Does a Third Temple have to be built in order for Yeshua (Jesus) to return? What does the Bible really say about this topic in proper context?
LET THE WORD OF GOD SPEAK:
By Pastor Carl Gallups with Hebrew word study by Messianic Rabbi Zev Porat
The issue of a “rebuilt third temple” in Jerusalem upon the Temple Mount in the last days should actually be broken into two categories of discussion: 1. The view of Orthodox Jews (they deny Jesus is the Christ and that the New Testament is also the Word of God), and 2. The clear teaching of God’s word concerning the matter of a literal third temple.
In regard to number one, there can be no doubt that a certain segment of the orthodox Jews are desirous of building another Temple (However, not all orthodox Jews desire for a temple to be built). They would want a temple built because they believe that “messiah” won’t come until they build a temple for him. Remember, they flatly reject that Jesus IS Messiah – and nowhere does Jesus say he needs, desires, or even prophesied that a third temple would be built before His second coming.
In regard to the second category of “What does the Bible clearly say about the notion of a ‘third rebuilt temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount?” – that’s what the remainder of this article is focused upon. What you read may shock you.
The treatise that follows does not discount the possibility of a third temple being rebuilt in Jerusalem. Nor does it insist that some type of “sacrificial” system will not be re-instituted in Israel before the return of the Lord. Rather, the study is to conclusively demonstrate that the Bible does not clearly “insist” that a literal third temple will be built on the Temple Mount in the days before the return of Jesus.
Can one draw inferences from the scriptures for a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem? Yes. However, can one point to a chapter(s) and verse(s) wherein the subject is clearly spelled out, prophesied, and declared as a definitive certainty? No. And that is the point. And it is an important point because it goes to the dogmatism of the matter that is displayed in many circles of modern eschatology.
Following are biblical, contextual answers to questions about the “necessity” (or lack thereof) of a rebuilt and literal temple in Jerusalem in the last days. We will begin with the New Testament documents because this is where eschatology culminates in its most complete form, and with the most definitive statements of end time events. The only three fairly direct New Testament references that might even suggest the possibility of a rebuilt, and third, temple in Jerusalem in the end times are in Matthew 24, Revelation 11, and 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
But as you will soon see, these certainly are not definitive statements declaring that there must be a literal temple-building complex built in Jerusalem before the return of the Lord. We hope this gives you some good, solid, biblical considerations to ponder.
The Two Greek Words For “Temple”
There are two Greek words which are rendered Temple: the one (hieron) signifies “the whole compass of the sacred enclosure, including the outer courts, porches, porticoes, and other buildings subordinated to the Temple itself;” the other (naos) is the Temple itself, the house of God, the Holy and Holy of Holies. When it is said that Christ taught the people in the Temple, the first of these words is used; and it may be supposed that in one of the porches or courts of the sanctuary our Lord carried on His teaching. But when Zacharias is described as going into the Temple, the word is the second (naos). [From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers – entry for Revelation 11:1ff]
As you will soon see: The Greek word “naos” is also used quite frequently in the New Testament in the symbolic sense of “the Church” or the “body of Christ” – which is the only “new temple” ever directly and precisely mentioned in the scriptures.
But … Isn’t the New Testament clear on this issue of a rebuilt temple?
Revelation 11 might be about a “third temple,” however those verses do not actually say it is a “rebuilt” or “restored” or “third temple.” The Greek word used for “temple” in Rev. 11 (Strong’s 3485 – naos) is the same Greek word used throughout Revelation for the “temple in Heaven.” This is the only way the word is used in Revelation until we get to chapter 11 – so we have to ask, “Why wouldn’t it be used the very same way here as well?” The answer is that it almost “has” to be used in the same way – because John does not change the context of the use of the word – at all.
The word “temple” is used twice in Revelation before Chapter 11:1. Both times, it is used to speak of the temple in Heaven. Starting in Rev. 11:19 the word is used 15 more times by the end of the book. Every single one of those times it is used in the context of the “temple in Heaven.” The Grk. word used is always naos. The Greek word naos is also used over a dozen times in the New Testament in the symbolic sense – speaking of a person’s heart, or the body of Christ (the Church). It can also mean simply “a temple, or shrine – of any kind.” (See http://biblehub.com/greek/3485.htm)
NASB Translation of Naos: shrines (1), temple (42), temple sanctuary (1), temples (1).
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
From a primary naio (to dwell); a fane, shrine, temple — shrine, temple.
However, in the rest of the N.T., including John’s other writings (Gospel of John and 1,2,3 John), another GK word is used ( Strong’s 2411 – Heiron – http://biblehub.com/greek/2411.htm) when speaking of the actual temple edifice existing in Jesus’ day. Every other time John uses naos in any of his writings he is referring to a symbolic temple, or to the temple in Heaven – every single time – including the entirety of the book of Revelation.
