The Jewish Temple - Will it be Rebuilt?
Among the evangelical and fundamental elements of modern Christianity, there seems to be a strange infatuation with anything that is considered ‘Jewish’. There is presently a strong emphasis being placed upon the Jewish Torah, Jewish traditions, Jewish history, Jewish prayer shawls, Jewish symbols, Jewish songs, Jewish rights, Jewish land and the Jewish people. For the last forty years in our churches there has been taking place a major shift from a Christ-centered to a man-centered theology. In no area of theological thought is this shift more evident than in eschatology (the doctrine of last things), generally known as prophecy. Surprisingly, the paramount object of most prophetic teaching is centered on one people known as the Jews. Where once ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) and soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) were preached with power and spiritual authority, has now given way to a message of Judaistic pre-eminence.
There are ministries that are wholly devoted to promoting the Jewish cause in Palestine in total disregard to the rights and welfare of the other occupants of the land. Currently, due to the influence of the secular news media, the ‘Christian’ pulpit has taken sides in the Middle East conflict by closing their eyes to the Biblical facts of history and prophecy.
The area in the city of Jerusalem known as the “Wailing Wall” has now become a holy shrine to many misguided American Christians. One ministry is asking that people send their prayer requests to them so that they may in turn take them to be inserted into the crevices of the Wailing Wall. This amounts to nothing less than religious fetishism. The Wailing Wall was once a part of the greater area of Herod’s temple that was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans.
Jesus Himself predicted the destruction of that old temple and the perverted religious order that it represented. Over six hundred years before the earthly ministry of Jesus, during the days of Jeremiah, the Lord rebuked the people of Judah for justifying their wicked ways by using their devotion to the physical temple as a religious covering.
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel” (Jer. 7:1-12).
Instead of telling the Jewish people to repent and accept Jesus Christ and His power to change their lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, the emphasis of a vast majority of the “right-wing” Christian church is raising money for Jewish social and humanitarian causes. One issue that seems to be paramount in modern dispensational theology is that a restored Jewish Temple must be built in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is presently located where many dispensationalists believe that new Jewish temple needs to be rebuilt. In their desperation to circumvent this problem of the Islamic holy place and the adamant attitude of the Muslims for it to remain, some Christian Zionists have re-surveyed the area. They “discovered” that the future Jewish temple can be built next to the Islamic mosque and still fulfill the demands of their prophetic aspirations.
Another problem for many futurists is that they are uncertain whether the future temple will be a ‘tribulation’ temple or a ‘millennial’ temple. As a ‘tribulation’ temple, the alleged antichrist will sit in it. As a ‘millennial’ temple, Jesus Himself will reside there and sit upon a Jewish throne and reign over all the earth. The only answer to this theological issue is to discover the history of the Old Testament temples as recorded in God’s Word. God’s attitude toward earthly temples is clearly seen as He allowed six temples to be built and then destroyed or go into decay.
1) The Tabernacle of Moses
Soon after the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the Lord gave Moses the instructions as to the building of the tabernacle. This tabernacle was to be built from the offerings of the people and considered as God’s sanctuary. The Lord declared that this would be a place “that I may dwell among them”. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat. . .” (Ex. 25:18, 22).
This dwelling place of God among Israel was even filled with the Glory of the Lord to the extent that Moses was not able to enter as the mediator for his people (Ex. 4:34-35). In spite of the extreme importance of this tabernacle in the spiritual and cultural life of Israel, it only lasted for forty plus years and gave way to decay.
2) The Tabernacle of Shiloh
After the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, they erected a tabernacle at Shiloh. Joshua records: “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there” (Jos.18:1).
This physical structure lasted approximately 450 years throughout the period of the Judges up to the time of Samuel the prophet. It was in this tabernacle that Eli served as High Priest and where young Samuel heard the Lord call him three times. When Israel went out to fight the Philistines, the Ark of the Covenant which once resided in the Shiloh Tabernacle, was captured by enemy forces. Both the Ark and the Glory of God departed from this tabernacle and never returned. (See I Samuel 1-8). This tabernacle eventually went into decay and ruin.
3) David’s Tent
One of the first acts as king over the United Kingdom of Israel, David brought the Ark of God to Jerusalem. This was a temporary structure that David had made and “they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it:” (II Sam. 6:17). The Chronicle account records that: “David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent” (I Chron. 15:1). This structure was temporary and only lasted for 40 years.
