Fully eight chapters in the book of Ezekiel have been dedicated to a beautiful structure, to a temple which has yet to be built in Jerusalem. Surely this is a measure of the tremendous importance the Scriptures attach to it?
Apart from these final chapters in Ezekiel, we find the temple mentioned elsewhere in the Bible: in Zechariah, in Revelation, and in 2 Thessalonians, to name a few.
Despite the obvious importance the Bible thus attaches to this matter, there remains among believers a tremendous lack of interest in – or understanding of – the importance of this new temple that will one day, in the not too distant future, be raised up on the Temple Mount.
There are different reasons for this lack of understanding:
Many believers see the next temple only as a Jewish building in which the Antichrist will be briefly seated; they thus view it in a rather negative light.
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2: 3,4)
And there is the belief, which is of course correct in itself, that today’s temple of God is not made by human hands, but is formed out of those who truly believe – living stones put together for a habitation for God to dwell in in these days.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Furthermore, we know that not only the body of believers, but the body of the Lord Himself is seen in Scripture as the temple of God, as Jesus thus referred to His own body when He said:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
Then the Jews said, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” BUT HE WAS SPEAKING OF THE TEMPLE OF HIS BODY. (John 2:20,21)
It is for these reasons, among others, that despite the eight chapters Ezekiel dedicates to the subject of the future temple, many Christian believers have shown little regard for, or comprehension of, this structure. The fact that Ezekiel’s narrative includes the revival of the sacrificial rites makes it all the more complicated for many believers, holding to the belief – as they rightly do – that after Jesus’ full and final atonement there is no longer a need for other sacrifices. And this is something the author of the epistle to the Hebrews clearly points out.
What, then, should our attitude be towards this temple?
Certainly Ezekiel leaves no impression that anything negative is being presented, like “a temple of the Anti-Christ,” or “poor Jews returning to sacrifices,” for which no need any longer exists.
As it is quite clearly, therefore, NOT something negative being put forward, we would do well to give full credit to God’s clearly written Word, and to ponder what purpose and meaning all this is meant to have.
If we consider that the tabernacle of Moses is a forerunner to the temple later built by David’s son Solomon, it becomes clear just how considerable and important a place this subject is given in the Scriptures. For just as there are eight chapters in Ezekiel describing in the most minute detail the structure of the temple, so too are there many chapters in the Bible describing, in similar, painstaking detail, the building and erection of the tabernacle. Later, numerous chapters deal with the preparation for, and building and dedication of, Solomon’s temple. And again, equally as many chapters in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai describe the events leading up to the building of the second temple by Zerubbabel.
This great weight of Scripture surely indicates the tremendous importance which the tabernacle, and later the temple, have in the Scriptures, and also in the writings of the prophets, who clearly indicate the time that is coming when the temple, the third temple this time, assuredly will be built again.
Therefore it is important for us to discover, even in this study, what the significance and importance of the Ezekiel temple is, given that Jesus Himself, and the body of His believers, is the temple of God; and if Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the final sacrifice for all time.
In order to fathom this, we need to go back to the days of the New Testament, and especially to Jesus’ relationship towards “His Father’s house,” as He called the temple Herod and his successor had worked for 46 years to beautify and restore. This – by the way, was the refurbished temple that had been defiled some years in advance of Jesus’ coming by Antiochus Epiphanes – the man often seen as a type, or forerunner, of the Antichrist.
“Antiochus commanded an altar to be built on the Temple Mount and then ordered pigs to be sacrificed on it,” writes Henk W. Hoddenbagh in his book The Divine Plan (pages 201 and 202).
Thus it was this temple, that Antiochus greatly defiled and Herod (who had sought to kill the Baby Jesus) had beautified, that Jesus called “My Father’s house.” And He did so even though He, Himself, was the temple, and was far more holy than any temple built by human hands.
This is an extremely important point, especially in regard to the temple or House of God that must yet be built in Jerusalem on God’s holy hill.
