Will There Be a Third Temple … If So, When & How
In light of recent intense media attention on Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount, people the world over have wondered if a third Jewish Temple will actually be rebuilt. My response: Absolutely! Guaranteed. By whom? By God, himself. Let’s read the words of the Jewish prophet Ezekiel who records a stunning revelation given to him by God. This vision was so comprehensive and so precise that even the date was disclosed by Ezekiel—April 28th, 573 BC … 2,587 years ago this past Monday!
“On April 28, during the twenty-fifth year of our captivity—fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem—the Lord took hold of me. In a vision from God he took me to the land of Israel and set me down on a very high mountain. From there I could see toward the south what appeared to be a city. As he brought me nearer, I saw a man whose face shone like bronze standing beside a gateway entrance. He was holding in his hand a linen measuring cord and a measuring rod. He said to me, ‘Son of man, watch and listen. Pay close attention to everything I show you. You have been brought here so I can show you many things. Then you will return to the people of Israel and tell them everything you have seen.’ I could see a wall completely surrounding the Temple area….” (Ezekiel 40: 1-5).
This man had to be either an angel or one of the appearances of the pre-Incarnate Messiah. Some Bible scholars (I agree) believe the man to be Jesus Christ, as he calls Ezekiel the “Son of man” which was the term that God chose when speaking to or about Ezekiel throughout the book; as well as the description that Jesus used of himself as recorded in the gospels, albeit, with a divine reference. Following this remarkable introduction to the passage, chapters 40 through 48 provide a meticulous, but nevertheless magnificent, description of a rebuilt Temple.
You might reply with a legitimately good question: “Isn’t this the Jewish Temple that was rebuilt just a generation later, completed in 515 BC? The one that Herod improved while ruling over the Jews just before and a few years after Jesus was born?”
The answer is an unequivocal … even, I believe, an irrefutable, NO!
You might be thinking: such a dogmatic declaration. Is there evidence to support this statement?
Yes, there is an abundance of evidence. First, the precise measurements of Ezekiel’s Temple including the outer and interior walls were much larger than the rebuilt temple of Ezra and Nehemiah’s time, and even of Herod’s time. Secondly, there is (will be), “…a stream flowing east from beneath the door of the Temple and passing to the right of the altar on its south side” (Ezekiel 47:1). Later in the article, we’ll cover this in more detail. In Ezekiel’s Temple we find that the Shekinah glory of God has returned, meaning his very presence. See all of Ezekiel Chapter 43, but I will reference just one verse: “The Lord said to me, ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel…” (Verse 7).
None of these conditions (and more) were present while the 2nd Temple stood. But the most obvious factor to validate that a 3rd temple will be constructed: The 2nd temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans … it no longer exists. There’s nothing in Ezekiel that states or even suggests that the temple which is shown to him will be demolished; that is, as long as the present earth (and heavens) exist. And how long is that? The most common answer: for a thousand years after Christ returns to rule and reign on the earth … otherwise known as the Millennium. But I would expand that answer with what I believe is a Biblically supported premise: The rebuilt Temple will continue on the earth into Eternity. And what evidence is there to support that statement? Let’s begin with the book of Revelation.
Millennium, Infinity, and Beyond!
In the latter part of Revelation Chapter 19, we read about the final victory of Christ over the beast and kings of the world who dared to fight against the rider on the white horse, whose name was, “…Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war … and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses … On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (Revelation 19:11-16). The beast and false prophet are captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire. Then, “Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse…” (Verse 21).
By the time we get to Chapter 20 of Revelation, God has poured out his wrath on the earth through the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls. Listen to the magnificent response from the host of heaven (believers and angels) to the awesome judgments of God Almighty: “Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. His judgments are true and just….” Revelation 19: 1-2). Then again in Verses 6-7: “Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and let us give honor to him.”
All wrongs will have been righted. All injustice will have been avenged with pure justice. All of God’s judgments will be true and just (appropriate, necessary, decisive, and justified).
Revelation Chapter 20 begins with the literal confinement of Satan in the Abyss for one thousand years. For those who believe the one thousand years is a symbolic expression of a long period of time, then why is one thousand years mentioned a total of six times? If you want to symbolize a period of time, there’s no need to specify the number (of years), and there’s certainly no need to repeat it six times. Besides, one thousand years IS a long time!
Satan is then released and immediately sets out once again to deceive the nations, gathering them together in one final attempt to destroy the kingdom of God on earth. Because of the omnipotent sovereignty of God and His Messiah, Jesus Christ, the ending here is just as anticlimactic as the capture of Antichrist and the False Prophet described in Chapter 19: “ And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them. Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:9-10).
