The Third Temple in Jerusalem

Prophecy Suggests a Third Temple will be Built
Christ will soon rule the nations from a new Jewish temple in Jerusalem

Summary

Muslims vehemently deny it, but Jews and Christians who study prophecy believe that a new Jewish Temple will soon be built in the Jerusalem area. A favoured location is the Temple Mount. The temple will be desecrated by the end time world ruler – the ‘beast from the sea’ (Revelation 13). Jesus called this act ‘an abomination’. But, immediately after this, a Premillennial view of prophecy sees Christ establishing His theocratic rule over the nations from such a temple, and nations will go up from year to year to Jerusalem to worship Him there.

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Jewish ViewTemple PlansTemple DesecrationChristian ViewEzekiel’s TempleMillennial TempleTemple SacrificesMillennial WorldTemple Location

The Muslim View

Today’s Muslim-Palestinian narrative maintains that the two biblical temples in Jerusalem never existed – a blatant denial of historical accounts in the Bible:

“there has never been a Jewish temple atop the Temple Mount” [Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, grand mufti of Jerusalem, 2015]

Muslims also claim that the plan for a Third Temple is a lie:

“This plan is based on the biggest lie in history. It is nonsense … as if there ever was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem” [Izzat al-Rishq, Hamas’ Political Bureau]

Such statements contradict the Qur’an. According to Qur’an chapter 17 verse 7 (taking what is widely considered to be the most orthodox Sunni translation and commentary), at least one biblical temple existed – Solomon’s, link, link, link. Also, Muslim tradition holds that the early form of the Aksa Mosque was built deliberately on the verified site of earlier sanctuaries: “The mosque was itself a revivification of the old Jewish temple”.

The Jewish View

Today, Jews are planning a future or third Temple. They are looking for the Moshiach (the Jewish ‘Messiah’), a mortal man and descendant of King David who will redeem Israel and reign from his throne in Jerusalem, link. They base their belief upon words from the prophet Jeremiah:

For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’ (Jer 33.17-18)

But when it comes to the great prophecy in Isaiah chapter 60 they seem reticent to acknowledge a ‘Messiah’, link. In contrast, some Christians understand the context of this chapter to be the worldwide worship of Christ the King in the Millennium. It describes the regathering of Israel from out of the nations and abundant future blessing upon Israel. In particular, verse 13 describes Christ’s dwelling place as a beautiful sanctuary (Millennial Temple) in Zion surrounded by cypress, pine and box trees. Why such detail if this chapter is symbolic or figurative?

Temple Plans

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Ezekiel’s Temple. Image: Charles Chipiez, via Wikimedia Commons. Enlarge

Based on this vision of the future, a mission of The Temple Institute in Jerusalem is to rally Jews to reconstruct the temple that was the heart of their religion until its destruction 2,000 years ago. The Institute’s ultimate goal is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.

Building the Temple is not political or legal. It is a mitzvah (Torah commandment) incumbent upon the Jews, Rabbi Hillel Weiss (spokesman of the Sanhedrin) 2018. So where is that commandment? Recall that the Israelites were commanded by God to make a sanctuary:

Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them (Exod 25.8)

In keeping with this commandment the Jewish people built the Tabernacle – a transportable Temple they carried with them as they traveled through the desert on their way to the Promised Land (Canaan). Upon arriving there they built a more permanent structure, eventually building a glorious temple in on Mount Moriah Jerusalem. That was Solomon’s Temple. Today, Jews see the purpose of a future temple like this:

The Temple in Jerusalem was more than just a majestic building; it was a physical place where spirituality could be sensed. When the Jews would make a pilgrimage to the Temple they would experience a spiritual awakening. Each detail in the Temple’s design corresponds to part of our own spiritual design. Although the Temple no longer stands today, by studying its details, we can discover our own path to uncovering spirituality. When we complete our collective mission and the world reaches its spiritual potential, we will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem this time as a source of the spirituality that will be found in our world. [Jewish Community Center]

A Warning: Temple Desecration

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Taking a dispensational view of Bible prophecy, the last few years of this age will be traumatic for the Jews in Israel. It is the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30.7) when the end-time world ruler (the ‘beast from the sea’ of Rev 13.1-2) persecutes the people of Israel. It is the time of ‘great tribulation’ mentioned by Jesus in Mathew 24. Being Satanically inspired, this despicable person opposes any form of worship except worship of himself:

