Against the odds, great opposition, and their own inclinations, the temple was (mostly) completed. It was up and running, and sacrifices were being offered once again.
But there was a problem: They were really discouraged. They'd put all this effort and time and resources into rebuilding it, and at the end of it, a lot of people were asking themselves if it was worth it. Some of them were old enough to remember the original temple, and the old one in their memories looked a lot more ornate and elaborate. This looked puny and mean by comparison.
By the way, once again we see the repeated phrase “Give careful thought.” They still had work to do, and they had to fight against discouragement. They were surrounded by hostile nations, controlled by a foreign power, and to some the new temple only seemed like it was a mockery of what they once had.
But the Lord wasn’t finished with them, and so they couldn’t give up. He made some pretty bold promises regarding this place. The day was coming in which he would shake the heavens and the earth. Nations would come forward and bring their treasure to this place. “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house.”
How could this be? How could it be more glorious than the previous one? It was smaller, they had used fewer sacrifices in its 2nd inauguration than its first in the days of Solomon, and to all appearances it was a mere shadow of what they had before. But according to the prophet, what the Lord had in store for the temple would make Solomon’s—as great as that was—look like a cardboard box by comparison.
What is the prophet referring to when he says “what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory”? There are different interpretations on this (put out by conservative, Bible-believing scholars), partly because the Hebrew is a little obscure, and partly because Haggai doesn’t elaborate on it. Some say that it’s referring to the Messiah—the One whom all the nations have been waiting for—is coming to the temple. Others say that it’s referring to the treasures which the nations will bring to it, since he mentions “silver and gold” in the next verse. That could refer to when King Darius and others donated to the temple, or (depending on your interpretation of the End Times) it could refer to the ingathering of the Church from the nations (happening right now) or a Millenial Temple when Christ comes back and reigns for a 1000 years.
He also says that his glory will fill this temple, apparently much more than he ever did with Solomon’s temple (which actually is saying a lot). Most of the scholars I’ve read fall into two camps on this. Some say that it’s talking about when Jesus (God in the flesh) visited the temple during his earthly sojourn. Others say (again, depending on how you interpret the End Times), that it’s talking about Christ filling his “temple” of the Church or that it’s referring again to the Millenial Temple.
My interpretation? Personally, I tend to take a “partial, then complete” motif when it comes to prophecies like this (and with the last verses of Amos). I think it was partially fulfilled when Darius and others donated to it, and when Christ deigned to enter it while on earth. But I think the entire completion of this will happen in the future.
But I certainly wouldn’t die on this hill. There are plenty of Bible-believing scholars whom I respect who think this was mostly fulfilled in the past. And although we disagree about the details, we can all agree on the main point of this.
Which is? If you get off your duff and start doing what God has told you to do, you might be discouraged by what you see at any particular time. Don’t be. He isn’t finished with the work he started, particularly with you. When he does complete it, you'll be amazed. When Satan offers you something, he always puts the best parts of his “deal” forward, hoping you won’t see the “fine print” which will bite you later. His best is up front, and the worst is later. But with God, it can truly be said that he saves his best for last.
And for every believer, no matter how we disagree about the details, it can also truly be said that “The best is yet to come.” Meditate on that for a moment.
Lord Jesus, with all your Church I eagerly await your return. For me, the best truly is yet to come, and I owe it all to you. Thank you.