This evening I was reading a post at Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, which someone might find interesting. It concerns different prophecy views, even within the dispensationalist camp, on the end times and antichrist: Apocalyptic Christians Argue over Anti-Christ.
This difference of opinion, within the same Eschatological camp, brought to mind an article I received recently on those awaiting the re-building of a Temple in Jerusalem. Rather then just share the article, which is only one sided, I wanted to also share an opposite view as well: so you’ll find two opinions (below).
As both Eschatological views below on end time prophecy entail so much more then just the question addressed of a rebuilt Temple, it makes me wonder how important is it to be absolute in our dogmatic beliefs concerning the ‘how’s‘, ‘what’s’ and ‘if’s’. In fact, for many prophecy students, depending on how they find themselves interpreting many single scriptures related to end time prophecy, their entire out-look on the last days period, is determined or colored, one way or another: as in their future expectations, (what they’re expecting to see) and what they believe will absolutely occur, etc.
I’m not dogmatic concerning last day prophecy interpretations, (except in those prophecies about the coming of our Lord) only because I’m still studying and because I believe there is much yet to still be revealed by God concerning how last day Prophecy will be fulfilled.
Though I do believe we’re all in for some surprises. 🙂
Answering Hal Lindsey, by Pastor William Barnwell
One of the strangest teachings from proponents of dispensationalism is the assertion that the ancient Jewish temple will be rebuilt. It is understandable why some extremely conservative Orthodox Jews would desire to have a rebuilt temple, but logically it makes little sense why so many Christians are clamoring to see a third temple. Last week, Hal Lindsey wrote an excited column at WorldNetDaily titled “Revived Sanhedrin discusses temple” where he cites evidence of plans for a renewed temple in Israel. While Mr. Lindsey is a fine Christian and no doubt has done many good things for Christianity, his theological views on the “end-times” which he has been teaching for years are, I believe, full of errors and pose both theological and political concerns.
Before I go into my arguments let me give some background on the concept of the temple itself. In the Old Testament, there was a central place of worship for the Israelite community. In the book of Exodus, Moses received from God plans to build a “tabernacle” which would serve many of the same functions as the temple would in later Israelite history. The design, description and purpose of the tabernacle can be found in Exodus 25–26 and 36–40. It was there that God would dwell directly amongst His people. The tabernacle was to be portable. Though elaborate the tabernacle could be taken apart and set up by the Levites (one of the 12 tribes of Israel who were designated to have the priestly responsibilities) who would transport it as the Israelites moved from place to place. It was at the tabernacle where the Israelites would present a variety of sin, guilt, fellowship, etc. offerings that are described in better detail throughout the book of Leviticus.
Fast forward a number of generations to the time of King David. David desired to build a permanent temple to God, where He would dwell amongst His people and the sacrificial and worship system would be centrally and permanently located. God told David, however, that his son Solomon would instead build the temple (The background and building of the temple can be found in I Kings 5–6; I Chronicles 28–29; 2 Chronicles 2–7).
The temple was tragically destroyed around the time of 586 B.C. when the Babylonians swept up the southern kingdom of Judah where the temple was located (2 Chronicles 36:15–23). The Israelites were stunned seeing both northern and southern kingdoms overran (first by the Assyrians and then by the Babylonians) and also their temple destroyed.
Eventually a new empire arose, the Medo-Persian Empire. King Cyrus decreed that foreigners could return to their homelands, including the Israelites. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah detail the return to the homeland. It was at this time that the temple was rebuilt (Ezra 6:13–18). However the second temple was not as magnificent as the first temple. The Israelites had a new temple and a new central place of worship, but it was not as beautiful and they were still under foreign domination.
Eventually the Roman Empire arose (after the Persians and Alexander the Great’s empire) which is the setting the New Testament takes place in. The temple had some renovation done by the time of Christ’s ministry. It continued to hold great prominence in the religious life and rituals of the Jewish people.
However, in A.D. 70 the temple was destroyed by the Romans who ransacked the city. It was another time of deep mourning for the Jewish people. Since that day the temple has not stood and Jewish religion and practice have never been the same.
Why It’s Important to the Dispensationalists
Dispensationalists believe that the temple must be rebuilt a third time. They interpret certain passages of Scripture (wrongly in my view) to suggest that the Antichrist can not appear until the Temple is rebuilt. In the dispensational view, the current nation state of Israel holds great prominence. It is supposedly “God’s time clock of prophecy.”
