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  • Writer's picturekeithburwell

WHERE (OR WHAT) IS THE REAL TEMPLE IN THE END TIMES?

Updated: Feb 11, 2021




My entire life, I have heard of the impending, apocalyptic Third Temple which must be rebuilt in Jerusalem. The expectation according to many scholars is that this must occur either at the very beginning of the 7 year tribulation or just prior to it. This forces many assumptions which we really need to examine.

· A Jewish Temple MUST be rebuilt- (does it?)

· A 7 year tribulation will occur- (are we sure?)

· The temple must be a physical building- (or just a physical structure?)

· Jews will again worship in the temple- (where?)

· The Jewish people will have control of the Temple Mount- (why?)


Essentially, the following passage is the justification for the above assumptions. This scripture in Daniel famously describes the “abomination which causes desolation” in the last days temple, told to Daniel by an angel.


[Dan 9:25-27 ESV] 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator."


Couple this with the fact that the second Beast in Revelation 13 forces worship of the first beast as well as the image of the beast.

[Rev 13:11-18 ESV] 11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

How do these connect? Dr. John Walvoord gives the following commentary and explanation of how this also happened previously.

In Daniel 11:31, a prophecy was written by Daniel in the sixth century B. C. about a future Syrian ruler by name of Antiochus Epiphanes who reigned over Syria 175-164 B. C., about 400 years after Daniel. History, of course, has recorded the reign of this man. In verse 31, Daniel prophesied about his activity: “…they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” This would be very difficult to understand if it were not for the fact that it has already been fulfilled. Anyone can go back to the history of Antiochus Epiphanes and discover what he did as recorded in the apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. He was a great persecutor of the children of Israel and did his best to stamp out the Jewish religion and wanted to place in its stead a worship of Greek pagan gods.…

One of the things he did was to stop animal sacrifices in the temple. He offered a sow, an unclean animal, on the altar in a deliberate attempt to desecrate and render it unholy for Jewish worship (cf. 1 Macc. 1:48). First Maccabees 1:54 specifically records that the abomination of desolation was set up, fulfilling Daniel 11:31. In the holy of holies Antiochus set up a statue of a Greek god.…In keeping with the prophecy the daily sacrifices were stopped, the sanctuary was polluted, desolated and made an abomination.

So the nice and tidy justification for an End Times Temple in Jerusalem is made clear- there is coming an end time ruler who will do what Antiochus Epiphanes did and desecrate the temple with his own image, therefore, a temple needs built and therefore Jerusalem will be the focal point of the Tribulation.


I see a few problems that are insurmountable in my mind and hopefully you will NOW see one of the main reasons I am writing these essays and posts. This does not fit with what we know in the New Testament to be true.


Let us first look at the physical temple issue. One of my favorite scriptures (if we can have such a thing) is the following- [Mat 27:51 ESV] 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.



This is describing the immediate aftermath of Jesus dying. The curtains stood in the Temple in that day separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. These were huge, from floor to ceiling, and thick. They were there so that God- who dwelt in the Holy of Holies, would be separated from man and his sin. Only the High Priest was allowed to go behind the curtain, and once per year to atone for the sins of all Israel.


By tearing the veil in two, God essentially said “I will no longer be apart from man, for I will now dwell with him. The separation that sin caused is now repaired through the shed blood of Christ.” I paraphrase, but the meaning is clear. God will no longer dwell in a physical temple since the price has been paid. Therefore, there is no reason to necessitate a physical building in Jerusalem in the end times.


The first argument against this point would be the following- “Yes, but the Jewish people are still going to build the temple and THEY will still worship there, so the necessity of a temple building still holds true, whether or not God is there. It is about what the people are doing.”


NO. This simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Let’s go back to what we are looking at. This end time ruler sets up something that is an abomination in the temple. An abomination is a disgrace or a repugnance or something that creates disgust. What does the abomination cause? It causes desolation. In my opinion, here is a critically overlooked fact in modern eschatology- In order to have caused desolation (a state of complete emptiness or destruction), by definition there must have been occupancy prior to the abomination. What am I saying? In order for the temple in the end times to become desolate due to the abomination, the temple must be occupied by God prior to the abomination. If He no longer recognizes the Temple as the necessary location of sacrificial worship (evidenced by the tearing of the veil), then THERE CAN BE NO PHYSICAL BUILDING WHICH BECOMES DESOLATE.

The next argument would then logically follow- There HAS to be a place for the Jews to offer sacrifice in the last days. The temple has to exist in order for the Jewish people to offer sacrifice to God.


Why do some believe that? The main reason is also the justification for the 7 year tribulation. The passage in Daniel 9 which decrees Seventy sevens for Daniel and his people, the last 7 year period still to come. While the plain language of Daniel is clear, and this seems to be the right interpretation, I believe it MUST be interpreted in light of the work of the cross.