The following four scholarly affirmations of the above truths are from several often-quoted commentaries. There are many more reliable commentaries that say the same thing – but you will get the idea from these:
…The whole scene [Rev. 11] is laid in heaven, and the temple that is measured is the heavenly temple (11:19; 15:5). We have only to compare this vision with the parallel vision of a measuring-reed seen by Ezekiel (ch. 40), in which the prophet is commanded to measure—surely not the city which it is stated had been demolished fourteen years previously, but the city of the future seen by the prophet in vision (Salmon: 1904, 238).
Salmon, George. 1904. Introduction to the New Testament. London, England: John Murray.
The gist of the measurement is the preservation of the true, invisible Church, the Church within the Church; and everything necessary to the worship—Temple, altar, worshippers—all are reserved.
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers (Rev. 11:1)
A proper representation of the church of God and his true worship, and of such as were true worshippers of him. The reason, it seems, of St. John’s being commanded to measure the inner court and the temple was, to show that during all this period there were some true Christians, who conformed to the rule and measure of God’s word and worship.
Benson’s Commentary (Rev. 11:1)
God will have a temple and an altar in the world, till the end of time. He looks strictly to his temple. The holy city, the visible church, is trodden under foot; is filled with idolaters, infidels, and hypocrites. But the desolations of the church are limited, and she shall be delivered out of all her troubles.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (Rev. 11:1)
NOT A SETTLED ISSUE
This issue is admittedly a difficult one, but it certainly is not a “settled” issue as so many frequently insist.
Our fullest revelation of “last things,” is unarguably disclosed to us in the New Testament and particularly through the teachings of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John. They draw upon the Old Testament prophecies and imagery of the last days – therefore, they should certainly have given us the very latest information concerning the end times, and particularly the “rebuilding” of any “Last Days third temple.”
From the New Testament we are certain of the following things:
1. Nowhere in the New Testament does any writer, or speaker, ever directly address the “rebuilding of a third literal temple building on the Temple Mount.”
This fact is no small issue. Those who insist that a literal third temple must be rebuilt in the last days before Jesus returns almost always insist on a “literal” interpretation of other last days prophecies.” Yet…when we get to the New Testament – where there is not a single discussion of a literal rebuilding of a third temple in the last days – a “mystical” interpretation has to be employed. Certainly, this is a stark inconsistency in biblical interpretation.
When one considers that the book of Revelation has the most descriptive explanation of the figure of the Antichrist and his oppressive and destructive agenda aimed toward the “saints,” one has to ask, “Why is there not a single mention, in Revelation’s section on the Antichrist and his last days terrorism, of a third temple – on the temple mount, in downtown Jerusalem through which he sets up the abomination and then causes the sacrifices there to cease?” One would assume that if this was going to be such a defining feature of the very last days in Israel before the return of Jesus, that the book of Revelation would have at least mentioned it in some clear fashion – yet it does not – not in a single verse, anywhere.
2. The only direct discussion in the New Testament about a “temple” being “built” (the only one) is when Paul and Peter teach about the “body of Christ” being built into a “new temple” with Jesus as the cornerstone and the believers as the building blocks. The only places where Jesus is quoted as “building a new temple” is His reference to building the church – after His resurrection (examples – John 2:19 & Mark 14:58).
3. When most (some say all) of the NT documents were written, the Second Temple was still standing. It was not destroyed until 70 AD. When that happened, it would have been a traumatic, empire-wide, cataclysmic event – especially among the Jews and early Christians. Yet the topic is never so much as hinted at in the NT documents, except that Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24 that it would happen.
Furthermore, if the book of Revelation was written after 70 AD (in the 90s), that would mean there was no temple in Jerusalem, and had not been one there for over 20 years. If that were the case, again, why does Revelation not plainly state there would be yet another heiron built on the Temple Mount? If that were to be the actual case, surely John would have made a big deal of it in Revelation – don’t you think? This would be especially true since there would have been no temple in Jerusalem when John wrote and distributed this Revelation. Yet, it is never mentioned – not a single time.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOOK OF DANIEL – AND JESUS’ REFERENCE TO THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION?
When Jesus refers to Daniel (in Matthew 24:15), and the abomination of desolation “standing in the holy place” – some people say that this is where Jesus actually does hint at a rebuilt temple – since He refers us to passages in Daniel wherein a rebuilt temple is supposedly mentioned. But there are several huge problems with this interpretation.
One naturally thinks of the temple or the holy city and its environs, but a “holy place” in the prophetic style might mean the holy land.