(He) exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, displaying himself as being God (2 Thes 2.4)
And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven (Rev 13.6)

Jesus referred to this act as “the abomination of desolation” (Mat 24.15). It is a time when any reinstated temple sacrifices will cease:

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (the last seven years of this age), but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering … (Dan 9.27)

An Enduring Temple: Many take this text to refer to the last three and a half years of this age. It is the last half of Daniel’s 70th Week. But is that the end of the temple? No. The dispensational view takes the ‘Temple of God’ in 2 Thes 2.4 to be the Third Temple – a temple that has yet to be built and then desecrated, but still endures. This view is underscored by a description of what, in dispensational terms, appears to be the Third Temple in the book of Revelation:

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the Temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months (Rev 11.1-2)

Forty-two months is of course three and a half (360 day) years. The measuring rod depicts endurance or preservation. Nevertheless, given this dispensational viewpoint, many Bible scholars have warned the Temple Institute that their planned Third Temple could be the one that is misused and defiled by the end-time world ruler. If that is the case and the Temple Institute carries through with their plans to build and furnish the Third Temple with the biblical vessels and other furnishings, we can expect the end-time world ruler to destroy anything that they make pertaining to worshiping the God of Israel. But, despite these traumatic times, prophecy says that a Third Temple will exist in the Millennial age. Note that the above texts do not imply that the Third Temple is destroyed, only desecrated.

The (PreMillennial) Christian View

Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus will soon return to Earth, conquer the world, and literally reign as King over all the nations through the Millennial (or Kingdom) age. Taken together, many prophecies and New Testament texts align with this dispensational (or literal) view of scripture. Dispensationalism also aligns with observations of today’s world in that many feel this age is coming to a crisis point. God says “Once more … I will shake all nations … and I will fill this temple with glory” (Haggai 2.6-7).

A Preview of Eternity: The Premillennial view of an earthly temple and city (Jerusalem) foreshadows the symbolic view of an eternal temple (God’s throne) and the eternal New Jerusalem as seen in Rev 21 and 22. In symbolic terms, the holy city or New Jerusalem has 12 gates each named after one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev 21.12). In the Millennium the 12 gates of the real city (Fig.2) are also named after the 12 tribes of Israel (Ezek 48.30-35). Similarly, in symbolic terms, in the New Earth a pure river flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb and feeds the tree of life on its banks (Rev 22.1-2). In the Millennium a real river flows from the temple and provides nourishment for many trees on the river banks (Ezek 47.1-12).

Christ’s theocratic rule over all nations means that God’s Law will emanate from Zion (Zech 14.9, Mic 4.2). In the Old Testament, Zion came to mean Jerusalem, and the temple area in particular. This indicates that Christ will rule from some future temple, a Third Temple, in the Jerusalem area. In order to develop this view we need to examine Ezekiel chapters 40-48.

Ezekiel Chapters 40-48

These chapters give incredible detail of a Jewish temple, and there is much scholarly debate as to its identity. Does it describe Zerubbabel’s Temple, a literal Millennial Temple, or a symbolic non-literal temple? History shows that the Second Temple (completed by Zerubbabel) was not built according to Ezekiel’s specifications, link, whilst the institutionalized church often takes the symbolic view, link. In particular, some suggest that Ezekiel’s temple pattern has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ Himself, link. After all, Christ is the final atoning sacrifice and the eternal high priest of God’s people. And others suggest Ezekiel’s temple is symbolic of the future and eternal reign of God when His presence and blessing fill the earth.

A literal Third Temple: The case for a literal future temple is strong. With reference to chapters 40-48, we might ask:

