THE THIRD TEMPLE MOUNT
When David became king over all of the tribes of Israel, one of his first tasks was to capture and secure the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites and rename it the City of David (2 Samuel 5:7-9). By capturing the stronghold of Zion, David gained control over the very strategic areas of the city and the citadel. Jerusalem then became the center of Israel and Israel’s capital. This made it possible for David to later negotiate the purchase of the area that would become the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount location was acquired by David following his sin of taking a census of Israel. God stopped the angel of the Lord who had been sent to punish David and Israel for their sins and instructed the angel to inform the prophet Gad to tell David to erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:18-24). Following the purchase of the threshing floor from Ornan, David built an altar and “offered burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD.” God answered David by supernaturally igniting the burnt offering by fire from heaven. David realized that God had shown him “this is the house of the LORD God” (1 Chronicles 21:24-30; 22:1).
Because David had been a man of war who had shed much blood, God did not allow him to build the temple. But David was allowed to make preparations for his son Solomon to construct the temple (1 Chronicles 22:5-9). The Bible’s description of Solomon’s Temple (also called The First Temple) suggests that the inside ceiling was 180 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 50 feet high. The highest point on the Temple that King Solomon built was actually 120 cubits tall (about 20 stories or about 207 feet). Solomon spared no expense for the building’s creation. He ordered vast quantities of cedar wood from King Hiram of Tyre (I Kings 5:20-25), had huge blocks of the choicest stone quarried, and commanded that the building’s foundation be laid with hewn stone. To complete the massive project, he imposed forced labour on all his subjects, drafting people for work shifts that sometimes lasted a month at a time. Some 3,300 officials were appointed to oversee the Temple’s erection (5:27-30). Solomon assumed such heavy debts in building the Temple that he is forced to pay off King Hiram by handing over twenty towns in the Galilee (I Kings 9:11). When the Temple was completed, Solomon inaugurated it with prayer and sacrifice, and even invited non-Jews to come and pray there. He urged God to pay particular heed to their prayers: “Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built” (I Kings 8:43). Sacrifice was the predominant mode of divine service in the Temple until it was destroyed by the Babylonians some four hundred years later, in 586 BCE.
The second temple was constructed over the site of the first temple on the Temple Mount following the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity (535-515 B.C.). Seventy years later, after the story of Purim, a number of Jews returned to Israel – led by the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah – and the Second Temple was built on the same site. Sacrifices to God were once again resumed. It did not have the beauty and splendor of Solomon’s temple. Later, Herod the Great would rebuild the second temple with better stones. During the first century B.C.E., Herod, the Roman appointed head of Judea, made substantial modifications to the Temple and the surrounding mountain, enlarging and expanding the Temple. This was the temple that Jesus came to during His ministry (John 2:20). The second temple period lasted almost 600 years from 515 B.C. to A.D. 70. At the beginning of this second temple period, the prophet Haggai (520 B.C.) was inspired to write, “‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former. … And in this place, I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:9). The greater glory of the second temple refers to when Jesus Christ came to it and offered eternal peace for man through His sacrifice. Currently, it is believed that The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque sit on the Temple Mount, and they represent major political and religious barriers to any Jewish construction on the Temple Mount.
2.0 THE PROPHETIC RETURN TO ISRAEL
The Hebrew prophets all proclaimed that in the last days, the exiles of Israel would return to the Promised Land and that the Temple would be rebuilt. “Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.” (Ezekiel 37:28) These phenomenal end-time events are unfolding before our very eyes! “I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” (Amos 9:14–15)
So many skeptics around the globe like to proclaim that God has rejected the People of Israel forever but we find in Scripture that God never intended to reject His People forever: “You, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.” (Isaiah 41:9) God always planned to bring the Jewish People back to the Land on His terms not man’s. And just as the prophets foretold, the Jewish People are returning to the Holy Land from the four corners of the earth after 19 centuries of global exile: “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:5–6) Not only are the exiles of Israel returning to the Promised Land, but preparations to build the Third Temple are progressing through the efforts of the Temple Institute and the Temple Mount Faithful Movement. The Temple Institute as well as the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement are the two main Jewish organizations responsible for making preparations for the Third Temple and the reinstatement of sacrificial worship. Other organizations have plans, too. One wants to pitch a tabernacle-style tent on the Mount; another wants to build a synagogue in one of the corners of the platform. It’s a mitzvah to build the Temple, and that Jews should be performing all 613 mitzvot, which requires a Temple.
