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We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching the Bible and understanding our time in

the light of Bible prophecy

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The fall of the Second Temple


So what about the animal sacrifices today? There are some Orthodox Jews in

Jerusalem who wish to rebuild the Temple and bring in the animal sacrifices

again. This is very much a minority concern, encouraged to a certain extent

by American Christians who for prophetic reasons want to see a rebuilt

Temple. One small problem is that the Temple area is under Islamic control

at present and any attempt to rebuild the Temple where the Dome of the Rock

mosque now stands would cause an uproar (Armageddon even) in the Islamic

world. Apart from this there are massive problems about any reconstituting

of the sacrificial system, which would also involve setting up the Priesthood

and the Sanhedrin again. As a Jewish friend once said to me, We’ve got enough

problems agreeing on a Chief Rabbi. You want us to agree on who should be

High Priest!


So why did God permit the destruction of the Second Temple? This raises a

fascinating question which is relevant to this issue. The answer from the

point of view of Judaism is to be found in the Talmud (Yomah): Why was the

Second Temple destroyed? Because of sinat chinam, senseless hatred of one

Jew for another. This was an event of enormous significance for the Jewish

people. According to an article on the Aish website by Rabbi Ken Spiro: The

destruction of the Second Temple is one of the most important events in the

history of the Jewish people, and certainly one of the most depressing. It

is a sign that God has withdrawn from (though certainly not abandoned) the

Jews. Although the Jews will survive -- in accordance with the promise that

they will be an eternal nation - the special relationship with God they

enjoyed while the Temple stood is gone.


>From the point of view of the Bible there has to be a reason why God

permitted this calamity to happen to Israel. Rabbi Spiro is right that the

destruction of the Temple is one of the most important events in the history

of the Jewish people. But the answer given in the Talmud is not

satisfactory. As the Rabbi says, the Jewish people today are not in the

relationship with God which they enjoyed in earlier days when they

experienced the kind of divine protection and victory over their enemies

under such leaders as Moses, Joshua, Gideon and David. Rather they have

experienced the fulfilment of Moses prophecy in Deuteronomy 28.64-66:


And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth

to the other… And among these nations you will find no ease, and there shall

be no rest for the sole of your foot; but the Lord will give you a trembling

heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul; your life will hang in doubt

before you; night and day you shall be in dread, and have no assurance of

your life.


Why is this? A reading of the whole of Deuteronomy 28 gives a very clear

answer. Verses 1-14 record all the blessings of Gods peace, prosperity and

protection given to Israel on the condition that you obey the voice of the

Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments. The remainder of

the chapter (verses 15-68) records Gods judgements on Israel if they

disobey. The whole history of Israel recorded in the Bible can be seen as

the outworking of this chapter in the direct experience of the people of

Israel. When the people turned away from God they experienced his judgments

in terms of foreign invasion, drought, social disintegration and confusion.

At these times God raised up prophets and leaders who spoke His message and

showed the people the way back to Gods blessing as He led them to victory

over foreign invaders and back to peace. But when they refused to listen He

allowed the Gentile nations to punish them.


As Rabbi Spiro says by far the greatest suffering in Israel’s history began

with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 and the beginning of

the dispersion. Could it be coincidence that this happened just one

generation after God spoke through Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth, not only

through His words, but also through His death and resurrection? God spoke to

Moses and said:


I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and

I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak to them all that I

command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak

in my name I myself will require it of him. Deuteronomy 18.18-19


If Jesus was that Prophet whom Moses was pointing to we have an explanation

for the fall of the Temple in 70 CE which makes much more sense than the

reason given in the Talmud. The people, especially the religious leadership,

did not give heed to Jesus words and so God required this of them. This is

a much more plausible reason than the causeless hatred theory. If

causeless hatred was so serious that it was going to lead to the

destruction of the Temple and the scattering of the Jewish people into the

nations and the subsequent holocaust, why did God not send a Prophet

beforehand to tell people to love each other and so avoid this coming calamity?


If we look at the fall of the first Temple at the hands of the Babylonians

we find that God sent prophet after prophet to warn of the coming event.

Jeremiah was the main prophet who God raised up to speak to the generation

before the fall of the Temple and the deportation of the Jewish people to

Babylon. As a prophet he did three main things:



For forty years Jeremiah warned his generation that the Babylonians were

going to invade and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple and take them into

captivity unless they repented of their sins. The reason why it was going to

happen was the worship of idols and the breaking of Gods commandments:


Behold you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder,

commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other

gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before me in this house

which is called by my name and say We are delivered to do all these

abominations? (Jeremiah 7.8-10).