For if Jesus can still call the temple beautified by Herod and desecrated by Antiochus the house of His Father, then the third temple, even if it is seized upon by the Antichrist for a short period, still will be called the house of God. This can be seen in the second epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, when he writes:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God IN THE TEMPLE OF GOD (note, not the temple of the Beast), showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2: 3,4 – emphasis added)
Therefore, just as the second temple, defiled by Antioch and beautified by Herod remained, to Jesus’ mind, the temple of God, so too will the third temple, even though desecrated by the man of sin, remain and be called the temple of God!
It would be good to recount here, from different New Testament passages, the respect Jesus bore towards this house of His father. We see one account in the lovely story related by Luke of Jesus as a boy:
And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast (of Passover). When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; … Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, … So when they saw Him, they were amazed; … And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT I MUST BE ABOUT MY FATHER’S BUSINESS?” (Luke 2: 42, 43, 46, 48, 49 NKJ)
This is an amazing passage about the importance Jesus still attached to His Father’s house, even though it had been defiled. And what a wonderful illustration of Biblical balance, that although He could have belittled the importance of this temple because of the rightful claim He could make to being the temple Himself, He did not do so. Instead, as we shall see from the next example, He honoured His Father’s house.
It was during another Passover Feast, John tells us, that Jesus again went up to the temple in Jerusalem:
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple … And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (John 2: 13-17)
If some of us are honest in this respect we would not have expected the Lord to call a building made from stone His Father’s house. And yet, this is what we find in the Scriptures.
Some may retort that all this took place before He brought the final sacrifice in His body on the cross – when, as the Gospels relate, the curtain of the temple was torn asunder from top to bottom. Now we live in the time after those events, these people may say – after the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection. And, after all, isn’t the fact that this temple was then destroyed by Titus in AD 70 proof that it was no longer important to believers in the Lord Messiah, who Himself became the temple, the High Priest, and the sacrifice, thus fulfilling it all? And isn’t this exactly what Jesus said in His conversation with the Samaritan woman, when He prophesied about the time to come?
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him…Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” (John 4: 23,24)
This verse is often used to explain away any need for another temple in which God will be worshipped, even at a later stage. But the fact is that in the Greek this oft-quoted passage of Scripture leaves this interpretation wide open.
When Jesus says “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” the Greek word does not signify a total negation. Rather, it means “the hour is coming that not only on this mountain nor only in Jerusalem,” leaving open the possibility that God will one day again be worshipped – also in spirit and truth – on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount!
And that this is apparently the case is seen in the passage in The Revelation to John, where worship is unquestionably again associated with the future temple in Jerusalem:
And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, AND THOSE WHO WORSHIP THERE. (Revelation 11:1)
Then the point is often raised about the re-introduction of sacrifices, which seems to stand in conflict with the New Testament teaching of the finality of the sacrifice that our Lord became for us – and for the sins of the whole world. What, then, do we do with the sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning the temple? (See Hebrews 9: 24-28)
No one is denying the finality of our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross – not those who fail to see a great need for rebuilding the temple, nor those who do see the need. Here, all true believers unite in the realisation of the truth of the words of the author to the Hebrews:
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another-He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. (Hebrews 9: 24-28)
But does it follow that there can thus never be a time when sacrifices will again be part and parcel of the service of worship to God in the new temple? This is the question we need to ask ourselves. And on this point the Bible does give a clear and unequivocal answer:
There will come a time, during the new temple period, when sacrifices will be offered again. It says so in Ezekiel, and it is also mentioned by Daniel, when he speaks of the evil ruler – “the little horn” – to come, by whom the daily sacrifices will be taken away, and the place of the Lord’s sanctuary will be cast down (Daniel 8:11). This surely implies not only a rebuilt temple towards the end of time, but also a reinstitution of the daily sacrifices!
This fact of the reinstitution of the sacrifices, even sin sacrifices – albeit for awhile – does not mean or even suggest the cancellation of the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice for sins, just as the continuation of those sacrifices in the temple until AD 70 never pointed to a cancellation of the finality of that sacrifice. These were sacrifices that even the Apostle Paul participated in, as is seen from the account in Acts 21:23-26!
If God could live with this fact of continued sacrifices and sin offerings in the as yet un-destroyed second temple after the sacrificial death of His Son, can we not live with such renewed sacrifices during the period of the third temple?
