The Tribulation and Millennial Temples
Since the early days of the Davidic kingdom, when David first had a desire to build a permanent dwelling place for the Lord, most Jewish people have longed for such a central place of worship. Although David was not permitted to build the Temple, his son, Solomon, did. That masterpiece of construction stood until the fall of Judah to Babylon, when it was destroyed and the Jewish people were either killed or taken into Babylonian captivity.
When the captives returned from Babylon, Zerubbabel built another, less glorious Temple. Later, during the time of Christ, Herod refurbished the Temple and created an architectural wonder that took at least 46 years to complete (see Jn. 2:20). It stood in golden splendor high above the skyline of Jerusalem.
With the destruction of this Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. and the ensuing worldwide dispersion of the Jews, there were no longer any sacrifices, for there was no longer a Temple. But since that time, within the breast of most Jewish people there has been a deep longing for a place on Mount Moriah in which they could once again worship God.
The prophecies of the Bible reveal that this desire will one day be satisfied. There are yet two Temples to be built in Jerusalem. One will be constructed just prior to or during the early days of the Tribulation period. This is the Temple spoken of by the Prophet Daniel. But another Temple, more vast than any of its predecessors, will be built in the holy city of Jerusalem during the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ, a period known as the Millennium. The Prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Micah gave many details concerning this Temple.
The Tribulation Temple
The Church will one day be raptured out of this world to meet the Lord in the air, possibly very soon. Shortly thereafter, the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy will begin (Dan. 9:24–27). This will be a period of God’s judgment upon the earth in preparation for the return of the Messiah at its close. During this turbulent period, a godless Gentile world system will experience an unparalleled outpouring of God’s wrath, and Israel will suffer through the birth pains of reconciliation with Christ.
Nowhere in Scripture is it explicitly stated that there will be a Temple built during this time, but there are many passages suggesting that this will occur. For example, Daniel spoke of sacrifices and oblations during this period (Dan. 9:27). For Daniel’s prophecy to be fulfilled, a Jewish Temple must be built, and it must be in Jerusalem.
Throughout the prophetic portions of the Word of God, there are indications that a unique individual, referred to as the Antichrist (1 Jn. 2:18, 22), will rise to, power on the earth following the Rapture of the Church. He will promise Israel and the Jewish people something for which they have longed for centuries—peace. He will ensure that peace through a covenant confirmed with Israel for a seven-year period.
In all probability, it will be during this time that a new Temple will be built in Jerusalem. There is, however, a possibility that its construction may be started or even completed just prior to the Rapture of the Church. When this Temple is finished and dedicated, the Levitical system of sacrifices could be reinstituted and returned to its full importance.
The Scriptures seem to indicate that, following the confirmation of the covenant of peace between Israel and the Antichrist, there will be peace for a period of time, but drastic changes will occur after three and one-half years. The Antichrist will demand that the people worship him as God. The Jewish people will then break the covenant, for just as they would not accept Jesus as God, neither will they accept the Antichrist as God.
Further evidence for a rebuilt Temple is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4:
For that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that man of sin [the Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition, Who 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.
For this event to transpire, another Temple must be built in Jerusalem.
The man of sin is likened to another scriptural character mentioned in the Old and New Testaments and the Apocryphal This man is Antiochus Epiphanes, and he is described in Daniel chapters 8 and 11. He came into power following the division of the Greek empire after the death of Alexander the Great. His determined poll was to Hellenize his entire kingdom, which brought him into direct conflict with the Jews. At the zenith of this conflict, Antiochus defiled the Jewish Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar, and the Maccabean revolt began in Israel.
Antiochus is a picture of the Antichrist who will be raised up in the end times. Three and one-half years after the covenant is made with Israel, he will enter the Temple, desecrate its altar by placing an image of himself there, and demand that the Jewish people worship him (Dan. 9:27; 11:36). The seven-year covenant will be broken, after only three and one-half years, following the desecration of the Tribulation Temple by the satanically inspired Antichrist. At that point “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), a time of horrible holocaust for the Jews, will begin.
The Millennial Temple
At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus Christ will return to earth in all His glory. He will establish His Kingdom and throne in Jerusalem and begin His thousand-year reign. A glorious Millennial Temple will be constructed, far surpassing the Temples built by Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod. Through the Prophet Ezekiel, the Lord said that this Temple will be “the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever” (Ezek. 43:7). The Lord will be there.
The Size and Magnificence of the Millennial Temple
The size of the structure to be built during the Millennium almost defies imagination. It will tower above the skyline of the city in the rising sun, golden in splendor, glistening in beauty. At dawn or sunset, noon or night, the Temple will be the focal point of Jerusalem. It will be the place where God dwells among His people.
Ezekiel chapters 40 to 42 give very exacting measurements of this building. Ezekiel recorded the dimensions of the porches, gates, and rooms and the thickness of the walls and told how it will all fit together. Those measurements are summarized in Ezekiel 42:15–20. The Temple area itself will measure 500 reeds on each of its four sides (a reed is approximately ten feet). The Millennial Temple will, therefore, be approximately one mile square. It will be the largest and most magnificent structure ever erected, and it will all be for the glory of God.
