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The Third Temple Prophecy: What’s Holding Back Its Fulfillment?

Many Christians consider the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and restarting of animal sacrifices not a prophetic sign, but an affront to Christ and the church (the "real" temple?). If you learn what the Book of Hebrews says is the actual purpose of the Temple and sacrifices, the plain prophecies about them coming again will make more sense. Discover what must happen first before Temple construction can begin, what prophecy may bring it, when it happens in relation to the 70th week, and what if anything you should do when you see the Third Temple rebuilt.

No Jewish Temple Since 70 AD

Since AD 70 when a rebel faction inside the Roman army disobeyed orders and destroyed the Holy Temple, the Jews have been without their central place of worship. A sole remaining Temple Mount retaining wall (not a remain of the Temple itself), the Western “Wailing” Wall, has been serving as Judaism's most sacred site in place of the Temple.

For most Christians, the absence of Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount is far from a problem. It is just as it should be, to them. After all, that's a relic of the Old Covenant. Jesus said something about him being the Temple (John 2:21) and didn't Paul say that the church is the Temple of God now (1Co 3:16)? Given those perceptions, most Christians are not expecting another temple to be built or perhaps for God to ever allow it. Especially—God forbid—one with renewed animal sacrifices that Christians imagine as an affront to Jesus' one sacrifice for all time.

But for Jews, both religious and secular, the Holy Temple not only makes sense, a large segment of the population desire it. In a recent survey, one third of secular Jews and 43% of religious Jews were in favor of construction on the Temple Mount. What's more, there is real progress towards making it happen. The Temple Institute and dozens of other organizations are preparing for a Third Temple. They are making the priestly vestments, reconstructing the Temple's past ceremonial objects and furnishings (including the 200 pound golden seven branch menorah) as well as preparing for, yes, a renewal of animal sacrifices.

So who is right about God's will for the Holy Temple, Christianity or Judaism? Will the Holy Temple be rebuilt or is God really against it? What does Bible prophecy say?

Four Holy Temples in the Bible – All Literal

Christians who are against another Temple and renewed animal sacrifices in Jerusalem are probably unfamiliar with how many end time prophecies predict exactly that. Christians mostly just know about the past two temples:

  1. Solomon's Temple (destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II)
  2. Zerubbabel's/Herod's Temple (destroyed by the Romans)

They would be surprised to find out that there are not just one, but two more Holy Temples predicted by the Bible:

  1. The Tribulation Temple (taken over by the Antichrist – 2 Thessalonians 2:4)
  2. Ezekiel/Millennial Temple (built under the Messiah – Ezekiel 40-46; Zechariah 8).

Even Christians who are aware of the passages above often see only one Temple among them, or none (by treating them allegorically).

However, the context of both the Ezekiel and Zechariah Temple prophecies is millennial, making them distinct from the prophecies of an end time Great Tribulation/Antichrist Temple such as Daniel, Revelation and Second Thessalonians describe. Zechariah 6:12-13 names "the Branch" (Christ) as the builder of the Temple. (It's kind of hard for him to do that until the Millennium, after he returns.) Ezekiel spends several chapters detailing the Millennial Temple dimensions, priestly chambers and duties, altar, animal sacrifice schedule and contributions from the people. It's difficult to sweep all that away as allegory.

The Real Purpose of Animal Sacrifices

The reason Christians are tempted to dismiss Temple prophecies in that way is because they do not understand the purpose of the Temple animal sacrifices. Most Christians think they served to take away sin until Christ came or only foreshadowed his sacrifice. Yet, the Book of Hebrews makes it clear that “the blood of bulls and goats never could take away sin” (Heb 10:4). It gives the true purpose of the sacrifices as being a “reminder of sin” (Heb 10:3).

In other words, God in his love gave us forgetful humans helpful object lessons about sin through these sacrifices. As long as humans remain fallible as we are, we can benefit from both the foreshadowing in past sacrifices and the "back-shadowing" (if you will) in future sacrifices at the Holy Temple. When Christ comes to set up his Kingdom over the whole earth, the Fourth Temple will become a center of worship of YHVH God again.