The Expositor’s Greek Commentary
Standing in the holy place – Mark says, standing where it ought not,” meaning the same thing. All Jerusalem was esteemed “holy,” Matthew 4:5. The meaning of this is, when you see the Roman armies standing in the holy city or encamped around the temple, or the Roman ensigns or standards in the temple. Josephus relates that when the city was taken, the Romans brought their idols into the temple, and placed them over the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there, “Jewish Wars,” b. 6 chapter 6, section 1. Benson’s Notes on the Bible
[Yahweh] will again suffer the holy place to be polluted by the abominable armies of the Romans, who shall make the holy place desolate, which was prophesied by the prophet Daniel as well as the former. Therefore, saith our Saviour, when you see the Roman armies pitch their tents before Jerusalem, be you then assured God will give Jerusalem into their hands, and then all that I have foretold shall come to pass. Matthew Poole’s Commentary
There are only three passages in the book of Daniel that refer to the “abomination of desolation.” They are found at Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. To say that these passages contain definitive statements about a literal, rebuilt, third temple, in downtown Jerusalem on the Temple Mount – is very problematic. Let’s examine each:
“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” NIV
a. The passage in Daniel 9:27 makes no mention of a temple being rebuilt. The word “temple” has been placed in brackets in some translations because it has been added those particular English versions. The KJV does not have the word “temple” in brackets. Why? The word is not in the original text of Daniel.
b. Daniel 9:27 does not even have the word “temple” in it – in the original Hebrew. It only says he will set up the abomination on a “wing.” Think of it – when Daniel is given this prophecy, there is no temple in Jerusalem. It had been destroyed by the Babylonians. So, when he speaks of the abomination being set up (somewhere), if it were a literal rebuilt and 3rd Temple – why would Daniel not have clearly said that?
The Hebrew word for wing is kanaph. That word has no direct connection whatsoever to a temple in the Hebrew lexicon. To say it is a “wing of the temple” or “at the temple” is a pure conjecture on the part of the translator or teacher/preacher. The word kanaph is used in no other passage of scripture to refer to a “wing” of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Scholars have debated for 2,000 years what this passage in Daniel might mean. So, if you see the word “temple” in a certain English translation or commentary, it has been added by the translators – reflecting their translation bias. It is not in the Hebrew texts.
Kanaph – OT:3671
An edge or extremity; specifically (of a bird or army) a wing, (of a garment or bed-clothing) a flap, (of the earth) a quarter, (of a building) a pinnacle:
(New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
This word is never associated with the Temple of God anywhere else in scripture.
“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.” NIV
A very specific Hebrew word is used here where some English translations render it as “temple.” The Hebrew word is a “generic” word that does not directly translate to “temple” (THE KJV never translates it that way) – but rather as a consecrated place or sanctuary (generic). It actually can be used as a sanctuary of the LORD, but that is not the main use of the word. It can also be used to denote a pagan “holy place” or “sanctuary.” The Hebrew word used here is miqdash.
OT:4720 – miqdash (mik-dawsh’); or miqqedash (Ex 15:17) (mik-ked-awsh’); from OT:6942; a consecrated thing or place, especially, a palace, sanctuary (whether of Jehovah or of idols) or asylum.
KJV TRANSLATIONS – chapel, hallowed part, holy place, sanctuary. (But never as “temple”)
(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.” NIV
There is no mention of a temple or sanctuary. Only that “sacrifices” (not specified what kind of sacrifices or exactly where they are being offered) are done away with. The term “daily sacrifices” in the original Hebrew usually mean the “sacrifices offered in Jewish rituals – in the Jewish Temple,” but the word does not have to have that specific connotation. Again, when Daniel was written, there was no temple standing in Jerusalem – so it stands to reason that the “daily sacrifices” referred to here are not those in a Jewish temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem. If it did mean that, why would Daniel omit a prophecy about a rebuilt third temple in the last days? Daniel never mentions a “third temple structure in Jerusalem” in the last days before the return of Jesus Christ – never.
CONSIDER THE TIMELINE OF DANIEL:
When Daniel was taken into captivity, and during the entirety of his life thereafter – there was no temple in Jerusalem, the Babylonians had destroyed it.
But, Daniel is shown the days when Jerusalem would be “rebuilt” by a “decree.” We know this happened under the Persian Empire – after Daniel’s death. A temple was rebuilt during that time – it was Zerubbabel’s Temple. That temple was eventually completed by Herod in the New Testament days – but, as per Jesus’ own prophecy in Matthew 24, that temple was also completely destroyed – by the Romans in 70 AD.
When Daniel speaks of the abomination of desolation, he is referring to the very last days – the time of the end. He is very explicit about the timing of that appearance. Yet, even though Daniel speaks of some kind of a “sacrifice,” in some kind of a “holy place” or “sanctuary,” he does not directly specify where this is taking place, or that it is a rebuilt and literal third temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
We can only speculate on what all this might be – until the time of the end and its ultimate fulfillment. I am convinced that the last days generation will see it, and understand it completely.
