The third temple
For Christians and Jews who are students of the prophecies in the Bible concerning the end of the world, there has been great focus on the doctrine of the third temple. Before there was any temple in Jerusalem, Israel had a tabernacle that was built while Moses was leading Israel in the wilderness (Ex 25-40). It was aa tent with six pieces of furniture. There were an altar for animal sacrifices and a laver which held water for the priests to wash in. These were outside in a fenced off area around the tent itself. The tent had two chambers called the holy place and the most holy place or the holy of holies. In the holy place was an oil lamp, an altar for incense, and a table of bread. Inside the most holy place was the ark of the covenant. This was the place the high priest would enter once each year on the day of atonement. God told Moses that when the Israelites possessed the promised land, He would choose a place to put His name (Deut 12:10-14, Deut 14:23-25, Deut 15:20, Deut 16:2-16, Deut 17:8-10, Deut 18:6, Deut 26:2, Deut 31:11). The tabernacle was to be placed there. This would be where the Israelites were to bring their tithes and offerings, and where the priests’ headquarters would be.
Initially the tabernacle was placed in Shiloh (Josh 18:1). It mostly remained there until the prophet Samuel (1Sam 1-4). Then king David decided to build a permanent temple building for the Lord and the ark, but he was told it would be his son that would build it, and not him (2Sam 7). Although David was not allowed to build the temple, he drew the blueprints and gathered materials for its construction (1Chr 28-29). He held a meeting, presented all this to his son Solomon, and charged him to build the temple.
David had an experience which showed him where the temple was to be built (2Sam 24, 1Chr 21). It was the threshing floor of a Jebusite named Araunah which was in Jerusalem. Threshing floors were where they would bring their grain harvest to separate the wheat from the chaff. It was typically a large flat place in an elevated location. Later, Solomon built the temple there (1Ki 6).
God warned Israel repeatedly as early as through Moses that if they continued in sin without repenting, He would eventually send their enemies against them who would destroy their land and their temple, killing many and taking others captives (Lev 26, Deut 28, 1Ki 8, 2Chr 7). This came to pass when Assyria invaded the northern area (2Ki 17), and later Babylon invaded the southern area which included Jerusalem (2Ki 25). The city and the temple were destroyed. Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would lay desolate for 70 years, and then the Jews would return and rebuild (Jer 25:11-12, Jer 29:10). It was this prophecy Daniel read and prayed about (Dan 9:2). In answer to this prayer, a specific prophecy was revealed to Daniel which is called the 70 weeks (Dan 9:24-27). Zerubbabel, Haggai, and Ezra were involved with the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra, Hag). Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh). The second temple stood until it was destroyed by the Romans when they invaded in AD 70. Before it was destroyed, it was greatly expanded on by Herod. Jesus prophesied the destruction of this temple (Mt 24:1-2).
The prophecies in the Bible indicate there will be another, third temple built in Jerusalem. Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks says there will be a most holy place (vs 24), a sanctuary (vs 26), and a covenant that will be broken which will cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease (vs 27). For further study on this prophecy, there are both written and video presentations at bibleforever.com.
Ezekiel 40-48 describes a temple in Jerusalem in great detail. Some believe this is strictly symbolic and not a prophecy of a literal temple, and some believe this is about the second temple, not a third temple at the end of the age. However, there are other passages which clearly speak of a temple existing at the end, and the dimensions Ezekiel describe are different than the second temple. Jesus spoke of the abomination of desolation which Daniel spoke of standing in the holy place (Mt 24:15). Some think this is speaking of the Roman general Titus who led his army into Jerusalem. There is a principle in scripture, particularly in prophecy, of double or even multiple reference. Two examples involve events around the birth of Jesus (Mt 2:14-18). In Matthew 24, Jesus was answering several questions from the disciples involving two different time periods – the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and His second coming. Herod’s temple was literally destroyed by the Romans, but scripture is also clearly pointing to a future set of events surrounding the antichrist and a third temple in Jerusalem (2Thes 2:3-4). This is not Nero because Nero never stepped foot in Jerusalem, and no Roman ever stood in the temple claiming to be God and demanding worship after Paul wrote this. The Romans destroyed the temple when they entered Jerusalem. Daniel’s prophecy also points to the coming Messiah and later the abomination of desolation which Jesus said was yet to come and would stand in the holy place. Also, the book of Revelation speaks of a temple in Jerusalem during the 7-year tribulation period which is the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy (Rev 11:1-2).
The Jews are greatly anticipating the building of the third temple and have begun much preparation for it even beforehand. They have already established a school to train the priests how to perform the temple rituals and sacrifices, and they have already made their garments. They have already built some of the furniture. A clear sign of the beginning of the 7-year tribulation will be a covenant which will involve the rebuilding of the temple and the resumption after almost 2,000 years of the sacrifices therein.
This is a very controversial subject with many opinions and interpretations. One area of dispute among those who believe there will be a literal third temple is where it will be. Up until recently, the consensus among archeologists and students of the Bible is that the location is where the current Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are. This area is currently tightly controlled by Muslims and is called the temple mount. It is believed by Christians and Jews that this is the place where Abraham offered Isaac (Gen 22), and where the temple stood. However, recently another idea has emerged since the excavation of the city of David. That is a small section of the current city of Jerusalem. Some assert that this was the actual location of the temple and not what is called the temple mount. This location is about 600 feet south of the temple mount. Their arguments include the use of the phrase “city of David” in the Bible. However, that phrase is used several ways. Bethlehem is called the city of David because that is where he grew up (Lk 2:4 & 11). Zion also has multiple uses. Some say because the Gihon spring is located there, this shows us that this is the location. That is a clue but not a sure indication because there were also numerous water sources at the temple mount. They say there was a Roman legion located in Jerusalem and only the temple mount is a large enough area to contain a legion. What is labeled as the Antonia Fortress on the temple mount is much too small to house a legion. They say the entire temple mount must have been the fortress. However, if there was an entire legion of 6,000 soldiers plus support staff already in the city, why did they lay siege to it in AD 70 and wait months to invade? The archeological and historical evidence matches what is called the temple mount. The geography of the city of David makes it very difficult if not impossible to place the temple mount there. There is not enough space and it is too hilly. There is some interesting information about the site of the city of David, but the evidence seems to point exclusively to the temple mount.
Either way, the signs of the times are pointing toward a soon return of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The saved need to be looking up for Him (Lk 21:28, Phil 3:20-21), and those who have not put their faith in Him need to do so by repenting of their sins, being baptized by immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost with the initial outward evidence of speaking in a language unknown to them (Mk 16:15-20, Lk 24:43-38, Acts 2:38-29, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 19:1-6).