Animal Rights?

Still, Christian animal lovers struggle with a God who would command adorable, precious, innocent animals to be slaughtered. It can challenge their faith in a loving God to see the Torah of Moses (given by God) command the sacrifice of animals. Then to hear that it will be allowed for a Third Temple and apparently commanded in the Millennial Temple (see Ezekiel 40-46) after Christ already fulfilled the sacrifices seems barbaric and not like the kind of God they imagine.

I suggest that the answer to this dilemma is that it's supposed to be unpleasant to contemplate animals being sacrificed. Not liking it is the point. God is reminding us through the death of innocent animals about the price of not doing what he says. He did not create the animals only to give affection, companionship, eggs, milk and fleece and other things that don't cost their lives. He made them to also teach us about the blood cost of sin or not loving our fellow man.

I've observed that many animal lovers have been deeply hurt by or don't like people. They gravitate to animals because animals never hurt or reject them. This is understandable, but it is not how God ordered things. God never commands us to love animals but he does command us to love humans. (Although proper animal treatment is addressed in the Law of Moses and clearly God's will.) Animals are used in sacrifices by God to show how serious that command is (picturing Christ dying for all humanity because of his love for them). We may not like it but we must trust that he knows best and it will make sense to us when we gain more of his wisdom and perspective in the future. (That's the best answer I have for animal lovers so if you have a better one, please share it.)

"The Church Is the Temple?"

Finally, just as some deny any rapture at all (pretribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation), there are some that deny a Third Temple is predicted. Typically they point to what Paul said about the church being God's temple (1Co 3:16) as if the use of something in a metaphor denies the reality of that thing the metaphor is derived from in its normal form.

In other words, just as the animal sacrifices pointed to Christ' sacrifice and yet literal animal sacrifices will continue after Christ fulfilled them, similarly the Temple of God that foreshadowed the church of God will likewise continue on alongside that which fulfilled it! 🙂

The Third Temple Prophecies

Hopefully now having resolved any Christian prejudices that the reader may have had against another temple and animal sacrifices appearing one day, let's now look at all the passages on this topic with an open mind. We'll see that we have a “temple,” a “holy place,” an “altar,” and daily “sacrifices” all literally described in prophecies surrounding the final seven years.

Daniel 9:27 (HCSB) — He will make a firm covenant with many for one week [the 70th week], but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple, until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”

Daniel 12:11 (HCSB) — From the time the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.

Daniel here says that the Antichrist puts a stop to sacrifices (and sets up the abomination) in the middle of the 70th week, or last seven years before Christ returns (1290 days before Christ returns, to be exact). This obviously means that sacrifices commenced sometime before this and implies that there is a Temple already constructed to go along with the altar. Jesus confirms this:

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Matthew 24:15-16 (ESV) — 'So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place...then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.'

The usage of the term "holy place" in other NT passages corroborate that this refers to the Holy Temple (Acts 6:13; 21:28). (Specifically, the Holy of Holies was the holy place that the High Priest only entered once per year and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept behind a separating curtain.)

Revelation 11:1-3 (ESV) —1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

Revelation tells us plainly that there will be a temple and altar standing by the time the Great Tribulation starts. However, it will be overrun by the nations (led by the Antichrist). If you want to know what they do with the Holy Temple, Paul gives us the most clear indication of a future Tribulation Temple:

2 Thessalonians 2:4 (ESV) — who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he [The Antichrist] takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

The Antichrist will take over the Holy Temple built by the Jews for worship of YHVH God and use it to proclaim to the world that he himself is God.