This stunningly quick and conclusive victory over Satan and the rebellious inhabitants of earth is immediately followed by what Scripture refers to as the white throne judgment of all unbelievers, both dead (brought back to life) and living. They, too, are “thrown into the lake of fire” which is the “second death” (Revelation 20:14).
Suddenly, the scene switches from the final judgment of all who have rejected Christ and his Kingdom on earth to what many Bible scholars simply refer to as Eternity. In the very next chapter, John is given a vision of what will transpire at the beginning of a wonderful new era between God and mankind. Read with me this remarkable description:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21: 1-5).
The New Jerusalem (Temple or Not)?
Following this incredible announcement is a majestic depiction of the New Jerusalem; however, to keep pace with our topic of a rebuilt temple, we’ll skip to verse 22: “I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Also, of paramount importance: “And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:26-27).
Two things are clear in these verses: (1) there will be NO temple in the New Jerusalem. (2) The new earth will still be inhabited by people (why would God create a new earth if there were no human beings being born to populate it); but only believers will be permitted to dwell in the New Jerusalem. Yet, there’s another phenomena: Even though there will be a New Jerusalem, the Old (current) Jerusalem will remain on the new earth. I say this with a great deal of certainty because throughout the Old Testament, we see that this Holy City of God will last forever.
For example: “The Lord says, ‘Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you. Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they, too, will be my people. I will live among you … The land of Judah will be the Lord’s special possession in the holy land, and he will once again choose Jerusalem to be his own city’” (Zachariah 2: 10-12). Also, see Zechariah 8: 20-23, which includes, “The people of one city will say to the people of another, ‘Come with us to Jerusalem to ask the Lord to bless us. Let’s worship the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I’m determined to go’” (Verse 21).
The New Jerusalem is described as a city, but when we read the details in Revelation Chapter 21 (including the huge dimensions … 1400 miles long, 1400 miles wide, and 1400 miles high!) we realize that it’s much more than just a city. It will be larger than any nation on the earth … factoring in the 1400 mile height of the city!
So what about the 3rd rebuilt Temple and/or Ezekiel’s Temple? Just as the earthly city of Jerusalem will remain forever, so will Ezekiel’s Temple. To support this conclusion, we read the following: “In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters. Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain” (Zechariah 14:16-17).
Then verse 21: “In fact, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. All who come to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices. And on that day there will no longer be traders in the Temple of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”
The plague referenced in this verse refers to the final defeat of all nations who fought against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:12). When correlated with other passages of Scripture, we know this to be the final battle of Armageddon (for example, see Revelation 19:11-21). In fact, Zechariah 14:16 begins with, In the end, meaning the conclusion of the Great Tribulation. The annual Festival of Shelters or Booths (Sukkot in Hebrew) is the only festival in which God will require that all nations send representatives to attend. Why? Because the Festival of Booths is a remembrance of God’s provisions, protection, but most of all his presence among his people … going all the way back to Israel’s wanderings for forty years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.
Then we’re told that the sacrificial system will be ongoing, right down to the use of holy pots/pans (dedicated or set aside for this special purpose) to cook the sacrifices. And the Temple will, in fact, exist; because traders (merchants) will no longer be allowed in the Temple.
Though it’s crystal clear in Scripture that the sacrifice of Messiah’s blood and life was once and for all time to replace the Levitical sacrificial system, that doesn’t mean that animal sacrifices will not be resumed. According to Daniel Chapter 9, sacrifices and offerings will be reinstated during the seven-year treaty (Tribulation) with Israel. It’s just that the reason or purpose for them will be changed and understood by all after the Tribulation. Everyone will plainly comprehend that animal sacrifices are not the means of/to salvation; instead they will be a means of remembrance for what Christ accomplished in the past.
Ezekiel not only describes the dimensions and qualities of the Temple in extraordinary detail, but he also expounds with equally fascinating features regarding requirements of the Levitical priests and of animal sacrifices. To repeat: animal sacrifice is no longer a means of atonement for sin. Only personal belief in and acceptance of the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ can take away our sin and its penalty. So, please don’t confuse my premise that both the Temple and Temple activities (such as animal sacrifice) will continue throughout the Millennium (and beyond) with the idea that people will be redeemed by such sacrifices. That was not true under the Law of Moses, and certainly not true in the New Covenant Age of Grace, which began with the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah. I am not in any way contradicting the entire book of Hebrews or dozens of other Biblical passages that tell us salvation is possible only by total trust in the grace of God-given to us through the finished work of Christ on the Cross.
