The request reads: “Children wanted for Future Temple service. Ultra-orthodox Jewish sect is searching for parents willing to hand over newborn sons to be raised in isolation and purity in preparation for the rebuilding of the biblical temple in Jerusalem. Only members of the Jewish priestly caste, the Kohanim need apply…”
Words from an ancient scroll discovered in a recent archeological dig? Or perhaps an excerpt from a Hollywood screenplay for some biblical epic? Actually, those words appeared in the contemporary Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.1
Concerns and conflicts that might seem ancient and antiquated to westerners are, in fact, current events in the Middle East. And no subject is more controversial or fraught with more emotional TNT than rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.
A recent poll conducted by the Panels Institute in Israel revealed that almost two thirds of today’s Israeli Jews want to see the Temple in Jerusalem rebuilt. Commenting on the poll, Rabbi Danny Draper said, “We are a nation with a remarkable historic affinity. The Temple was destroyed 1,942 years ago, and almost two thirds of the population want to see it rebuilt, including 47% of seculars” (click here to read more about this).
Much of the attention to this poll came as a result of the recent observance of Tisha B’av, the ninth day of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar (which corresponded this year with July 30.) According to tradition, this day marks the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem. It is a day of great mourning, especially for religious Jews.
If you have ever been to Israel you have probably seen the familiar 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 Islam; both are built on top of the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah—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, thousands of religious Jews hope and pray and work toward the rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem.
When I think of the Temple, I remember how many of Jesus’ activities and teachings took place in and around that holy site. It was the subject of some of his most controversial comments:
“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).
Jesus used the Temple to predict His own death and resurrection but He also clearly predicted the destruction of the actual building (Matthew 24:1-2). Titus and his Roman legions fulfilled that prediction as they marched into Jerusalem, destroying not only the Temple but also the entire city.
Thousands of Jews had placed their faith in Yeshua before that national tragedy. Thousands more who survived it trusted Him; yet most did not. And so it remains to this day.
Eventually the Temple ceased to be a daily concern for the majority of Jewish people. 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. Within ten days, Moshe Dayan took down the Israeli flag and returned the Temple Mount to Muslim control. To Dayan and other secular military leaders, the site was a relic of the past; it represented potential conflict with Islam and was more of a political liability than anything else. However, as the recent poll indicates, many Jews today feel quite differently about that “little” piece of real estate.
The Jewish hope to see the Temple in Jerusalem rebuilt was never extinguished; the 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 eighteenth benediction from the Shmoneh Esre, has been on the lips of Jewish people for 2,000 years.
What is the traditional Jewish belief concerning the Temple, and how does it compare with what the Bible says? The rabbis teach that the First Temple was destroyed because of Israel’s sin of idolatry and that the Second Temple was destroyed because of “hatred without cause.”
The belief concerning the destruction of the First Temple is clearly connected to Deuteronomy 4:15-40. Yet concerning the Second Temple, there is not much clarity as to what is meant by “hatred without cause.”
When Jesus predicted the destruction of the Second Temple, He gave a reason. As He wept over Jerusalem, he cried, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).
What does that phrase mean, “because you did not know the time of your visitation,” except that Jerusalem, the Jewish people, did not recognize the Messiah, the Prince of Peace? I believe that Jesus was clear concerning the destruction of the Second Temple; it was directly related to those who rejected Him as the Jewish Messiah.
Israel has a day, Tisha B’av, to mourn the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem. I think it is appropriate for believers in Jesus, and especially Jewish believers, to take that same day to mourn that our Jewish people “did not know the time of your visitation.” As we intercede for the salvation of the Jewish people, we are positively identifying with the hope that God has for them, and for all people.
Is there a rebuilt Temple in Israel’s future? The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament both refer to that Temple, and to tragic events that will occur there in the last days. First the prophet Daniel, and then Jesus (referring to Daniel’s prophecy) warned people about “the abomination that causes desolation standing in the holy place” (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14).
Daniel predicts a terrible time of tribulation beginning with a peace treaty signed between Israel and the Antichrist. Perhaps the treaty will actually clear the way for the rebuilding of the Temple. Anyone who could facilitate such a momentous accomplishment would be sure to win the respect and trust of many Jewish people worldwide. But whatever respect and trust the treaty engenders will soon be betrayed. This betrayal will be manifested in such an insidious manner that Daniel can only describe it as the “abomination.”
The fact that nearly two thirds of today’s Israeli Jews hope to see the Temple rebuilt should give us pause, should cause us to be circumspect about the times in which we live. 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. But the saying holds true: it is darkest just before dawn. The Bible prophesies Israel’s dramatic rescue by the same One who declared, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
Yeshua, Jesus, will fulfill every hope that Israel could have and more. He is greater than the Temple and one day soon He will return to Jerusalem and put an end to all desolation and distress. In that day, all of Israel, and in fact the whole world, will realize their need for Him. No one will miss that day of visitation. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.
- INS News Headlines March 2, 1998 (back to top)