Temple in Jerusalem With Animal SacrificesĖ
Next Event on the Prophetic Calendar?

By Thomas Williamson
3131 S. Archer Avenue ē Chicago, Illinois 60608

 


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There is a lot of preoccupation in some Christian circles with the prospect of the construction of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, with animal sacrifices that would revive the ancient Old Testament rites of worship.

The main proof text for a future literal temple with animal sacrifices is Ezekiel 40-48, which is held to be a description of such a literal temple to be built during the Millennium. However, there is nothing definite in Ezekielís account that would place this temple in the Millennium period.

Some interpreters have regarded Ezekielís temple as a description of what the Jews could have constructed after their return from Babylon in 538 BC, had their sins not prevented the complete fulfillment of this prophecy (Ezekiel 43:10-11).

Others have found Ezekielís prophecy to be a reference to the progress of the Gospel in the Church Age, with the spread of the Gospel predicted under the figure of waters flowing out from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 47, compare with John 7:38 and Revelation 22:1-2).

Even the literalist interpreters of Ezekielís temple do not insist that everything will be fulfilled literally. Scofield describes the sin-offerings of Ezekiel 43:19 as non-literal, saying, "Doubtless these offerings will be memorial, looking back to the cross, as the offerings under the old covenant were anticipatory, looking forward to the cross."

The editors of the New Scofield Reference Bible have gone even further, proposing that "The reference to sacrifices is not to be taken literally, in view of the putting away of such offerings, but is rather to be regarded as a presentation of the worship of redeemed Israel, in her own land and in the millennial temple, using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekielís day."

Since it is permissible to take the reference to animal sacrifices as non-literal and symbolic, using terms which ancient Jews could understand, it is definitely permissible to go one logical step further and say that the Temple itself is non-literal as to its fulfillment, and that there will be no literal Temple on earth during the Millennium.

There are many persuasive Scriptural reasons for believing that Ezekielís Temple prophecy will be fulfilled in a non-literal manner.

  1. Ezekiel presents the priesthood of the temple as being conducted by Levite priests, Ezekiel 43:19, 44:10, 15, etc. However, we are told in Hebrews 7:11-18 that God has permanently set aside the priesthood of the descendants of Levi, in favor of the priesthood of Christ, a non-Levite.
  2. The system of Temple, priests and animal sacrifices was part of the Old Covenant which, according to Hebrews 8:13 was about to vanish away (which took place at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD).
  3. The priests of Ezekielís temple must be circumcised, Ezekiel 44:9, but under the New Covenant, circumcision is not required, Galatians 5:6.
  4. We are told in Hebrews 9:11 that Christ has become the high priest of a better tabernacle, non-literal, non-corporeal, not made with hands, located not on earth but in heaven (Hebrews 9:24). Christ now ministers for us in heaven, in "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man," Hebrews 8:2. Any temple built on earth would be phony, not the "true tabernacle" and therefore should be rejected by believers.
  5. The Old Testament sacrifices and temples were only shadows and figurative representations of the true heavenly Temple and once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, Hebrews 9:24, 10:1. Christ has taken away the old system of animal sacrifices, Hebrews 10:8-10. We are commanded to go forth from the camp of Judaism with its literal sacrifices, Hebrews 13:11-14, and to concentrate on the heavenly Jerusalem, not the literal one on earth, Hebrews 12:22, John 4:21, Galatians 4:25-26. To draw back to the old Temple and sacrificial system would be an act of apostasy, Hebrews 10:26-29, 38-39.
  6. Here is the clincher: Revelation 21:22 teaches that there will be no Temple in the Millennium: "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it."

To escape the force of this statement, some Temple enthusiasts say that this portion of Revelation is about the eternal state, not the Millennium. To do that, they have to spiritualize the references to kings of the earth (21:23), nations of the saved (21:24), and the healing of the nations in 22:2 - how would anyone possibly need to be healed of anything during the eternal state?

Others say that there will be a Temple down on the earth during the Millennium but not up in the New Jerusalem suspended from heaven. This notion ignores the clear teaching of the epistle to the Hebrews, that the earthly temple has been permanently outmoded and set aside by Christís high-priestly ministry. Since the time of Christís death on the Cross, there has been no need for an earthly Temple (Matthew 27:51, Hebrews 10:11-12, 13:10).

The notion that a literal temple will operate in Jerusalem during the Millennium is based on pure speculation and does dishonor to the supreme value of Christís once-for-all sacrifice at Calvary. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to work for the construction of such a Temple - our orders are to plant New Testament Christian churches, not Jewish temples, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8.

 

What About the "Tribulation Temple?"

