Rebuilding the Temple
What’s Holding it Up
John Hoole - March 17, 2013
First, a little history. The Old Testament devotes considerable attention to describing the portable tabernacle of Moses. After the conquest of Canaan, the tabernacle and its contents remained at Shiloh throughout the time of the Judges. And it remained at Shiloh until that city was destroyed in 1104 B.C. The Ark of the Covenant traveled through various Philistine cities and finally was brought to David’s palace south of the Temple Mount.
The first Temple geometrically resembled the tabernacle though it was twice as large and built of immense quantities of stone, cedar wood and lined with gold. It is called Solomon’s Temple. King David had the plans for the Temple, but God told him it would be his son builds it. After the first temple was completed, the Tabernacle of Moses was dismantled. It may have been stored in a room under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There is some evidence that it may still lie there to this day.
Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King, completely destroyed the Temple in 586 B.C. This occurs on the 9th day of the month of Av – or in Hebrew, Tisha B’Av.
After being captive by the Babylonians for 70 years, and after the Medo-Persian army conquered the Babylonians a Persian King named Cyrus decreed some Israelites to return for rebuilding the Temple. They worked on the Temple for a while, but soon the work began to lag. And for about 15 years nothing was done to continue building. And God raises up a couple of prophets to speak of God’s desire for the Temple to be re-built.
One of the prophets is the little known Haggai. The Lord gives him 4 prophecies, which are recorded in the book that bears his name. Haggai was a contemporary of the prophet Zechariah – and they knew each other. The two are twice mentioned working together in the book of Ezra, both in connection with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.
Ezra 6:14 (NKJV) is one:
14 So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
The book of Haggai has only two chapters. And in it are four prophecies, each giving us a time stamp relating each prophecy to the reign of King Darius the Great.
1:1 2nd year of Darius, 1st day of 6th month
2:1 7th month, 21st day
2:10 2nd year of Darius, 24th day, 9th month
2:20 Again on the 24th day
King Darius the Great began his reign in 521 B.C., which means that these four prophecies occurred in 520 B.C., the 2nd year of Darius’ reign.
The book of Zechariah begins, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the Word of the LORD came to Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,” The “second year of Darius” – the same year of Haggai.
When you read the book of Haggai, you will notice that the theme of his prophecy is "get busy and build the Lord's house." All of his four prophecies occur within one year, but, according to Ezra 5:2, both Zechariah and Haggai encouraged the temple builders, and both were there when the temple was completed four years later (6:14-15).
Haggai 1:1,2,4,8 NIV
1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built.'"
4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"
8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the Lord.
One verse in Haggai 2 seems to imply he was an elderly man, probably in his 80s or even older.
Haggai 2:3 NKJV
3 Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?
The implication here is that he remembers what the first temple looked like before it was destroyed in 586 B.C.
I realize Haggai is speaking of the first and second temples, not the third temple that will be built. But his entire book of prophecies emphasizes the importance of the temple, certainly more important than building their own homes. This is not true only then. God desires a temple for His glory and honor.
In the Jerusalem Talmud, we find this: “Each generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt is considered as if they destroyed the Temple.” (Yoma 1:1)
That said, there are still many scholars who doubt the Temple will be rebuilt due to the immense practical and political obstacles that stand in the way.
For thousands of years the Jews have mourned the burning of Solomon’s Temple on the ninth day of the month of AV (August) in 586 B.C. On this day every year, Jews read the tragic passage from the book of Lamentations that describe the destruction.
Lamentations 1:1, 4 (NIV) is an example.
1 How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.
4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed feasts. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her maidens grieve, and she is in bitter anguish.
Righteous Jews mourn the loss of their holy sanctuary, where God had communed with them from the Holy of Holies. After the Roman army burned the Second Temple in AD 70 on the very same day, the 9th of AV, the Temple was lost as the center of Israel’s spiritual life.
The religious life, thereafter, turned to the local synagogue, the Torah and the rabbinical commentary writings of the Talmud. With these three, Jews continued to express their love for God’s holy name.
However, the Lord prophesied that the Jewish exiles would, in the last days, return to the Promised Land to rebuild the Temple. The abandoned cities that had been in ruins for thousands of years would also be rebuilt.
Amos 9:14 NKJV
14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
An ancient prayer of Jews since the destruction of the Second Temple is: “May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our day.” After twenty centuries of waiting, the current generation has been given the task of making the ancient dreams and prayers come true.
SO WHAT IS HOLDING UP THE CONSTRUCTION OF THIS TEMPLE?
The first answer usually given is that the Moslem Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock is located in the space where some believe the temple must be built. This is a major obstacle, and we will address it later in our lesson, but there are other equally important barriers to building Temple # 3.
