The third Jewish temple has been in the planning stage for three decades. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem has completed all its furnishings with the exception of the Ark of the Covenant for which they claim to know the location of the original one. The institute is currently training Levites to serve as priests in the temple.
On its Facebook page, the Temple Institute just announced a major development in its quest to find the perfect red heifer necessary for the cleansing sacrifice of the next temple. Judging from the live video that I am watching as I write, it appears that five red heifers vying for perfection have arrived in Israel amid much excitement. We live in amazing times!
The government of Israel is also preparing for the completion of the third temple. Consider the quote below from an article on the Israel 365 News website:
Israel is upgrading its already impressive international airport. The government is also working on a railway infrastructure that will bring international travelers directly from the airport to the Temple Mount. This will enable all 70 nations to come to worship God in Jerusalem’s House of prayer, a vision that the government has already hinted is their true intention.[i]
The Israeli government plans to have this train in operation by the time of Passover in April 2023, which is about the time that red heifers that arrived in Jerusalem will start reaching the age of two years and one day. This is the minimum age a red heifer must be in order to be sacrificed for the temple cleansing.
Are all these things relevant to scriptural prophecies regarding the last days? Absolutely! They all point to the fulfillment of biblical prophecies concerning the construction of the third temple, which is a biblical necessity. It must happen in order to fulfill scriptural prophecy.
Lest you think I’m crazy for putting it that strongly, please allow me to build my case.
Daniel’s Prophecy Regarding the Desecration of a Future Temple
In Daniel 9:24-27, the prophet lays out a timeframe of seventy weeks of years that God had determined to fulfill His purposes for the nation of Israel. Verse 27 describes a significant event that occurs during the last “week,” or final period of seven years:
“And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
Daniel 12:11 also refers to this time when “the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up.”
The Lord, though the prophet Daniel, tells us that a future prince will make a seven-year agreement with Israel, and at the halfway point of the covenant, he will desecrate the temple in Jerusalem. He will put an end to animal sacrifices, which will have started during the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week.
If you doubt that there will be another temple with sacrifices, please know that the Israeli government envisions religious Jews with “vegetable and animal sacrifices” riding the train to the Temple.[ii]
The nation of Israel is not only preparing to get travelers from the Ben Gurion Airport to the future temple, but it’s also making provisions to get the sacrifices there as well.
Jesus Placed the Temple Desecration in the Future
How do we know Daniel’s prophecy did not already happen in history? How can we be sure that there’s a lengthy gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week?
Almost four centuries after the time of Daniel, Antiochus Epiphanes came to power in BC 170. He later desecrated the second Jewish temple by setting up idols in it and by offering pigs on its altar.
Although the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes may have foreshadowed what the prophet wrote about, it was not it. We know this because Jesus, in Matthew 24:15, referred to the fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 as a still future event:
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)…”
About two hundred years after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, Jesus said that the fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 would happen in the future. He also predicted that it would lead to severe persecution of the Jewish people during a time of “great tribulation” on the earth (Matthew 24:16-21).
Roughly forty years after Jesus spoke those words, a Roman general named Titus destroyed the second Jewish Temple along with much of Jerusalem. This set off a persecution of the Jewish populace that resulted in the deaths of a great many.
Did Titus fulfill Daniel’s prophecy regarding the “abomination of desolation?” No, he did not. We know this because of a key detail that the Apostle Paul adds to the prophetic fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15.
Jesus Himself Will Destroy the Desolator at His Second Coming
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul identifies the one who will desecrate the temple as the “man of lawlessness,” or the one we refer to today as the “antichrist.”
“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
The apostle tells us here that the coming desolator will be blasphemous against the Lord, sit in the “temple of God,” and “proclaim himself to be God.” Then he adds one essential detail about the one that will commit Daniel’s “abomination of desolation:” The Lord Jesus Himself will kill him at His Second Coming:
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
At His return to earth, Jesus will destroy the man that fulfills Daniel’s prophecy in 9:27. Since the Lord did not kill Titus, nor did the Second Coming happen during the Roman general’s lifetime, he cannot be the one who fulfilled this prophecy as the desolator of the temple.
The Apostle John Witnessed the Desolator’s Future Demise as Predicted by Paul
In Revelation 13:6, John tells us that the coming beast, whom we today identify as the antichrist, will open “its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling.” This is the guy of Daniel’s prophecy (9:27 and 11:36) as well as the one Jesus referred to in Matthew 24:15. He is the “man of lawlessness” of 2 Thessalonians 2.
In Revelation 19:19-20, John provides an eyewitness of the future destruction of this future beast that will desecrate the Jewish temple:
“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.”
Just as the Apostle Paul prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Jesus Himself will destroy the “desolator” of Daniel 9:27 at His Second Coming. He will cast him into the lake of fire.