Some commentators object that the “temple of God” could not refer to a temple built by the Jews under their Judaism and that it better fits the church (“the temple of God” as Paul said). However, although Judaism has its errors and faults, they still do worship YHVH God which is who the Temple would be dedicated to worshiping. It makes the most sense that it's referring to a literal temple with a literal seat in Jerusalem where we know the Antichrist conquers and sets up his headquarters (Dan 11:45=Lk 21:20). Otherwise, what sense can we make of the Antichrist figuratively “sitting” inside “the church?”

What's Stopping the Temple Today

The natural next question is when or how soon can this take place? The short answer is not right away. Despite what the prophecies say and the preparations already underway to make them happen, the Temple is still not ready to appear.

Some think the main barrier is that the Dome of the Rock is over the location of the First and Second Temples. Others dispute this and say that the right site is elsewhere on the Temple Mount. They suggest that a Third Temple could coexist on the Temple Mount without any harm coming to the Dome of the Rock.

One researcher, Bob Cornuke, claims the Temple was not even on the Temple Mount but in the City of David also called Zion.

Does this mean the Jews can proceed with rebuilding the Third Temple?

No, as this ignores the political reality and who is in control of the Temple Mount now. Although Israel regained sovereignty over Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, the Temple Mount is not under Jewish control. It has been administered since the Crusades by the Islamic Waqf, a joint Palestinian-Jordanian religious trust. The Israeli government is secular and has preferred to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount where the third holiest Muslim site sits. This includes their enforcing of rules forbidding Jews to pray, bow, kneel, prostrate, dance, sing or even rip their clothes on the Temple Mount. It's a volatile situation with frequent Arab rioting at the slightest sign of a religious provocation by the Jews.

With the delicate current political situation Israel faces surrounded by Muslim Arab enemies, it's understandable that the Israeli government is actually hindering the Third Temple. Many Jews believe that those pushing for a Third Temple are being irresponsible and putting the nation at risk. Thus, for the Third Temple to appear, an upsetting of the current political situation is required.

And, by the way, it does not matter where Gentiles like Bob Cornuke think the Temple was or should be rebuilt. The Orthodox Jews are the ones who will rebuilding it. They will not be consulting Gentiles; they will rebuild it where they as Jews think it should go: on the "Temple" Mount. Therefore it does not matter whether Bob Cornuke is right or not (I think not). It will be build where the Jews decide and it won't happen until they are politically free to do so.

Another Prophecy That Can Unstop It

A popular theory for construction of the Third Temple is that the Antichrist will come and make a seven year peace treaty with Israel allowing them to build the temple, only for him to break the treaty 3½ years later. However, there is no such "peace treaty" in the Book of Daniel or anywhere else. (There is instead a "take over the world" pact that the Antichrist makes with ten rulers. For details see this article on Antichrist Myths.)

Nevertheless, Bible prophecy may still provide the answer to what will change this status quo. You may have heard of Isaiah's “Oracle against Damascus” (Isaiah 17) which appears to describe Damascus, Syria being nuked into oblivion. Or you may have heard of the Psalm 83 prophecy of an alliance of Arabs attacking Israel. (That turns out just as bleakly for the Arabs.)

Israel's Arab neighbors have not made a major coordinated joint attack like Psalm 83 describes since the 1973 Yom Kippur war. When they finally are able to justify doing so, Israel will defeat them handily using her nuclear arsenal. Not only, Damascus, but probably several of the aggressor nations' capitals will be nuked.

At that point, whether the Dome of the Rock is over the original site of the First and Second Temples matters less. Perhaps the Dome will be a casualty of war either directly or through a rogue element like the Roman one that destroyed the Second Temple. With the Arab's military power and political influence greatly reduced, Israel will be able to do what they want with the Temple Mount in the face of continued objections from Muslims. Perhaps a surge in nationalism after vanquishing their archenemies will swell and popularize support for the rebuilding of the Temple at last. Time will tell. All we know for sure is that the Temple must and will happen.

When We See the Third Temple Built, Then What?

