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Will the Temple be rebuilt?

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In about 540BC Daniel, a Jewish captive in Babylon, was praying to God for

the restoration of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the

Temple. In response God gave him a remarkable prophecy that the Temple would

be rebuilt 'in troublesome times' and that 483 years (of the Jewish

calendar) after the command to 'restore and rebuild Jerusalem' 'Messiah

shall be cut off but not for himself.' Following this 'the people of the

prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary' and wars and

desolations will follow. This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter by the

sacrificial death of the Messiah Jesus and the destruction of the Temple and

Jerusalem. Jesus also prophesied this event which took place 40 years after

his death and resurrection (Matthew 23.37-24.2, Luke 19.41-44, 21.20-24).

 

There is a fascinating entry in the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 39b) which shows

that Rabbinic Judaism had to recognise that something significant happened

40 years before the Temple was destroyed:

 

'Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of

the Temple ... the scarlet thread did not become white, nor did the western

lamp shine; and the doors of the Holy of Holies would fling themselves open

of their own accord.'

 

The scarlet thread was tied to a post outside the Holy of Holies where the

High priest made the annual sacrifice on Yom Kippur to atone for the sins of

the people. When it turned white supernaturally he knew that God had

accepted the sacrifice. According to the Talmud the shining of the western

lamp is an indication of the Shekinah, the glory of God, being present in

the Holy of Holies. The reason why this sign of God's acceptance of the

sacrifices should have stopped happening 40 years before the Temple was

destroyed is clearly given in the New Testament. The death of the Messiah

Jesus meant that the animal sacrifices were no longer acceptable as an

atonement for sin. God had brought the Old Covenant sacrificial system to an

end and caused atonement for sin to be made freely available to all through

the blood shed by Messiah. (See Hebrews 7-10)

 

Rabbinic Judaism rejected Jesus' claim to be the Messiah and so this means

of atonement was denied to those who followed this religious system. When

the Temple was destroyed there was no longer any place where the animal

sacrifices could be offered, so the Rabbis taught that God no longer

requires the shedding of blood for the atonement of sin. This can be

achieved, they said, through prayers, fasting and good deeds.

 

However there remained within Judaism a deep sorrow over the absence of the

ancient Temple ritual, as is expressed by this prayer for the Day of

Atonement (Yom Kippur):

 

'How glorious was the appearance of the high priest when he came forth

safely from the Holy of Holies without any evil occurrence ... Happy the eye

which saw our Temple and the joy of our congregation; but verily only to

hear of them afflicts our soul .. But the iniquities of our fathers have

caused the desolation of the Temple ... And because of our abundant

iniquities we have no burnt offering, nor trespass offering ... no Temple,

nor sprinkling; no confession nor sin-offering.'

 

For this reason the Jewish people have prayed throughout the years of

dispersion, 'O Lord, build your house as at the first, set your Temple on

its foundations, allow us to see it built and make us joyous in its

establishment, return priests to their service and Levites to their songs

and music, and return Israel to their pleasant places, and there we will

ascend and be seen and bow down before you.

 

According to Maimonides, the medieval Rabbi whose writings are the basis of

much of modern Judaism, the Messiah will be revealed by the successful

building of the Temple:

 

'If there arises a ruler from the House of David, ... who leads Israel back

to the Torah, strengthening its laws and fighting God's battles, then we may

assume he is the Messiah. If he is further successful in rebuilding the

Temple on its original site and gathering the dispersed of Israel, then his

identity as the Messiah is a certainty.'

 

So will the temple be rebuilt?

 

A group of Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem at the Temple Institute are working

hard to get ready for the building of a new Temple. Located in the Jewish

Quarter of Jerusalem they are making sacred objects and garments used in

Temple worship, researching each item and keeping to the specifications of

the Bible. Its director, Zev Golan, says its task is 'to advance the cause

of the Temple and prepare for its establishment, not just talk about it.'

Historian David Solomon agrees: 'The Temple was the essence of our Jewish

being, the unifying force of our people.' Golan admits it may be a long time

before the building rises: 'No one can say how, and no one wants to do it by

force. But sooner or later, in a week or in a century, it will be done and

we will be ready for it.'

 

Against this there are many objections, the most serious of which comes from

the Muslims. The whole area where the Temple once stood is under the control

of the Wakf, the Muslim authorities. Jews are forbidden to pray on the

Temple Mount and the recent tragic events in Hebron have increased hostility

between Muslim and Jewish worshippers. Some commentators have speculated

that the ancient Temple stood some distance away from the Muslim shrines of

the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, but this makes little

difference as the Muslims today are in no mood to allow any Jewish building

on any part of the Temple Mount, a site they consider sacred to Islam.

 

There are also Jewish objections from those who say that Judaism has evolved

into a religion which centres on the teaching of the synagogue not the

sacrificial system of the Temple and that there is no unifying structure

which could reconstitute the Sanhedrin and re-establish the Temple

sacrifices. There is also the Christian objection that the final sacrifice

for sin has come in the Messiah Jesus' death and resurrection and that

therefore any re-built Temple offering sacrifices would be 'trampling

underfoot the blood of Messiah.'

 

Clearly the present circumstances are not right for any rebuilding of the

Temple. It would take a cataclysmic event to make this possible, one which

would break the power of Islam and unite the Jewish people in what would

amount to a Messianic vision. Could it be that the War of Gog and Magog,

(Ezekiel 38-39) which we looked at in our previous edition will prepare the

way for the rebuilding of the Temple? This leads to our final question.

 

Does the Bible indicate that there will be a third Temple?

 

In the course of his answer to the disciples' question, 'What will be the

sign of your coming and of the end of the age? Jesus warned that there will

be a time of 'great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of

the world until this time, no nor ever shall be.o He also specified the

event which will trigger off this time of tribulation:

 

'Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation' spoken of by Daniel

the prophet standing in the holy place (whoever reads let him understand),

then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.' Matthew 24.15-16

 

The reference to Daniel takes us back to Daniel chapter 9, the passage we

considered at the beginning of this article. The final verse of the

prophecy, which concerns the Temple, has not yet been fulfilled:

 

'Then he (i.e. the 'prince who is to come') shall confirm a covenant with

many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to

sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who

makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured

out on the desolate.' Daniel 9.27

 

In chapter 11.31 and 12.11 Daniel also refers to the 'abomination of

desolation.'

 

For this prophecy to be fulfilled we should expect to see some restoration

of the Temple offering sacrifices, with the agreement of the world ruler

described by Daniel as 'the prince who is to come'. This world ruler will

make a seven year peace treaty with Israel which he will break after three

and a half years, showing his true intention in allowing the Temple to be

rebuilt. This is in order to place an image of himself in the holy place and

demand universal worship from the people of the earth (Revelation 13.12-15).

The Jewish people will realise they have been deceived, refuse to worship

the world ruler who is identified in Revelation as 'the Beast' and then

endure the 'time of Jacob's trouble' (Jeremiah 30.7) which only the direct

intervention of the Lord will save them from.

 

Isaiah 66 begins with a prophecy of a Temple being built in which the

sacrifices are an abomination to the Lord (verse 3). This could not apply to

the second Temple in which the sacrifices were acceptable to the Lord, but

only to a Temple built after Jesus the Messiah has come to take away sin by

his atoning blood. At that time the Lord will 'look to him that is poor and

of a contrite spirit and trembles at my word.' Those who do this will be

hated and cast out by their brethren, who will think they are pleasing God

and bringing glory to his name. Instead the ones who have been cast out will

be vindicated by God and those who have done the casting out will be ashamed

(verse 5-14).

 

Today Jewish believers in Jesus are hated and cast out by Orthodox Jews, who

believe they are 'sanctifying the name of God' in rejecting those they

consider to be heretics. When the true Messiah is revealed to the Jewish

people it is the believers in Jesus who will be vindicated as Israel looks

'on him whom they have pierced' (Zechariah 12.10) and those who have

rejected him and his followers will be ashamed.

 

In the light of this it is interesting to read a book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan,

'The Real Messiah?' which rejects Jesus' claim to be Messiah and tells

Jewish people to look for a Messiah to come, who will solve the Middle East

problem with 'such a demonstration of statesmanship and political genius'

that he is put in a position of world leadership.

 

'In his position of leadership, through direct negotiation and perhaps the

concurrence of the world powers this Tzadik (righteous man) might just be

able to regain the Temple Mount for the Jewish people. With a Sanhedrin to

iron out the many halachic questions (matters of Jewish law), it might then

be possible to rebuild the Holy Temple. If this is accomplished we will

already have fulfilled the essential part of the Messianic promise.o ('The

Real Messiah?' page 93)

 

For the rest of the story we recommend Rabbi Kaplan to read Daniel and

Revelation.

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