The Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem
From the moment the Lord formed the nation of Israel after the Exodus, He desired to dwell with His people as their King. Hence, the Tabernacle was built; and the Lord’s Glory indwelled it (Ex. 36—40). For more than four hundred years, the Tabernacle served as the Lord’s “palace.”
After King David made Jerusalem his capital, he desired to build the Lord a house. Although he purchased the ground for the Temple from Araunah the Jebusite to offer sacrifices to stop a plague on Jerusalem (2 Sam. 24; 1 Chr. 21), David was not allowed to build the Temple because he had been a man of war. That task was left for his son Solomon.
Solomon’s Temple (959–586 B.C.)
Solomon began building Israel’s first Temple in 966 B.C., finishing it seven years later when the Lord’s Glory came to dwell within it (1 Ki. 6:1, 37–38; 8:10–11). He built it on the land David had purchased, the threshing floor of Araunah on Mount Moriah (2 Chr. 3:1). Moriah was where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:2). After a ram was substituted for Isaac, Abraham named the place “the Lord will Provide,” meaning, “on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (Gen. 22:14). It is not surprising, then, that this spot, which pictured the Lord accepting substitutionary atonement, became the place where the Day of Atonement ceremony was celebrated.
Despite the beauty of Solomon’s Temple and the Lord’s presence there, Judah’s idolatry caused the Lord’s Glory to forsake the Temple and give it over to the Babylonians, who destroyed it on August 14, 586 B.C. (Ezek. 9—11).
Herod’s Temple (516 B.C.—A.D. 70)
When Cyrus allowed the Judean captives to return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., they immediately began to rebuild the Temple. But due to local opposition, construction stopped until the prophets Haggai and Zechariah exhorted the people to begin again and a decree was found, authorizing its construction (Ezra 5—6). Work resumed on September 21, 520 B.C. (Hag. 1:15), and the second Temple was completed four years later on March 12, 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15).
However, God’s Glory did not indwell this Temple. Neither does Scripture reference the Ark because this Temple was built with a view to the Messiah coming to fill it with his Glory (Hag. 2:1–9).
When Herod the Great became King of Judea in 37 B.C, he desired to win the people’s affection (he was an Idumean [Edomite]) by adorning Judea with great buildings. His greatest project was to renovate the Temple in Jerusalem.
Herod began renovations in 20 B.C., completing the sanctuary in eighteen months. He constructed a huge platform around the Temple by building large retaining walls around the mountain and filling the space with dirt or archways. This was the Temple of Jesus’ day, and it was not officially completed until A.D 64.
As Israel had hoped, the Glory of the Lord came to the Temple—in the person of Jesus. But Jesus was rejected. And, as He prophesied (Lk. 21:20–24), the Temple was destroyed. The Romans sacked it on August 14, 70, the exact date Solomon’s Temple was burned more than five hundred years earlier (see “Tisha B’Av,” page 15).
Although the buildings on top of the Temple Mount were destroyed, the retaining walls Herod built still support the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem today.
The Third (Tribulation) Temple
According to Revelation 11, there will be a future Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This is the Temple that will be occupied by the Antichrist, as Jesus warned when He spoke of the Abomination of Desolation (Mt. 24:15). The drama of modern-day Israel plays into this prophecy. Orthodox Jewish groups, such as the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, are already preparing priests, garments, and instruments for this Third Temple. In view of today’s politics concerning the Temple Mount and the Muslim structures on it, particularly the Dome of the Rock, which sits on the site of Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples, it will be extremely interesting to see how God will arrange for this building’s construction and fulfill this prophecy.
The Millennial Temple
Since Ezekiel was the prophet who saw God’s Glory depart from Solomon’s Temple, it is fitting that he also envisioned the Glory returning to a new Temple (Ezek. 43:5). Ezekiel 40:1—47:12 describes this structure, the place from which Jesus will rule during the Millennium after He returns from heaven to set up His Kingdom in Jerusalem (Mt. 25:31). All the nations of the earth will then worship the Lord at this Temple during the Millennial Kingdom.