Most Christians today view the Jews primarily in light of what is said about them in the Old Testament. Although they displeased God many times, they are pictured as a people who are rather orthodox in their religious practices. They kept all the holy days throughout the year, and spent time with their children in educating them about Jewish rituals.
With that in mind, most of us probably view most Jews today, especially those who have chosen to move to Israel, as being very observant of Holy Days, as well as a number of other practices that have been handed down through the generations. The fact of the matter is most Jews today are not that observant of the practices mentioned in the Torah. In the near future, a dramatic change must occur in the political and religious leadership of Israel to allow the rebuilding of the Temple.
1 No consensus among the Israelis today
The first obstacle to building the Temple are today’s Jewish society.
There are really four kinds of Jews today.
The first two – the Conservative and Reformed – claim the rebuilding of a literal Temple is totally unnecessary. This side of Jewish thinking views Judaism as an evolving religion, and seeing no reason to return to the past. For these Jews, the Temple is a relic of the past, something they feel they can get along without.
Hebrew university professor and rabbi Pesach Schindler explains it this way: “We have respect for the past, but it has no operational significance. With the establishment of the State of Israel, we have all our spiritual centers within us. That is where the temples should be built.” Currently, there is no desire among them to build a third temple.
Those on the other side – the Orthodox and the Hasidic – contend that there has always been a vital historical link between the physical return to the Land and the literal rebuilding of the Temple. But today there is no popular support for rebuilding the Temple. That said, in the last 5 years, those supporting its construction has grown significantly.
All of us here have heard of the Ten Commandments enumerated in Exodus 20. The Hebrew word for command or commandment is Mitzvah; Plural is Mitzvot. But there are Mitzvot given elsewhere in the Torah (1st 5 books of the Old Testament) Rabbis have put together a collection of 613 biblical precepts and prohibitions in the Talmud (Talmud Tractate Nakkot 23b).
They are often just referred to as the 613 Mitzvot or 613 Commandments. You can find a list of every one of them on many web sites. They are sometimes categorized into two groups, Positive and Negative. There are 248 positives (do’s) and 365 negatives (don’ts).
One of the most widely respected Rabbis since the destruction of the Second Temple is Moses Maimonides. He is also known affectionately as Rambam and he lived in the 12th century. He taught that the intense study of the Temple and its worship rituals was of eternal significance to Jews of every generation because it revealed the nature of God and His eternal relationship to Israel.
In his multivolume work, called the Mishneh Torah, he states, approximately one third of these relate to or are dependent upon the presence of a Temple in Jerusalem. # 20 of Rambam’s listing of the 248 positive commandments specifically calls for the rebuilding of the Temple.
In Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah is a volume titled, Hilchos Bais HaBechirah (The Laws of God’s Chosen House). In this volume, he enumerates six key mitzvot that summarize the Lord’s laws regarding the temple.
1. The Jews are to build a sanctuary.
2. They are to build the altar with stone that is not hewn
3. They are not to ascend the altar with steps; they must use a ramp.
4. They must fear and reverence the Temple.
5. They must guard the Temple completely.
6. They must never cease watching over the Temple.
Unfortunately, there are many Jews in Israel today that resist the idea of building a temple. The first matter holding up the building of Temple Three are the people living in Israel today. For many Israelis today – almost 50% - as well as Jews outside the Land today, the notion of building a literal Temple at any time in the future is considered ludicrous, fanatical and dangerous.
Two reasons are given for this.
1. After the last destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D., the synagogue has taken on greater significance. They maintain that the Jews the world over have successfully maintained their faith without the Temple. So, why should they want to build it now.
2. The desire to make peace with the nations around them, whether Islamic or not. They believe that they should pursue peace and harmony with their neighbors.
With no Temple, the synagogues became the place of teaching and worship, along with certain aspects of the ritual obligation. To a great extent, this reduced underlying Jewish religious practice to spiritual principles.
This also affected the people’s concept of a literal Messiah, whose coming had been expected to redeem and restore Israel. Because this did not happen as expected, those of a more liberal persuasion came to think only in terms of some spiritual “Messianic Age” (i.e., not literal). For these of a liberal bent, the Jewish state today can only continue to exist if peace is attained with their now hostile neighbors.
Orthodox and Hasidic Judaism, by contrast, have strenuously held to a literal interpretation of the Bible, and believe that the prophetic promise of a coming Messiah and the Temple’s rebuilding would be fulfilled when a generation of Jews came along who were worthy of it.
Here is the difference between the Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, both of whom are more literal in their biblical interpretation. Hasidic Judaism believes that the final Temple would already be rebuilt in heaven, and would descend to the Temple Mount when the Messiah comes. Orthodox Judaism continues to look for a new Temple to be erected through human agency. It would, however, also be linked to the coming of the Messiah.
