavor was to be undertaken by a specific predetermined and prequalified individual as is further elaborated in the following quote by Meredith Kline:

Conjoined with the Branch’s identity as one who comes forth as the royal scion of David’s dynasty is his role as temple builder (Zech 6:12c, d). This role belongs to the portrayal of Messiah as king, for temple building was a royal function…The two royal distinctions attributed to the Branch in CH, his right to the throne and his prerogative of constructing the temple, remind us at once of God’s covenant with David (2 Sam 7:5-16). The same two royal honors are the featured blessings promised in that dynastic grant. At the typological level these royal promises were fulfilled in David’s son Solomon and his successors, but Zechariah’s prophecy looks beyond that to their ultimate fulfillment in the messianic Branch, that Son of David to whom it would be given to build an enduring house for God’s name and the throne of whose kingdom God would establish forever (2 Sam 7:13). 124

As Kline points out in his elucidation of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 6:10-15) it was to be within the scope of the Branch (Messiah) who would be the Priest-King to construct the temple of the covenant Lord.  Thus, Herod the Great was an unqualified candidate to embark on a temple building project for the God of Israel.  Jesus’ statement in verse 19, although as explained by John not a direct reference to the destruction of the Herodian temple, would have been to his Jewish audience taken as a rejection of Herod’s qualifications as a temple-builder. 

This play on words that would have possessed the affect of rejecting the legitimacy of the Herodian temple amongst the crowd is significant.  However, we would be remiss in our duties if we did not deal with the actual meaning that is manifested by the apostle.  Jesus’ prophecy in verse 19 is pointing to another temple that would be built by the authorized Priest-King.  Although, this temple would not be constructed of natural stones, this temple would be constructed of spiritual stones (1 Peter 2:4-5).  The foundation of this temple has been laid with the apostles and prophets with the structure erected upon it comprised of the church (Ephesians 2:19-22), the elect living stones of Christ’s temple indwelled by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:10-16).  The prophetic fulfillment of Zechariah’s utterance will not be found in a physical building, which will not be necessary in the age to come (Revelation 21:22-23).  It will be fulfilled in the spiritual temple of Christ’s body the church as we see in the following elaboration by Kline:      

From fallen mankind, exiled from God’s presence and paradise as the aftermath of Adam’s transgression, from the diaspora of the Gentiles augmented by the diaspora of the Jews (cf. Rom 11:30-32), from far off they come to Christ, God’s temple (John 2:18-21; Eph 2:12-13). They come and participate in the building of the extended temple, the church-body of which Christ is the head, the temple of which he is the chief cornerstone and his apostles and prophets the foundation. They contribute to the raising up of this church-temple by giving themselves when they hear Christ issue his requisition demand that they become living stones in that holy edifice (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16;  Eph 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5-6; Heb 3:6).125

Here in John 2:18-22 we encounter one of many subsequent episodes where “the stone” is being rejected by the builders (Psalm 118:22). The people who were given the sure promise of a coming temple-builder did not receive their Priest-King (John 1:11).  The beauty and splendor of the Herodian temple built by an unqualified individual distracted them from the true temple-builder who was the chief cornerstone whom they would ultimately reject for the earthly shadow:   

6For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
 has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Peter 2:6-8)

Nonetheless, for us who place our trust in Lord Christ the Prophet-Priest-King we have a mediator who has completely saved.  His salvation is complete and beyond anything the earthly shadow could ever provide. 

It was our position that the convergence of the munus triplex could be found within our text.  Our efforts thus far have taken time to point out how this is accomplished.  However, as we continue on in our study we will continue to consider the three fold office by examining each individual office of Prophet, Priest and King.

118 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 97

119 Everett Ferguson Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; WB Eerdmans, Third Edition 2003) 405                                   
120 Everett Ferguson Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; WB Eerdmans, Third Edition 2003) 407
121 Everett Ferguson Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; WB Eerdmans, Third Edition 2003) 410
122 Ibid
123 Everett Ferguson Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; WB Eerdmans, Third Edition 2003) 413

124 Meredith Kline “The Exaltation of Christ” (  ) p 2

125 Meredith Kline “The Exaltation of Christ” (  ) p 9



  1. […] of our Savior’s role as the mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Since we have established the convergence of these offices is integrated in this passage, we will remain focused on the following […]

  2. […] we discussed in our previous entry Jesus in this passage is making reference to His task of temple-builder.  This task was divinely […]

  3. […] was during this encounter that we earlier argued that our Lord’s three-fold office was found to converge.  The crowds in Jerusalem, eager with messianic anticipation, were seeking a deliverer to restore […]

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