3.0 HISTORY OF THE TEMPLE MOUNT
The biblical history of the Temple Mount—a leveled area on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem—began long before the construction of the first temple. About 900 years before the first temple, Abraham was told to go to Mount Moriah (the Mount of the Lord) to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2, 14). This location was near the village of Salem, which later became Jerusalem (Joshua 18:28; 2 Chronicles 3:1). It was here that Abraham came to give a tithe to Melchizedek and was “blessed by the better” (Genesis 14:18-20; Hebrews 7:1-4, 7-8). This particular location seems to have already been chosen by God for His future temple.
When God first began working with the Israelites, His place of dwelling was a portable tent, called the “tabernacle” (Exodus 25:9; 26:1). It was the location for worship on God’s annual holy days, where God “put His name” (Deuteronomy 12:5). Over the years, this tabernacle moved to various locations, including Kadesh, Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob and Gibeon. After approximately 400 years of the tabernacle being moved from time to time, a permanent temple of stone was built for God in the city of Jerusalem—the site being chosen by God Himself (Psalm 132:13; 1 Kings 11:13; 14:21; 2 Chronicles 33:7).
“Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 8:18) You might ask yourself, “If the sanctuary was ‘a copy and a shadow of what is in Heaven (Hebrews 8:5),’ and Jesus ‘serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord (Hebrews 8:2),’ why contemplate building the Holy Temple?” The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was never simply a building or structure, but an earthly dwelling place for the Divine Presence of God. The Lord said, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell [shakan] among them.” (Exodus 25:8; see also Exodus 40:34–35 and 1 Kings 8:11) This dwelling (shakan) forms the related word Shekhinah, which is not found in the original Hebrew Bible, but it is used in rabbinic literature and Bible translations to describe the Lord’s Divine Presence. The Prophet Ezekiel witnessed the departure of this Divine Presence from the Temple (Ezekiel 10:18–19). But he also saw the rebuilding of an eternal and permanent dwelling place of God on the Temple Mount in the Holy City of Jerusalem. “The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east. … I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. He said: ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever.’” (Ezekiel 43:4–7)
Moreover, the apostle Paul also wrote that the individual who causes the abomination “sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The meaning of this passage could be that this person will sit in a literal temple of God or that he will exercise his power in the way God did when God presided over the temple. (We note that even though this passage is a prophecy of the future, the second temple was still in existence and functioning when Paul wrote it.) To fulfill the prophecy of the abomination of desolation, at some point in the future, before the Great Tribulation comes on this world, the Jewish people will apparently begin offering sacrifices once again. Something very dramatic will have to occur for this to happen.
4.0 LOCATION OF THE THIRD TEMPLE
The temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, or Herod do not share the design and dimensions of the temple described in Ezekiel 40-42. The worship procedure set forth in chapters 43-46, though Mosaic in nature, has not been followed in history in exactly the manner described in these chapters. The river that flows forth from the temple in 47:1-12 has never flowed from any of the above historical temples mentioned above. The only comparisons to this river are seen in Genesis 2:8-14 and Revelation 22:1-2 (Isaiah 35:6-7; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8).
The geographical dimensions and tribal allotments of the land are certainly not seemed to be feasible today. Geographical changes will be necessary prior to the fulfillment of chapters 45, 47-48. Therefore, one would not look to historical (past or present) fulfilments of these chapters but to the future” (comments on Ezekiel 40:1–48:35). To interpret these chapters (Ezekiel 40-48;)in any manner other than a normal, literal approach would appear to contradict the interpretative guide in the vision who warns Ezekiel that he is to write down all the minute details concerning the plan for the temple and its regulations so that these details might be considered carefully and followed in every aspect (Ezekiel 40:4; 43:10-11; 44:5; Exodus 25:9; 1 Chronicles 28:19). Therefore, a figurative approach does not adequately treat the issues of Ezekiel 40-48. The best interpretation seems to be that these chapters of Ezekiel are describing a temple that will be built during the end time and before Millennium for resurrected Israel, a nation that will no longer be divided into two kingdoms (Ezekiel 37:22). The setting is when God’s Spirit will be poured out on the house of Israel and when God will “dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever” (Ezekiel 39:29; 43:7). Additional millennial indicators are healing waters flowing from the temple (Ezekiel 47:1, 9) and the name of the city of Jerusalem being changed to “THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezekiel 48:35).
