Interest in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem rose to a fever pitch last October when a group calling themselves the “Temple Mount Faithful” attempted to lay a cornerstone for the “Third Temple” at the Western Wall plaza. Denied a place near the wall, Yehuda Cohen and his followers placed the stone at a nearby quarry, awaiting the day when it would be put “in its rightful place.” Two years ago, at the 20-year commemoration of the reunification of Jerusalem, the same group was sounding the shofar and laying claim to the sacred Mount for the Messiah and His Temple.
Sects advocating such acts are denounced by some religious and secular Israelis as the work “of dangerous lunatics.” Mayor Teddy Kolleck was outraged by the attempt to lay the stone. Rabbi Shlomo Goren called the ceremony “foolishness.”
A primary concern is the potential effects of these kinds of demonstrations. Any attempt to erect a Jewish shrine on the Temple Mount would certainly provide Arabs with an excuse to launch a Jihad (holy war) against the state of Israel, something in which the vast majority of Israelis have no interest.
Of course, Temple fervor is not a new phenomenon—it has been rising for a long time. Nor is it confined to the Middle East. As a matter of fact, much more speculation about rebuilding the edifice is centered in Western Christianity than in Israel.
Currently leading the charge to speed the process is a man named Vendyl Jones, whose search for the ashes of the red heifer has received wide publicity in the secular and religious media. (See Will Varner’s article, “In Quest of the Holy Cow,.”)
Although Jones’ quest has been dignified by association with reputable sources, others have made outlandish claims that have captured the fancy of some credulous Christians. One proposal has Jews building a new Temple in a cavern secreted beneath the Muslim Dome of the Rock.
The search for stones for a new Temple has been going on much longer than Jones’ attempts to discover the ashes. “Inside information” has had them quarried and hidden in Israel, Indiana, Texas, and various other places. The search has led to some bizarre situations.
While visiting in the home of the late Dr. Ziv Vilnay in Jerusalem one evening, I asked him to give me his thoughts on current theories about the Temple Mount. Vilnay, a Jewish authority on the subject, who knew more about the physical attributes of the Holy City than perhaps any other, was quick to reply with a story about how extreme some people have become.
One evening I received a call from a man whose tone of voice was extremely serious. With out even telling me his name, he requested to come to see me that very evening. “Yes, come,” I said, and gave him directions to my home.
When the man arrived, he stepped inside, looked at me, and asked a question.
“Do you have a Bible in the house?”
“Yes, of course I have a Bible in the house,” I replied.
“Then go get it,” my guest insisted.
“What to do?” I thought. I went to my study and produced a Bible.
This man took the Bible from my hand, took my hand in his, then placed it on the Bible—my hand on the Book, his hand on mine.
“Now swear to God.”
“My friend,” I countered, “do you mind if, before I swear to God, you tell me what I will be swearing about?”
“Swear,” my guest stated earnestly, “you will take me to the secret cave where you Jews have hidden the stones for the new Temple.”
“Stones—so you wish to see stones. Come out on my veranda, and I’ll show you stones all over the hills of Jerusalem. Come with me tomorrow, and we can have a look at as many caves as you wish. But I can tell you now that we will find no stones cut out for the Temple; they do not exist.”
Two important observations can be made about such antics. First, being founded on untruths, they distract people who could be serious in their pursuit of productive spiritual matters. Second, they discredit prophetic considerations with people who need a credible Christian witness. This was certainly the effect the man’s visit had on Dr. Vilnay.
Fact or Fiction
Contemporary Temple fervor, which is undoubtedly rising is fueled by the belief that rebuilding the Temple is an essential element in the Messiah’s coming—first or second, depending on whether the view is Jewish or Christian.
Jewish devotees of the concept are serious about such issues as the proper location for the Temple and matters related to worship in the sanctuary. And there is research being conducted along these lines. For example, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem carries on research into the reconstruction of implements used in Temple worship, the priestly garments, and sacrificial ceremonies. Many of these articles have already been prepared and are ready for service. Reasons behind this meticulous preparation are stated clearly in the group’s Treasures of the Temple booklet.
The dream of rebuilding the Temple spans 50 generations of Jews, five continents and innumerable seas and oceans. The prayer for the rebuilding is recited in as many languages as are known to humanity … with the rebirth of a Jewish state and the creation of a Jewish army and the flowering of the desert and the scientific and social strides made by the nation Israel. This new dimension is: a possibility … With God’s help we will soon be able to rebuild the Temple on its holy mountain in Jerusalem, ushering in an era of peace and understanding love and kindness, when “God will be king over all the earth, in that day G-d will be one and his name will be one.”
