Aside from patterns, people have a lot of trouble with prophetic language. That’s why you hear about the thousand year kingdom. They simply don’t do the work, looking through the scriptures for the obvious fulfillments—the patterns!
But you have come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel. Heb 12:22-24.
Could there be any plainer passage to prove that Mount Zion equals the heavenly Jerusalem equals the church? “Zion” and “Mt Zion” is used over and over in the prophets, speaking of the restored kingdom, and in almost every instance includes an obvious reference to the Messiah in the context.
So what was literal Mt Zion? It was the Temple Mount, the place where Abraham offered Isaac, and later the same range on which God offered His Son as the lamb promised to Abraham on that dreadful day so long ago. So now you have another equal sign: Hebrews says Zion in the prophets equals the church, not a literal mountain, but a spiritual kingdom and spiritual Temple.
Now start considering everything you know about the literal Temple in the Old Testament. It was the place where God dwelt. He had promised in the Law (e.g. Deut 12:5) that He would choose a place for His name to dwell. When Solomon built the Temple, he offered a prayer asking God to dwell in that Temple. God sent his presence in answer to that prayer, 1 Kings 9:3. What about the church?
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Eph 2:19-22. The church is now the Temple, the dwelling place of God.
Who served in the literal Temple? Priests offered sacrifices there, Ex 29:44,45. Who serves in the figurative Temple, the church? No, we don’t have a clergy of backwards collars. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1Pet 2:9. We are all priests in this Temple, and we offer sacrifices too. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Rom 12:1.
The priests in the Old Testament Temple had to wash themselves in the golden laver before serving, Ex 30:18-20. We, too, must be washed before we can serve in God’s new Temple, Mt Zion. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Heb 10:22. Isn’t baptism the obvious reference?
We have already answered a few questions, haven’t we? Now we understand why we must keep the church pure, why we cannot tolerate sin among us. We are the place where God dwells, and He will leave this place as surely as He left that literal Temple when His people no longer obeyed His instructions. And we also know one reason for baptism—to cleanse us for service in His temple as priests. We also know that we offer ourselves as sacrifices, not just on Sunday, but every day of our lives. Just as those priests gave their lives to serving God, we give ours. It is our vocation, not our hobby, not our own little social club, but a holy calling.
And this is only the beginning.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph 4:1-3