Jews and the Rebuilt Temple
by KEN ALEXANDER
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JEWS and the REBUILT TEMPLE
One theory of the end time involves the restored physical nation of Israel. Jewish eschatologists believe that a physical third temple must be rebuilt in Israel before the Messiah comes. This theory has been adopted by Christians who, although not necessarily Jewish, believe that Israel is still God’s chosen nation and that the rebuilding of the temple is central to end-time events. This theory is based on Old Testament scripture that a temple must be built that would exceed the glory that was attendant to the temple built by King Solomon 1500 years ago.
The history of Israel and its temple can be summarized as follows. In or around the years of 1000 B.C.E. King David was given the plans for a great temple to be built in Jerusalem for worship and to hold the “Ark of the Covenant”, a gold box containing the stone tablets of the 10 commandments obtained by Moses on Mt. Sinai. David was unable to build the temple but his son Solomon constructed a great temple according to the exact specifications of God. When the temple was dedicated, the glory of the Lord was so great in the temple that priests were unable even to stand and minister under the weight of glory present. “It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 KINGS 8:10-11).
In 670 B.C.E. Babylon sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, burning it to the ground. The Jews were taken into exile by the Babylonians. When Persia conquered Babylon 70 years later the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, which they did (see Books of Ezra and Nehemiah). A prophet Haggai had prophesied the following: “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts,” (Haggai 2:9). But when the temple was rebuilt, and celebrations were finally held there, there was a mixed reaction among those present. Many in attendance had seen and experienced Solomon’s temple years before. The scriptures record their reaction: “Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy. They wept because the glory of the Lord that was present in the first temple was inferior to the glory present in this second temple. They were anticipating the glory of this house to exceed the former as Haggai had prophesied” (Ezra 3:12-13). In other words the temple Solomon built had a much greater glory than this temple rebuilt by the former exiles. So Haggai’s prophecy was not fulfilled at that time, but fulfillment was apparently left for another day.
King Herod, a Jewish ruler of Israel in 1 B.C.E. under the authority of the Romans, built another temple. However that temple did not fulfill Haggai’s prophecy either. In 70 C.E. the Romans destroyed all of Israel including the temple. Again Haggai’s prophecy of a third temple with greater glory was left unfulfilled as it remains to this day. Israel did not become a nation again until 1948 but by that time a Muslim Mosque occupied the site of Solomon’s temple.
Haggai’s prophecy clearly points to the end times when the Lord will shake the heavens and the earth and the wealth of all nations will fill the temple. His entire prophecy is as follows: “‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? ‘But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the LORD of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. ‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts. ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:3-9)
Haggai can only be speaking of the new spiritual temple that will stand in the spiritual Kingdom of God. The “Dome of the Rock” Muslim temple stands where Solomon’s temple stood and there is no sign they will be vacating anytime soon. Yet it is Orthodox Jewish belief that the third temple must be built before or completed by the time of the coming of the Messiah. Some Christians also believe that the building of the third temple must precede the second coming of their Messiah Jesus Christ. Unfortunately the rebuilding of a third physical temple in Israel as a prerequisite to any end-time event is not supported in the scriptures.
John, the writer of Revelation, describes a New Jerusalem coming down from heaven (the spiritual realm) and finds only a spiritual temple as described in Rev. 21:10-21. He said this about the New Jerusalem: “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). The temple was comprised of the Lord and the Lamb both spiritual figures the Lamb symbolizing Christ.
John was not describing a temple constructed by human hands on the earth; he was describing a spiritual temple comprised of the Father and the Lamb (Christ). There are currently no realistic plans to rebuild a temple in Israel. Those waiting for the construction of such an earthly temple to herald the New Age will be sorely disappointed because it is not going to happen. Waiting for the rebuilding of a physical temple in Israel as a sign of the coming of the Messiah is not scriptural and will not happen.
