HOUSMAIL Number HM#009 - THE THIRD TEMPLE 21 November 1998
Many Christians (especially those of the FUTURIST school of prophecy) claim that a third temple MUST be built, to fulfil several prophecies which they understand to refer to events associated with the appearance of the ANTICHRIST, and a GREAT TRIBULATION, immediately prior to the second coming.
There have been recent media reports of the appearance of a new RED HEIFER in Israel. (The first in nearly 2000 years) (1)The Temple Mount Faithful Movement, a Jewish organisation based in Jerusalem, has long term objectives to liberate the Temple Mount, and rebuild the temple. Architectural plans have been prepared; a priesthood is being trained; garments and temple vessels are being made. (2) These reports have fuelled speculation about the possible building of a THIRD TEMPLE in Jerusalem in the very near future.
This issue of HOUSMAIL will address the question of whether the Bible supports this expectation.
THE PROPHECY OF JESUS IN MATT 24 AND LUKE 21
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down." (Matt 24:1-2)
The destruction of the SECOND TEMPLE by the Roman army, in AD 70, was in direct fulfilment of this prophecy made by Jesus.
Just as Jesus said, the stones of the temple which the four disciples saw that day, were all thrown down. In fulfilment of the ancient prophecy by Daniel, the Roman soldiers celebrated their victory by erecting their standards in the temple area, and offering sacrifices to them. (the "desolating sacrilege" - Matt 24:15 RSV) And as Micah had predicted centuries before, the temple site was ploughed. (Micah 3:12) The "desolation" of the house of God in Jerusalem was complete. (Matt 23:38)
Shortly after the rebellion led by Bar Kochba in AD136, the Emperor Hadrian built a temple to Jupiter on the site. In AD628 a Byzantine Church was built there. Today the current "desolating sacrilege" (abomination of desolation) is the Mosque of Omar - The Dome of the Rock - which has occupied the temple site since AD691.
THE IMPLICATIONS FOR DISCIPLES OF JESUS
THE OLD MOSAIC ORDER HAS PASSED AWAY.
When Jesus died there was a great earthquake. "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split;" (Matt 27:51)
This was the beginning of the end for the Mosaic system of worship. Before that generation came to its end, the Temple was destroyed, and eventually, the nation itself was scattered to the four corners of the earth.
The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to explain to JEWS that their ancient Mosaic ritual, the covenant on which it was based, and the Temple system which supported it, is gone for ever! All of this, we are told, was a mere SHADOW pointing to the reality which came into effect through the sacrifice of Jesus. (Heb 8:5)
The Jerusalem Temple was the old "outer tent" spoken of in Heb 9:8. The Mosaic Covenant was the "first covenant". (Heb 8:7) The Day of Atonement ritual reminded men every year that the blood of animal sacrifices alone, could never grant a permanent cleansing from sin. (Heb 9:7, 9) The veil at the entrance to the Holy of Holies testified to imperfection of the Mosaic system, by erecting a barrier between ordinary men and God as long as the Temple remained standing. (Heb 9:8)
As long as the Temple remained in existence, it was a visible reminder of that old system - an edifice defiled by the impure hearts of the vast majority of its priests and worshippers - a physical and mental barrier for the minds of men addicted to mere outward ritual, without true inner holiness. So it had to go.
What was really needed was a better covenant enacted on better promises (Heb 8:6) with a single once-for-all-time sacrifice, and an eternal redemption. (Heb 9:11-14, 26) That is what Jesus has done for us. With his sacrificial death, that first covenant became obsolete, and was ready to pass away. (Heb 8:13)
That earthquake which tore the veil when Jesus died, was a direct "ACT OF GOD" which demonstrated that a NEW WAY was opened into a new Heavenly Sanctuary. (Heb 9:11) Now we can experience the benefits of the NEW COVENANT, which does not require "temples made with hands". (Acts 17:24) Nor is there any need for further offering for sin. (Heb 10:18) Jesus has done that once and for all time. Under this "better covenant" God promises to write His laws in our hearts and minds, so that we can be his people. (Heb 8:10)
The destruction of the temple in AD70 removed the last physical vestiges of the old system. For nearly 2000 years, the "desolating sacrilege" by pagan temple, Byzantine Church, and Muslim mosque, has remained as a physical barrier to all attempts to re-establish the Old Mosaic System. This is God's continuing silent witness to the replacement of the old system with the new.