Some expositors, while holding to the concept of Ezekielís Temple being built as the "Fourth Temple" during the Millennium, also believe that there will be a "Third Temple" during the Great Tribulation period preceding the Millennium. Some go farther and say that Christians ought to be helping to get such a Temple built in Jerusalem, or even that Christ cannot return until such a Temple is built. Does the Bible teach any of this?

One supposed proof-text for a Tribulation Temple is Daniel 9:26-27, which describes the destruction of the "city and the sanctuary" in conjunction with the "cutting-off" of the Messiah. This was already fulfilled when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 AD. Dispensationalist interpreters agree that 9:26 refers to Herodís Temple which was destroyed in 70 AD, but then they insert a 2000-year gap between 9:26 and 9:27 and postulate a "sanctuary" in 9:27 which would be the Third Temple.

To separate 9:26 and 9:27 in this manner, and have them to refer to 2 different temples 2000 years apart from each other, is a fanciful and nonsensical method of interpretation. Besides, there is absolutely no mention whatsoever of any sanctuary or Temple in 9:27. How can this be a proof-text for a future Third Temple when no Temple is even mentioned? Clearly, 9:27 is only a continuation and expansion of the events with regard to the Second Temple of 9:26.

To make Daniel 9:27 refer to the destruction of a Third Temple is to wrench this verse out of its context of events in the time of the Messiahís first advent. Nowhere in Danielís prophecy is there any hint about a Third Temple - he is prophesying about the Second Temple which was still in the future when Daniel wrote. Some have claimed the "sanctuary" of Daniel 11:31 as a Third Temple, but almost all commentators, even Scofield (see Old Scofield Reference Bible, page 918) accept this as a reference to the profanation of the Second Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC.

How about Matthew 24:15, describing the "abomination of desolation" in the "holy place?" Does this refer to the Third Temple? This verse does not mention any temple at all. Since the Jews regarded all of Palestine, and especially the environs of Jerusalem, as holy, the approach of the Roman army near Jerusalem could have been regarded as a fulfillment of this predicted abomination. This would make more sense than to ask the disciples to watch for the abomination within the walls of the actual Temple, where it could not have been seen except by a few priests.

Even if the "holy place" does refer specifically to the Temple, then it refers to Herodís Temple - it was this Temple that the Apostles asked Christ about (Matthew 24:3), not some hypothetical future temple. Compare Matthew 24:15 with the parallel passage in Luke 21:20, and it is evident that this "abomination of desolation" took place during the Jewish War of 67-70 AD, and that the approach of the Roman army was the signal for all Christians in Jerusalem to flee the city. There is nothing about a futuristic "Third Temple" here.

Nowhere in Matthew 24, or anywhere else in the Bible, is there a hint that Herodís Temple, once destroyed, would be rebuilt or that Christians should expect or seek such a building program. So why do we make such a big deal about something that is not even in the Bible?

How about 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, which describes a "Man of Sin" who will sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God? Some take this as a reference to a future Antichrist who will sit in a future literal temple in Jerusalem. But there is no mention of Jerusalem in this passage, and the identification of the "Man of Sin" with a future Antichrist is pure supposition.

Some regard the Man of Sin as a personage in the First Century AD, associated with the time when the Second Temple was destroyed. Many interpreters over the years have regarded this passage as a reference to the Pope and the institution of the Papacy, which has been enthroned in St. Peters in Rome over the centuries, pretending to be the vicar of Christ.

It is also important to realize that the reference to "temple" here may not be a literal building at all. The Greek word naos in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is the same word that appears in John 2:19, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16 and Ephesians 2:21, and in all of these cases the word naos or temple is clearly not a literal building. Naos is variously used to refer to Christís own literal body, to the bodies of individual Christians, and to Christians as a corporate body, as in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and Ephesians 2:21. This being the case, it would be possible for the Man of Sin to fulfill the prophecy of sitting in the Temple of God by insinuating himself among Godís people, without the necessity of constructing a literal temple for him to do his dastardly part.

 

The Temple in Revelation 11:1

The fourth "proof-text" for a Tribulation Temple is Revelation 11:1, which depicts John as measuring the temple of God and those who worship therein. The temple he measured is described in the present tense, as something that existed in Johnís time, with worshippers present. This would be a clear reference to the Second Temple which was still standing when John wrote, which was soon to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD after a military campaign lasting 42 months (Revelation 11:2).

Alfred Edersheim, discussing Johnís familiarity with the Second Temple in Jerusalem, says, "These naturally suggest the twofold inference that the Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel must have been written before the Temple services had actually ceased, and by one who had not merely been intimately acquainted with, but probably at one time an actor in them." Any of Johnís readers, at the time that he wrote Revelation 11, would have understood John as referring to Herodís Temple, not some unknown future temple.