Would you like to know who will constitute the New Temple? The temple will be constructed of Christ and the Saints of God. St. Peter said, speaking to his churches scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia: “And [we the Saints] coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-6). The individuals constituting the churches were to be the building blocks of the new spiritual temple.
Paul confirmed this in a letter to the Corinthian church: “FOR WE are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE” ( 2 Corinthians 6:16). And Paul said further: “Do you not know that YOU are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Each of the Saints of God are living stones with which the New Temple will be constructed. This temple, comprised only of God and His Saints, will have an eternal glory which will exceed anything previously built on the earth because it will be a spiritual temple. These statements are not symbolic inferences. The reality is that the New Temple will consist of God and His Saints. This is clearly stated in the scriptures referenced above.
Many still retain the idea that only the Jews, as the favored nation of God, will constitute the Kingdom of God or at least they will hold a special position in the New Age. This concept is based on a gross misreading of the scriptures written after the death of Christ. Proponents base this belief on many things including the fact that the Jews were the favored nation of God (as recorded in the Old Testament) and that favored status continues to exist today. The "Kingdom of the LORD" is referred to in the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible (1Chronicles 29:10-12; Daniel 4:3). It is tied to Jewish understanding that God will restore the nation of Israel to the nation Israel was during the glory days of David and Solomon. And those proponents of the favored Israel in the New Age point to the fact that the Kingdom of God was expressly promised to King David, because he was a man "after God's own heart”. And when speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, God tells Moses that the Israelites "will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." However these are only symbolic references to the Spiritual Israel that will exist in the New Age and do not refer to the physical nation of Israel (see below).
Most of what was written in the Old Testament was but a type and shadow or copy of what was to come in the new spiritual age. Hebrews says: “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, [Jesus] who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man” (v.8:1-2). And: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;” (v. 9:11). “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;” (Heb. 9:24). Therefore, since it is Christ’s wish that His Father’s Kingdom “come on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) it is evident that the third or latter temple is constructed of Spirit, not a physical temple made with human hands.
Probably the most prolific example proponents cling to in order to justify their belief that Israel will occupy a prominent place in the New Age is a scripture in The Book of Revelation which mentions the 144,000 standing before the Lord, 12,000 from each Jewish tribe (Rev. 7:4-8). However this is only a symbolic reference to the Saints of God and not a literal reference to the Jewish people.
Throughout the Old Testament the Nation of Israel were referred to as the chosen race of God. And they were during that time. However their continual disobedience to God (see 1 & 2 Samuel; 1&2 Kings) cost them this favored status. Both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (Judah) were eventually overrun by other nations (the Assyrians in the north and Babylon in Judah). When Christ came He opened up salvation to all peoples, Jews and all other peoples alike. The Jews are not rejected; they were just placed on equal footing with all other peoples on the face of the earth. The chosen of God in the Kingdom are those who accept Christ and walk with Him, becoming in a sense a “spiritual Israel”. Their status is not based on lineage.
Jesus Himself said that the Kingdom would be taken away from the Jews and given to those who did the will of God. “Jesus said to them [the Jewish leaders], “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone;… “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:42-44). What Jesus is saying is that the stone which the builders rejected was Christ, whom the Jews rejected at His coming. However that rejected stone (Jesus) will become the chief cornerstone of the coming Kingdom. The Kingdom would be given to those who do the will of God and recognize Christ as Messiah.
Jesus also said weeping: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37, KJV)
The 144,000 referred to in Revelation are clearly linked to those who “follow the Lamb” (Christ) wherever He goes” and are linked with Israel in symbolic reference only. John the Revelator said: “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb [Christ] was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads…. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth… These are the ones who follow the Lamb [Christ] wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:1, 3-4). The nation of Israel did not follow the Lamb, they rejected Him. Therefore the 144,000 mentioned are not referencing the physical nation of Israel.