  • Why give precise physical details and measurements of the temple if it is symbolic?
  • Why describe Israel’s borders and new tribal land divisions if the temple is symbolic (Ezek 47)?
  • If there is no Third Temple with its ‘prince’ (Ezek 44), then who is the prince promised in the Millennial Israel of Ezek 34?
  • Why include ‘strangers’ (non-Jews) in the discussion if it’s all symbolic (Ezek 47)? Why not see it as the final solution to the Palestinian refugee problem?
  • If Ezekiel’s temple was never built due to Israel’s sin, all physical detail means little today
  • Why describe practical details (like towns and fishing) in the northern Dead Sea area if this is not a literal temple (Ezek 47)?
  • Why describe in detail a ‘most holy area’ if Christ never physically dwells there (Ezek 48)?
  • Why is this area, Christ’s sanctuary, made beautiful and glorious with specific types of tree if this is not a literal temple (Isa 60, Ezek 43)?
  • From where does Christ reign if a Millennial Temple is never built in Jerusalem (Zech 14.9)?
  • Which temple is desecrated by the end time world ruler if a Third Temple is never built (Mat 24, 2 Thes 2))?
  • Why is the Jerusalem area physically raised up (through an earthquake) if it’s not for the Millennial Temple (Zech 14)

The Millennial Temple

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Fig.1: Future equal land division between the 12 tribes of Israel. Enlarge

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Fig.2: Future land allocation around Jerusalem according to Ezekiel 45,48 (sizes in cubits). The Holy Place denotes outer and inner courts, temple and altar. Enlarge

Land Division
and the Prince

Ezekiel chapter 47 gives the future land boundaries of Israel (these boundaries are very similar to those given to Israel in Numbers chapter 34).

Ezekiel chapter 48 shows how land within these future boundaries is to be equally divided between the 12 tribes (Fig. 1).

Note ‘the reserve set apart, a holy section’ between Judah and Benjamin (Ezek 45.1-3, 48.9-22). This reserve is shown in detail in Fig.2 and at the center is the LORD’s sanctuary:

Moreover, when you divide the land by lot into inheritance, you shall set apart a district for the LORD, a holy section of the land; its length shall be twenty-five thousand cubits, and the width ten thousand. It shall be holy throughout its territory all around. Of this there shall be a square plot for the sanctuary (Temple), five hundred by five hundred cubits, with fifty cubits around it for an open space (Ezek 45.1-2, see also Ezek 42.15-20)

This indicates that the size of the Third Temple is roughly 875 feet square (using the 21 inch cubit). Note also from Fig.2 that either side of the holy section is land for the prince (Ezek 45.6-8). Who is he? The Millennial view of Ezekiel 34 explains. He is Israel’s king and shepherd – David, link:

I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them — My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken (Ezek 34.23-24)

Temple Sacrifices

Ezekiel 45 speaks of ‘the LORD’s sanctuary’ as ‘the temple’, and in the dispensational view this must be the Third Temple. It is a holy area for the LORD and His priests, the Levites. But many dismiss the dispensational and literal view of Ezekiel 40-48 since it mentions blood sacrifices. They correctly point out that Christ’s sacrifice was “Once for All” and that animal sacrifices for man’s sin were insufficient. The law was only a shadow of the good things that were coming (Heb 10.1-18):

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 10.12)

Sinful Mortal Man: So, if Ezekiel’s Temple is the future Third Temple, why does the prophet speak of temple sacrifices? An answer could be in the Millennial scenario. Although the world is at peace and Satan is bound such that he can no longer deceive the nations (Rev 20.3), it is not utopia. It is not like the perfect life on the new earth (Rev 21.1). Many survivors of the War of Armageddon, and their descendants, will be unsaved and man himself will still have a rebellious heart. That is why Christ needs to rule the nations “with a rod of iron” (Rev 19.15). For example, during the Millennium the nations will go up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, but rebellious nations will be judged by drought! And although man’s lifespan is extended, mortal man still dies (Isa 65.20).

So, in some respects the Millennial world will be similar to the Adamic world just after the Fall; God walked with sinful man in a good (but not perfect) environment. Eden revisited?

Holiness: Now consider again Fig.2. All ‘the reserve set apart’ (25,000 x 10,000 cubits) will be holy ground, and the sanctuary or temple in the center is ‘the Most Holy Place‘ (Ezek 45.1-3). The Hebrew word for holy is ‘qodesh’ and means ‘set-apart’. So, as with the Israelites in the wilderness when the holy tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) was outside the camp (Ezek 33), so it seems that in the Millennial Temple area sinful man will be set-apart from the holy ground of the sanctuary. Mortal sinful man stands in awe of a holy God, Christ, and there is need for atonement. In this unique scenario, where Christ dwells and is worshiped in the holy temple area, there is a need for even unintentional sin to be atoned for (Ezek 45.17,20). How else can sinful man worship the holy Christ?