However, contrary to what the popular preachers and popular end-times books say, the current political entity of Israel has little if anything to do with the “end-times.” Yet dispensationalists teach that the temple will be rebuilt in Israel and then the Antichrist will exalt himself in the temple proclaiming to be God. This will take place before or after the rapture where Christ will secretly come for His saints (as opposed to with His saints ). Eventually, the Antichrist and the false prophet will be defeated and Satan bound for a 1000 years while Christ will set up His millennial Kingdom on earth. After the 1000 years, Satan will be loosed for a final battle but will be defeated and eternity will begin.
The Antichrist exalting himself in the Temple mainly comes from a futuristic interpretation of Daniel 9:20–27 where the Antichrist is supposedly forming and then breaking a covenant with Israel and then overtaking the temple.
Let me just say that this interpretation is highly suspect and scholars have never agreed on a proper interpretation of this passage (who is the “he” of verse 27? The Anointed One or the ruler? And what is the identity of those two people? The standard response is Christ and the Antichrist, but it’s not as cut and dry as most think). My own opinion is that every prophetic camp has their short-comings in interpreting this passage. As of now, the full meaning and interpretation of this passage is very much debatable.
Dispensationalists also point to the synoptic gospels where Christ delivers His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and tells of coming judgment. While most Christians want to read these as strict accounts of the end of the world, Christ was first and foremost discussing the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Read Matthew 24 for yourself. It begins by the disciples drawing attention to the temple and its surrounding buildings.
Christ responds “Do you see these things?” (vv. 2). The “things” that he is referring to as the subject are the things the disciples just drew attention to – the buildings of Jerusalem. He then goes on to say that the day was coming when the area would be destroyed (vv. 2). In verse three the disciples ask him when that is going to happen and in verse 4 he begins to give the “signs” of this judgment. When the passage is read in context this way, it becomes obvious that the main meaning of the passage refers to the destruction of Jerusalem (which Christ just mourned over at the end of chapter 23).
In verse 15 Christ cites the “abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel.” Dispensationalists see this as a clear reference to the Antichrist exalting himself in a rebuilt third temple.
However, Luke’s gospel seems to clearly suggest that the “abomination” is Jerusalem being surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20–21) which is why this passage was historically interpreted to refer to Roman plundering of Jerusalem which took place in A.D. 70.
Some object and claim that the Olivet Discourses are examples of “Double Fulfillment” meaning that the prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 and will receive its final fulfillment in the coming end-times. This is possible perhaps, as examples of this are seen elsewhere in Scripture. For example, look at where the NT writers cite Old Testament prophecy and you will see different historical layers of fulfillment. In those instances however, the Biblical writer cites a verse or two. I’m a little hesitant to take entire chapters of Scripture and apply the same method. Also one must keep in mind that the Biblical writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit in what they wrote and interpreted.
The same cannot exactly be said for Tim Lahaye. Basically, any claim of double fulfillment is speculative for a variety of reasons and such a position should only cautiously be held to.
Theological Problems of a Rebuilt Temple
In Lindsey’s article, he is clearly very excited about the prospect of a rebuilt temple. In the column he asserts that plans to rebuild the temple are part of Bible prophecy. He also claims that the reemergence of a Jewish Sanhedrin (the Sanhedrin was a community of interpreters who were the religious and theological authority before the fall of the temple) is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy as well.
The second claim is extremely strange (please show me Scripturally, Mr. Lindsey, where a new Sanhedrin is even alluded to) and doesn’t warrant much discussion, but the first is more theologically problematic.
The big question is this: Why in the world would a new temple be a “good thing” in light of the work of Christ? Christ replaced the temple and temple worship. Sacrifice for sins are not atoned for through the blood of bulls and goats at a temple, sacrifice for sins were accomplished once and for all through the sacrifice of Christ. Therefore, when Mr. Lindsey seems eager to see the Old Testament sacrificial system reintroduced, I am highly offended and puzzled why he thinks this would be a good thing.
