If you have been to Israel, no doubt you’ve seen the famous view of Jerusalem from the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. There, glistening in the sun, is the golden Dome of the Rock, and just to the south, the plainer looking El-Aksa Mosque. Both are recognized as holy sites for the religion of Islam. Both were built on top of Mount Moriah—the Temple Mount—which is the only truly holy site in all of Judaism. There, Solomon built the First Temple some 3,000 years ago. There, Ezra rebuilt the Second Temple 2,500 years ago. And there today thousands of religious Jews pray at the Western Wall, hoping for the rebuilding of what would be the Third Temple in Jerusalem. That Western Wall is also known as the Wailing Wall, as it has traditionally been a place of weeping and mourning over the destruction of the Temple.
A little known Jewish holy day ties in with the idea of the Wailing Wall. Though largely ignored by most Jewish people, this traditional day of mourning is called Tisha B’Av, which simply means the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. This year it corresponded with July 25-26. Though not a biblically mandated holy day, it commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Rabbis declared it to be a day of mourning, of fasting and for some, it remains a time to hope and long for the day when the Temple may yet be rebuilt.
While little attention is paid this day of mourning, a great deal of fascination is still stirring over this ancient sanctuary. Although recent speculation in America over “blood moons” seemed to have come to naught, and the enthusiasm some fans had for the television series “Dig” (a suspense story touching on matters concerning the Temple) ended with one short season, many people still wonder if there is anything more than history attached to the Temple Mount.
Jesus had a lot to say about the Temple. Many of His activities and teachings took place in and around that edifice. He made some of his most controversial comments at the site: “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:19–21).
By identifying Himself with the Temple, Jesus claimed to fulfill the very purpose of that Temple. In one brief, yet profound, statement He announced that He was the very presence of God, once so evident in the Temple. In addition to foretelling His own death and Resurrection, Jesus also clearly predicted the destruction of the Second Temple (Mark 13:2). Titus and his Roman legions fulfilled that prediction in 70 AD. Since Jesus had already fulfilled the purpose of the Temple, and the Romans leveled it, much of the church has concluded that the Temple has no further significance and should be of little concern for Christians today.
Nor is the Temple a concern for the majority of Jewish people today. On June 7, 1967, Israeli troops moved into the Old City and took control of the Temple Mount. For the first time in some 2,000 years, Jews were in a position to rebuild the Temple. Some ten days later, Moshe Dayan took down the Israeli flag and returned the Temple Mount to Muslim control. To Israel’s secular military leaders, the Temple Mount represented a political liability, a tinderbox of potential violence and conflict with Islam, a relic of the past that must be sacrificed to keep peace.
Yet the hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem has never been completely extinguished. Daily synagogue prayers have kept that hope alive. “Be pleased, Lord our God, with Thy people Israel and with their prayer. Restore the worship of Thy most holy sanctuary.” This prayer, as articulated in the 18th benediction from the Shmoneh Esre, has been on the lips of Jewish people for 2,000 years.
Will that prayer be answered? Is there a rebuilt Temple in Israel’s future? Are Bible prophecies yet to be fulfilled concerning the Temple? While many of my Christian friends think not, I believe the Bible does speak of a future Temple in Jerusalem.
The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament both refer to that Temple, and to tragic events that will occur there in the last days. Jesus warned, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Mat. 24:15-16). Those who understand this teaching of Scripture will temper their eagerness to see the Temple rebuilt with the realization that it will one day set the stage for Israel’s darkest hour, this abomination of desolation.
But the saying holds true that it is darkest just before dawn. The Bible prophesies the dramatic rescue of Israel by the same One who declared, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” One day Yeshua will return to Jerusalem and put an end to the desolation and despair that is so much a part of the daily experience of those in the Middle East and around the world. In that day, all of Israel, and in fact, the whole world, will realize their need for Him. Once again the Temple will be a place, not only for Jewish people, but for all the nations to come and worship God.
Isaiah saw this vision and declared, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2). What a glorious future when people from every tribe and tongue and nation will come to worship the Lord in His Temple.
Peter got excited about this vision when he told people, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21).
Peter and Isaiah both point to times of refreshing that will come through Jesus, when God restores all things. This is a vision that we can all get excited about, regardless of our end-times views! And the centerpiece of that restoration and refreshing is none other than the Temple in Jerusalem. Now isn’t that a Temple you’d like to visit some day? May it be soon!
David Brickner is also an author, public speaker and avid hiker. Find out more about David, his writings, speaking schedule and possible availability to speak at your church.