Until then, I do not believe we can be dogmatic about any specific interpretation that “must” happen before the Lord returns regarding a literal third temple heiron on the temple mount in Jerusalem.
EXAMINING JESUS’ WORDS ABOUT THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION:
When we examine Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:15, as translated from the Greek to English we find:
- The words translated “standing in the holy place” as presented in most English translations of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:15 – do not include the word “the” in the original Greek manuscripts. It was added by the English translators. So – it does not have to speak of a “certain” Holy Place (i.e. the temple in Jerusalem) – but it could just as easily been translated (with proper Greek grammar rules) “standing in a holy place” or “the holy place erected by the lawless one,” (which matches the Hebrew word Miqdash in the Daniel passages of a potentially “generic” holy place or sanctuary).
- The Matthew passage also has Jesus warning “Let the reader understand.” So, apparently, even Jesus was hinting that the ultimate fulfillment would not be as “cut and dry” as some are trying to make it read today – but would become obvious to those who will actually see whatever Jesus was literally speaking of.
- Since this is the only reference that can be applied to Jesus’ words in the New Testament concerning the possibility of a “rebuilt temple,” it falls flat on its face as a “definitive” statement from Jesus on the matter. There simply is no such definitive and clear reference from Jesus. Jesus is our “ultimate revelation” of all things (including end time events) and yet He never directly mentions a rebuilt and third temple edifice in Jerusalem.
FACT: Jesus only definitively speaks of the destruction of the second temple, and also the “rebuilding” of the “temple” (the Church) after His resurrection.
BACK TO THE NEW TESTAMENT REVELATIONS ON THIS TOPIC
Neither Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, Jude, James, the writer of Hebrews (who speaks prolifically about the temple), Matthew, Mark, or Luke – ever engage in a direct, clear, discussion or prophecy about the rebuilding of a “third temple” on the temple mount in downtown Jerusalem just before Jesus returns. That discussion simply does not exist anywhere in the New Testament (or Old Testament).
As monumental as this event would be (prophetically and otherwise) if it were to literally occur, isn’t it a bit odd that not a single writer or speaker anywhere in the Bible even so much as mentioned it directly, clearly, and pointedly?
All of this is not to dogmatically declare that a temple will not be re-built. But, it is to say that you cannot take a verse like that found in Revelation 11 or even 2 Thess. 2:4 and say “this is that,” when even the scriptures themselves don’t clearly say “this is that.” And especially when Jesus Himself never says specifically says that.
By the way, in every single mention of the temple in the writings of Paul or Peter, they speak of the temple that is “being built” as the Body of Christ which, by implication, would include the last days. The only possible exception to this might be 2 Thessalonians 2:4 [see verse below] – so we cannot say with a certainty that 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is definitively speaking of a rebuilt third temple in downtown Jerusalem.
Since every other use of the word “temple,” by Paul, is about the Body of Christ (the Church), we have to assume that the 2 Thess. 2:4 reference is related to the Body of Christ as well. If it were not meant to be taken that way, Paul would have had to tell us that he was now changing “context” of the meaning of the word “temple” from every single other time he used it in his writings. But, he does not tell us that. I contend the reason is because Paul assumed his original audience would have been fully aware of his preaching and teaching on this matter – as outlined in all of his other uses of the word “temple.”
Peter (the first “pastor/preacher” of the new Church in Jerusalem) also teaches this very same truth – while never mentioning the rebuilding of a literal third Temple edifice in the last days:
I Peter 2:4-5
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house [ also translated temple of the Holy Spirit] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
EVERY INSTANCE OF THE WORD “TEMPLE” IN PAUL’S WRITINGS
Ephesians 2:19 – 22
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
1 Cor. 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1 Cor. 3:17 If any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the Temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
2 Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
2 Cor. 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
2 Thess. 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God shewing himself that he is God.
(See the passages above for Paul’s use of “temple of God” as the Body of Christ. Prior to 2 Thess. 2:4 the only use of the word “temple” by Paul was always defined as the Church, or the Body of Christ, or the born again believer. Why would he suddenly change the context, without explanation, in 2 Thessalonians, while at the same time using the very same word and phrase?)
While it may be a potentiality that a literal third temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem will be an actual occurrence in last days’ fulfillment – one certainly cannot make that case from the New Testament.
There is no passage in the New Testament that directly states a third literal temple will be rebuilt in the last days in Jerusalem. That discussion simply does not exist. And, it is the same for the Old Testament.
LISTEN TO AN IN-DEPTH TEACHING ON THIS topic by Pastor Carl Gallups using the OT and NT passages that deal with the issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFWHwML9Leo