Dispensationalist temple theology runs directly counter to what is taught in the book of Hebrews where the earthly tabernacle (the forerunner of the temple) was described as a shadow and imperfect compared to the work of Christ. How any Christian could read Hebrews 8 and 9 and claim that there is a need for a new temple is puzzling. The message is clear in these chapters: The Old Covenant was inferior to the New, the tabernacle (and by extension, the temple) was inferior to Christ, the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant is inferior to Christ’s sacrifice of the New Covenant, the OT priesthood of the Levites was inferior to the NT priesthood of Christ, etc. Consider Hebrews 9:8–14, where after discussing the man-made tabernacle and its religious rituals, the author writes:
“The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applying until the time of the new order. When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once and for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
In the light of the teachings of Hebrew and actually the whole of New Testament theology, it seems highly problematic to cheer on a rebuilt temple. Therefore, it would be unwise to interpret certain OT and NT passages as referring to a future rebuilt temple.
Such a temple would have no salvific power and it seems bizarre that God would put such emphasis in a false idol in terms of the timing of His Second Coming.
Of course most dispensationalists do not believe anyone could actually be “saved” through renewed temple worship except for those who believe in a “dual covenant” theology. Dual covenant basically meaning that one did not have to believe in Christ as long as they were faithful to the Old Covenant – but this runs directly counter to the teachings of the New Testament (John 14:6; Hebrews 8:7–13).
However, even the vast majority of dispensationalists reject such a belief as heretical. The question is why then would they want people to waste their time through more temple worship? The answer is because a peculiar interpretation of Bible prophecy and their hope to see these events happen so they can be raptured off to heaven while those that are “left-behind” bear the brunt of God’s judgment.
There are all kinds of problems with modern day rapture theologies as well, though that is not the point of the present column.
My own view of the “end-times” best resembles the historical premillennial view that was embraced by a large part of the church throughout church history that believes in a literal millennial reign of Christ, a literal Antichrist, a literal Second Coming etc., but not the dispensational views of Israel and the Church, the secret rapture, the rebuilt temple, etc. I also think the contention that Christians will not endure a future tribulation runs completely contrary to Christian experience all throughout history.
The saints have always been persecuted and have always had to endure struggle. I certainly don’t claim infallibility on these matters but at this time the position being outlined seems to me the closest to Scriptural teaching.
Political Problems of a Rebuilt Temple
The most obvious problem of a rebuilt temple will be further inflammation of hostilities between Jews and Muslims. While Lindsey’s article asserts that the actual location of the second temple was in current territory of modern-day Israel, many others believe that the temple needs to be rebuilt on top of the Dome of the Rock, which is, of course, holy Muslim land and on Muslim territory.
As a result many who hold this interpretation are determined to see more wars and hostilities between Jews and Arabs to make sure that “Bible prophecy” is fulfilled. This is a clear case of bad theology trying to determine political policy. This is not something that should be encouraged by Christians today and leaders who develop and influence public policy and opinion.
This is part of the larger issue of dispensationalism’s influence of Christian public opinion (and by extension the resulting pressure from Christian groups that affect public policy). According to the dispensationalist, modern Israel is always right and the Arabs are always wrong. Not only that but the people who make up modern Israel are “God’s chosen people” and hence can never be questioned (according to the New Testament, however, God’s chosen people are people of faith in Christ).
This has lead to a very uneven and unfair approach from most modern day Christians to the problems of the Middle East.
Israel certainly has a right to exist as a nation. There are good reasons to be generally supportive of Israel. But Israel is not always right, and every atrocity or bad move by today’s state of Israel is not honoring or glorifying to God. Also, the idea that we should unflinchingly support Israel in every circumstance is rooted in bad theology and the silly idea that God will curse us if we criticize Israel (a bad interpretation of Gen. 12:3).
It’s time to stop letting faulty theology influence our foreign policy. Some Christians should also stop cheerleading violence and problems in the Middle East and stop seeing any proponent of peace as being a candidate for the Antichrist.
The whole of the Biblical Scriptures and Biblical Theology strongly leans against a rebuilt third temple. The desire for a new temple is a smack in the face to the work of Christ and shows little regard or concern for the people who would be caught up in false temple worship. Instead of showing concern for the Jewish people, this and other areas of dispensationalism simply make them pawns in a fantasy game of what appears to be fictional theology. Not only is the idea of a rebuilt temple theologically problematic, it is politically problematic and would increase tensions between Jews and Muslims.
Christians should stop letting highly questionable theology guide their opinions and views of Jews and Arabs and their desired approaches to public and foreign policy.
In conclusion, I offer a friendly challenge to Mr. Lindsey or any other dispensational writer in print to rebut the claims and assertions found in this essay.
Not only does “iron sharpen iron,” but there is much at stake in our understanding of these matters. If it can be proven that I am in error then I will humbly concede that this is so. Hopefully the dispensationalist would do the same. In the meantime, let the readers decide who has the more persuasive interpretation of the Biblical text.