If only the Jews could see it. Alas ..... for most, memories of that obsolete system still form a mental barrier which must be removed before they can recognise their Messiah. HARDNESS OF HEART (RSV) or BLINDNESS (KJV) prevails. (Rom 11:7-10 & 2 Cor 3:14)
AND A NEW TEMPLE WILL NOT HELP THAT SITUATION!
Jews do not need a NEW TEMPLE. Instead they need the NEW COVENANT, under which they themselves would be numbered amongst the "living stones" from which the REAL temple is constructed. But to experience that, they would first need the veil removed from their eyes, until they cease stumbling over "the stone that makes men stumble". (Romans 9:33)
Perhaps that is encompassed in Paul's oblique reference to what some see as a possible "national revival" of Jewish Christianity, prior to the second coming? (Romans 11:15)
Can the SHADOW be reinstated?
I doubt it. That Old Mosaic Ritual, the covenant which established it, and the Temple system which supported it, is gone for ever!
A THIRD TEMPLE OF A DIFFERENT KIND IS ALREADY UNDER CONSTRUCTION!
THE MESSAGE OF JESUS TO THE SAMARITAN WOMAN
"The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father ..... the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, ..... God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.'" (John 4:21-24)
PETER - A NEW TEMPLE WITH LIVING STONES AND A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
"Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ..... But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Pet :2:4-6, 9-10)
PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Cor 6:19-20)
THE TOKEN OF GOD'S PRESENCE IN THE NEW TEMPLE
At the dedication of Solomon's Temple, God gave a temporary visible token of His presence. The Glory of God, was so powerfully present that the priests could not stand to serve. (1 Kings 8:10-11)
Today, we look for a different token of the presence of God. When God takes up residence in us, and the Holy Spirit dwells within, there will be real and unmistakable FRUIT of the presence of God in His temple. And it won't be temporary! "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Gal 5:22-23) In such a Temple, God's works will be done! From such a Temple, God's words will be spoken! AND JESUS WILL BE GLORIFIED by that!
There is no escaping Paul's next conclusion about The Temple Of God :-
"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God." (2 Cor 7:1)
If, prior to the second coming, there is ever a third temple permitted to be built in Jerusalem ..... if Mosaic sacrifices are ever permitted to be restored in such a Temple .....
GOD'S TESTIMONY TO JEWS THAT JESUS IS NOW THE ONLY WAY TO GOD,
(John 14:6, Acts 4:12)
WILL BE RENDERED VOID!
AND NOW ...... A COMFORTABLE "EACH WAY BET"!
I do not find any Biblical grounds to say with finality, that there will NEVER be any attempt to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem!
Given the strong ambition of religious Jews, we should certainly concede the possibility that Jewish plans to rebuild a Temple, might get to the point of COMMENCEMENT of construction, and perhaps even near completion. That has already happened once before, in the fourth century, under the Roman Emperor Julian. But that venture was a notable failure. It would have restored the obsolete Jewish system of worship, which God destroyed in AD70. The Temple and its Mosaic sacrificial system has been replaced for ever, by a better one instituted by the Jewish Messiah. For precisely the same reasons, it seems inevitable that any similar attempt in our own time would be doomed to the same failure.
However if such a project was commenced, it seems likely that it would trigger a Holy War with the Muslim nations. It might even precipitate Armageddon! After all the temple Mount is the THIRD HOLIEST Muslim site. That would certainly seem to fit well with other end time prophecies which include Arab nations amongst those making war against Israel.
But will the Jews actually get to complete a building, and restart Temple Services?
That is a different question! It seems most unlikely.
1. See HOUSMAIL No HM#007
2. The Temple Mount Faithful Movement have a Web Site at: