The Third and Last Temple of Jerusalem

A model in Israel of the Second Temple of Jerusalem

The Third Temple (Hebrew: בית המקדש השלישי‎, Beit haMikdash haShlishi, literally: “The Holy Third House“) would be the third Temple in Jerusalem, after the rebuilt of the first (Solomon’s Temple) and Second Temple. It will be the Temple of the “One GOD” of Jewish people and mentioned in Holy Texts of the Abramitic Religions. Prophesied and architecturally described in the Bible (Book of Ezekiel) as “Place of prayer for all“, “eternal Building” and “permanent House of the GOD of Israel” on the Temple Mount of Jerusalem.
This is such fundamental importance for both for the Jewish Eschatology and the Messiah‘s advent, as also for the Christian Parousia and for Islam since this Holy Place (currently under Muslim administration) will be the Temple forever, which means until the end of times (Judgment Day):

28 Then the Nations will know that I the LORD make Israel Holy, when My Sanctuary is among them forever.
(Ezekiel 37, 28)

History

The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. These successive Temples stood at this location and functioned as a site of ancient Israelite and later Jewish worship. It is also called the Holy Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, Trans. Bēt HaMīqdaš, Arabic: بيت المقدس Beit Al-Maqdis).

Etymology

The Hebrew name given in the Bible for the building complex is either Beit YHWH, Beit Ha ELOHIM “House of GOD”, or simply Beiti “My House”,  or Beitekhah “Your House”. In rabbinical literature the Temple is Beit Ha Mikdash, “The Sanctified House”, and only the Temple in Jerusalem is referred to by this name.

First Temple

The Bible says that the First Temple was built by King Solomon, and according to the Book of Deuteronomy, as the sole place of Israelite sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12, 2-27), the Temple replaced the Tabernacle constructed in the Sinai Desert under the auspices of Moses, as well as local sanctuaries, and altars in the hills. The First Temple was totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, when they sacked the city.

Second Temple

According to the Book of Ezra, construction of the Second Temple was authorized by Cyrus the Great and began in 538 BCE, after the fall of the Babylonian Empire the year before. It was completed 23 years later, on the third day of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius I King of Persia (12 March 515 BCE), dedicated by the Jewish governor Zerubbabel. However, with a full reading of the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah, there were four edicts to build the Second Temple, which were issued by three kings. Cyrus in 536 BCE, which is recorded in the first chapter of Ezra. Next, Darius I of Persia (“The Great”) in 519 BCE, which is recorded in the sixth chapter of Ezra. Third, Artaxerxes I of Persia in 457 BCE, which was the seventh year of his reign, and is recorded in the seventh chapter of Ezra. Finally, by Artaxerxes again in 444 BCE in the second chapter of Nehemiah.

During the Roman era first Pompey entered (and thereby desecrated) the Holy of Holies in 63 BCE (but left the Temple intact), then in 54 BCE, Crassus looted the Temple treasury, and ultimately was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE during the Siege of Jerusalem.

After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered the construction of an Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount. The shrine has stood on the mount since 691 CE; the al-Aqsa Mosque, from roughly the same period, also stands in the Temple courtyard.

 

(HE וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים אֶל-הַר קָדְשִׁי, וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי–עוֹלֹתֵיהֶם וְזִבְחֵיהֶם לְרָצוֹן, עַל-מִזְבְּחִי: כִּי בֵיתִי, בֵּית-תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל-הָעַמִּים » “These I will bring to my Holy Mountain and give them joy in My House of Prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on My Altar; for My House will be called a House of Prayer for all Nations”
(Isaia 56, 7)

 

The Third Temple

 

Ever since the Second Temple’s destruction, a prayer for the construction of a Third Temple has been a formal and mandatory part of the thrice-daily Jewish prayer services. However, the question of whether and when to construct the Third Temple is disputed both within the Jewish community and without; groups within Judaism argue both for and against construction of a new Temple, while the expansion of Abrahamic religion since the 1st century CE has made the issue contentious within Christian and Islamic thought as well. Furthermore, the complicated political status of Jerusalem makes reconstruction difficult, while Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock have been constructed at the traditional physical location of the Temple. When the Umayyad Caliph Abdel-Malik ibn Marwan built the Dome of the Rock, some reports indicated that the Jews were filled with elation. Someone even believed that this Islamic shrine was already the third Temple, since previously for narely a century, Jews had full access to this site.

The Book of Ezekiel prophesies what would be the Third Temple, noting it as an eternal house of prayer and describing it in detail (Chapters 40–47).

In Judaism

The Third Temple is portrayed as a religious notion and desire in Judaism rooted and expressed in many of Judaism’s prayers for the return and rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem that had once stood as the First and Second Temples that were destroyed by the ancient Babylonians and the Romans.

Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, religious Jews have expressed their desire to see the building of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount. Prayer for this is a formal part of the Jewish tradition of thrice daily Amidah prayer. Although it remains unbuilt, the notion of and desire for a Third Temple is sacred in Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, and anticipated as a soon to be built place of worship. The prophets in the Tanakh called for its construction to be fulfilled prior to, or in tandem with, the Messianic age. The rebuilding of the Third Temple also plays a major role in some interpretations of Christian Eschatology.

Orthodox Judaism

General views

Orthodox Judaism believes in the rebuilding of a Third Temple and the resumption of Korban (sacrificial worship), although there is disagreement about how rebuilding should take place. Orthodox scholars and rabbinic authorities generally believe that rebuilding should occur in the era of the Messiah at the hand of Divine Providence, although a minority position, following the opinion of Maimonides, holds that Jews should endeavour to rebuild the temple themselves, whenever possible. Orthodox authorities generally predict the resumption of the complete traditional system of sacrifices, but Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist authorities disavow all belief in the resumption of Korban.

The generally accepted position among Orthodox Jews is that the full order of the sacrifices will be resumed upon the building of the Temple. Maimonides wrote in his great philosophical treatise, “A Guide for the Perplexed”, “that GOD deliberately has moved Jews away from sacrifices towards prayer, as prayer is a higher form of worship“. However, in his Jewish legal code, the “Mishneh Torah”, he states that animal sacrifices will resume in the third Temple, and details how they will be carried out.

Role in Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism believes in a Messiah and in a rebuilt Temple, but does not believe in the restoration of sacrifices. Accordingly, Conservative Judaism’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has modified the prayers. Conservative prayerbooks call for the restoration of Temple, but do not ask for resumption of sacrifices. The Orthodox study session on sacrifices in the daily morning service has been replaced with the Talmudic passages teaching that deeds of loving-kindness now atone for sin.
In the daily Amidah prayer (the central prayer in Jewish services) the petitions to accept the “fire offerings of Israel” and “the grain-offering of Judah and Jerusalem” (Book of Malachi 3, 4) are removed. In the special Mussaf Amidah prayer said on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, the Hebrew phrase na’ase ve’nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) is modified to read to asu ve’hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed), implying that sacrifices are a thing of the past. The prayer for the restoration of “the House of our lives” and the Shekhinah to dwell “among us” in the weekday Torah reading service is retained in Conservative prayer books, although not all Conservative services say it.

Role in Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism do not believe in the rebuilding of a central Temple or a restoration of Temple sacrifices or worship. They regard the Temple and sacrificial era as a period of a more primitive form of ritual from which Judaism has evolved and should not return. They also believe a special role for Kohanim and Levites represents a caste system incompatible with modern principles of egalitarianism, and do not preserve these roles. Furthermore, there is a Reform view that the shul or synagogue is a modern Temple; hence, “Temple” appears in numerous congregation names in Reform Judaism. Indeed, the re-designation of the synagogue as “temple” was one of the hallmarks of early Reform in 19th-century Germany, when Berlin was declared the new Jerusalem, and Reform Jewry sought to demonstrate their staunch German nationalism. The Anti-Zionism that characterized Reform Judaism throughout much of its history subsided somewhat with the Shoah in Europe and the later successes of the modern state of Israel. The belief in the return of the Jews to the Temple in Jerusalem is not part of mainstream Reform Judaism.