Far from repenting, Jeremiah was mocked and rejected as the people preferred

false prophets who said they were going to have peace and safety. But

Jeremiah was not just a prophet of doom. He also promised a return from Babylon:


For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I

will visit you and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return

to this place. For I know the thoughts that I have towards you says the

Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope

(Jeremiah 29.10-11).


This promise was fulfilled when the Persians overthrew the Babylonian Empire

and the Persian Emperor Cyrus issued a decree that the Jewish people should

return to the Promised Land and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra

1.1-4). In this way the covenant was being fulfilled as the descendants of

Abraham returned to the land God promised to Abraham.


Jeremiah also looked beyond the return of the Jewish people to a time when

God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel. The terms of this

covenant would be different from the covenant God made with Israel when he

brought them out of Egypt:


This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those

days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds and write it on their

hearts: and I will be their God and they shall be my people. No more shall

every man teach his neighbour and every man his brother saying Know the

Lord for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest of

them says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will

remember no more (Jeremiah 31.33-34).


The new covenant points to the Messiah who was to come to deal with the

problem of the sin nature, which causes us all to break Gods commandments.

When Jesus came in fulfilment of Isaiah 53 as we have seen and many other

prophecies he brought in the new covenant, through dying as a sacrifice for

the sins of the world at the time of the Passover. At the time that the

Jewish people were offering the Passover lambs to remember the blood of the

lamb, which protected them from the Angel of Death (see Exodus 12), Jesus

was put to death by crucifixion in fulfilment of Psalm 22, Daniel 9.26 and

Zechariah 12.10. He was the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

(John 1.29). He saves all those who come under the protection of his blood

from eternal death.


Did the coming of the new covenant mean that God was finished with the

Jewish people and that the covenant made with Abraham no longer applied?

Much of the church actually teaches this in so called replacement theology

which means that the promises to Israel are now given to the church. But it

is significant that after God gave his promise of the new covenant he said

that as long as the sun, the moon and the stars exist, so long will Israel

be a nation before the Lord (Jeremiah 31.35-36).


If we look carefully at Jesus words we discover that in relation to Israel,

Jesus too functioned in the same prophetic way that Jeremiah did.



As Jesus was riding into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week which would

lead up to his crucifixion and resurrection he stopped half way down the

mount of Olives and wept over the city. He said:


If you had known even you especially in this your day the things that make

for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will

come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you,

surround you and level you and your children within you to the ground; and

they will not leave on you one stone upon another, because you did not know

the time of your visitation (Luke 19.41-44).


Jesus prophesied the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the

Romans in 70CE. He told those who believed in him to flee from the city when

they saw the armies gathering, because this was going to lead to a time of

terrible slaughter and destruction:


For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into

all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of

the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21.20-24).


In these verses Jesus warned of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and the

dispersion of the Jewish people into the lands of the Gentiles. He also gave

a reason for it: Because you did not know the time of your visitation. In

other words the dispersion happened because Jesus was not recognised as the

Messiah. In this sense there is a certain truth in the causeless hatred

theory of Judaism, but not as it is understood today. Today it is understood

to mean the causeless hatred between different Jewish factions, which

allowed the Romans to break through the Jewish defences and take the city.

Jesus spoke about his coming rejection and crucifixion and used exactly this

phrase of the response of his opponents to Himself:


He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the

works which no one else did they would have no sin; but now they have hated

both me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled

which is written in their law, They hate me without a cause. John 15.23-5,

quoting Psalm 69.4.


It is fascinating to note that there is a warning of coming destruction of

the Temple in the Talmud. Although this is generally the last place one

would look to in order to find some indication that Jesus is the Messiah,

there is a passage which implies that something happened 40 years before the

destruction of the Temple which pointed to its coming destruction and even

to the fact that it had become spiritually desolate in a sense 40 years

before it became physically desolate. It was 40 years before its destruction

that Jesus gave his prophecy of its coming destruction and made the

sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world which rendered the animal

sacrifices useless from then on.


At the time of the Second Temple the practice on Yom Kippur, the Day of

Atonement, was to take two goats and sacrifice them to the Lord according to

Leviticus 16. The first goat was for the Lord and the second goat was l

azazel for the scapegoat. The High Priest would choose the goats by lots

and it was considered a good omen if he brought out the goat for the Lord

with his right hand and a bad omen if he brought it out with his left hand.

