Every Christian understands that under the Old Covenant there was sacred time and space.
The sacred time was the Sabbath Day. God required one seventh of his people’s time to be sacred, that is, to be set apart to God for His exclusive use. Exodus 20:8-11, Isaiah 58:13-14
The sacred space was the Temple. God required a place that was sacred, that is, space set apart for God’s personal dwelling. The temple as a whole, and especially the Holy of Holies, was the place where the special presence of God was manifested and the space where His glory especially dwelt. Exodus 25:8, 29:43
None of this was a denial that all of their time belonged to God, and that His presence was in every place.
But clearly, God Himself set aside both a special time and a special place for his people to worship him more fully, to receive a larger measure of His grace, and to have a greater experience of His presence than would ever occur during the week as they went about their ordinary duties.
And what is true of the Old Covenant, is true of the New Covenant as well. We too have sacred time and space.
The sacred time continues to be the Sabbath Day. The day of observance has changed, but the moral obligation contained in the fourth commandment to set aside one day out of seven as a day sacred to the Lord remains. Sunday is the time to be set apart to God for His exclusive use. Mark 2:27-28, Acts 20:7, Revelation 1:10
The sacred space is the New Covenant temple, which is the gathered assembly of believers in the local church. Two passages make this very clear:
“Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
“Know ye not that ye (collectively) are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Note also Ephesians 2:21-22, and 1Tim 3:15.
Now notice: It is the gathered assembly of the believers meeting as a local church that is the New Covenant temple, not a physical building. The believers themselves, when gathered together, make up a sacred space, irrespective of the building they may or may not be in.
It is common in our day to refer to the room in which the church meets for worship as “the sanctuary,” as though it is a holy space because the church meets in it. It is not. It is a mere auditorium and nothing more. Indeed, the church may meet outside without any physical building at all.
It is the assembled believers themselves, gathered as a local church, which constitutes the sacred space; they collectively are the New Covenant temple in which the special presence of God dwells.
Jesus Himself said in Matthew 18:20, when speaking of the local church, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Christ promises His special presence in the New Covenant temple, the local church, which makes it a sacred space, a space in which Christ dwells and manifests His special presence in a way He does nowhere else. It is the new Holy of Holies.
All of this should help us to see that the assembled local church is a sacred place, unlike any other place, and to neglect worshiping there is as evil as it would have been for the Old Testament saints to fail to worship at the Old Covenant temple. Heb 10:19-25
It should also help us to see that the local church is a sacred place to worship him more fully, to receive larger measures of His grace, and to have a greater experience of His presence than would ever occur during the week as we go about our ordinary duties. The local church is a place of special blessing. We should therefore value it very highly, and say with David in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
In the New Heavens and the New Earth we will have sacred time and space, as we see in Isaiah 66:22-23. That heavenly reality already breaks in upon us now in the local church. Let us revel and rejoice as we taste now in the church a portion of the heavenly reality we will one day enjoy fully.Pastor Max Doner Sovereign Grace Bible Church Lebanon, Oregon