Adam Clarkeís commentary states, with regard to Revelation 11:1, that "This must refer to the temple of Jerusalem; and this is another presumptive evidence that it was yet standing. . . . The measuring of the temple probably refers to its approaching destruction, and the termination of the whole Levitical service; and this we find was to be done by the Gentiles, (Romans,) who were to tread it down 42 months; i.e., just 3 years and a half, or 1260 days."

Those who take the temple of Revelation 11:1 out of its historical context have come up with some strange and dubious notions. Some have said that the temple represents the "Gospel Church" (Matthew Henry) or the "True Inner Church" (Henry Halley). Historicists say that Revelation 11 was fulfilled by the events of the French Revolution in the late 18th Century.

Those who see this as a future "Third Temple" add a lot of fanciful and imaginative details that are not found at all in this "proof-text" or anywhere else in the Bible: the temple to be built exactly where the Mosque of Omar is now; Christians urged to support the construction of this temple; the temple to be consecrated with ashes of a red heifer; the Antichrist to disrupt temple services after 3 Ĺ years and kill 2/3 of all the Jews. There is no Scriptural basis for any of this.

Even those who insist that the Temple of Revelation 11 must be a future temple will have to admit that the exact location of this temple is not specified, and there is no hint that Christians are to seek the construction of such a temple. Why would we want to help construct a temple which clearly, throughout Revelation 11, is an object of Godís displeasure and judgment? And even if we adopt the futurist view of Revelation 11, what evidence do we have that God wants that temple built right now, as opposed to 100 or 1000 years from now?

As we have seen, there are widely divergent conjectures on the meaning of Revelation 11:1. Obviously, we cannot build an entire doctrine on one such isolated and highly disputed text.

We can sum up the Scriptural evidence for a Third Temple by saying that there is no such evidence. Tommy Ice and Randall Price, in their book "Ready to Rebuild," admit that "There are no Bible verses that say, ĎThere is going to be a third temple.í" Their case for a Third Temple is built on tradition, supposition and pure speculation, not on any clear teaching from the Word of God.

 

Do We Have a Duty to Make Bible Prophecies Come to Pass?

Some, who have accepted the teaching with regard to the Third Temple to be built in Jerusalem, have concluded that Christians should be actively seeking to help build such a temple, in order to fulfill "Bible Prophecy." But is there any principle in the Bible that teaches that it is our duty to make sure that ancient Bible prophecies are fulfilled in our time?

This desire to make Bible prophecy come true is a very selective thing. Those who believe in a Russian invasion of Israel and a Revived Roman Empire are not lobbying for our government to send weapons and military assistance to Russia and Italy in order to make the prophecies come true. In these cases, they seem to believe that God is competent to make these things happen without any help from us mere mortals.

But when it comes to anything that is perceived as helping Israel or bashing the Arabs, then there are many Christians who are full of zeal to persuade our government to go all-out to fulfill "prophecy" in the Middle East, as if God really needed our help. (They are so zealous about this that they even want America to help re-fulfill prophecies that were already completely, literally fulfilled in ancient times. For example, God already gave to Israel all the land that was promised them from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates - see Joshua 11:23, 21:43-45, 2 Samuel 8:3, 1 Kings 4:21, 8:56, 2 Chronicles 9:26 and Nehemiah 9:7-8, 24. But the prophecy enthusiasts say that is not good enough, and that we must help Israel fulfill the prophecy again, even if we have to plunge the entire world into war to do it).

But when Christ predicted the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Luke 19:43-44, also Luke 24) did He command Christians to write letters to the Emperor and to their Senators and Centurions, lobbying for them to come and destroy Jerusalem? No, He did not. It was not the job of Christians to make prophecy happen back then, nor is it our job today.

We are not commanded to fulfill any supposed "prophecies" about building any Temple in Jerusalem, nor to help Israel to ethnically cleanse the Arabs from Palestine so that such a Temple can be built. Not only does the Bible not teach that we are to help build the Temple, but it is not clear that there will ever be such a Temple.

Those who want to help literally fulfill Ezekielís temple prophecy do not take all of that prophecy literally. They have no desire to fulfill Ezekiel 47:22-23: "And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God."

The temple enthusiasts have no desire to help fulfill this prophecy, because that could mean recognizing the civil and property rights of the Palestinians, which they do not wish to do. Instead, they call for the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland, and for their land to be stolen from them without compensation. They would rather express and fulfill their racial hatred for Arabs than see this portion of Ezekielís prophecy literally fulfilled.

If someone talks to you about building the Temple and expelling the Palestinians so that "prophecy" can be fulfilled, read Ezekiel 47:22-23 to him, and ask him what he is doing to help divvy up Israeli real estate and deed it over to the Palestinians, in order to literally fulfill Ezekielís prophecy. If it is really their duty to make the prophecies happen, ask them what they are doing to promote the national greatness of Egypt (Isaiah 19:25) and the Arab world (Genesis 21:18).

