The Middle East is a hotspot of violence in this world. Often in the news is the ongoing struggle between the Jews and the Palestinians for control of the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Many orthodox Jews are very eager to build another Jewish Temple in Jerusalem but feel thwarted by the presence of the Dome of the Rock which the Jews claim is the spot where Solomon’s Temple once stood and is the only place any future Temple can be built upon.
Jesus spoke about a future abomination of desolation and there are prophecies in the Old and New Testaments that speak about sacrifices and a Temple in an end time context. So, just what does the Bible say? Will the Jews rebuild another Temple in Jerusalem in our day?
Daniel 11 is a series of prophecies that span the time from Daniel right through to the time of the end and Jesus Christ’s second coming. In verse 31 we read: “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and place there the abomination of desolation.”
Most Bible scholars are in agreement that this verse speaks about the events of the time of the Maccabees, the Jewish leaders who rose up against the Greek Seleucid ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus sent troops to Judea in 167 B.C and they defiled the temple and its sanctuary and removed the daily sacrifices until the Maccabees gained Jewish independence. Antiochus set up an image of Jupiter directly on the altar of the temple thus defiling it and further alienated the Jews by offering a pig upon the altar.
In Matthew 24:15-16 we read: “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Now there was an abomination of desolation in the time of Antiochus yet Jesus said that when you see [future tense not past tense] the abomination of desolation – so, a second fulfillment was to occur after Christ’s first coming. When Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD they did not set up an idol and they destroyed the Temple so it seems to indicate a yet future fulfillment. The reference to the abomination of desolation and the sacrifices being taken away in Daniel 12:11 is in the context of other end time prophecies.
Jesus said that the abomination would stand in the holy place. The phrase “holy place” where Jesus says it stands is used almost exclusively for the part of the Temple that only priests could enter into and sometimes used for the holy of holies like in Hebrews 9 which strongly indicates in future that either a tabernacle or a full Temple will be built.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 we read: “Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God.”
The Temple is often a symbol of the church in the New Testament. If this man of sin is the false prophet of the Book of Revelation and if this Temple is a physical Temple and not a metaphor of the church this would indicate an end-time Temple will be built.
I have made a number of conditional statements in relation to those prophecies so one must be careful not to be dogmatic but the balance of evidence does seem to favour a literal end time Temple being built, that sacrifices will be started again by the Jews and then later stopped by the power referred to as the king of the North in Daniel 11.
Regarding the Temple Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:2 that no stone would be left on one another. He also said in Luke 19:42-44 regarding the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years later by the Romans:
“For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you [Jerusalem] one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
This is confirmed by Josephus quoting the words of the commander of Masada in 73 AD:
Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing left but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those [Romans] that destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins…
I cannot but wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our holy temple dug up, after so profane a manner (Wars of the Jews VII.8, 7 – Temples, p.29).
The massive stone platform that the Dome of the Rock sits on today is an impressive site when viewed from the Mount of Olives. The lower stones of that platform are universally agreed to have been built by Herod the Great. The generally accepted belief that on that stone platform was where the Temple stood stands is in direct contradiction with Jesus’ prophecies and what Josephus records about the Temple being dug up to its foundation.
The Roman historian Tacitus further adds to this contradiction as he wrote that the Jewish Temple in his day “contained an inexhaustible spring” (Tacitus, History, V, 12). The only spring in Jerusalem is 200 metres south of the Dome of the Rock at the Gihon Spring where Hezekiah’s tunnel begins.
What if the Jewish authorities also saw this contradiction between what Josephus and Tacitus wrote and the commonly accepted belief of where the Temple stood? Might this give the Jews the freedom to build another Temple without having to touch the Dome of the Rock?
Many Orthodox Jews have also been preparing implements for use in the next Temple. 1 Kings 6:7 notes that the stones of the Temple were all cut and shaped off site so no hammering or cutting was heard on the site. In theory, the stones of the next Temple could also be prefabricated right now which could speed up the building of any future Temple.
Jerusalem is very much a focal point of prophecy and knowing the general time and season of when the Messiah will return and we should continue to keep a close eye on what goes in Jerusalem.