Many of the orthodox Jews believe the building of the temple should be carried out as soon as possible. For them, the Torah says: “Let them build a sanctuary for me.” (Exodus 25:8). The last command in a Hebrew Bible is what we know as 2 Chronicles 36:23. It says: “Go up and build Him a house in Jerusalem.”
So, one of the barriers for building the Temple #3 is many Jews ( about 50%) do not see the urgency or even the reason for building a temple. I can think of a number of viable events that could dramatically change public opinion.
• The Ark of the Covenant is found and announced.
• The War of Psalm 83 might have occurred.
2. Not knowing the precise location of the Temple holds up its construction
As we consider the rebuilding of the Temple, there is one more important question that must be addressed. Just where on the Temple Mount will the foundations of the Third Temple be laid?
WHY IS THEIR LOCATION ATOP MOUNT MORIAH A PROBLEM AS FAR AS REBUILDING THE JEWISH TEMPLE IS CONCERNED?
The Orthodox Jews believe they have a mandate from God to rebuild the temple in the exact location of the previous two Temples. Most Jews believe the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock is on that spot of ground. It seems this difficult situation will have to be resolved before temple construction can proceed.
The predominant school of thought, however, is that the Torah obligated the Jewish nation to rebuild the Temple whenever it becomes possible to do so (Exodus 25:8)
Will the Third Temple rise up right in the middle of the Temple Mount as many suppose? This would necessitate the removal or destruction of the Dome of the Rock. Of course this would be an earthshaking turn of events. The Dome is a revered Islamic site. But will the Dome of the Rock be destroyed? And is its removal even necessary? Just where did the original temple stand?
The literal fulfillment of Christ’s words in Matthew 24:2 is the reason why it is now difficult to identify the precise location for building the temple. He said, “not one stone will be left on another.” Fulfillment of those words so completely has made determining the location very difficult.
There are three views being put forth today as to where the earlier temples were located.
1. They were located in the same space that is now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.
2. The earlier temples were located some 330 feet north of the Moslem structures.
3. Others say it was south of the Dome of the Rock.
We have looked at these three views in sufficient detail during our last lesson, titled “Rebuilding the Temple – Where is the Correct Location?” So we won’t spend any time on this holdup today, except to say Orthodox Jews believe the Temple must be constructed on the same site as Temples One & Two.
3. The Sanhedrin must be assembled
The remaining three issue that must occur prior to a functioning Temple I want discuss today, will be covered more thoroughly in later lessons. But they should at least be mentioned here.
One of the greatest obstacles is that the Jews cannot rebuilt the Temple or resume their worship in the Temple, as required in Micah 4:1-2, unless the ancient Sanhedrin is reconvened. As the highest sacred body of Jewish lawmakers, the Sanhedrin must exist in order to reestablish the Levitical priesthood.
The word, Sanhedrin, is derived from a Greek word meaning “assembly.” But its origin is some 3,500 years ago during the Exodus from Egypt. God commanded Moses to assemble seventy elders from the tribes to share the responsibility.
Numbers 11:16-17 NKJV
16 So the Lord said to Moses: "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.
17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.”
The Sanhedrin lasted for just over 900 years until the destruction of the First Temple. Seventy years later, when the Second Temple was built, Ezra reinstituted the Sanhedrin to provide spiritual leadership.
The Sanhedrin was reinstituted again on October 13, 2004. The assembly includes Orthodox Jews from every part of Israel, from both Sephardic (Middle eastern Jews) and Ashkenazi Jew (European Jews).
4. A cleansed and anointed priesthood
Hosea 3:4-5 NKJV
4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.
5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.
The Bible prophesied that there would be an extended period of time where Israel would be without a king and would make no sacrifices. But it continues to say it would end when they seek the Lord their God.
To conduct proper sacrifices requires a functioning priesthood. The priests who will serve in the Temple are being identified and trained.
5. Ashes of the Red Heifer must be gathered
Much of what has been said thus far cannot proceed until the ashes of the Red Heifer are found. The Third Temple cannot be built and used for worship until the appropriate area of the Temple Mount is ritually purified using waters of purification from the ashes of an unblemished red heifer. You can read about this necessary function in Numbers 19.
In the near future, a dramatic change must occur in the political and religious leadership of Israel to allow the rebuilding of the Temple. What would motivate modern-day Israel to overcome the many significant obstacles and set about to rebuild the Temple? I believe it will be through the defeat of extreme Islam through the supernatural act of God in the battles mentioned in Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39.
There is definitely going to be a Third Temple. It will most likely be erected at or near the beginning of the Tribulation.