Will the Temple be Rebuilt?
In an article entitled Moving Toward a Third Jewish Temple, Lambert Dolphin writes, “If a new Temple is to be constructed then there must be a functioning priesthood to perform the proper rites and ceremonies. Such a priesthood is now in the works. In an old stone building in the Old City of Jerusalem, a small group of young scholars are preparing for the building of the Third Temple and the coming of the Messiah.” There is a longing among at least some of the Jewish people that the temple be rebuilt. Rabbi Yisrael Ariel writes in The Odyssey of the Third Temple, “Twice, the Temple did stand in Jerusalem - only to be destroyed; it is the Third Temple which is anticipated to bring the process to its conclusion...with the appearance of the messiah. The great expectation is for the Temple which will never be destroyed.” There is a Jewish anticipation of a rebuilt temple. There are also many evangelical Christians, today, who are looking for a rebuilt temple. It is popular prophecy teaching that the temple has to be rebuilt. John F. Walvoord in his commentary on Revelation writes of a rebuilt temple during the great tribulation. He says in regard to the temple mentioned in Revelation 11, “The temple here is apparently that which will be in existence during the great tribulation. Originally constructed for the worship of the Jews and the renewal of their ancient sacrifices, during the great tribulation it is desecrated and becomes the home of an idol of the world ruler.” (p. 176, The Revelation of Jesus Christ) Many Jews and Christians believe the temple will be rebuilt. Are they right?
Does the Bible teach that the temple will be rebuilt? Is there a need to rebuild the temple? Will God allow the temple to be rebuilt? These are all important questions. There have only been two Jewish temples in the past. The first one was built by Solomon and was later destroyed by the Babylonians at the time of the Exile. A second temple was rebuilt under Zerubbabel when the Jews returned from the Exile. This temple was later restored or remodeled and expanded by Herod the Great. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs says this about the second temple, “From the times of King Solomon to the return from the Babylonian exile and the Hasmonean period (tenth to first centuries BCE), the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was a relatively small platform built on top of Mount Moriah and its highest point was the Stone of Foundation; this was the site of the Temple. King Herod’s greatest building project was to double the area of the Temple Mount by incorporating part of the hill to the northwest (which had to be leveled and on which he built the Antonia Fortress) and by filling up parts of the surrounding valleys. Herod transformed the Second Temple into an edifice of splendor and surrounded the Temple Mount on its four sides with massive retaining walls….” (From an article on the Jewish Temple at www.bible-history.com) It was this second temple that Haggai referred to when he said it would be greater than the temple built by Solomon. Even though at first, this second temple seemed to be inferior to that first temple. To many of the older priests and Levites, this second temple seemed not to measure up to its former glory. They actually wept when the foundation of the second temple was laid. Ezra 3:12 says, “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of the temple being laid….”
The second temple would, however, be the greater temple because of two things: First, Herod would remodel and enlarge the temple to make it greater than the first temple and secondly and more importantly, the God of the temple would come to it in the person of Jesus Christ. Haggai 2:6-9 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. The glory of the present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” When Jesus came to the temple, He fulfilled this prophecy.
The Book of Ezekiel talks about a new temple. Is the Ezekiel temple the third temple that will be rebuilt in the future or even a more glorious fourth temple that will exist in the millennium? Many modern day prophets refer to this Ezekiel temple as the future rebuilt temple. Other Bible scholars say the Ezekiel temple is only symbolic and does not refer to a literal rebuilt temple of the future. For example The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible says, “There is no reason to believe that this prophecy has yet to be fulfilled in terms of rebuilding an Old Testament style temple in which animal sacrifices are again to be made.” (p. 1360) Ezekiel 43:10 seems to point toward a more symbolic or spiritual interpretation for this description of a future temple when it says, “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins...”
When Jesus came, he fulfilled all that the temple stood for. He was the true sacrificial lamb who would take away the sin of the world. He was God who had come to be with His people. He came and lived in their midst. He was Immanuel which means “God with us.” The temple had been the place that God dwelt in the midst of the people. Now, the God of the temple had come in the flesh. Jesus came and fulfilled the whole sacrificial system associated with the temple. Hebrews 10:11-14 – “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” After Jesus came and offered Himself on the cross for our sins, there was no future need for the sacrificial system associated with the temple. It was all fulfilled and replaced by the one ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Himself.