4) Solomon’s Temple
This permanent and magnificent structure that King Solomon had built would have been considered as one of the wonders of the ancient world. The Biblical account reads: “Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the LORD was finished: and Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated; and the silver, and the gold, and all the instruments, put he among the treasures of the house of God” (II Chron. 5:1). The Lord Himself hallowed this temple by manifesting His visible Glory at the time of its dedication. This was God’s sign of approval for all the work that was done because: “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house” (II Chron. 7:1-2).
Regardless of the fact that this temple was considered the dwelling place of God on the earth, it too only lasted for approximately 350 years. God allowed this temple to be destroyed by the Babylonians during their capture and destruction of Jerusalem in B.C. 596.
5) Zerubbabel’s Temple
After the 70 years of exile in Babylon over 42,000 Judahites returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. They rebuilt both the city and the temple. Ezra records: “And this house was finished” (Ezra 6:15) and they made sacrifices unto God at the dedication of this new temple. It was here where the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged them in the work. This structure lasted for approximately 400 years until the time of the Maccabean era.
It was in this temple that the Syrian king, Antiochus offered a pig on the altar. This required a re-dedication which became known as the Jewish Feast of Lights. The Ark of the Covenant never resided in this temple; neither did the Lord place His manifested Glory therein.
6) Herod’s Temple
This magnificent temple was built during the reign of King Herod the Great. Its construction began in B.C. 19 and took 46 years to complete. Herod, who was an Edomite by blood and Jewish by religion built this and other civic buildings to ingratiate himself with the Jewish people. Jesus went to this temple many times during His earthly ministry, but was limited only to the area of Solomon’s porch. There is no indication that He ever entered into any inner rooms or the Holy Place. It was this temple that He referred to in Mathew chapter 24 when He prophesied of its utter destruction. This temple was never sanctified by the manifested Glory of God and was utterly destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. It lasted for not more than 90 years.
From the example of the above six physical tabernacles and temples that were once known as the “House of God”, it is obvious that the dispensation of an earthly ‘sacred’ temple has ended. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, repeated the words of Isaiah the prophet and set the record straight when he declared; “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?” (Acts 7:48-50).
If or when the Zionist Christians and Jews manage to build a modern temple in Jerusalem, it will not in any way be the House of God. It will only be a physical structure that will represent the misguided efforts of men due to the heretical prophetic views of dispensationalism. Jesus Christ is able to destroy again any building that would be a blasphemous substitute of the true temple, which is His body.
Many futurists mistakenly apply the prophecy of Ezekiel’s temple (chapters 40-48) as proof of a rebuilt physical temple in old Jerusalem. At the first church council recorded in Acts 15, James repeats the prophecy of Amos 9:11, that it’s the tabernacle of David that is going to be rebuilt. This is not the temporary tent that David built for the Ark. The true tabernacle of David, as seen from the context of the testimony of Paul and the other apostles, is a spiritual tabernacle being built by the ministry of the Holy Ghost.
The True Temple
The Temple of His Body
Early in the earthly ministry of Jesus during a confrontation with the Jews, our Lord made it clear that He Himself was the true Temple of God. The Apostle John records; “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21).
The writer of Hebrews spoke of Christ as a High Priest who served in a “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands” (Heb. 9:11). When the Hebrew writer went on to say; “That is to say, not of this building,” he was referring to the physical temple of Herod which was still standing at the writing of the Hebrew letter.
The Temple of the Holy Ghost
The Apostle Paul made it unmistakably clear that the body of the born again believer is the dwelling place of God’s Spirit. The true temple of God is not limited to a certain building at one geographical location on the earth. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19-20). “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (II Cor. 6:16).
It is extremely significant in the description given to us by the Apostle John of “The holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven” (Rev. 21:2) that there was no physical temple. In fact, he records: “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. 21:22). John goes on to say that he “heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
Being that the real temple of God are the saints and the redeemed of true Israel in the city of New Jerusalem, which is only built by the Holy Ghost, there is no need for a man- made earthly temple to be built in the old city of Jerusalem. If it is built, it will only be a mockery of the real temple and God will destroy it.