Tag Archives: Temple

Ready to Rebuild: The Temple in Scripture

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Ready to Rebuild? The Temple in Scripture from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

On January 8, 2001, former Shin Bet secret service chief Carmi Gillon and former police commissioner Assaf Hefetz together with leading Israeli academics delivered a report to the then, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, detailing their concerns regarding plots by several Jewish extremist groups, to blow up the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Gillon and Hefetz founded Keshev, the Centre for the Protection of Democracy, based in Tel Aviv, after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin. Their report, entitled, ‘Target Temple Mount’ examined current threats to the Temple Mount from extreme militant and Messianic groups. It concluded,

‘The Temple Mount is like a smouldering volcano that is bubbling and threatening to erupt – a threat that is liable to endanger Israel’s existence.’[1]

Six months later, in July 2001, the Rabbinical Council of Judea, Samaria and Gaza reversed the position taken for nearly 2000 years. They called upon all rabbis to take their communities to visit the Temple Mount. This was the first time a group of rabbis representing a significant proportion of the religious Jewish community had ruled it permissible for Jews to ascend the Temple Mount. Previously this had been forbidden because Jews might walk on the area what used to be the sacred holy of holies.

The rabbis also called upon the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements to organise mass visits to the Temple Mount from the settlements.[2] As a result around 500,000 secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered near the Temple Mount at the Western Wall ‘and swore faithfulness to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.’[3] In the same month, July 2001, the Israeli Supreme Court made an equally momentous decision. For the first time ever they gave permission to Gershon Saloman and the Temple Mount Faithful to hold a symbolic cornerstone laying ceremony for the Third Temple near the Dung Gate adjacent to the Western Wall. Every year on Tisha B’Av (29th July), the day when Jews mourn the destruction of the first and second Temples, Salomon and his Faithful drive a lorry carrying three ton corner stones as near as possible to the Temple Mount. In 2006, despite police objections, the Israeli Supreme Court gave them permission to actually enter the area of the Haram Al Sharif on the festival of Tisha B’Av. To pre-empt a massacre, the police closed the site to Jews as well as Muslims for the whole day. Intelligence reports revealed that thousands of Muslims were planning to flock to the site to protect it.[4] On Tisha B’Av in July 2007, in 2008 and yet again this July, Salomon and his disciples have asserted their legal right to hold a ceremony nearby. Salomon’s agenda is clear and unambiguous.

“The Israeli Government must do it. We must have a war. There will be many nations against us but God will be our general. I am sure this is a test, that God is expecting us to move the Dome with no fear from other nations. The Messiah will not come by himself, we should bring him by fighting.”[5]

Since 1967, when Israel took the Temple Mount by force, there have been no less than 100 armed assaults on the Haram Al Sharif often led by Jewish rabbis.[6] An Israeli Arab MP, Mohammed Barakeh described the Israeli High Court’s decision as like putting ‘petrol in the hands of declared pyromaniacs.’  And it seems some Christians  too are convinced the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt. So much so, they are funding Jewish groups committed to removing the Dome of the Rock and replacing it with a Jewish Temple.

But aren’t we just dealing with a small bunch of religious fundamentalists and radical extremists? If only. Millions of Orthodox Jews worldwide pray three times a day “may the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days”. And millions of Christians readily buy books on prophecy that predict it. And it seems, most Israelis, religious and secular, apparently agree.

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Weird and Wacky Theology 2: Will the Jewish Temple be Rebuilt?

This second dose of Weird and Wacky Theology addresses whether the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt. Visit Jews for Jesus website and you can read an article by Zhava Glaser where she asks rhetorically,

“What flour is to bread, the sacrificial system is to the religion revealed in the Jewish Scriptures. It is not a garnish. It is not a flavoring. It is the very substance out of which the Jewish religion was constructed. We can forever design our own substitutes, but they cannot satisfy our yearnings the way God’s own provision can. Though some rabbis might minimize the revealed system of worship and its requirements, can the individual Jew neglect what God says? Can there be a “proper” Judaism without a priesthood, an altar, a sacrifice and a place on earth where God meets the individual?””