For prophecy fans, it will be exciting and significant to actually see the fulfillment of prophecy when the Temple is completed and animal sacrifices are performed daily. But will it be a useful sign of the end? Unfortunately not. It will not tell us how close we are to the end. Nor will it signify that believers need to do anything when they see it.

It is simply unclear in prophecy when the Temple is rebuilt in relation to the 70th week. All we know is that it must be complete along with daily sacrifices before the middle of the 70th week when the Antichrist sits himself (and his image) in it. It may happen several years before the 70th week even begins. We just are not told by the Bible. (One thing for sure, in answer to what someone asked me, the 144,000 will not be building the Temple. They come at the 6th seal months before the Great Tribulation and have a very different mission.)

Thankfully, by the time it happens we will probably not be limited to just what we can figure out from the our Bibles. A real prophet for the end times is prophesied by Malachi. This “Elijah” will come and teach the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mt 24:14) and how to turn to God (Mal 4:5). If you are looking for a better sign of the end that will be able to tell us how much time we have left, watching out for the end time Elijah prophet would be the way to go. He'll be able to tell us about the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation and what we need to do to escape both them and the terrible death-star Wormwood that precedes them.

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Tim McHyde

Tim is the author of this site (since 1999) and the book Know the Future that explains Revelation literally at last--including the key event of Wormwood (Rev 6-8). To read more from Tim and not miss a single new article, sign up for his free newsletter above.

18 comments
Ellenkimball - May 20, 2017

Reading your article on Temple rebuilding ie thoughtful

Sorry for my ramblings last night.

Maybe we will just have wait and see

Reply
Abe Davis - June 2, 2017

You have some compelling thought on the “earthly” temple being built before the coming of Christ. You mentioned the fact that we are now the temple of the spirit of God, but didn’t explain why it isn’t the evil one that is now the ruler in peoples hearts (holy of holies) and in effect removes the sacrifice of Christ crucifixion, or that Christ’s sacrifice is taken away because of the great evil of the world and Gods wrath will then be poured out. (My spirit will not always strive with man). Could this be the case? Just a thought. Thanks for your articles. Very uplifting and thought provoking!

Reply
    Tim McHyde - June 3, 2017

    Abe, I don’t understand the concept you have of “Christ’s sacrifice being taken away.” He was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). This means his atonement has always been available since Adam to all who would believe God’s word and have it accounted as righteousness to them through that fact (Gen 15:6).

    Reply
Hugh - June 2, 2017

While your interpretations of prophecy are
most interesting, one must wonder whether
you’re aware that Judah-ism, admittedly,
worships Satan rather than YHWH.

What Satan offered Jesus in exchange for an
act of worship has been accepted by those who
profess Judah-ism; which accounts for how they’ve
cleverly implemented their system of total control in
order to subjugate the nations.

Judah-ism (Pharisee-ism) is very strongly
Anti-Christ even today.

As events coalesce in the coming years in fulfillment
of prophecy we may be very much surprised.

Reply
    Tim McHyde - June 3, 2017

    Hugh I agree that Judaism is corrupted (as are all Bible-based religions), but if it they do it quite improperly, they are worshiping Yehovah God, the God of the Old Testament and Israel.

    Reply
Diane - June 3, 2017

Wonder what Benjamin Freedman would think about this?

Reply
Thomas Garza - June 3, 2017

My first question to “animal lovers” who believe that God is/was cruel to allow for sacrificing innocent animals ; Do you eat meat ?

My Second question ; Do you not realize that the method used to harvest MEAT for consumers today is far worse than the Levitical method of allowing the creature to die in the most painless method possible ( surgical severing of a major blood vessel ).

My third question ; Do you not realize that the meat of the sacrificial animal was FOOD for the Priesthood as well as the one offering the sacrifice ?

When we get past our emotions and inquire as to the CONTEXT of Scripture, we can grow into a maturity of understanding God’s ways and will.

