Rebuilding the Temple

Where’s the Correct Location?




John Hoole    - March 10, 2013





We have been looking at what the Bible says about the Temple’s role in Israel in the last days.  The Temple in Jerusalem was the focal point of God’s relationship to the Jews and the source of His blessing to them and for the world.


The most common Hebrew Old Testament terms for the Jerusalem Temple are beit ‘adonai,, meaning “the house of the Lord,” and beit ‘elohim, translated, “house of God.”  These phrases not only indicate the house belonged to Him, but also that it is the place where He dwelled.


The history of the Temple unfolds progressively through the Old Testament.  On Mount Moriah, God showed Abraham where the Temple would one day be built (Gen. 22:2, 14).  Moses receive prophetic instruction for establishing the temple service for this site.


Exodus 15:17 NKJV   


17     You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.


Exodus 15 is known as the Song of Moses.  And in this verse, Moses is not speaking of the Tabernacle which they carried with them.  He is speaking prophetically of a permanent mountain God has chosen for His dwelling.


At Mount Sinai, Moses received the pattern and process of worship that would be followed, not only in the wilderness Tabernacle, but also in the future permanent dwelling.  Moses received instruction concerning each utensil and furniture used in and around the sanctuary.  The clothing required for the priests and the various anointing oils were given to him as well.  But Moses knew that his Tabernacle would one day be replaced by a permanent edifice.


The plans for that permanent building was given by God to King David who became king of Israel in 1010 B.C., and for the first seven years and six months he lived and reigned in the city of Hebron (2 Samuel 2).  At this time Jerusalem wasn’t called by that name, but by the name Jebus, and was then under the control of a Canaanite tribe called the Jebusites.  David and his men come against the heavily fortified city of Jebus, and although the Jebusites thought there city impregnable, David conquered it.


Although David takes the city and moves his capital there, some Jebusites continued to live in the surrounding area.  The City of David is located just to the south of a hill called Mt. Moriah, which at a later time was being used as a threshing floor by a Jebusite man, named Araunah.  David buys this mountain from Araunah, builds an altar to make a sacrifice to God, and begins to plan for building a permanent house for God.


But God has other plans.  God tells David that he will not build the Temple, but his son, Solomon, would (1 Chron. 22:14-15; 28:11-20).


1 Chronicles 28:11-12 NKJV


11     Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat;

12     and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the Lord, of all the chambers all around, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries for the dedicated things;


The Temple is completed by Solomon in 959 B.C. (1 Kings 6:38), and becomes the center of worship for Israel until 586 B.C. when it was destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.


The Temple was destroyed on the 9th day of the month of Av, the fifth month in the Jewish calendar.  And since that time, now almost 3,000 years, the Jews have mourned the loss of their temple.  On the 9th day of the month of Av, the Jews have observed a fast, and they read the passage from the book of Lamentations that describes the saddened condition of Jerusalem.


Also notice what the prophet Zechariah writes some 70 after the 1st Temple was destroyed.


Zechariah 7:1-3 NIV


1       In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.

2       The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the Lord

3       by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, "Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?"


They are asking, now with the building of Temple #2, do we still observe the fast of Av?  This fast is actually mentioned several places in the Old Testament.


Zerubbabel completes the Second Temple in 516, exactly 70 years after the first is destroyed.  But, exactly 666 years after the First Temple is destroyed the Second Temple is destroyed.  And it is destroyed again on the 9th of Av – Tisha b’Av – in A.D. 70.  And each year, this day is a day of mourning and fasting.  But whenever the 9th of Av falls on a Shabbat, the mourning is delayed to the 10th. 


         Tisha b’Av in 2012 was July 28.

         In 2013 it is July 15.

         In 2014, it will be August 4.


According to Rabbinical sources, both the First and Second Temples were built on the same foundation at the same location somewhere on the Temple Mount.  The site had to be consecrated ground that had not been previously used for tombs and that was not a previous pagan worship site (“high place”).  The innermost sanctuary  of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, or Kodesh Ha Kodeshim, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed, marked the exact center of the world.


In this innermost sanctuary was the manifest presence of God – the Shekinah, centered between the cherubim on the Mercy Seat of the Ark.  This was especially noted as the dedication of the First Temple.


When Solomon ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.  And the Bible tells us the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house (2 Chronicles 7:1-5)..