The Apostle Paul was born a Jew. He called himself a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was a persecutor of Christians before being converted. He discusses the fate of the Jews extensively in his Epistle to the Romans Chapters 9-11. He is grieved over the fate of the Israelites, formerly God’s chosen people, and who were the holders of the ancient covenants given by God to them. He grieves over those “who are Israelites”, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ [the Messiah] according to the flesh” (Christ was born a Jew) (Romans 9:4-5).
But he recognizes that things changed when the Jews rejected Christ and salvation was opened to all peoples of the world in Christ. He says: “But it is not as though the word of God has failed (in removing the Jews from their favored position). For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, …That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise [to Abraham] are regarded as descendants” (Rom 9:6-8). By this he clearly states that, under Christ, status as Jew by birth or lineage does not make one exclusively chosen by God any more. It is the children of promise who will inherit.
The children of promise are the spiritual off spring of the promise God gave to Abraham, far back when there was no Israel. God promised: “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.”Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, [which means exalted Father] But your name shall be Abraham; [a Father of multitudes] For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. “I have made you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:1-7). Here God clearly states that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed through Abraham’s seed, not only the nation of Israel.
God had said to Abraham, after God saw Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac: “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:16-18). God expanded His covenant to apply to all the nations of the earth, not just the nation of Israel.
And God said: “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). And God said: “And He took him [Abraham] outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He [the Lord] reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:5-6). Today it is the seed of Abraham, who put their faith in God who will inherit.
God made these eternal covenants with Abraham which were all based on faith. Abraham did not do anything to deserve these promises except to believe God. These covenants reflected the ministry of Christ in that all one has to do to participate in the covenants of Abraham was believe on Christ. The Jews defended themselves to Christ saying that they had Abraham as their father. Yet they were missing the point. The Jews were still seeking righteousness by the Law of Moses but Abraham was the Father of faith, not works. The covenant with Abraham extended far past the nation of Israel, being an eternal covenant that encompassed eternity, into the New Age and beyond.
The Jews were pursuing righteousness by works of the flesh, attempting in themselves to perform God’s laws. The religious leaders of the time were not spiritual men but enforcers of the Law of Moses. “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” (the stone which was Christ who guaranteed righteousness not by works but by faith in Him) (Rom. 9:30-32). “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness” (Rom. 10:3-5). In other words, if you live by the law of works leading to righteousness you must keep all of the law which Israel was never able to do. This proved to God that Christ was necessary to Himself fulfill the law for everyone, making the basis of salvation faith in Him, who had fulfilled the Law for everyone else.
Righteousness in Christ is by faith, just as was the covenant to Abraham. Paul said: “But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom 10:8-10).
However, Paul stresses that God has not rejected the Jews but has shown them that if they want salvation they must obtain it by faith in Christ, not by works of the Law. They are now on equal footing with all the peoples on the earth in that regard. He also emphasizes that God has forgiven them for their rejection of Christ. “But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom 11:13-15). As long as they turn and receive the Jesus the true Messiah as their salvation they will be saved, just as everyone else who does so.
We have said all this to show that the Jewish nation no longer enjoys the favored status they once enjoyed with God, but they have the same opportunity as everyone else for salvation once they accept the Messiah. Now it is the children of faith, not lineage, who are the true Israel. In the New Age there is no nationality distinction. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” Galatians 3:28-29).
Therefore the Jews themselves as a nation play no exclusive part in end-time events or in the Establishing of Christ’s Kingdom on the earth. The Kingdom to come is spiritual not natural. Any temple that is rebuilt will be a spiritual temple not a natural one. It will be composed of the saints of God which will include even the Jews who believe. Some point to the temple described by the prophet Ezekiel (vs. 40-47) as describing a physical temple to be rebuilt by the Jews. Ezekiel describes a spiritual temple. One will notice that this temple has to veil between the most holy place and the rest of the temple since in Christ there is no longer any separation between God and man.
John describes the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:10-22).
Haggai had prophesied so long ago: “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’. So the Word of the Lord was fulfilled in this house-New Jerusalem.
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