The Millennium: A New Dispensation

To some this may seem like ‘the Law’ has come back to replace Christ’s atonement for sin on the cross. Not so,
but even the most conservative believers have to acknowledge that the present age, the so-called ‘Church Age’ or ‘Age of Grace’ appears to be rapidly coming to an end. The PreMillennial view is that the next age will be a totally different dispensation. Just as the ‘Age of Law’ (Mosaic Law) was replaced by the ‘Church Age’ – see John 1.17 – so it seems the ‘Church Age’ will be replaced by the ‘Kingdom Age’, with the church replaced as God’s witness on earth by God’s chosen people, Israel. But a Millennial world of rebellious nations must be ruled in righteousness and taught God’s Law:

Many nations [peoples] will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple [L house] of the God of Jacob. Then he will teach us his ways [standards; path], and we will obey his teachings [L walk in his paths].” His teachings [The Law; Instruction; L Torah] will go out from Jerusalem; the message [word] of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem (Isa 2.3, EXB)

The Millennial World is a Jewish World

So when considering sacrifices it is helpful to remind ourselves that the Millennial scenario will be ‘very Jewish’. Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, will be in world focus and even the pots of Jerusalem will be ‘holiness to the LORD’ and used for sacrifices (Zech 14.21). As discussed, such sacrifices may be for worship and consecration, link. For example, Israelites will come from all over the world to worship Christ in His Temple, and such an act is seen as a clean offering to the LORD:

And they will bring all your fellow Israelites [L brothers] from all nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord … they will be like the grain offerings that the people bring in clean [pure; undefiled] containers [vessels] to the Temple,” says the Lord (Isa 66.20, EXB)

Jewish feasts and rituals will be honoured since some Jewish festivals are to be held as ‘statutes for ever’, throughout all generations for all time, link. For example, the Feast of Tabernacles is a statute for ever (Lev 23.41) and goes on into the Millennial Age (Zech 14.16). Even the Christian Sunday will be universally replaced by the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday):

And the Lord says to those foreigners who become part of his people, who love him and serve him, who observe the Sabbath and faithfully keep his covenant: “I will bring you to Zion, my sacred hill, give you joy in my house of prayer, and accept the sacrifices you offer on my altar. My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations” (Isa 56.6-7)
And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me (Isa 66.23)

Temple Location

Figure 3 shows a topological map of Mount Moriah. It rises as a long north-south ridge at the south end of the City of David and continues on past the present Temple Mount (a flat area spanning some 45 acres). Prophecy says that at the Second Coming of Christ there will be dramatic geological changes in this area. In Zechariah chapter 14 we read:

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives … And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south … all the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up … [emphasis added]

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Fig.3: Mount Moriah, site of the Temple Mount. Contours at 10m intervals. Image: Lambert Dolphin. Enlarge

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Fig.4: the Temple Mount. Image: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia, Creative Commons 4.0. Enlarge

According to Tim McMahon, Geba was 6 miles NE of Jerusalem and Rimmon was 35 miles SW of Jerusalem. So the Millennial Jerusalem will be highly visible in a plain some 40 miles wide. Zechariah 14 implies that the city is not geographically relocated; it is simply ‘raised up’.

So if the Law and the word of the LORD goes forth from Millennial Jerusalem (Isa 2.3), then we can assume the Millennial Temple will be located somewhere on the present Temple Mount, link. Why? Because according to Rabbinical sources both the First and Second Temples were built at the same location somewhere on the Temple Mount, and Orthodox Jews favour the same location for the Third Temple.

Competing Location Theories: According to Dolphin and Kollen, there are four possible Temple Mount locations for the First and Second Temples:

  • North of the Dome of the Rock [Asher Kaufman]
  • The present site of the Dome of the Rock (the “traditional location”)
  • South of the Dome of the Rock [Tuvia Sagiv]
  • A southern site on the Temple Mount [Norma Robertson]

The Temple Mount is believed to be the site where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac – on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-2). As discussed, the area is an elongated ridge also known prophetically as ‘Mount Zion’ or the ‘Temple Hill’, link. It is from here that the Law will go out to the Millennial world:

The Lord will be their king [reign over them] in Mount Zion from now on and forever (Micah 4.7 EXB)