The first goat was sacrificed in the Holy of Holies, and the second goat was

sent out into the wilderness, after having the sins of the people placed

upon it in accordance with Leviticus 16.21. A scarlet sash was tied around

the neck of the scapegoat and it was then taken to a precipice in the

wilderness about 12 miles from Jerusalem. In his book The Fall Feasts of

Israel Mitch Glaser describes what happened next:


When the goat finally arrived at the precipice, the attending priest

removed the red sash from its head and divided it, returning half to the

animals horns and tying the other half to a protrusion on the cliff. He

then pushed the animal backwards over the cliff to its death.


In connection with this ceremony an interesting tradition arose, which is

mentioned in the Mishna. A portion of the crimson sash was attached to the

door of the Temple before the goat was sent into the wilderness. The sash

would turn from red to white as the goat met its end signalling to the

people that God had accepted their sacrifice and their sins were forgiven.

This was based on the verse in Isaiah where the prophet declared: Come now,

and let us reason together says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will

be like wool (Isaiah 1.18). The Mishna tells us that forty years before the

destruction of the Temple, the sash stopped turning white.


In fact there are four signs recorded in the Talmud of events which happened

during this 40 year period before the destruction of the Temple:


The lot for the Lords goat did not come up in the right hand of the high priest.

The scarlet cord tied to the door of the Temple on the Day of Atonement

stopped turning white after the scapegoat had been cast over the precipice.

The westernmost light on the Temple candelabra would not burn. It is

believed that this light was used to light the other lights of the Candelabra.


The Temple doors would open by themselves. The rabbis saw this as an ominous

fulfilment of Zechariah 11.1, Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that fire may

devour thy cedars. The opening of the doors to let in the consuming fire

foretold the destruction of the Temple itself by fire.


The fact that two of these signs relate to the sacrifices on the Day of

Atonement and that all of them took place over the 40 year period before the

destruction of the Second Temple cannot be a coincidence. It must point to

the real reason why God permitted its destruction which was to do with the

rejection of the Messiah Jesus by the Sanhedrin and the continuation of the

animal sacrifices after the one final and perfect sacrifice for sin had been

offered. Once Jesus had offered himself as a sacrifice for sin and atonement,

God never accepted the animal sacrifices offered on Yom Kippur which explains

why during the 40 years before the destruction of the Temple the sash never

turned white and the goat for the Lord was always taken with the left hand

(statistically this is virtually an impossibility).


Apart from this passage in the Talmud there is one major prophecy in the

Tenach which shows that the Messiah will come before the destruction of the

second Temple and points to the reason for its desolation. In Daniel 9 we

have an encounter Daniel had with the angel Gabriel after he had prayed for

the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem after the 70 years of desolation

prophesied by Jeremiah had been fulfilled. He is given the famous 70 weeks

of years prophecy which speaks of the rebuilding of Jerusalem in

troublesome times and then has this extraordinary verse:


After the sixty two weeks Messiah shall be cut off but not for himself; and

the people of the prince to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

And the end shall be with a flood and till the end of the war desolations

are determined. Daniel 9.26.


There is a famous story of a young man called Rachmiel Frydland who was

studying at a Yeshiva in pre war Warsaw and came across this verse. He asked

the Rabbis at the Yeshiva whom it was referring to and could not find a

satisfactory answer. Eventually he came to the conclusion that there is only

one person who can possibly have fulfilled this verse, someone who came as

Messiah, was cut off, dying a violent death, not for himself, but for the

sins of others at some time before the Romans came and destroyed the city

(Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the Temple). Jesus the Messiah.


Jesus also prophesied the desolations of Jerusalem, at the same time as

pointing to a hopeful future when this desolation will be reversed at his

second coming. He said, Your house (the Temple) is left to you desolate;

for I say to you (i.e. Jerusalem), you shall see me no more until you say

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23.28-9).

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord is not just any old

phrase. In Hebrew it is Baruch ha ba be shem adonai, the traditional

greeting for the coming Messiah. This corresponds to the prophecy recorded

in Lukes Gospel when Jerusalem will no longer be trampled (ruled) by the

Gentiles (Luke 21.24). What will cause this change in the fortunes of the

city? The recognition of Jesus as the Messiah and the resulting outpouring

of the Holy Spirit on those who call on His name, welcoming him as the

Messiah with the words, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Matthew 23.39.