Also, there would no longer be needed a center in Jerusalem to worship God for now God could be worshipped anywhere in the world. Malachi 1:11 says, “’My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Looking forward to the future, the Lord was showing that one day there would be no need to go up to the temple in Jerusalem to worship God for He would be worshipped in every place throughout the world. In John 4:21-23, Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” David Brown comments, “Do not all understand the prediction (Malachi 1:11) to mean simply this, that not at Jerusalem only, but every where, and not by Jews only, but by all nations without distinction, from one end of the world to the other, acceptable worship shall ascend to God? And how is it that all unite in so understanding it? Clearly because ‘incense’ and ‘offering,’ in the Jewish sense, having given place under the Gospel to ‘spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,’ there is no other kind of worship of which we can understand the prediction…” (p. 367 – Christ’s Second Coming, Will It Be Premillennial?)
The church in a sense is the ultimate temple for it is in the church where God dwells by His Holy Spirit. The New Testament speaks of the church as the holy temple of the Lord. We have to look no further than Ephesians 2:19-22 to get this clear teaching. There it says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (See also I Cor. 3:16 and II Cor. 6:16)
In a sense, we can say that Jesus is now building His temple as He builds the Church. This seems to be a clear deduction from Zechariah 6:9-15 where the prophecy is made about the coming Messiah who would build the temple of the Lord. In that passage it talks about Joshua son of Jehozadak as a type of the Messiah. He will be a priest and a king and he will build the temple of the Lord. The prophecy says, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ The crown will be given to Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the temple of the Lord. Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the Lord, and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God.” This new temple will be built by the Branch, a name for the Messiah, and those who are far away will come and help to build the temple indicating that the Gentiles would have their part in this new temple. This is a great description of the Christian Church as the new temple of the Lord. This is the temple that Jesus is now building and we as believers have our part in this new temple.
The second temple was destroyed in 70 AD just as Jesus had foretold it would be. This put an end to the temple and its sacrificial system. It had been replaced by the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross and by a new temple being built by God Himself, the Christian Church, the new Mount Zion. Hebrews 12:22-23 tells us, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.”
In commenting on Isaiah 4:5, David Brown writes, “’And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place’ (or, ‘over the whole extent’) ‘of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense.’ (Verse 5 KJV) ‘The Church is not only,’ says Professor Alexander on this verse, ‘to be purified by God’s judgements, but glorified by His manifested presence, and in the state of glory kept secure by His protection. The presence of God is here denoted by the ancient symbol of a fiery cloud, and is promised to the Church in its whole extent, and to its several assemblies, as distinguished from the one indivisible congregation, and its own exclusive place of meeting, under the old economy.’ If this be a correct view of the prediction – and the unanimous voice of Christian expositors pronounces in favor of it – what view does it give us of ‘Mount Zion?’ Does it celebrate the honors of the literal mountain of that name, and of the temple on it, as a point of religious attraction for the whole world? It does just the reverse. It represents Mount Zion as coextensive with the purified Church under Messiah, and particularly with her public ‘assemblies.’ That Divine presence, protection and glory, which, after being enjoyed by the ancient Church all through the wilderness, took up its fixed abode on Zion as the place of their assemblies, shall burst its cerements under the Gospel, spread its wings of love over the whole amplitude of Messiah’s kingdom, and hover, cloud-like, over every Christian assembly, making a ‘Mount Zion’ of every spot where New Testament worship is offered ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Such a picture of the new economy is intelligible on the apostle’s principle, ‘Ye are come unto Mount Zion;’ but if we are to expect a material temple yet to be erected on the literal Mount Zion for all nations, with all its carnal and bloody accompaniments, it is not intelligible.” (p. 111 – 112 Hal Lindsey and the Restoration of the Jews)
Now, we come back to our original question. Will the temple be rebuilt? My answer is that there is no need for the temple to be rebuilt because it and its whole sacrificial system has been fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. A new temple is already under construction, a temple where God dwells by His Holy Spirit, the Christian Church. Should evangelical Christians be encouraging the Jews to rebuild the temple and reestablish the old sacrificial system? No! On the contrary we as evangelical Christians should be evangelizing the Jews and pointing them to the true Messiah, Jesus Christ and to the new temple He is already erecting, the Christian Church. We should be inviting the Jews to come into the Christian Church by faith in their only Messiah, Jesus Christ. We should be praying not for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem but for the conversion of the Jewish people to Christ not only in modern Israel but throughout the world. We should be praying that they will come to the true Mount Zion and become a part of the Kingdom of Christ and thereby be grafted back in to their own olive tree.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless indicated otherwise
Brown, David. Christ’s Second Coming, Will It Be Premillennial?. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1983 (originally published 1876).
Brown, David and Schlissel, Steve. Hal Lindsey and the Restoration of the Jews. Still Waters Revival Books, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 1990 (David Brown’s section on the Restoration of the Jews originally published in 1861)
Dolphin, Lambert. Moving Toward a Third Jewish Temple, http://www.templemount.org
Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Moody Press, Chicago, 1966.
For further information on the conversion of the Jews, read more of Alex’s Blogs