"So Solomon built the temple and completed it. He lined its interior walls with cedar boards, paneling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling, and covered the floor of the temple with planks of juniper. He partitioned off twenty cubits at the rear of the temple with cedar boards from floor to ceiling to form within the temple an inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place." (1 Kings 6:14-16) The Most Holy Place, often known as the Holy of Holies, had its own separate compartment in the wilderness tabernacle and we assume the tent at Jerusalem was laid out this way as well. This is where the ark of the covenant rested, where the high priest would enter alone once a year to offer blood for his sins and for the sins of the people.
"The main hall in front of this room was forty cubits long. The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen." (1 Kings 6:17-18) The materials that held the structure in place (the cut stones) were completely hidden on the inside by this especially prized wood of Lebanon and then the wood was overlaid with fine gold as we will see.
"He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary." (1 Kings 6:19-22) The tabernacle in the wilderness had a curtain, a veil, that separated the outer sanctuary from the inner sanctuary. Herod's temple in Jesus' time evidently also had a curtain of cloth rather than a curtain of gold chain, for we are told that when the Lord Jesus gave up the Spirit on the cross, "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." (Matthew 27:51) God the Father reached down and grabbed hold of the veil, tearing it in two from top to bottom, showing us that His perfect Son made a way for us to enter the very presence of God. In the tabernacle, in the tent at Jerusalem, in Solomon's temple, and in Herod's temple a veil separated man from God. We could not look at Him face to face because of our great sin. His holiness is such that it would consume us. We would be struck dead if we entered the inner room. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place and he could never go in without the blood of an atoning sacrifice, which he must offer first for his own sins so he can stand in the presence of God to offer blood for the sins of the people. But at the death of Jesus our Redeemer, there was no more need for a veil. Our High Priest entered into the Most High Place in heaven with His own blood, purifying forever all who come to Him for redemption. In Christ, no veil will ever separate us from the face of our God. In Christ, we come boldly to the throne of grace, making our appeals not on the basis of our own holiness but on the basis of Christ's holiness.
The curtain in the tabernacle was embroidered with cherubim but a curtain of gold chain cannot be embroidered and so Solomon has cherubim carved out of wood. "For the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim out of olive wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing five cubits---ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip." (1 Kings 6:23-24)
"The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape. The height of each cherub was ten cubits. He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. He overlaid the cherubim with gold." (1 Kings 6:25-28) Imagine what a solemn and imposing sight this was to the high priest when he entered once a year on the Day of Atonement! Every second he would be reminded of the holiness of God and how important it was to perform his duties in the correct way and in the right spirit. Now here's something I find very interesting in that these cherubim are in a sense "serving" before the throne of God on earth: His ark of the covenant and His mercy seat. You may recall in our study of Revelation that there are four living creatures, or cherubim, who serve before the throne of God day and night, forever and ever. Everything the Lord commanded to be done for the tabernacle and the temple mimics the true temple in heaven. On earth the cherubim looked over the mercy seat, guarding the glory of God, and in heaven the cherubim stand before God and His mercy seat, declaring the glory of God. If the temple of Solomon was glorious, just imagine what the true temple in heaven must look like! The brightness of the gold that overlaid everything in Solomon's temple was enough to send people awestruck to their knees; how much more awesome must God's actual dwelling place be?
"On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. He also covered the floors of both the inner and outer rooms of the temple with gold." (1 Kings 6:29-20) These sheets of high quality gold were top-of-the-line wall coverings and floor materials. Anyone who entered the sanctuary was surrounded by gold on all sides; their feet even stood on gold. Someday all we who are redeemed by the blood of Christ will walk on streets of the purest gold, so pure they are clear like glass, and reflected in them I think we will see our own faces which have somehow become more like His. We will see Christ in us. Who can even begin to dream what that will be like? Somehow by His wondrous grace we pitiful sinners who were created from the dust of the ground will reflect His indescribable glory.
"For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors out of olive wood that were one fifth of the width of the sanctuary. And on the two olive-wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with hammered gold. In the same way, for the entrance to the main hall he made doorframes out of olive wood that were one fourth of the width of the hall. He also made two doors out of juniper wood, each having two leaves that turned in sockets. He carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers on them and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings. And he built the inner courtyard of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams." (1 Kings 6:31-36) All these carvings were reminiscent of the elaborate embroidery on the curtain panels of the tabernacle.
"The foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it." (1 Kings 6:37-38) This enormous undertaking was completed in an amazingly short amount of time but Solomon had plenty of wealth and laborers at his disposal. Tomorrow we will move on to the building of the palace and it is commendable that Solomon built a house for God before he built a house for himself.
Solomon's temple was one of the greatest structures ever built but it will pale in comparison to the appearance of God's temple and His throne in heaven. Everything on earth is a copy, and a weak copy at that. Whatever our next life will be, it will be far more real than this one ever was. The Apostle Paul, who saw heaven either in a near-death experience or because he was momentarily actually dead, found comfort in knowing just how temporary and colorless this life will seem when we enter the presence of Christ forever. This is why he could say, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)
We have glory in our future, not the glory of our own weak and imperfect successes and accomplishments, but a glory that is powerful and perfect and will remain forever...which is Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) If we ever hope to be anything, it will be through Christ alone.