Finally, If you truly believe God is cruel and unjust for “killing animals”, you will have to explain to me how you can claim to love Jesus but despise God’s ways. Hence ;

“If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replied, “Philip, I have been with you all this time, and still you do not know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?… ” John 14:8

Respectfully submitted.

Reply
    Diane - June 3, 2017

    Man still has a sin problem (Rom. 3:10). The solution for the problem is still blood (Heb. 9:22), but it is no longer necessary to sacrifice animals because Jesus has died as the ultimate and everlasting sacrifice.

    “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29 NIV).

    Jesus allowed Himself to be put to death so that His holy blood could cleanse us. The sacrifice Jesus made when He hung on the tree is the final sacrifice and no other is needed.

    Those who sacrifice animals are rejecting Jesus.

    Reply
      Tim McHyde - June 4, 2017

      Diane, I agree with everything you said (minus the last judgmental statement.) AND if you read the article above, you’ll see that according to plain prophecy, animal sacrifices are coming again as “a annual reminder of sin” (Heb 10:3)–not because they are “necessary” which actually never were because “it is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sin” (Heb 10:4).

      Reply
Mark Butschke - June 3, 2017

Tim, Its likely you’ve already covered this, just like my last question regarding the end of the 1000 years and Satan’s release.(I read your article on that and it made sense.) But here goes.

Aren’t the survivors of “Armageddon” going to be mostly Jews at first and that even though the world will be ruled by Christ and His Bride, most of those being ruled will not accept Christ but follow the “law of Moses” which of course would include animal sacrifice. Jesus could show them exactly how to follow the law and then show them how they couldn’t follow it in Moses day and they won’t be able to follow it during His rule either, even under ideal conditions and in fact will never be able to follow it because they are still sinful flesh.

My big question is Will any one turn to Christ to be saved during the 1000 years while He’s back on earth? Or will they all follow the “Law” until Satan shows up and leads them into rebellion at the end? I know Judgment follows the 1000 years but I’ve often wondered what many of those living through the Tribulation and all the newborns who will grow up in a world without the Devil do during Christ’s reign? Is salvation still an option during those days? (I know, lots of questions.)

Reply
    Tim McHyde - June 5, 2017

    Mike, no, the survivors of God’s wrath will be mostly non-Jews, no different than the population is today. Nations will be equally deceived by the Antichrist including Judah/Jews (Zech 14:14).

    Everyone on earth who survives God’s wrath to make it into the 1000 years will start out his enemy and need to repent, so the answer is yes. They will be flesh and can repent and will need to continually as they learn and grow. We repent continually as we see things, now, yes (2Co 13:5)?

    Reply
      Mark Butschke - June 6, 2017

      Tim, Thanks. Yes, that makes sense.

      Reply
Sue - June 4, 2017

Definately a confronting subject.

I too had been taught that Jesus’ death replaced animal sacrifices.
However, I can see how such sacrifices will serve the purpose of remembrance of the punishment for sin in the Millenium.

After all – before being granted eternal life, humans will still be humans with human nature, even without the devil and his lot.

Thanks Tim.

Reply
Sandra Mavity - June 4, 2017

Once again, thought provoking. I knew of the, once again, animal sacrifices. I am an animal lover and it does upset me that the sacrifices will resume, BUT I understand God’s plan. What I didnt realize is there is to be a 4th Temple! But when you think about it, why would we expect God to occupy a temple that the anti Christ seats himself in, claiming himself to be God! Duh! Thanks again Tim.

Reply
Samuel Rodriguez - June 4, 2017

As always, great article Tim. I have to admit I have a hard time understanding people’s obsession with animals. I mean I love animals too, but if God says animal sacrifices are back, then guess what? Animal sacrifices are back! I agree with your reasoning on how it’s supposed to be an unpleasant reminder of sin. God bless you brother.

Reply
Donovan Corzo - June 4, 2017

When do you think the psalm 83 war would happen? It seems like the last idk how many years but prophecy watchers say, “it looks like psalm 83 is about to happen!”

Reply
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