From The book, The New Temple and the Second Coming by Grant R. Jeffrey:
Introduction: Rebuilding the Temple
Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come. Isaiah 21:11-12
Almost two thousand years ago, after nearly two years of terrible siege, the brutally efficient legions of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple to the ground. Led by General Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian, the Roman army completed its mission of destruction on the ninth day of Av (August) in AD 70.
The glorious Temple, built by King Herod, was the second of the sacred Temples to stand on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The First Temple had been built by King Solomon around 1000 BC and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The Second Temple, built initially by the Jews after their return to Jerusalem in 536 BC following the Babylonian captivity and then expanded by Herod in the first century, remains in ruins today. However, exciting developments are taking place in Israel that will result in a Third Temple being built on the ancient foundations that Solomon put in place more than three thousand years ago.
You and I are part of the generation that will live to see a Temple of God once again stand in Jerusalem, the spiritual crossroads of the world.
The rebuilding of the Temple holds profound prophetic significance, equal to the appearance of the Antichrist or the forming of the pagan armies to invade Israel in the coming War of Gog and Magog.
While many students of biblical prophecy have debated the role that will be played by the Third Temple in end-times developments, the Scriptures make it clear that just before Christ returns, the Third Temple of God must stand again on the original location on the Temple Mount.
Preparations to rebuild the Temple have progressed on several fronts, with plans already in place that go into far greater detail than most people are aware of. The Temple project is yet another major prophetic signpost on the time line leading to the final conflict of the battle of Armageddon and the establishment of the kingdom of God. No less a prophet than Jesus Christ made it clear that the generation that witnessed the return of the Jews to the Promised Land would live to see Him return to earth. The modern State of Israel was born in 1948, which means that you and I are part of the last-days generation (see Matthew 24:32—34).
However, the Temple must once again occupy its place on the Temple Mount before the major prophesied events of the last days can take place.
Many scholars have questioned whether the Temple will ever be rebuilt because of the immense practical, religious, and political obstacles that stand in the way. Mosques, shrines, and other Muslim holy sites occupy the Temple Mount, a thirty-five acre site that is under the administrative control of Arab authorities.
Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has controlled the entire city of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. However, Israel allows the Supreme Muslim Religious Council (the Waqf ) to control religious activities and to police (without firearms) all activities on the Temple Mount. This area is the location of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Religious Jews do not worship in the area of the Dome of the Rock because the chief rabbis warn they might inadvertently trespass on the site of the ancient Holy of Holies.
Muslim control of the Temple Mount fulfills the prophecy of Luke 21:24, that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
In addition to the political and religious tensions that stand in the way of rebuilding the Temple, a longstanding and seemingly unsolvable dilemma from within Judaism has presented a major obstacle.
The Jews cannot rebuild the Temple or resume worship in the Temple unless the long-dormant Sanhedrin Court, the highest body of Jewish lawmakers, is reconvened. This is necessary in order to reestablish the Levitical priesthood.
The Sanhedrin is the only religious body authorized to determine the correct location of the Temple, to reinstitute the ancient rituals, and to oversee the many details related to Temple ritual and worship.
One of Jesus’ prophecies indicates that the Sanhedrin will indeed be fulfilling its duties in the last days.
Christ warned His disciples about the coming persecution in Jerusalem during the Tribulation. He told them to pray that their flight from the city would not be “on the sabbath day” (Matthew 24:20).
The reason for this is the commandment against performing work on the sabbath (see Exodus 20:8—10). The ancient Sanhedrin had determined that any travel on the sabbath that exceeded one thousand paces was considered work. However, if an invasion force should attack on the sabbath and the Jews in Jerusalem limited their travel to one thousand paces, it could ensure their destruction.
Christ’s prophecy implies that the Sanhedrin will exist in the last days and will have the authority to enforce such a religious rule.
The historian Flavius Josephus calculated the distance from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives, known popularly as “the sabbath’s day journey,” as approximately one thousand yards.
Interestingly, the gospel historian Luke wrote in the book of Acts that the distance from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount is approximately a thousand paces, a “sabbath’s day journey” (1:12).
Israel without a Temple
With the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, Israel lost the Temple as the center of its spiritual life. During the nineteen centuries that followed, Jews in exile prayed for their prophesied return to the Promised Land. Every year at Passover and at the end of Yom Kippur, righteous Jews have prayed, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Along with that hope, religious Jews have longed to rebuild their Temple and establish the long-promised kingdom of God on earth under the rule of the long-awaited Messiah.
