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Hi, my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast, I hope to answer the end of the age question — does end-times prophecy suggest a third temple be built in Jerusalem before Christ’s second coming?
Now let me be absolutely clear on one thing, I believe the restoration of Israel as a nation in 1948 is a critical marker in end-times prophecy, but I am not sure that the same holds true for the Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
I am delving into this topic again, because I have been shocked by all the news, borderline celebration, over the arrival of five red heifers in Israel on Sept 15, 2022.
They were shipped from Texas to Tel Aviv for the Israeli-based Temple Institute, an organization composed of Orthodox Jews wanting to see the construction of a third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
These were not just any regular cows, they were unblemished red heifers that had been previously inspected with a magnifying glass by a Jewish Rabbi to ensure that they were totally red and had no off-colour hairs.
Though unblemished at this point, it’s possible the heifers may develop off-coloured hair as they mature making them unacceptable for a sacrifice.
Nevertheless, people were celebrating because many believe the heifers’ arrival was another necessary piece paving the way for the construction of the third Jewish temple because the red heifer sacrifice was integral to the functioning of the Jewish temple.
In an article for Charismanews, Nicole Jansezian explains that the temple is not necessary for conducting the red heifer sacrifice and expects that one could be sacrificed as early as next year.
Jansezian explains that according to Numbers 19 the ashes from the red heifer are necessary for the purification of priests. Since the whole animal was burned, it produced a large reserve of ashes, and there have only been nine Red heifers sacrificed in Israel’s history.
But not only are Christians celebrating their arrival, a Christian businessman in Texas also played a major role in acquiring the heifers.
Certainly, the Temple Institute has been busy the past few years in its preparation for the construction of a third temple.
Along with the purchase of the red heifers, it also constructed most of the furniture, utensils and priestly clothing needed for the operation of the Jewish Temple.
This includes the altar of sacrifice used to sacrifice the animals. Constructed in 2015, it stands five meters or 16 feet high with large ramps on either side. The only thing missing is the Ark of the Covenant on which the presence of God rested in the early temples and tabernacles.
They have also started a school to train the priests on how to perform the sacrifices. Those applying for positions not only had to be from the tribe of Levi but also direct descendants of Aaron, Israel’s first high priest. They also had to be born in Israel, meaning they had been born after Israel became a nation in 1948.
Those applying had to meet another obligation. They had to be ritually pure meaning they had never come in contact with a dead person. As part of the application, they were asked if they were born in a hospital or had ever visited a sick person in the hospital or a cemetery.
The Temple Institute has also ordered architectural drawings for the third temple that meets both modern design regulations and also Biblical requirements.
In addition, a group has already started to prepare the stones necessary for the construction of the temple. The stones had to be carved by hand away from the temple, so the work could not be heard at the temple site. They also can not use metal tools when carving stones.
So while major moves are underway to prepare for the construction of a third temple, there are still some major obstacles hindering its construction.
When the Romans destroyed the last Jewish temple in 70 AD, they absolutely levelled the site, leaving no indication of where it was located on the Temple Mount.
And though Jerusalem has been under Israeli control since the 1967 six-day war, the Temple Mount is controlled by the Muslims through the Jordan Waqf, who recently had been demanding more control of the site.
Thirdly, there are now two Muslim buildings on the Temple Mount, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock the latter of which is Islam’s third most holy building and many believe it was actually built where the Jewish Temple once stood.
Though there is still room for a Jewish temple on the mount, the Muslims would absolutely forbid it. Certainly, Israel could force the issue, but allowing the temple to be constructed could provoke Muslim uprisings in Israel and even attacks by other Islamic nations.
But Orthodox Jews seem determined to build a third temple and Christians who study end-times prophecy believe it is a necessary part of the prophecy and point to several passages as evidence.
One of them is found in the Apostle John’s vision of the end-times recorded in the Book of Revelation.
John writes quote:
I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. (Revelation 11:1-2)
Since by the time John had written Revelation, the second Jewish temple had already been destroyed by the Romans two decades earlier, this verse suggests there will be a third temple constructed.
Then in 2 Thessalonians 2 verses three and four, Paul writes that at the end of the age the man of lawlessness, the antichrist, will set himself up as god in the temple of God. Again it is argued for this to happen, there will need to be a physical temple in Jerusalem.
There are also Old Testament passages that speak of a third temple. The prophet Ezekiel writes about an unusual temple in chapters 40 through 48.
Its unique design was not used in the construction of either Solomons’s or Herod’s temple, which Jesus visited.
The Jewish rabbis believe that Ezekiel was describing a temple that would be constructed after the arrival of the Jewish Messiah.
While these passages seem to point to a physical temple, others are not convinced. They argue that these passages could be referring to a different kind of temple, a spiritual one.
We get the first reference to this spiritual temple early in the Gospel of John when Jesus outraged the Jewish elite and spoke of the temple being destroyed but then rebuilt in three days.
The Apostle John writes:
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:19-22 ESV)
John clearly states that Jesus’ body was the Temple. Remember this is the same John who wrote about measuring the Temple in the Book Revelation. What temple was he mearuring?
Later, the Apostle Paul would explain that Christ’s body is the church and then he went on to state that the Church, which contains the Spirit of God, is now God’s true temple. And when Paul made that statement in Ephesians 2:20-22, the temple in Jerusalem was still standing. So at this point in human history, there were now two competing Temples, the church and the one standing in Jerusalem.
Clearly, in this and other passages, the temple is not a physical stone building but rather a spiritual one.