No one has ever fulfilled all that we know about Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” from Matthew 24:15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8.
The Witness of Irenaeus (AD 130-202)
Irenaeus, an early church leader, bishop in Lyons, France, and prominent theologian, wrote Against Heresies in AD 180 to combat the spread of Gnosticism in the early church. He was born in Smyrna and received his training in the faith by Polycarp, whom the Apostle John himself discipled.
In Against Heresies, book 5, chapter 30, section 4, Irenaeus wrote these words:
“But when the antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple in Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous times of the kingdom….”[iii]
This direct quote from Irenaeus reveals significant details about his beliefs regarding the desecration of a future temple:
- Irenaeus, writing 110 years after Titus destroyed the second temple, believed that there would be another temple in Jerusalem.
- Irenaeus said that the antichrist would “sit in the temple in Jerusalem,” just as Paul said he would do in 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
- Irenaeus predicted that Jesus Himself would destroy the antichrist at His Second Coming, exactly as Paul prophesied and as John witnessed in Revelation 19:20.
Although Irenaeus believed that God had rejected Israel, he nonetheless asserted that there would be a third temple in Jerusalem, which the antichrist would someday defile. I cannot explain such a glaring contradiction, but I believe the words of Daniel 12:9-13 shed light on it. There the prophet said that the understanding of the prophecies regarding the last days would greatly increase when that time arrives, which is now.
Although Irenaeus’ words are not Scripture, it’s highly significant that a highly respected second-century AD theologian believed there would be a third temple in Jerusalem in which the antichrist would sit and defile.
Scripture Tells us There Must be a Third Jewish Temple
The above evidence for the biblical necessity of a third Jewish temple in Jerusalem finds its basis in the words of Scripture. If the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture apply to the words written by its many human authors, and that’s most certainly the case, then we know that God’s purposes for Israel and Jerusalem remain intact; there absolutely must be a third Jewish temple in Jerusalem by the midpoint of the Tribulation.
In addition, since a key event in the seventieth week of Daniel remains unfulfilled to this day, that signifies that the entire time frame of the prophet’s last week of years awaits a future fulfillment. We have not reached the completion of the Lord’s purpose that He determined for the seventy weeks of years, as Daniel wrote about in 9:24:
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place” (Daniel 9:24).
God’s ultimate purposes for both the people of Israel and Jerusalem are still in play. At the end of the seventieth week, the Lord will “bring in everlasting righteousness” with His return to earth and the setting up of His thousand-year reign over all the nations of the world.
Since God’s purposes for the nation of Israel, as laid out in Daniel 9:24, remain unfulfilled, there remains a future for the Jewish people and the restoration of a glorious kingdom to them.
What Does This Mean for Us Today?
Since the seventieth week of Daniel is all about God wrapping up the purposes that He revealed in Daniel 9:24 (and we see this time rapidly approaching), this tells us that Jesus’ appearing for His church is ever so close.
This seven-year period is all about Israel and Jerusalem, not the church. The Rapture must happen before this time begins since it’s then that God’s focus turns once again to Israel.
A Welsh Baptist preacher named Morgan Edwards, who lived 1722-1795, wrote about his belief in a pretribulation Rapture:
I say, somewhat more—, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s “appearing in the air” (I Thess. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many “mansions in the father’s house” (John xiv. 2) and disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints; for “now the time is come that judgment must begin,” and that will be “at the house of God” (I Pet. iv. 17).[iv]
A century later, John Darby, like Morgan Edwards, initially believed that the Tribulation would last three and a half years, the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week. However, as he studied the differences between the church and Israel, he then placed Jesus’ appearing before the antichrist’s covenant with Israel. He realized that the church did not belong in any part of the seventieth week of Daniel.
All these things tell us that we are very close to the fulfillment of Jesus’s promise in John 14:2-3:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
He’s coming for us just as He said, and He will take us to the place He’s preparing for us. This is the future tense of the Gospel. Jesus will not break His promise.
In the meantime, hold the words of Philippians 3:12-4:1 close to your heart and never forget that when Jesus appears, we will appear with Him in glory (not from on the earth):
“When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).
My book, The Triumph of the Redeemed-An eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times, is available on Amazon. In it, I lay a firm biblical foundation for our hope in Jesus’ soon appearing to take us home.
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[i] Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Ben Gurion Gearing Up To Bring All 70 Nations Straight From The Airport To Third Temple, September 7, 2022 @ https://www.israel365news.com/274549/ben-gurion-gearing-up-to-bring-all-70-nations-straight-from-the-airport-to-third-temple/
[iii] Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols., Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 560.
[iv] Morgan Edwards, Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the Following Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties (Philadelphia: Dobson and Lang, 1788), p. 7.