The Necessity of Topographical Changes
This Temple, along with its accompanying outer areas will be far larger than the present-day city of Jerusalem. The first clue to major topographical changes is found tucked away in an obscure verse, Ezekiel 20:40: “For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord Gᴏᴅ, there shall all the house of Israel, all of those in the land, serve me.”
The Prophet Isaiah, having received a similar vision, wrote,
The word that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lᴏʀᴅ’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lᴏʀᴅ, to the house of the God of Jacob (Isa. 2:1–3).
In a parallel passage, the Prophet Micah wrote,
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob (Mic 4:1–2).
Present-day Jerusalem, which is 2,500 feet above sea level is not large enough to contain the future Temple area spoken of in the Scriptures. How, then, can all of these promises be fulfilled?
Zechariah seemed to indicate that at least three major geological and topographical changes will take place when the Messiah returns to the earth at His second advent. First, the Mount of Olives will split open from the east to the west, and the remaining embattled inhabitants of Jerusalem will flee the city through this breech (Zech. 14:4–5). Second, living waters will flow toward both the Mediterranean and Dead Seas (Zech. 14:8). For this to occur, Jerusalem will have to be lifted up. Finally,
All the land shall be turned like the Arabah from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; and it, Jerusalem, shall be lifted up, and inhabited in its place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananel unto the king’s wine presses (Zech. 14:10).
Not only will Jerusalem be raised up as a high mountain, but it will be greatly enlarged as well. Ezekiel 45:1 states that the holy portion of the land will be immense, measuring 25,000 by 25,000 reeds. This is an area 50 by 50 miles, or about 2,500 square miles. It will be the center of the worship of God. The northern section will be 50 by 20 miles. In the center of that section will stand the Temple, which will be one mile square, and a segment of priests will reside in the remainder of the area. The central portion, also 50 by 20 miles, will be reserved for the Levites, with the southern section of 50 by 10 miles reserved for building Millennial Jerusalem (10 by 10 miles) and for growing food. As we ponder the immensity of this, we get a better picture of how big our God is.
The Presence of God in the Millennial Temple
Chapters 9 to 11 of Ezekiel were possibly the most difficult in the book for the prophet to pen. In this passage he had to tell of the Shekinah glory of God leaving His people. For centuries the glory of God had been with Israel. He led them in their wilderness journeys and was in the Tabernacle and Temple, but because of their idolatry and turning from the Lord, the Shekinah glory of God left them. “Ichabod” (“The glory is departed from Israel,” 1 Sam. 4:21) was written over the nation, and Ezekiel had to record that event.
But now, in his vision of the Millennial Temple and the worship involved, Ezekiel was privileged to look far beyond his days to see the glory of God return to the city and to His people. Chapter 43 gives a breathtaking account of the glory of God returning through the Eastern Gate. The description corresponds to John’s account of the return of Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation (Ezek. 43:2; cp. Rev. 1:15). He will return to this new Temple and dwell in the inner court (Ezek. 43:4–5). The presence of the Lord will return to a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and will remain there.
The Priesthood in the Millennial Temple
The Bible is clear concerning those who will minister in the Millennial Temple. The priests will be from the sons of Zadok (Ezek. 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11). They alone, of all the Levites, remained faithful to the Lord in the time of David (2 Sam. 15:24–29). The designation “the sons of Zadok” is helpful in two ways. First, it proves the literalness of the future Millennial Temple, since real names are used. Second, it once again proves God’s faithfulness when His people, or at least a portion of them, remain faithful to Him. God rewards faithfulness. Zadok’s reward will be access to God’s presence and the privilege of ministering in any and all phases of the priestly duties.
The Sacrifices in the Millennial Temple
Ezekiel chapters 40 to 48 clearly state that sacrifices will be offered in this magnificent Temple—a multitude of sacrifices. The questions are often asked, Why sacrifices? Doesn’t the Book of Hebrews teach that the sacrificial, atoning death of Christ was once and for all and totally sufficient? The answers to these questions have long been the subject of controversy.
The future sacrifices will be a continuous memorial to the work of Christ on the cross. They will in no way detract from His redeeming work at Calvary. Nothing can do that. The millennial sacrifices will be no more redemptive than the sacrifices offered before Calvary or the sacrifices that continued from Calvary until 70 A.D., which was after Christ died, was resurrected, and ascended.
Since it was instituted by Christ the night before His crucifixion, the Church has celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His death. This does not detract from the cross but serves as a constant reminder of what Christ did for us. Just as the Lord’s Supper is not a detraction, neither will the millennial sacrifices be. Perhaps since Israel did not receive their Messiah at His first coming and have never celebrated a memorial of His redemptive work, the sacrificial system of the Millennium will serve that purpose. Also, it must be remembered that the Book of Hebrews was not written for the millennial period.
So, then, during the Millennium there will be a complete sacrificial system in effect in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Israel’s long-standing desire for a permanent dwelling place for the Lord will finally be met. The Lord will dwell in His holy Temple. Jerusalem will finally be the city of peace, and people from all nations will flow there to worship the Lord. What a day that will be!