Jesus had some things to say about the future of the Second Temple that He had entered many times.  The setting was just before Jesus’ farewell message to His band of disciples.  He had been with them for more than three years, and they still did not fully understand what was about to happen to their Leader.  Two days later, on Friday, He would be nailed to a Roman cross and suffer a cruel, barbaric death.


On Wednesday of that final week, Jesus taught in the Jewish temple for the last time – Matthew 23.  At the end of that chapter, Jesus laments over Jerusalem because they had rejected Him.


Matthew 23:37-39 NKJV


37     "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 chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

38     See! Your house is left to you desolate;

39     for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'"


The prophecy of Jesus infuriated His foes, but puzzled His followers.  The next verse, which is the first verse of chapter 24, we read:


Matthew 24:1-2 NKJV


1       Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

2       And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."


In Verse 1, the disciples are pointing out to Jesus how impressive the Temple was.  But Jesus restates what He had just said, but with greater clarity.  Not one stone will be left atop another and each will be thrown down.


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 finding the location very difficult.  But while Christ says the Second Temple will be destroyed, just 13 verses later (vs. 15), he prophesies the existence of a Third Temple.


Matthew 24:15 NKJV


15     “Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand),


Christ tells us the Second Temple will be destroyed, but here says there will be another “holy place.”  In Hebrew, the English phrase, “Holy Place” is translated MIKDASH.  The Septuagint, which translates the Old Testament into Greek, used the word NAOS.  In Revelation 11:1, where John becomes part of the action, not just an observer, he is told to “Rise and measure the temple of God.”  The phrase, “temple of God,” is in Greek, “naon tou theou.”  This Greek word has the root of NAIO, and is used in the New Testament with reference to the Temple.  And it is used with reference to the temple building, not the courts.


So, in continuity with the Old Testament program with respect to the Temple, Jesus and other New Testament writers looked forward to a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.  It is a vital part of the eschatological program of God.


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?  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?


There are three views being put forth today as to where the earlier temples were located.


1.      Some say the Temple was located south of the Dome of the Rock.


2.      Others believe it had been erected on the same space that is now occupied by the Dome of the Rock.


3.      The earlier temples were located some 330 feet north of the Moslem structures.


Let’s look at each of these.


1.      Southern Theory


This view is least held of any of the three.  It is the most recent theory and has been put forward by a Tel Aviv architect, Tuvia Sagiv.  Sagiv has put much research into his theory, as have the other theories.  He has used sonograph, infrared thermographs and topography, and believes the location of the first and second temples was somewhere between the locations of the Dome and Al Aqsa Mosque.


Thus far; I have not found many others who champion this view.  Sagiv’s theory is derived partly from what the Romans did to Jerusalem when they crushed the Bar Kochba rebellion in AD 135.  They forbid Jews from entering Jerusalem and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina.  Emperor Hadrian then put a Roman temple of Jupiter on the site.  Sagiv then takes the design of a temple of Jupiter located in Baalbek, Lebanon, and overlays it on the Temple Mount.  He deduces that the only place it could have fit was to the south.


2.      The Middle Theory


This is the traditional view, and is held by many Israeli archeologists.  The traditional site of the Temple is said to lie beneath or very near the site of the Dome of the Rock.  The Dome of the Rock is located almost dead center on the 35-acre Temple Mount.  It is actually a beautiful building, completed by Caliph Abdal-Malik in 691 following the Arab conquest of Palestine.  For more than 13 centuries many prophecy students have believed it was built over the site of the original Jewish Temple.  It is supported and held by organizations such as Temple Institute and Temple Mount Faithful.


Talk about the rebuilding of the Temple at this location inevitably brings up the related question:  How could Israel legally or practically replace the existing structure of the Dome of the Rock?


Some historical accounts say the Dome was built by the Moslems to overlay the original Jewish Temples.  Most of the rabbis in Israel today associate the Temple with this site.  Dr. Leen Ritmeyer has researched and written on the original 500 cubits square boundaries of the original Temple Mount (Before Herod expanded it).  Ritmeyer is highly regarded as one of Israel’s leading archaeologists today.


Recent journal articles still support this view.  Former Jerusalem District archaeologist Dr. Dan Bahat vigorously defends the traditional location.  His lectures on the subject are said to be thorough and convincing.  However, so also are the alternative theories currently proposed.


Since Jews believe the Third Temple must be built at the same location as the earlier temple, this would appear to be the most difficult to resolve with the current political structure.