The coming of glorified Jesus Christ will result in a dramatic change to the topography of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. We read of “a great earthquake” that destroys a “tenth of the city” and kills “seven thousand people” at the end of the sixth trumpet in Revelation (Revelation 11:13). The prophet Zechariah prophesied that a great earthquake will split the Mount of Olives, which is located east of the Temple Mount, creating a new valley through the middle of it (Zechariah 14:4). These earthquakes will apparently destroy the present Temple Mount and require the building of a new one. The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision describing a new millennial temple in great detail (Ezekiel 40-44). Jesus Christ is coming to set up the Kingdom of God on the earth (Zechariah 14:9), and there will be a temple throughout His millennial rule on the earth.
5.0 ANIMAL SACRIFICES WILL RESUME
Since the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, however, the Jewish People can no longer offer these sacrifices. In fact, 202 out of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah cannot be performed without a Temple. With no Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people now worship the God of Israel in their local community synagogues and in the study of Torah. Instead of offering animal sacrifices, they now offer Tefillah (prayer), Teshuvah (repentance), and Tzedakah (charity). Many think that animal sacrifices have been done away with forever, but according to Bible prophecy, this simply isn’t so. The Lord tells the Prophet Ezekiel that in a future Temple, the prescribed sacrifices will be offered: “The north and south rooms facing the temple courtyard are the priests’ rooms, where the priests who approach the Lord will eat the most holy offerings. There they will put the most holy offerings—the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings—for the place is holy.” (Ezekiel 42:13)
In the prophetic writings of the Book of Daniel and the New Testament, we find significant details about the role of a rebuilt Temple in the end times. Both Daniel and Jesus tell us that the Anti-Messiah will defile the Third Temple before the return of the true Messiah. They both call this spiritual defilement in the Temple the abomination of desolation: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15–16; compare with Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11)
For the Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah, animal sacrifices done in obedience to the Old Testament covenant were stopped in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the armies of Rome. Jesus warned of this in the Gospels. For the Christian community, animal sacrifices stopped with the death and resurrection of Christ. There were some who were persecuted or pressured by the Jewish community to continue to offer sacrifices either because they rejected Jesus or felt his death was not enough. The book of Hebrews actually deals with this and shows that the Old Testament sacrificial system (the Old Covenant) was temporary until the coming of Christ who was the fulfillment of all that the sacrificial system anticipated. Paul teaches us the same thing in passages like Colossians 2:16. It was Paul who specifically pointed to Christ as our Passover who was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). In keeping with the Lord’s Supper, instituted just before His death, Jesus also celebrated what was actually the last legitimate Passover by which He also pointed to Himself as the sacrifice for our sin. Today, when Jews observe the Passover, they cannot offer sacrifices because sacrifices are only to be offered in Jerusalem and in the temple. Prophetically, many believe that in the future during the time of Daniel’s 70th week, the temple will be rebuilt, and sacrifices will again be offered, but only because the Jews continue to reject Jesus as their Messiah. The sacrifices will once again be stopped by the beast of Revelation 13 the Jews will be persecuted until Messiah returns at which time, they will turn to Him “whom they have pierced,” to put it in the words of Zechariah. The daily sacrifices were carried out on the altar outside the temple where the people could observe the service. The “appalling abomination” (Daniel 9:27, Tanakh) will be forced on the holy place by the one who will bring desolation to everything holy on the Temple Mount. It may be that there will only be an altar at that time. During the second temple period there were sacrifices on the altar while the temple was being built (535-515 B.C.) and that was also the case during the time Herod was rebuilding the temple.
Another indication of this millennial temple is found in Zechariah 14:21, which says, “Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the LORD of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them” (emphasis added throughout). Although we aren’t told why animal sacrifices will resume in the Millennium, it appears that they will indeed take place at least for a while and will be associated with a physical temple. Therefore, a physical temple will exist during the Millennium, it remains to be seen whether the Jews will build another physical temple prior to the return of Jesus Christ. Ezekiel describes the future Temple which will be raised by the Messiah (soon), and the sacrifices will point to him (just like the animal sacrifices which Paul offered in Acts 21:26 as suggested by elders – Peter and James).