In other words, Messiah’s reign and the rebuilding of the Temple are inexorably linked. The building will bring the King.
This contention is also widely promoted among Christians. One of the questions most frequently asked in prophecy conferences concerns the rebuilding of the Temple as a prerequisite to the return of Christ. The answer to this query makes a vital point. It is emphatically NO!
Will future Temples be built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem? Yes. There will be a Tribulation Temple and a Millennial Temple. (See Fred Hartman’s article) But the belief that the absence of the Temple is restraining the Lord’s return is pure fiction, wholly unrelated to biblical fact. Nowhere is this even hinted at in Scripture.
Our Lord’s return is imminent—the next event on the prophetic time line. No occurrence on the face of the earth acts as a restrainer or indicator. He may come for His Church at any moment. All historic realities are incidentally related to this overwhelming event. Every other event will be scheduled by Him in relationship to His coming.
Lights From the Temple
There is a danger in becoming distracted by the current flood of interest in a new Temple. Succumbing to the temptation to become overly fascinated by speculation about a future Temple can cause us to neglect the events that gave the Temple significance that can be related to our lives and times. As in the study of all biblical themes, it is important for believers to have a balanced understanding of what God is communicating to us.
Revelation related to the Temples which have and will grace Moriah is a central teaching source in the Bible. Each of these Temples sets forth a unique aspect of God’s light to a darkened world. In totality, they reveal how the Shekinah glory, fully manifested in the Messiah, will ultimately shine through in absolute triumph.
Solomon’s Temple—The Light Descending (1 Ki. 8–9)
So … the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lᴏʀᴅ had filled the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ (1 Ki. 8:11).
In Solomon’s grand Temple, God was dwelling among His people, and the light of the Lord’s presence filled the place with His glory. It stood as Jehovah’s declaration of intent—God was lighting the way home for sin-blinded humanity. More light was on the way.
Zerubbabel’s Temple—The Light Dedicated (Ezra 3–6)
And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy (Ezra 6:16).
Solomon’s Temple was besieged by the Babylonians and illuminated the titanic Satan/God conflict that would endure through a godless world system dedicated to extinguishing the light of God. For a time it appeared that the world and Satan would have their way. The Temple was destroyed. Although the light was reduced to a spark, it burst forth again as Babylon was expiring. Empires would live and die, but God was dedicated to the preservation of His light.
Herod’s Temple—The Light Defined (Jn. 8:12)
Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
In the courts of Herod’s Temple, the light took shape and form with Jesus’ declaration. Ironically, it happened in a place bearing the name of one of the era’s foulest tyrants, illustrating emphatically that the light of God would overcome Satan and his emissaries.
Jesus announced His deity at Israel’s fabled Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:1–10:21). The commemoration began with a night-long service during which the sons of Jacob celebrated in the Temple Court of the Women around four massive candelabra (as shown in Stanley Stein’s dramatic cover painting).
The Feast of Tabernacles’ nocturnal-light aspect carried the idea that the light of God was shining from the Temple courts, reflecting off the gold facade of the Temple, across the Kidron to the Mount of Olives, on to the city, and beyond to the vales of Israel, and then leaping off into the far reaches of the world to invite every child of Adam to come to the light shining forth from Jerusalem. Come to the light. That light was now defined—the light of the world is Jesus.
The Tribulation Temple—The Light Denied (2 Th. 2:4)
Who [the Antichrist] opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Satan’s last-gasp effort to extinguish the light will come when he, in the person of his counterfeit Christ, enters the Tribulation Temple and declares himself God. Satan sees it as the door to fulfilling his manic aspirations. In reality, it is his entrance to Armageddon and the lightning-flash radiance of God’s light from Heaven—the Messiah—who will seal his doom.
The Millennial Temple—The Light Diffused (Ezek. 40–48; Zech. 14)
But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lᴏʀᴅ, not day, nor night; but it shall come to pass that, at evening time, it shall be light (Zech. 14:7).
The light will be diffused during the Millennium as an emblem of the consummation of all things, which God has purposed through giving us the light. All nations will see it and move in reverence toward the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to pay homage to the King—the true Light of the world.
So, while present-day speculators press the quest for a new Temple on the storied Mount in Jerusalem, those who know Him look for the one who will grace its brow.