The Temple was not simply a big church or synagogue. It was the dwelling place of God on earth. It housed His dwelling presence. He was present in the Tabernacle in a way in which He is not present on earth today.
In today's world, a person might attend church or synagogue. Churches and synagogues are descendants of the Tabernacle. The synagogue is modeled after the Tabernacle in that the prayer services remember the daily sacrifices that took place in the Tabernacle. A synagogue has an ark that symbolically corresponds to the Holy of Holies. The community of worshippers assemble in the synagogue at the appointed times just as Israel assembled at the Tabernacle/Temple at those times. Similarly, churches are descendents of synagogues, and they retain many elements of synagogue services.
According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it. (Exodus 25:9)
Today, a person going to church finds himself at a powerfully moving worship service. He might feel spiritually elevated, feel goose bumps on his flesh, experience strong emotions or even see signs and miracles as evidence of the presence of God's Spirit. During such an experience, a person would say, "The presence of the LORD is here." Similarly, a person might go to a solemn Day of Atonement service at the synagogue and hear heart-rending prayers of such spiritual intensity that he feels swept into the very presence of God. But neither of these experiences can be compared with the Tabernacle.
Though the presence of God's Spirit can be felt today (and His Spirit is always with us), the Tabernacle/Temple was different. God was present in a far more concrete and absolute way. It was not a matter of feelings of spiritual intensity; it was a matter of fact. God lived in that place. It was like having God as a next-door neighbor.
The prophet Ezekiel lived in the days of the Babylonian destruction of the Temple. He saw God's people scattered among the nations. He also saw a future time when the Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt and God's dwelling presence would return to it. Until then, He prophesied that God would dwell among his people as a "little sanctuary" in their midst:
Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. (Ezekiel 11:16 KJV)
In Judaism, the phrase "little sanctuary" is understood to refer to synagogues and Jewish homes. The rituals and prayer services of the synagogue are closely related to the Tabernacle services. The imagery of the home and the Sabbath table is drawn from the Tabernacle rituals.
Every place where God's people gather to worship him, whether at home around the table, at the synagogue or at the church, God is present as a "little sanctuary." We are able to have a small taste of His presence.