6.0 APPEARANCE OF THE PRINCE OF RULER
According to the Prophet Daniel, the Messiah would be cut off before the Temple is destroyed: “After the sixty-two weeks the Messiah [Mashiach] will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince [ruler, nagid] who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.” (Daniel 9:26) Partially this prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of the Temple, just forty years after Jesus the Messiah was cut off by his execution on a tree. The Temple Mount has had a history of war and destruction. In the second century B.C. (168-165) the forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Kingdom slaughtered over 40,000 Jews and erected a pagan altar on the altar for burnt sacrifices. This act is referred to as the “abomination of desolation” in Daniel 11:31. It lasted for three years until the Maccabean revolt overthrew the Seleucids and cleansed the temple. The cleansing and restoration of the temple is commemorated annually in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, also known as the “feast of the dedication” (John 10:22). This desolation served as a forerunner of what Jesus described would happen in the end times on the Temple Mount (Matthew 24:15). In the Olivet Prophecy Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15). Daniel spoke of more than one abomination. This particular abomination would precede glorified Jesus’ coming. Daniel speaks of this end-time abomination in Daniel 12:11. A forerunner of this end-time abomination is found in Daniel 11:31. The end-time abomination will include stopping the daily sacrifices at the altar (Daniel 8:11-14 12:11). Jesus said this abomination would be “standing in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15) and “standing where it ought not” (Mark 13:14). This seems to indicate that it will stand by or on the altar.
Through the study of numerous end-time Scriptures, we believe that this prince or ruler (nagid)—the anti-Messiah—will appear just as Daniel describes. Daniel says he will confirm a covenant of peace “for one week” (often interpreted as seven years) but break that covenant in the middle of the term. “And he [the prince] will make [some translations say ‘confirm’] a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate [some interpretations say, set up an idol on the wing or precipice of the Temple], even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:27; see also Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:4) The anti-Messiah will also proclaim himself to be God! “He [the man of lawlessness] will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thess. 2:4)
All three of the Bible’s references to “the Ancient of Days” are found in Daniel 7 (verses 9, 13 and 22). These refer to God the Father. It is also interesting to note that this chapter is the only place in the Old Testament where the phrase “Son of Man” refers to the member of the Godhead who would come to earth as Jesus Christ. The explanation in Daniel 7 shows that the Ancient of Days has the greater authority of the two and that the Son of Man will come in the clouds to rule over “all peoples, nations, and languages” (Daniel 7:14). Daniel 9 and 11 as well as the New Testament writings, however, help us see that an alternate reality exists for the Temple. We know that end-time Bible prophecy concerning the Third Temple is soon to be fulfilled because Israel was prophetically reborn as a nation in 1948 (Isaiah 66:8), and most of these Temple preparations only started in the last 30 years. The Temple Institute as well as the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement are the two main Jewish organizations responsible for making preparations for the Third Temple and the reinstatement of sacrificial worship. Other organizations have plans, too. One wants to pitch a tabernacle-style tent on the Mount; another wants to build a synagogue in one of the corners of the platform. Nevertheless, the ritual garments and vessels have been created. Copper vessels for the Third Temple -Abuv, a three-tiered stand used for roasting the Omer on Passover; roasting the barley; and preparing the meal offering. Even the Golden Menorah—the seven branched candelabra—has been crafted (this 24-karat Golden Menorah was recreated by The Temple Institute and is ready for use in the Third Temple), along with Levitical musical instruments, such as silver trumpets, lyres, and harps to worship the Lord, just as King David did 3,000 years ago (1 Chronicles 23:5). And the final element, the Red Heifer, is being bred in Israel to be sacrificed in the ritual purification of the priests and the vessels, so they may formally enter the holiest of holy area on the entire earth. The Temple Institute’s School is training certified, DNA-tested Cohen (descendants of the High Priest Aaron) to perform the Temple duties. Everything is ready for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. Everything, that is, except the land on which to build it. Since the liberation of the Mount in 1967, the Muslim world has made great efforts to claim the entire 37-acre (150,000 square meter) platform as its own sacred land, calling the site in Arabic al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf—the Noble Sanctuary.