Desecration of the (Rebuilt) Temple
As many students of Biblical prophecy know, the temple will be defiled by a ruler (known as the beast or Antichrist of the New Testament) as graphically depicted in Daniel 9:26-27. The armies of that ruler (read Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666, or Eye of Prophecy articles in the category of Antichrist for the identity of this man) destroyed the 2nd Temple in 70 AD, as predicted by Daniel in Verse 26. Upon the return of this ruler (from the Abyss), he will make a seven-year covenant with Israel, but then break the treaty after 3 ½ years by putting a halt to the (temple) sacrifices and offerings, only to erect a sacrilegious object that violates the Temple. Although Daniel 9 doesn’t specifically tell us that it will be the temple that is desecrated, Jesus, himself identifies the “…sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place” (Matthew 24:15). There’s only one Holy Place for the Jews—none other than the Holy of Holies found in the inner sanctuary of the Temple. So, any observant Jew reading Daniel 9:27 would fully comprehend that the only place that could actually be defiled would be the Holy Place of a rebuilt Temple.
Why rebuild the Temple? The umbrella answer: It is part of God’s sovereign plan for the Jews and for Israel. Accordingly, most Jews today (even many secular Jews) are passionate about two things: the coming of Messiah and reconstruction of the Temple. But more specifically, it will undoubtedly be the cornerstone, indeed, the only way for the ruler or beast or Antichrist to negotiate and implement a treaty-like agreement with Israel. In exchange for what? For a promise of peace between Muslim and Jews—the kind of peace that the United States and governments all over the world are trying to establish in the Middle East, as reported by journalists and commentators nearly every day.
When will this 3rd Temple be rebuilt? Answer: Immediately following the Rapture, then the reappearance of the beast of Revelation. Another source to confirm a rebuilt Temple is found in Revelation Chapter 11, when Revelation’s author John was told to, “…Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshippers. But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months” (Revelation 11:1-2). Why not measure the outer courtyard? Because that is the court (yard) reserved for the Gentiles, present in both the 1st and 2nd Temples. In the case of the 3rd Temple, Antichrist will take over the court of Gentiles and then the Inner Sanctuary itself.
What will happen to the 3rd Temple? As indicated, it will be desecrated by the Antichrist, but there are no prophecies in Scripture to indicate it will be destroyed; contrasted to the first two temples of which destruction was prophesied for both of them. After the glorious return of Messiah Jesus at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, I’m equally convinced this Temple (constructed soon after the Rapture) will be reconfigured to match precisely the dimensions and requirements stipulated in/for Ezekiel’s Temple. Or, it might completely replace the 3rd Temple; the Bible doesn’t specify one way or another.
But we can’t dismiss out-of-hand the fact that there will be a rebuilt 3rd Temple (with animal sacrifices and offerings) during the Tribulation. And there’s nothing in Scripture to indicate that the Temple (and offerings) won’t continue into the Millennium, and even after the Millennium. Conversely, there is solid evidence to show that Temple offerings/sacrifices will be on-going.
What about the communion service among believers as the means to remember our Lord’s death on the cross? I believe it will no longer be necessary once Jesus returns. “For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again” (I Corinthians 11:26, italics for emphasis). Once Christ returns, there’s no need for a continuing announcement or remembrance of his death, at least not through communion.
New Jerusalem … Old Jerusalem?
For the Jews, the rebuilt 3rd Temple in the historic holy city of Jerusalem will be their special place of worship and remembrance of Messiah’s redemption for them and for the whole world, right up to and through the time of the new heavens and earth. Indeed, there will be a New Jerusalem. But there also will be the Old Jerusalem, alive and well and flourishing on Planet Earth.
Despite the evidence already presented, if you have any doubt about both a New Jerusalem and the Old Jerusalem, then read with me from Isaiah:
“Look, I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy” (Isaiah 65: 17-18). Note: in this section of the chapter it’s important to grasp the incredible fact that the Lord will first create a new heaven and earth (which is exactly what Revelation 21 tells us), before we read what comes next. Also, the phrase create Jerusalem isn’t referring to creation of the New Jerusalem. Rather the word create in the context of the passage means to make or making Jerusalem a happy place (to live).
Then in the remainder of Isaiah Chapter 65, Isaiah paints a vivid picture of what life will be like on the new earth (not the New Jerusalem, but on the earth itself). Not the least of which is, “No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred! Only the cursed will die that young! In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards. Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses and confiscate their vineyards. For my people will live as long as trees, and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains” (Isaiah 65:20-22).
