19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Jesus did not answer the questions of these inquisitors because they had no interest in the truth or justice of His cleansing the temple. They only wanted to undermine or discredit Him (previous verse).
19 Jesus answered and said to them,
Instead of responding to their specific question, Jesus introduced a veiled presentation of His resurrection, an enigmatic reply to their question. Jesus often veiled truth from people with negative volition toward Him. He did not take their bait. They were in a state of unbelief and rebellion against God’s revelation. This idea runs throughout the gospel of John (Jn 3:3–4; 4:14–15; 6:32–35, 51–52; 7:34–36; 8:51–53, 56–57; 10:1–6.)
The purpose of an enigmatic saying was to puzzle those who heard it. They were in a stark state of negative volition. Since they were disposed to not believe Him, He gave them a puzzle to figure out in order to perceive its significance. This is a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis. The Lord did not claim that His body was like the temple; that would have been a simile. Neither did He say it was His body; that would have been a metaphor. He merely implied the word body (Jn 2:21).
“Destroy this temple [inner temple, not the temple complex],
Jesus used irony here as an enigmatic saying. Jewish literature was filled with veiled sayings (mashal, a parable as a riddle). He used the physical temple as an analogy for His physical body. Evidently the Jews missed His point because they raised the issue again later (Mt 26:60-61).
The word “temple” here is the inner temple (naos). The inner temple is the place where God dwelt. The temple of Jesus’ day was the third temple of the Jews: (1) the first temple was Solomon’s, (2) the second was Zerubbabel’s, and (3) the third Herod the Great’s.
and in three days I will raise it up.”
The “three days” here foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection. This would have made the temple to have served and completed its purpose. Jesus came to establish a new temple.
These words were used against Jesus at His trial in Jerusalem years later (Mt 26:61; Mr 14:58). It was a capital crime to incite people to destroy the Herodian temple. However, Jesus said “you” will destroy this temple, not “I” will destroy it. Further, Jesus spoke of His physical body and not of the temple.
Jesus is the Antitype that fulfills the type of the temple.
We cannot separate the type (the temple) from the Antitype (Christ). The temple was the place where God dwelt. It was a type of the body of Jesus, who was the dwelling place of God. Jesus was the true temple. He answered the issue of raising up the temple again by His resurrection.
Everything about the temple was fulfilled in Christ. During His time on earth, Jesus was in the process of fulfilling every symbol in the temple. He Himself, however, was the inner sanctuary of the very presence of God. The Shekinah glory changed residence from the temple to Christ at His first coming. Everything in the temple was a type of Christ—the sacrifices, ceremonies, garments, and furniture. Jesus became the Antitype of all those types.