The following is an excerpt from some material I composed for the teaching ministry of South City Church. You can listen to the sermon on which this material is based here — Our Identity and Calling in Christ (1 Peter 2:4-10).
In our passage this week [1 Peter 2:4-10], Peter makes use of this idea of temple.
Our understanding of temple begins in the Garden of Eden. If we were to look at Genesis 1-3 carefully, there are signs that we are suppose to see the Garden of Eden as something like a temple — a place where God dwells with humanity. Later when God gives Israel the tabernacle and temple, interestingly enough he tells them to decorate them with trees and things that make them look like a new Eden of sorts. The Garden of Eden is a “garden-temple.” And it is in this garden that God dwells with humanity without hindrance, without the intrusion of sin. Humanity experiences God’s presence and worships him perfectly.
When Adam and Even rebel, however, sin enters the equation. And this breaks the relationship between God and mankind. God, who is immeasurably holy, cannot tolerate sin. God’s, in his perfection, cannot dwell in the presence of sin without destroying it. This is why in the Old Testament, the levitical (temple) Law speaks of things being “unclean” and the sacrifices and their blood “cleansing” and “purifying.” It was through the temple and its sacrifices that God was able to dwell with his people again, despite sin. This is why God gave the temple, so that he could dwell with his people. And this is why he ordered the sacrifices, to deal with their sin.