The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in passage after passage of the primacy and sufficiency of the shed blood at the cross and the absolute atonement for ALL sin. Let me put it in clear and unambiguous terms- If God accepts the blood of one turtledove during the tribulation, the shed blood of Jesus Christ is meaningless. I know that is a bold statement and God can correct me if I am wrong, but I see no other conclusion. Either the sacrifice of Jesus which was made once, for all, is sufficient, or it was simply one way of many to atone for the sin of man.


Dispensationalism is not an argument either. While God has dealt with His people in different ways during different time periods, it has been a progressive understanding culminating in the work of Jesus at the cross. It simply would not make sense to return to the sacrificial system AFTER Jesus. This is exactly what Paul preached and argued with Peter about!


So where does this leave us? Based on clear doctrinal teaching from the New Testament, I cannot see how a physical temple in Jerusalem could be justified in the end times. We have to remove this plank out of the Left Behind narrative that so engulfs Evangelical Christianity today. It is causing, what I believe, are false signs of Jesus’ return. In fact, while this is such a MAJOR tenet of people’s belief today, Jesus LITERALLY prophesied the OPPOSITE.


Almost as if He knew that this would be a stumbling block and misinterpretation, He spent the first part of Matthew 24 describing how not one stone of the temple will be left upon the other. Now He was speaking of the temple in that time period which was destroyed in 70 A.D., however, He NEVER says it will be rebuilt. He could have said that a sign of His Second Coming will be when the Temple that is no longer here is rebuilt. But instead he actually made it sound as though a temple was no longer part of the end time scenario. At least not a physical building in Jerusalem. I realize this is an argument out of silence (i.e.- it wasn't said, so it isn't true.) and that it is hard to justify, however, in this case I believe it amplifies the fact that a physical building will not, and should not, be chased after prior to His return.


But we are still faced with an issue. There are scriptures which clearly show a temple in the end times. In fact, there will be an abomination that causes desolation. So how can we then understand this if there is no building in Jerusalem (or anywhere else for that matter), that is to be the recognized Temple of the Almighty God?


Thankfully, the Word is clear about this.

[1Co 3:16-17 ESV] 16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.


[1Co 6:19 ESV] 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,


[2Co 6:14-18 ESV] 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."


I think this makes it about as clear as it can be. The Church (universal) is the Temple of God. And no- this is not Replacement Theology (the idea that the church has replaced spiritual Israel and all promises to Israel belong to the church. This is false as well.) We need no further justification or clarification on what the temple is. The clear text states that we are. Even so, how else would we know this? The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, was deposited in us when we were saved. If the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us, then we are the temple of the Living God. Period. Full stop.


However, now we must rectify this truth with the scriptures dealing with an end times temple. It is not enough to simply say the church is the temple and push away the argument. In fact, by stating this, we are faced with more complex scenarios regarding the temple and how it will look and function.


Let’s evaluate Daniel 9 once again with this in mind.

[Dan 9:25-27 ESV] 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator."

Likewise, we will look at Revelation 13 as well, as we can see both are speaking about the same time period and likely same cast of characters.

[Rev 13:11-18 ESV] 11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.


Let us keep in mind that we, as believers, are the temple, as well as the church corporately. With this in mind, we can see that an abomination will be setup in “us”, the believers, and cause the Spirit of God to depart from us, leaving us desolate. Before anyone gets concerned that they may lose the Spirit of God, notice that the Rev 13 passage indicates that this abomination is forced but can be refused, whatever it is. It may cause death, or inability to buy and sell, but it can be, and must be refused by the believer. i.e.- the temple. Therefore, this seems to indicate that many non-believers and some believers will accept the abomination which is the mark of the beast. This acceptance will cause the Spirit of God to abandon the temple vessels which accept the mark. Jesus indicates this as well, and Matthew even makes the scripture more poignant in this view by saying (let the reader understand), indicating that this may look different to different people at various times.

[Mat 24:15 ESV] 15 "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),


The boilerplate template of today’s Evangelical eschatology recognizes the physical Temple in Jerusalem as being necessary for the soon return of Jesus. While I don’t disagree that a temple could be built, I do not see a way in which it is being used by God in any of the scenarios laid out in scripture which we discussed. I would call the rebuilt temple a red herring.


Too many Christians are looking for the Temple creation when they should be looking at themselves as the physical embodiment of the sanctuary. If the Holy Spirit is living in you as the Word says it is, and Paul indicated that we are the temple of the Living God, then we need to interpret scripture in light of this fact.

To do otherwise, is to make the same mistake that Peter did when Paul chastised him for a return to the Law. We cannot accept the idea that in the last days, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is needed more than ever, that we have a brief return to the Levitical priesthood which includes animal sacrifice, and negate the power of the blood of Jesus christ when it is most urgent.

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