"Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." (John 2:19)

After Jesus drove out the sellers in the temple court (see post below), someone asked Jesus:
"What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" (John 2:18)
This was his answer. In both Matthew and Mark, it is indicated that Jesus also said this, but he is not quoted saying it. In both Matthew and Mark, someone else is claiming that Jesus said this.

Was Jesus referring to a building?

It is important to note that the people he spoke to thought Jesus was talking about the temple he was standing near. They responded:
"It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" (John 2:20)
But the Gospel of John follows with:
‘But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.’ (John 2:21)
This indicates that Jesus was referring to his body as a temple. This concept has been spoken of many times by Jesus, earlier prophets and disciples of Jesus.

What does this mean, however? What does it mean for the body to be compared to a temple?

Isn't the body a temple?

The reason the body is a temple is because it houses the soul or the individual spirit-person. Each of us is a spirit-person temporarily occupying a physical body.

We are not our physical bodies. Our physical bodies are temporary vehicles we utilize to try to enjoy this world (or serve God with if we are inclined) for a few decades. Then we leave the body at death. The manner in which we've used the body is then judged. This has been appropriately described (and woefully misunderstood), in scripture as "judgment day."

The body is also a receptacle for the Holy Spirit of God. This is God’s expansion into each of our bodies. Within each body, next to the living being, God’s expansion is there, making Himself available to turn to Him. 

Some might think this is pretty fantastic. Yet even we can beam radio wave signals into homes and automobiles in the form of television and radio.

For God to have a technology allowing Him to expand into each body may be amazing, but it is nevertheless practical. God's expansion is there to help guide us should we be willing to accept such guidance.

It is for this reason that Jesus clearly indicated that his body was a temple.

What was raised in three days?

The reason three days is significant is that Jesus appeared to his disciples after three days, just before he ascended and returned home to the spiritual world.

But what was raised? Did Jesus' dead body reawake and start walking around again? What about the various holes - in his hands, and feet, and sides? Wouldn't blood be leaking out of these holes if the body became alive again and started walking around?

First, it should be clear that the Greek word translated to "raised" is ἐγείρω (egeirō). I can mean "to arouse," but also, according to the lexicon, "cause to appear" and "to cause to appear, bring before the public."

The Scriptures do not indicate that Jesus appeared in his physical body. Rather, it states clearly that he appeared "in a different form." It also states that his disciples and students did not recognize Jesus when he appeared to them:
Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. (Mark 16:12)
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:15-16)
Later Jesus appeared again to his disciples, and again they did not immediately recognize him. Many doubted (e.g. "doubting Thomas").

Even in his next appearance, they did not necessarily recognize him:
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matthew 28:17)
The text also states that Jesus' spirit left his body on the cross:
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
We know scientifically that the body decomposes after death. The soul - the spirit - leaves the body ("passes"). The Roman guards, and Joseph all confirmed that Jesus' body was dead when they took him down from the cross (or tree) and laid him in Joseph's temporary tomb.

The only mystery here is what happened to Jesus' dead body? Well, the fact that they had laid it in a temporary tomb belonging to Joseph's family might indicate that it was removed to Jesus' family tomb - as was Jewish custom.

Furthermore, the guards that were watching over the tomb were not wanting there to be a scene. So there is also a considerable likelihood that the guards rolled the rock back and removed Jesus' dead body from the tomb.

All this means that Jesus appeared to them in an apparition - similar to what angels can appear with. Such an appearance is different in substance than the physical body. An apparition can appear in one form and actually change appearance as well.

But the fact that Jesus appeared to them after three days - long after his body was murdered and dead - indicates that Jesus illustrated his command over physical nature. His 'temple' could be murdered - yet he would still re-appear to them three days later - within his true temple of the spirit.

Does the spirit leave the body at the time of death?

Consider this exchange between some Sadducees and Jesus regarding our identity after death:
Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"
Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”
(Luke 20:27-38)
Let's consider this statement carefully. This not only clarifies our true identity but the meaning of resurrection. Resurrection obviously means the returning of the spiritual self back to the spiritual world.

This is confirmed by Jesus' statement, "they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection." And since he includes that not only do we rise after death, but we continue living after the death of the body: "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”

The only way we can live after the death and decomposition of this body is if we are distinct from our physical bodies. We are spiritual, with angel-like bodies. We are not these temporary physical bodies.