And just as the sacrifices in the days of Moses’ tabernacle and the two temples were a mere foreshadowing of the sacrifice God would make of His Son – could the sacrifices that will be held in Ezekiel’s temple not equally be pointers back to that wonderful gift that He gave?
In the same way: If Jesus was not loathe to come to His Father’s house in the days of His flesh – even though it had been defiled by a forerunner of the man of sin – why should He not come suddenly to the temple that is to be built on His holy hill?
God came in His shekinah glory and visitation to Solomon’s temple after it was built. Through Christ, He came to the second temple built by Zerubbabel. Why, then, should He not come to the third temple once it has been built, as stated in Malachi 3?
“…And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap. … He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the LORD, AS IN THE DAYS OF OLD, AS IN FORMER YEARS.” (Malachi 3: 1-4)
What an amazing Scripture! And in Ezekiel we read a nearly identical passage:
And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. … And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple. …
And He said to me, “Son of man, this is 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. …
“Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. …Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them.
“This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.” (Ezekiel 43: 2, 4-5, 7, 10, 11, 12)
With these beautiful and forceful words the words of the Psalms agree:
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed … “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:1, 2, 6)
Let us go into His tabernacle; let us worship at His footstool. Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, you and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy.
For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for His dwelling place: “This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132: 7, 8, 13, 14)
If this then is so all important, it behoves us as true believers in the God of Israel and His end time purposes with His people, the Jews, to willingly avail ourselves to be His fiery instruments to bring this plan – which is so bitterly contested by God’s enemies – to fulfilment. We read this also in Zechariah’s prophecy: “They shall come from afar who will build the Temple of the Lord” (Zechariah 6:15)
It reminds us of the Israel-loving Gentile, a Roman officer, who was introduced to Jesus as a man “who loves Your people, he even built us a synagogue.” In other words, if it is so important, and it is, we should be like David who vowed not to rest until he built a house for his God – or at least until he had made preparations to do so by securing the threshing floor of Arauna that was destined to become God’s holy hill and residence, as David expresses so beautifully and ardently in Psalm 132:
A Song of Ascents. Lord, remember David and all his afflictions; how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob: “Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Psalm 132:1-5)
For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: “This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon Himself His crown shall flourish.” (Psalm 132:13-18)
In this respect we can also believe its utter importance by the way this is being contested by Israel’s and God’s enemies who, with the support of nearly all the nations of the world, are doing everything to prevent Israel from coming up to their most holy and sacred hill, by claiming it as exclusively theirs in a future arrangement for an independent Muslim Palestinian State. All this to keep this hill from becoming – when the Temple described by the prophet Ezekiel will have been built – once and for all the place of residence of the coming King Messiah of the whole earth.
This battle is so poignantly expressed by the Psalmist when he writes:
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ” Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2)
Yes it is true: The nations also today “imagine a vain thing,” and that is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on half the land God Himself promised in its entirety to one people, that is His own. It now faces being divided, against His Will, for one part of “His Land” to be made into a Palestinian State with presumably the ancient city of Jerusalem, which used to be King David’s capital becoming the Muslim oriented capital of the that state.
Already four mosques stand on this holy Temple Mount. When it becomes officially the ‘Judenrein capital of a future Palestine’ no Jew will be permitted to ascend, and no new (Ezekiel) temple will ever be allowed to be built besides the mosques that already stand there.
This, then, is the plan of Satan – who uses the vain desire of the nations expressed in Psalm 2 to solve the burning Middle East problem to ensure THAT NEVER WILL THIS HILL SEE THE JEWS BUILD A NEW TEMPLE as described by Ezekiel for to welcome Messiah back to this planet.
Jesus Himself expresses this so well when He descends from the Mount of Olives sitting on a donkey (as was prophesied by Zechariah 9:9) and says:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Luke 13:34-35)
Thus, Jesus will not come back to His city unless and until the temple described in Ezekiel 40 to 48 stands there. And because the Devil knows this very well, he is doing everything in his power to prevent it: the building of a new Temple and the reconstitution in their land of a people – His people – who will welcome Him back as He foretold!!