Do you see what Isaiah is saying? Unlike the New Jerusalem, which is the city built by God, full of mansions (rooms) prepared for believers by Christ himself (see John 14); a city with no need of the sun or moon, for the glory of the Lord illuminates it, the ancient city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah (Israel) will still be present on the new earth. And its inhabitants (mostly Jews) will “live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.” Whereas, everything in the New Jerusalem will be totally built and provided by God, himself. Do you see the difference?
In the New Jerusalem, there will be, “…a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations” (Revelation 22: 1-2). And, as a reminder, there is no Temple in the New Jerusalem.
When describing the rebuilt temple, Ezekiel says: “In my vision, the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing east from beneath the door of the Temple and passing to the right of the altar on its south side” (Ezekiel 47:1, italics for emphasis). Notice that the stream (or river) flows from beneath the Temple door; but the river in the New Jerusalem flows from the throne of God.
Then later in this chapter, Ezekiel describes the length and directional flow of this river. Of particular interest is what he saw on both sides of the river: “When I returned, I was surprised by the sight of many trees growing on both sides of the river” (Ezekiel 47:7). Then later in this passage the man (pre-incarnate Christ) showing Ezekiel all of these things states: “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing” (Verse 12). Though there are similarities with the trees of the New Jerusalem (new crop each month and leaves for healing), there are some distinct differences.
In the New Jerusalem there are only two trees, one on each side of the river. And the river flowed down the center of the main street. In Ezekiel, there are (many) “fruit trees of all kinds (that) will grow…” *Note: The river trees of Ezekiel’s Temple will produce fruit for the people of the earth. The fruit of New Jerusalem’s trees will be for the saints who reside in that city. The leaves of all of the these trees will be for healing and medicine, with, I believe, the two trees of the New Jerusalem providing cures for ailments/diseases that even the Temple trees cannot cure! It’s much like the Levitical sacrifice of animals that covered sin, but could not remove it. Only Messiah’s sacrifice was the final cure for sin.
But the most compelling or convincing distinction of all (to demonstrate that these are different rivers and trees) is that the Temple river in Ezekiel flows to the Dead Sea and will make the Dead Sea waters fresh again, with an abundant supply of fish that, “…will fill the Dead Sea, just as they fill the Mediterranean” (Ezekiel 47:10). The Dead Sea will not be relocated to the New Jerusalem!
Rapture of the Church (Body of Christ). This could happen any day now!
Reappearance of the Beast (Antichrist) from the Abyss.
Seven-Year Treaty with Israel, to include reconstruction of the 3rd Temple and reconstitution of the Jewish Levitical Sacrificial System.
Forced cessation of offerings/sacrifices by Antichrist 3 ½ years into the treaty.
Beginning of the Great Tribulation (Times of Jacob’s Troubles) that will last for 3 ½ years.
Triumphant Return of Christ to end the Great Tribulation (Just before or just after will be the desecration of the Temple by Antichrist … see Daniel 12:11).
Complete conquest/victory by Messiah (and the host of heaven) over Antichrist and his enemies that join him. The beast and false prophet will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Confinement of Satan for 1000 years in the Abyss.
Rule and reign of Christ on the earth from Jerusalem, along with all believers.
Release of Satan from the Abyss after 1000 years.
Final battle of all time (Gog/Magog) when God destroys by fire all the nations that come against Jerusalem, led by Satan himself.
Satan thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Great White Throne Judgment of all unbelievers, both dead and alive. They, too, will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
The New Jerusalem descends from heaven.
The advent of Eternity, where all born-again believers with resurrected, glorified bodies will inhabit the New Jerusalem.
Life will continue on the earth, with the Old City of Jerusalem the very center of all life, including worship/sacrifices in the new Temple.
Things to Ponder
Construction for Solomon’s Temple and the 2nd Temple both began on the 1st day of the Hebrew month Iyar. We are currently in the Hebrew calendar month of Iyar. I’m wondering if work will begin on the future 3rd Temple on this same date. Also, both the 1st and 2nd Temple were destroyed on the 9th day of Av (July-August Roman calendar). But the final temple won’t be destroyed. In fact, during the Millennium (and beyond), the traditional fasts and times of mourning will be no more. Thus, for example, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) will become exclusively a day of celebration much like Passover and Tabernacles are now. (See Zechariah 8: 18-19).