"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 church temple?

Isn't the body a temple?

The reason the body is a temple is because it houses two spiritual beings. The first is the soul or the individual spiritual being - each of us, in other words.

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 other “spirit” of the body is 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, watching and waiting for us to turn to Him. Most people might think this is pretty fantastic. Yet even we can utilize various technologies to expand and disperse movie pictures and television programming to millions of TVs using radio waves.

For God to have a technology allowing Him to expand into each body is certainly 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.

Why is three days significant?

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. Here we know that Jesus no longer was within his physical body. How do we know? Because 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 to his disciples in a form they could recognize because they were doubtful (e.g. "doubting Thomas").

The attachment that sectarian teachings have with the body - that somehow the body will live on after death, is simply not true. For we know scientifically that the body decomposes after death.

Does the soul 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.