So that brings us back to Ezekiel’s temple because as I mentioned earlier, the Jewish rabbis believed it would be constructed during the time of the Messiah.
Since Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, this means that the temple associated with Christ would be the temple that Ezekiel was foreseeing. In other words, the church is a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s temple.
And we do see similarities.
Ezekiel 47:1-2 speaks of a river flowing out of Ezekiel’s temple that would bring healing to the nations.
Then curiously in John 7:38, we read of Jesus standing up in the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles stating that anyone who believed in him out of them would flow rivers of living water.
In verse, 39, John says that the water flowing out of Ezekiel’s temple, was the Holy Spirit that fell on the Day of Pentecost?
Secondly, Ezekiel’s temple was much larger than either Solomon’s or Herod’s temple and the Jewish rabbis believed this was necessary to accommodate an inflow of gentiles.
After the Holy Spirit fell upon the gentiles, it led to such a move of God among the Gentiles, that they dominated the early church.
Ezekiel’s temple also differed from the other two temples in that it did not have a separate court for the gentiles or a court for the women which both Solomon’s and Herod’s temples had. And in Galatians 3:26, the Apostle Paul noted that there are no divisions between gentiles and Jews, slaves of free or men or women in the church.
Like Ezekiel’s temple, the dividing walls were gone.
But though it could be argued that the church is a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s temple, this would not necessarily prevent the Jews from wanting to see the construction of a third temple.
Obviously, some want it.
But will it happen?
First, with the arrival of Christ, a major transformation took place in the Kingdom of God. With the Holy Spirit now residing inside believers, there was a shift from a physical temple to a spiritual one.
And with Christ’s perfect sacrifice, there would no longer be a need for animal sacrifices and along with that any need for a special priesthood to handle the sacrifice. And in 1 Peter 2:9, the Apostle Peter says that all believers are now a part of the royal priesthood.
But like I said, though God no longer has any interest in a physical stone temple, it is possible the Jews will still construct one.
But there is a very odd story in the Book of Matthew that suggests it may not.
Shortly after Jesus had cleansed the Temple chasing out the Levites who were selling sacrificial animals and changing money, because of how outraged the priests were, the Lord decided that they should spend the night at Bethany.
As they were on the road, we read in Matthew 21:18-21 that they encountered a fig tree. Jesus decided to check the trees for figs, but there were none because it was out of season, so Jesus cursed the tree killing it.
Why would the Lord curse a tree for not bearing fruit out of season?
Some argue that Jesus did not realize that figs were out of season. However, this was an agrarian society, everyone would know when crops were harvested much like we know when wheat is harvested today.
But if we apply the sandwich theory of Bible interpretation, it reveals that this story was not about the fig tree, but was actually about the Temple.
As we read the Gospels, we often find odd stories that seem to be totally out of context with the passages before and after.
The sandwich theory states similar to a sandwich which has bread at the top and on the bottom, the main ingredient is between the slices of bread. So if the passages before the story and immediately after are discussing the same topic, then the incident in middle is also about the same thing, even though it seems unrelated.
In fact, it is the meat of what is happening.
Immediately before the Fig tree story, we have the cleansing of the temple, and immediately after, we have Jesus and the disciples returning to the temple and being confronted by the Jewish priests about what had happened the previous day.
Because both pieces of bread are about the temple, this means the fig tree is about the temple as well.
So if this story is symbolically about the temple, then Jesus approached the temple expecting to find fruit, there was no off-season for the temple.
In fact, the temple was corrupted by the money changers and those selling sacrificial items.
Even if a person brought their own animals to be sacrificed, invariably the priests found some flaws, but fortunately, they had previously inspected animals for sale at the temple, at a premium price, of course.
Of course, you couldn’t purchase these animals or pay the temple tax with unclean Roman or foreign currency, but wouldn’t you know it, they had Levite moneychangers who could exchange that unclean Roman currency for approved temple money.
I think you are getting the drift. It was corrupt and people were being taken advantage of.
So if we are reading this fig tree story correctly, Jesus was in fact actually cursing the temple. It was being replaced.
And the Lord finished by saying:
”Let no fruit grow on you ever again.”
In Mark 11:20 the gospel writer states that the fig tree was dead from the root up. There was no possibility of regrowth.
So if this story was about the temple, it meant that Jesus had just cursed it. Its days were numbered, but not only numbered, it would never be rebuilt.
Some may think that I am reading too much into this story.
Well, three chapters later, Jesus delivered the news in Matthew 24:1-2, that the temple was going to be absolutely obliterated and there would not be even one stone laying upon another.
The Temple was being replaced.
And the fait accompli took place in 70 AD when the Romans completely destroyed the temple.
Then in the second last chapter of the Book of Revelation, in the Apostle John’s description of the end times, he describes New Jerusalem with these words:
“And I saw no Temple in the city; for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb of God.” (Revelation 21:22)
So I am not sure we should be looking for the construction of the third temple in Jerusalem as part of end-times prophecy. But this is just my opinion.
Thanks for joining me on this podcast and I will catch you again.
READ: Jewish Temple altar rebuilt and ready for use AND Jews begin building Third Temple on Israel Independence Day AND Jordan demands total control of Temple Mount AND AND Third Temple closer than ever as search beings for eligible Jewish Priests AND Texas Red Heifers’ Arrival Stirs Prophetic Excitement in Israel AND Third Temple closer than ever as search beings for eligible Jewish Priests AND Red Heifer Sacrifice Could Take Place in One Year in Jerusalem