President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked much talk of the third temple. The people of Israel have already shown great support for a new temple; now the excitement for this is even stronger than before in light of President Trump’s announcements.
Is this renewed anticipation in itself prophetic? Yes it is. Scripture tells us there will be such a temple at least by the midpoint of the coming tribulation. As such, the indicators pointing to its construction tell us that this time is getting closer.
We will start with the prophecy and then explain what it means.
In Matthew 24 Jesus said this about an event that will take place during the tribulation, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place . . ." (v. 15). Here Jesus refers to another prophecy where Daniel tells us that the antichrist will put an end to sacrifices at the temple for the second half of the seventieth week, or the time of tribulation (Dan. 9:27).
Revelation 11:2 records the instructions the apostle John received to measure the temple during the time of the tribulation. It’s curious that the voice tells him not to measure to outer courts of the temple because “it has been given to the Gentiles.” This fits perfectly with the proposed placement of the temple on the temple mount with the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently occupying the place where the outer courts would be.
Based on these prophecies, the Jews will build their third temple before the half-way point of the seven year tribulation. This will happen to fulfill the prophecy of Jesus regarding the antichrist's desolation of the temple.
Has Jesus’ Prophecy Already Happened?
Some believe the prophecies of Matthew 24 happened in 70 AD when Titus and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. They claim this event fulfilled Jesus’ prediction regarding the “abomination of desolation” (v. 15) regarding the temple as well as His second coming, which they believe also happened at that time.
However, this does not take into account the writing of five books of the Bible after 70 AD that do not mention anything about the Lord’s return. The book of Revelation, written in about 95 AD, describes in detail the Lord’s return and the tribulation as future events. This date comes primarily from Irenaeus, who grew up in the church at Smyrna and was mentored in the faith by a disciple of the Apostle John. This timeframe is also confirmed by many internal evidences in Jesus’ messages to the churches in chapters 2-3.
In addition, both the apostle Paul and John refer to Jesus killing the antichrist when He returns (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20). Titus, the Roman general, not only survived destroying the temple, he eventually became emperor over Rome.
There is no mention in history or in church history for that matter of Jesus’ return happening in the first century AD. How could this happen without reference to in the first few centuries of the church? It’s impossible. When Jesus returns to earth, it is something the entire world will witness (Rev. 1:7).
The Preparation for the Third Temple
If the tribulation were to start today, could Israel finish the huge task of constructing the temple in three and a half years? Yes. This is truer today than a decade ago because of all the work that a group in Israel has already done in preparation for its construction.
The Temple Institute spent the last thirty years researching all the many facets of the temple. Consider a few of their preparations:
- They spent $100K on the architectural drawings for the temple; one can even take a virtual tour of the temple design at the Temple Institute website.
- They started a school to train Levites to serve as priests in the new temple.
- They located the perfect red heifer for the purification sacrifice.
- They have constructed several of the furnishings for the temple including the altar.
- After years of research and finding the proper dyes, they have prepared the required garments for the priests and high priest.
A newly constituted Sanhedrin has also appointed a high priest to serve in the new temple. The picture at the top of the post shows him offering a sacrifice on the streets of Jerusalem.
In addition, the transportation department within the government of Israel recently announced it is planning the infrastructure to deal with the large crowds they expect will be coming to the newly constructed temple.
What does this mean in terms of the nearness of the tribulation? It signifies that everything is ready for the building of the third temple as never before in history.
Many believe that the building of the temple will come about as the result of a peace treaty with Israel, perhaps the one initiated by the antichrist. If the covenant were to grant Israel permission to build its temple, t’s a reasonable assumption it could be ready within three and a half years. The Temple Institute recently boasted that once they have the necessary access to the temple mount, they could begin offering sacrifices on the Temple Mount within a matter of weeks.
The early church father Irenaeus wrote about the antichrist defiling a future temple in Jerusalem. In his book Against Heresies, written about 180 AD, he wrote, “But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem.” Isaac Newton, after studying the books of Daniel and Revelation, came to the belief that God would restore Israel as a nation someday and that the antichrist would defile their temple after that.
We now see prophecy coming to life before our eyes. If after all these years we see so much progress toward the building of the temple, can the tribulation be very far away?
And if that is getting ever closer, how much more so Jesus’s return for us!