 

Must the Temple Be Built Before Christ Can Return?

Some prophecy teachers seem to think that Christ cannot return until the Temple is built. Consider, for instance:

"The Jewish Temple must be rebuilt before the return of Jesus Christ." - Jack Van Impe.

"The Temple is the last sign that needs to fall into place before events irreversibly speed toward the return of Christ." - Hal Lindsey

"Both the Old and the New Testaments say there is no possibility for Jesus to come except that there is a temple waiting for Him." - Jan Van Der Hoeven, founder, International Christian Embassy.

If what Van Impe, Van Der Hoeven and "Shallow Hal" Lindsey say is true, then the doctrine of the imminent, any-moment return of Christ has been a big mistake. Instead of an imminent return of Christ, we now have a Christ who cannot possibly return until the Temple has been built.

Instead of a Christ who has all power in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), we now have a poor, weak, helpless Arminian "christ" who is marooned in heaven, who wants to come back to earth but cannot because he is impatiently waiting for the Temple to be rebuilt.

Actually, the Bible does not say that a Temple must be built before Christ can return. Nor does the Bible teach that the building of the Temple, or talk and rumors about a Temple being built, are a sign of Christís return. The Bible teaches that there are no signs of Christís coming, Acts 1:7, Matthew 24:36-42, 1 Thessalonians 5:2.

 

Christians Who Support Temple Mount Terrorists

While Christians demand (and rightly so) that Muslims stop their financial support of terrorists, some Christians are giving generous financial support to Jewish terrorists who are plotting to blow up the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem so that a Jewish Temple can be built there, to "fulfill prophecy."

Christian Zionist leader Terry Reisenhoover of the Jerusalem Temple Foundation explained, in an interview with journalist Grace Halsell, that he was raising money from American Christians, to be used by Stanley Goldfoot to blow up the mosque in Jerusalem. "Heís a very solid, legitimate terrorist," Reisenhoover said of Goldfoot. "He has the qualifications for clearing a site for the temple." Reisenhoover stated that Goldfoot does not believe in God, but this atheistic conviction did not hinder Goldfoot from making a fund-raising appearance at Chuck Smithís Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California.

Reverend James DeLoach of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas told Halsell that he was a good friend of Goldfoot, and that $100 million was being raised for Jewish terrorists, who he described as "doing Godís will." According to DeLoach, some of the money was being used to provide legal defense for Jewish terrorists. These terrorists were being prosecuted by the Israeli government which has always strongly opposed the activities of the Temple Mount terrorists.

As we continue to insist that Muslims stop supporting their terrorists, maybe we can set a good example for them, as Christians, by cutting off support for our own Jewish terrorists, too. The support that some Christian fundamentalists are giving to these radical extremists is resented by Israeli officials and is ultimately harmful to the cause of Israel (as well as being an extremely bad testimony for evangelical Christianity).

David Brickner, executive director of Jews For Jesus, has summed up the Temple Mount question by saying, "When it comes to Jewish people and the rebuilding of the Temple, I can assure you that most Jews couldnít care less about that. It is only a small subset of Orthodox Jews who are interested in rebuilding the Temple and they are far off from accomplishing that. Ultimately, I believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe that we canít hurry His agenda nor can we help Him fulfill prophecy. His word will be accomplished and in the meantime we should get on with being obedient to the Great Commission."

 

Conclusion: Forget Temple, Build New Testament Churches

A tremendous amount of time, money and attention is being devoted to the Jerusalem Temple by some modern-day evangelical Christians. Sermons are being preached, books and videos are being produced, money is being raised to help get the Temple built and to lobby our government for a foreign policy that is conducive toward that purpose.

There is a notion that the impending construction of the Temple will soon usher in Christís return and bring an end to all our earthly problems and trials. Naturally, this type of escapist thinking is popular with the masses, but as we have seen, there is no Scriptural basis for it.

Time has proven that preparations for the construction of a Temple are not a sign of Christís coming. Some time ago, Scottish preacher John Cumming published a book called "The End: Or, the Proximate Signs of the Close of This Dispensation" in which he cited ongoing fund-raising to rebuild a Jewish temple in Jerusalem as a sign of Christís Second Coming within a decade. He published that book in 1855. Christ didnít come within that decade. What does that tell us?

We need to get off the "Temple Mount" kick and concentrate on the real work that our Lord has assigned for us in the Great Commission: preaching the Gospel, baptizing converts into New Testament churches, and discipling them. All of this current brainwashing and propaganda on behalf of a Jewish temple does not help to disciple Christians; rather, it only propagates "Jewish fables" of the type that Paul tells us to reject, Titus 1:14.

(From Northern Landmark Missionary Baptist, January, 2005)

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