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Q. Does the Jewish temple need to be rebuilt before Jesus returns?
A.With the turmoil threatening the already threadbare stability in the Middle East, many Bible commentators are beginning to speculate louder than ever about whether the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in the months and years to come. Entire Christian ministries are established to assist in the building of the temple to hasten the return of Jesus. For many, such an event will signal the start of the final events of earth’s history.
However, in the same way many Christians misplace the focus from spiritual Israel to the literal Jewish nation, they are also confused on the subject of the temple. Most of the speculation for a rebuilt temple springs from a vague reference in 2 Thessalonians 2 dealing with the Antichrist power: “That day shall not come … [until] that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 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” (vs. 3, 4).
Many say that for the Antichrist to sit in the temple, it will obviously have to be rebuilt.
Those who support this belief are known as Christian Zionists, and they include such popular writers as Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and John Hagee. Their published book sales exceed 70 million copies—including the popular Left Behind series. Their beliefs are endorsed by some of the largest theological colleges and institutions.
But are they correct? To begin, let’s go to 1 Chronicles 17:11, 12: “It shall come to pass … that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.” This prophecy given to King David says his offspring will build the temple. Later, in 1 Chronicles 28:6, God reaffirms, “Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts.”
But this text is also one of the clearest examples of a dual prophecy found in Scripture. Dual prophecies have both a physical and spiritual fulfillment. Indeed, Solomon, the son of David, built the physical temple. But this prophecy also applies spiritually to Jesus, the true “Son of David,” who is to build a temple and kingdom that will last forever.
Jesus’ prophecy that the pride of the Jewish nation, the temple, would be destroyed inspired the most intense rejection of His teachings. (See Matthew 24:1, 2.) In Mark 14:58, Jesus says, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.” Of course, Jesus is speaking of rebuilding a temple—not of stone and nails, but of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). Yet many refused to grasp this teaching (John 2:20, 21). They even mocked Jesus on the cross regarding His prophecy (Matthew 27:40).
Yet when Jesus died, the veil in the earthly temple ripped in two from the top to bottom, signifying that the temple no longer held meaning. A temple for sacrifice today would be as useless as it was then, and it would not be the house of God.
The New Testament is replete with the idea that the temple is the body of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19–22 says, “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (See also 1 Peter 2:5.)
Even after God provides all this clear evidence that His temple is a spiritual one, many Christians are waiting for the Jews to receive a construction permit to rebuild a physical temple on the site where a Muslim mosque now sits. However, there is no prophecy, promise, or commandment in the Bible that says the physical temple would ever be rebuilt after the Romans razed it nearly 2,000 years ago.