3.      The Northern Theory


Hebrew University physicist Asher Kaufmann was first to propose this theory.  He has based his view on a number of topological and archaeological considerations.  He believes the center of the Temple is 330 feet north of the center of the Dome of the Rock and states the Temple can be built with its inner courts, and it will still be about 80 feet from the Dome of the Rock.


Last week, I showed you a photo of the bedrock outcrop within the Dome of the Rock.  I also mentioned that the bedrock to the south of the Dome drops off quite rapidly.  That is not true to the north, where it stays rather flat for over 100 meters before falling off.  Here is a topography map of Old City Jerusalem.  Notice the flat top-most area.  Here is the approximate location of the Dome of the Rock.  Next, notice the red star to the northwest of the Dome.  That topographical finger extend more than 400 feet to the northwest.


Now let me show you one particular shrine located in that area.  This is a small cupola is known by two names – Dome of the Spirits and Dome of the Tablets.  Both names may suggest an association with the Jewish Temple.  We know that the two tablets of the 10 Commandments were inside the Ark of the Covenant.  The center of the small shrine is 330 feet from the center of the Dome of the Rock.


It is the bedrock directly below this small shrine where Dr. Kaufman believes the Ark rested.  Let me enlarge the photo of the base of the Dome of the Tablets.  I hope you can begin to see that the stone inside the base is different from the surrounding cut stone platform.  Here is an even closer view.  Inside this base is the leveled bedrock of this area of Mount Moriah.  Dr. Kaufman presents a strong argument that this may be the place where the Ark of the Covenant rested inside the Holy of Holies.  In addition, He believes the fact that this location lines up perfectly with the Eastern Gate helps corroborate his view that the Holy of Holies was located there.  Here is the best photo I have that shows that relationship.


Let me show you a diagram from Dr. Kaufman’s article shows the location of the Dome of the Tablets and the position of the earlier Temples as he see it.


This view is very interesting.  It opens up the very real possibility that the Third Jewish Temple could be constructed on the north side of the Temple Mount.  If this theory is true, it presents an interesting possibility.  Could the Temple be rebuilt next to the Islamic Dome of the Rock?  Could the two coexist next door to each other?


If you are wondering which of these three positions I would lean towards, it would be this Northern Theory.  I believe there is good reasons to have the Temple line up directly with the Eastern Gate.  I would like you to consider some Scriptural statements that persuade me to that position.


Biblical Evidence


First, Ezekiel foretold that the Messiah would supernaturally enter the rebuilt Temple through the now sealed Eastern Gate.  Ezekiel tells us that the Glory (Shekinah) of the Lord will return to the Temple through that gate.


Ezekiel 43:1-5 NKJV


1       Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east.

2       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.

3       It was like the appearance of the vision which I saw — like the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were like the vision which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face.

4       And the glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east.

5       The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.


Since all known ancient temple structures in the Middle East place the temple structure directly behind the major entrance gate leading worshipers within to that structure, we can conclude that the rebuilt Temple will be located in a direct east-west line from the Eastern Gate.  The Jewish Mishneh records that the Eastern Gate led directly into the gate of the inner Second Temple.


A further confirmation of the Temple being located north of the Dome of the Rock comes from the Mishneh Torah, which reveals that on the day of the sacrifice of the red heifer.  A priest would lead the red heifer from the Temple across the Kidron Valley, to a small plateau on the side of the Mt. of Olives.  It was there that the heifer was sacrificed and the burning of its ashes took place.


The priest at the inner gate of the Temple could look through the outer temple gate, through the Eastern Gate to see what was happening across the Kidron Valley.  This could only happen if the Temple was in directly line with the Eastern Gate.


When Jesus was here, He made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate.  This gate was sealed by Moslems in 1187 a.d., and remains sealed to this day.  The sealing of the Gate fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel 44:1-2.


Ezekiel 44:1-2 NIV


1       Then the man brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, the one facing east, and it was shut.

2       The LORD said to me, "This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered through it.


When Jesus returns, Zechariah 14:4 tells us He will descend upon the Mount of Olives.  This mount is about a quarter mile straight east of the Eastern Gate.  Jesus will walk from the Mount of Olives and through the Eastern Gate.


In John’s vision of the seven-year Tribulation period, including the final 3½ years leading to the Battle of Armageddon, he writes:


Revelation 11:1-2 NKJV


1       Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.

