The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was never simply a building or structure, but an earthly dwelling place for the Divine Presence of God. You might ask yourself, “If the sanctuary was ‘a copy and a shadow of what is in Heaven (Hebrews 8:5),’ and Yeshua (Jesus) ‘serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord (Hebrews 8:2),’ why contemplate building the Holy Temple?”
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 First Temple
The first stationary abode built to honor the God of the Bible originated with King David of Israel. As “the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains’” (2 Samuel 7:2).
Although God had directed the Israelites to build Him a tabernacle—a tent that could easily be moved as they journeyed through the wilderness (Exodus 25-26)—He had not asked them to build Him “a house of cedar” (2 Samuel 7:7).
God was obviously pleased with David’s desire but did not permit David to build a permanent building for Him. Instead of allowing David to build Him a house, God promised David that He would make David a “house”—meaning that David’s throne would be established forever—and that David’s son would build a “house” for God’s name (verses 11-13).
As promised by God, one of David’s sons, Solomon, built “the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 6:1). This temple, located on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem and commonly referred to as “Solomon’s Temple,” became the center of religious worship in Israel. This temple lasted about 400 years from its construction during the reign of Solomon to its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:9).
The Second Temple
After 70 years of captivity in the Babylonian Empire, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the temple. Although they began working on the temple almost immediately after their return, opposition by neighboring peoples and a laxness among the Jews themselves hindered the construction. Finally, in approximately 515 B.C. the temple was rebuilt on the same site on which it had previously stood.
Many sources, such as the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, refer to this second temple as the temple of Zerubbabel (article, “Temple”), the “governor of Judah” (Haggai 1:1) who helped coordinate its construction (Ezra 3:8; 5:2). This temple was standing when Jesus came to earth as a human. Jesus warned His disciples of the coming destruction of the temple and that not one stone of the temple would be left on top of another. (Matthew 24:1-2)And it had undergone major renovations by King Herod. Altogether this building stood for almost 600 years until its destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.
The Prophetic Return to Israel and the Third Temple
“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)
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.
Why Build the Third Temple?
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)
Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides), a medieval Jewish philosopher and Torah scholar, said that the Temple has eternal significance.He wrote in Hilchos Bais HaBechirah (The Laws of God’s Chosen House)that the Temple had two primary purposes:
To reveal to mankind the Divine Presence of God, which dwelt above the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant.“There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the Ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.” (Exodus 25:22)
To facilitate the offering of the required sacrifices.
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)
Third Temple: When Will It Be Built?
President Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is being seen as a huge step toward establishing the Third Temple. But the Third Temple will exist during the Great Tribulation. Daniel refers to this temple when he says that “the prince who is to come” (the Antichrist) will enter it and stop the sacrifices in the middle of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27). The Apostle Paul mentions it when he declares that the “man of lawlessness” will profane the temple by entering it and declaring himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). The Third Temple is also mentioned in the book of Revelation when John is told to measure it — a symbolic way of telling him to assess its spiritual condition (Revelation 11:1-2).
This raises the question as to precisely when the temple will be rebuilt. The Bible does not reveal the answer to this question. All it says for certain is that the temple will be in existence when the Antichrist reveals himself (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), and that will be in the middle of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27). Since this will be only three and a half years into the Tribulation, many have concluded that the temple will likely be rebuilt before the Tribulation begins, because how could such a magnificent building be constructed in such a short period of time?
But this conclusion overlooks the fact that the temple can be literally resurrected overnight! That’s because the Jews plan to erect a tent temple like the Tabernacle of Moses, and they are ready to do so at any moment. Everything has been prepared. Once this temporary temple is put up, they will resume the sacrifices and then start building a more permanent structure around and above the temporary one.
Currently there are two major obstacles to the reconstruction of The Third Temple. One pertains to its location. The next temple can only be built where the two previous temples stood because the Holy of Holies must be on the exact same spot. But no one knows for sure where the previous temples were located on the Temple Mount. Most scholars believe that they stood where the Dome of the Rock currently stands. That conclusion may be wrong, but there is no way to prove the exact location without conducting archeological excavations on the Temple Mount, something which is currently prohibited by the Muslims. If The Third Temple is to be built where the Dome of the Rock now stands, then that Muslim structure must first of all be removed either by Man or God. It could, of course be burned to the ground by a saboteur, or it could be destroyed by an earthquake.
The second obstacle is the attitude of the Jewish people and their leaders. Currently, there is no desire among them to build a third temple. The average Israeli is very secular. He knows that any attempt to build a third temple would result in immediate war with the Muslims. Only a handful of ultra-Orthodox Jews have a passion for The Third Temple. They are the ones who have made all the preparations. But they have no popular support. Something will have to happen to create a surge of nationalistic pride that will demand a new temple. This catalytic event could be the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant.
There is a distinct possibility that the ancient temples were not located where the Dome of the Rock currently sits. There is strong evidence that their location was to the north of the Dome and that the sacrificial altar inside the Dome was the one that Solomon built in “the middle of the court” to handle the thousands of special sacrifices which he offered to the Lord on the day The First Temple was dedicated (2 Chronicles 7:7). If that is so, then The Third Temple could be built north of the Dome of the Rock, putting the Dome in the Court of the Gentiles. This may well be the solution the Antichrist will come up with when he negotiates a peace between the Jews and the Arabs (Daniel 9:27).
To summarize, there is definitely going to be a third temple. It will most likely be erected at the beginning of the Tribulation in the form of a tent temple, like the Tabernacle of Moses. A more permanent structure will then be built around and above it. The Antichrist will desecrate this temple in the middle of the Tribulation.
The Third Temple will be destroyed at the Second Coming of Jesus. The great earthquake at that time will radically change the topography of Jerusalem and all the earth (Revelation 6:12-17). In Jerusalem it will result in the provision of a very large level area where the Millennial Temple will be constructed. This is the temple from which Jesus will reign over all the earth. It is described in detail in Ezekiel 40-46.