For many Orthodox Jews, the answer to these rhetorical questions is clearly ‘no’. They pray three times a day that the Temple will be built in their life time. Some Messianic and Dispensational writers agree. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, for example, writes,

“there will be a sacrificial system instituted in the Millennium that will have some features similar to the Mosaic system… What will the purpose of these sacrifices in light of Christ’s death? To begin with, it should be remembered that the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law did not remove sin either (Heb. 10:4), but only covered them (the meaning of atonement in Hebrew). Its purpose was to serve as a physical and visual picture of what the Messiah would do (Isa. 53:10-12). The Church has been commanded to keep the Lord’s Supper as a physical and visual picture of what Christ did on the cross. God intends to provide for Israel in the kingdom a physical and visual picture of what the Messiah accomplished on the cross. For Israel, however, it will be a sacrificial system instead of communion with bread and wine. The purpose of the sacrificial system in the kingdom will be the same as the purpose of communion of the Church: In remembrance of me.” (Israelology, pp.810-811).

Fruchtenbaum is not alone – he is following the Cyrus Scofield who sees the sacrifices in Ezekiel’s Temple as ‘memorial’ offerings. The problem with this interpretation is that it is not what Ezekiel says! Ezekiel 43:19 says the sacrifice must be a ‘young bull’. O dear…

The idea that the Temple must be rebuilt was popularised by Moishe Rosen. He writes, “…at some point in these stressful days, the ancient Jewish Temple will be rebuilt on the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem… Prophecy foretells the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple and the reinstitution of the sacrifices prescribed in the law of Moses. In a vision of the future Temple, Ezekiel received this word… Some way, somehow, the Temple will be rebuilt, in spite of the fact that two Arab shrines now stand on the only site on earth where this Temple may stand.” (Overture to Armageddon, p. 114).

David Brickner, the present Director of Jews for Jesus also believes this (Future Hope, p. 18). Now before I go any further, let me make it plain, this article is not a criticism of Jews for Jesus. I have invited UK staff of Jews for Jesus to teach in our church and I continue to affirm their evangelistic work – I just don’t agree with the dispensational presuppositions of some of their leaders.

As Fruchtenbaum rightly states, the Temple sacrifices, at best, only ever provided a temporary cover for sin. The daily sacrifices, and the smoke rising from the altar were a constant reminder of the need for a Saviour. How then could God encourage the sacrificial system to be reinstated when he had sent his son Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice, to shed his own blood on the cross to take away our sin? As Glaser rightly concludes her article:

“Isn’t it ironic that it takes the New Testament to tell of the new altar, the everlasting sacrifice and the new high priest through whom gentiles as well as Jews are made holy?”

To suggest, as some Christians do, that sacrifices must be made once more to fulfill Bible prophecy sets one passage of scripture against another, and undermines the New Testament’s teaching that the work of Christ is sufficient, final and complete.

Those who advocate the need for a new Temple and reintroduction of sacrifices (whether for atonement or as a memorial) are nevertheless ignoring the way the image of the Temple is invested with new meaning. Subsequent to Pentecost, the Temple imagery is applied to the Church, the Body of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. For example, Paul, writing to the Church in Ephesus, describes them as part of the new living Temple.

“Consequently, you are … members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy Temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21)

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul quotes from passages in Leviticus and Isaiah, both of which refer to the physical Tabernacle and Temple, and applies them to the Church.

“For we are the Temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’” (2 Corinthians 6:16-17 citing Leviticus 26:12 & Isaiah 52:11)

In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses Temple language to describe how we are to offer, not a dead animal sacrifice but our bodies as living sacrifices as our act of worship (Romans 12:1-2). Peter does the same thing describing the Church using Hebrew imagery associated with the Temple (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16). Christians are, he says, being made into the new house for God, in which Jesus is the ‘precious cornerstone’ (1 Peter 2:5-7).

So the Temple in Jerusalem was only intended to be a temporary building, a shadow pointing to the day when God would dwell with people of all nations through Jesus Christ. The flow of biblical revelation is progressive and moves in one historical direction. Christians who support the rebuilding of the Temple in the belief that future sacrifices will be memorial offerings, or can even atone for sin, are committing apostasy. Why? Because they are trying to reverse the flow of revelation and go back to the shadows when we already have the light of Christ. In the words of the writer to the Hebrews:

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Hebrews 6:4-6).

And that is the final rub. People must choose between a religion and a relationship; between the
words ‘do’ and ‘done’; between law and grace; between the need to offer continual sacrifices for sin or accept the finished work of Jesus Christ in our place; between a physical Temple and a spiritual one; between one in Jerusalem that is redundant and one that encompasses the whole world that is under construction.

For further examples of wacky theology see:

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