2       But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.


John saw his vision and wrote the book of Revelation about AD 95, a quarter century after the Romans razed the Temple.  And because his vision is about the future, he is clearly looking at a future temple, and he is told to measure it.  This tells us there will be a temple in Jerusalem at some point in the future.


This passage is looking at the mid-point of the 7-year Tribulation.  And the “42 months” mentioned at the end of verse 2 is speaking of the last half of the Tribulation.


The apostle John was told by the angel to measure the Temple of God and the altar and the worshipers.  There are a few times in the Bible when men are instructed to measure the temple or the city.


                   •  Ezekiel is told to measure the future millennial temple (Ezekiel 40).


                   •  Zechariah was called to measure the city (Zechariah 2:2).


                   •  And in Revelation 21:15-17, the New Jerusalem is measured (there is no temple in this city).


         Often, measurement speaks of ownership.


But John is not to measure only the temple building.  He also is to measure the altar and those who worship at it.  Let me make a couple of statements that are probably obvious, but need to be emphasized.  God observes and measures the worship of men and women.  The Gospel of Mark reports how one day Jesus sat across from the temple treasury and observed how people put money into it (Mark 12:41-43).  God is always our observer, and He sees everything.      It is very important to Him.  Malachi 3:15-16 speak of God’s “book of remembrance.”  God notices.


Let’s return again to Revelation 11 which we read a moment ago.  I think it is a significant statement that the angel tells him not to measure the outermost court, that is, the Court of the Gentiles.  Quite often, it is referred to as the “outer court,” and is identified as such18 times in the Bible.


It is somewhat surprising that John is told not to measure this court, since in both the Herod’s Temple and the future Millennial Temple, it is precisely measured.  John is given a vision of a period of time after the temple is rebuilt, in which part of the Temple Mount known as the Court of Gentiles would still be given over to the Gentiles (the Arab Muslims) for 42 months until Christ returns to set up His eternal kingdom.  Again, this seems to indicate both Gentiles and Jews having their part of the Temple Mount.  Let me show you a couple of photos of the Model City of 1st century Jerusalem.  Each of them shows the court of the Gentiles.  And here is an artist rendition of what the Temple Mount would look like if both the Dome of the Rock and the Jewish Temple existed side-by-side.


Archaeological Evidence


During the last several years Jewish archaeologists have made some fascinating discoveries on and beneath the Temple Mount.  After Israel’s recapture of the Mount in June 1967, Israeli archaeologists began to dig a very long tunnel north along the Western Wall.  This tunnel is almost sixty-five feet below present-day streets and basements in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.


The tunnel exposed a number of ancient gates to the Temple that had been hidden for almost 2,000 years, by rubble the Roman soldiers had thrown into the valley beside the Western Wall.  The position of these ancient gates supports the theory that the first two Temples were in fact directly opposite the Eastern Gate.


Legal Evidence


Here is another non-Scriptural, but legal, thing to consider.  Under Israeli laws, the legal principle of status quo demands that any significant religious site in Israel (Jewish, Christian, or Muslim) cannot be altered in a major way, regardless of events.  This principle was enacted into law by the Islamic Turkish authorities during their governorship, and was reinforced by the British Mandate – 1921 to 1948.  Additionally, this principle was confirmed in Israel’s basic laws since 1948.  What this means is that if the Dome of the Rock were ever damage, Israeli law would demand that it be either rebuilt as it originally was, or another Muslim edifice built in its place.


Of course, God can alter laws put in place by man.  But, because of the current Israeli law, nobody in Israel is suggesting that Israel destroy the Dome.  And, according to what John wrote in Revelation 11, the Dome of the Rock and the Tribulation Temple could sit side-by-side, at least during the coming Tribulation.




In Israel it is often said that if you have two Jews you will have three opinions.  Only time will tell which of the above views is correct.  These conjectures will continue to be debated until Israel is able to conduct a thorough archaeological investigation beneath the Temple Mount itself.


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.


However the construction of the Third Temple comes about, Daniel tells us that “in the middle of the week” (7-year Tribulation), the false-Messiah will “put a stop to sacrifices and grain offering.”  In order for this to occur, the Third Temple and the entire Levitical service must be in operation.


There is definitely going to be a Third Temple.  It will most likely be erected at or near the beginning of the Tribulation.