They longed for the Lord to return His Shekinah Glory and Divine Presence to the sanctuary in Jerusalem. Finally, after nineteen centuries, today’s generation has been given the task of making these ancient dreams come true.
God’s Command to Build a Sanctuary
The rebuilding of the Temple is central to the messianic hopes of the Jewish people. As the rabbis have noted, God never rescinded His command that Israel build a sanctuary for Him (see Exodus 25:8). Therefore, His command remains in force today.
The Lord gave Moses the precise blueprint to follow in constructing His earthly sanctuary, the movable Tabernacle that Israel used prior to the building of the First Temple. The sacred vessels and worship instruments that later were used in Solomon’s Temple, including the ark of the covenant.
Likewise, God revealed to King David and his son Solomon the detailed plans for building a permanent Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC. The Second Temple, initially completed in 516 BC and totally refurnished and enlarged by King Herod beginning in 18 BC, was destroyed as well, in AD 70.
Yet Jesus mentioned the existence of “the holy place” in a future Temple when He told His disciples about the events of the last days and the Great Tribulation.
He warned that “when ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (Matthew 24:15—16). Jesus’ prophecy echoed that of the prophet Daniel, who indicated that the “abomination that maketh desolate” would stand in the Temple of God in Jerusalem (see Daniel 11:31; 12:11).
Both prophecies suggest that the Third Temple will be built before the Antichrist comes to power and takes control of Europe and the surrounding Mediterranean nations.
Satan will spiritually defile the Holy Place of the rebuilt Temple by directing his Antichrist to violate the Holy of Holies at the beginning of the last three and a half years of the Tribulation. The False Prophet, the Antichrist’s partner, will then demand that the Antichrist be worshiped as “god” in the rebuilt Temple.
Controversy over Rebuilding the Temple
Among the ongoing tragedies of the Middle East is that both Arabs and Jews claim the right of possession of the Holy Land, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. In just about any current news report involving the conflict between Israel and its Arab enemies, the ancient, walled Old City of Jerusalem plays a prominent role. God told His prophets thousands of years ago that the final battle for the soul and destiny of mankind will be decided in Jerusalem, whose name literally means “city of peace,” the city where the coming Messiah will establish His eternal throne.
The Third Temple will be built on what is the most passionately contested piece of real estate on earth.
Not only is this rebuilding prophesied in Scripture, but today rabbis, researchers, archaeologists, and other interested parties are drawing up detailed architectural plans, re-creating precious vessels to be used in Temple worship, and searching for the lost treasures of the ancient Temple.
Incredible progress has been made recently in locating, gathering, and in some cases re-creating the necessary vessels, utensils, and other sacred objects that will be necessary to reinstate sacred worship and animal sacrifice.
Control of the Temple Mount
After Israel’s stunning victory over the Arab armies during the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israeli defense minister General Moshe Dayan went to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to meet with the five leaders of the Supreme Muslim Religious Council. The council had exercised control over the Temple Mount during nearly twenty years of Jordanian military control of the eastern portion of Jerusalem, from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence until the Six-Day War. The meeting between Dayan and the Muslim leaders established Israel’s religious and political policy concerning the Temple Mount, a policy that remains unchanged today. Dayan, a nonreligious Jew, did not appreciate the profound historical and spiritual significance of the Temple Mount and thus relinquished administrative control to the Arabs. He hoped the generosity of this gesture would be appreciated. Unfortunately, they interpreted it as an indication of the weakness of Israel’s resolve to possess and hold their holiest place of worship, the Temple Mount.
Dayan ordered the Israeli flag that Jewish soldiers had affixed to the golden dome removed from the Dome of the Rock. His further concessions surrendered administrative control of the Temple Mount to the Supreme Muslim Religious Council, a Jordanian-controlled Muslim trust known as the Waqf.
The Temple Mount remains at the center of Israeli-Arab tensions, with Arab authorities continuing to exercise administrative control over Israel’s most sacred site.
However, God has called on His people to rebuild the Temple. Not only is this critical development commanded by God, but the Scriptures reveal that the Temple will be rebuilt before the Messiah returns to earth.
The generation alive today will see the Temple of God once again standing in Jerusalem, and the King of Israel–the returning Messiah–ruling from the throne of David.
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