Modern rebuilding efforts

Although in mainstream Orthodox Judaism the rebuilding of the Temple is generally left to the coming of the Messiah and to Divine Providence, a number of organizations, generally representing a small minority of Orthodox Jews, have been formed with the objective of realizing the immediate construction of a Third Temple in present times. These organizations include: The Temple Institute and the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement each state that its goal is to build the Third Temple on the Temple Mount (Mount Moriah). The Temple Institute has made several items to be used in the Third Temple.

Obstacles to reconstruction

The most immediate and obvious obstacle to realization of these goals is the fact that two historic Islamic structures which are 13 centuries old, namely the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, are built on top of the Temple Mount. Israel has undertaken to ensure access to the Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers and visitors, while maintaining public order and security. Any efforts to damage or reduce access to these sites, or to build Jewish structures within, between, beneath, beside, cantilevered on top of, or instead of them, could lead to severe international conflicts, given the association of the Muslim world with these holy places.

The second obstacle concerns the location of the temple. The Holy of Holies in the third Temple must be on the exact same spot as it was in the two previous temples. Therefore the temple must be built in the same location as it was before. The Dome of the Rock is regarded as occupying that space (even if some scholars disagree and instead claim that the temple was located either just north of the Dome of the Rock, or about 200 meters south of it) with access to the Gihon fresh water spring.

In addition, most Jewish-Orthodox scholars reject any attempts to build the Temple before the coming of Messiah. This is because there are many doubts as to the exact location in which it is required to be built. For example, while measurements are given in cubits, there exists a controversy whether this unit of measurement equals approximately 1.5 feet (0.46 m) or 2 feet (0.61 m). Without exact knowledge of the size of a cubit, the altar could not be built. Indeed, the Talmud recounts that the building of the second Temple was only possible under the direct prophetic guidance of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Without valid prophetic revelation, it would be impossible to rebuild the Temple, even if the mosques no longer occupied its location.

Despite obstacles, efforts are under way by various analytical groups to articulate the benefits to local and regional constituents and participants to encourage developments that would progressively align in support. It is known from the Talmud that in the time of King Agrippa, Jerusalem was filled with millions of visitors and pilgrims from the entire region. Today the potential of spiritual tourism would support the growth goals of the Mayor of Jerusalem for 10 million tourists annually. This would provide a significant boost to the economy and would benefit people locally and regionally, many of whom live in poverty. Since the rebuilding of the Temple can come only through a process of peace.

A prototype of the Temple of Jerusalem

Status of Temple Mount

Israel currently restricts access by Jews to the Temple Mount on both religious and political grounds. Many religious authorities, including the Chief Rabbinate, interpret halakha (Jewish law) as prohibiting entering the area to prevent inadvertently entering and desecrating forbidden areas (such as the Holy of Holies), as the Temple area is regarded as still retaining its full sanctity and restrictions. Moreover, political authorities are concerned about past violent clashes at the Temple Mount. One such clash, involving a visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon, coincided with the beginning of the Second Intifada. Authorities seek to reduce the likelihood of further violent confrontations between Jewish religious activists and Muslims worshipping at the mosques, which could cause damage to local architecture and further damage the area’s delicate political fabric.

Christian views

While there are a number of differing views amongst Christianity with regard to the significance or the requirement of a third Temple being built in Jerusalem, according to the writers of the New Testament, the New Covenant (spoken of in Jeremiah 31, 31–34) is marked by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of GOD) in the believer (Ezekiel 36, 26–27) and that therefore every believer’s body and every gathering of believers comprise the Temple (or that the Temple has been superseded). Saint Paul evinces this concept in his letter to the believers at Corinth:

Or do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from GOD, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6, 19)

This idea is related to the belief that Jesus himself, having claimed to be and do what the temple was, is the new Temple (John 2, 19), and that his people, as a part of the “body of Christ” (interpreted as the Church), are part of this Temple as well (2 Corinthians 6, 16; Ephesians 2, 19–22; 1 Peter 2, 4–5).

Other Christian scholars take a position that the building of the third Temple is an integral part of Christian Eschatology, and the various perspectives on the significance of the reconstruction are therefore generally linked to many factors including: the level of literal or spiritual interpretation applied to what is taken to be “end-time” prophecy; the perceived relationships between various scriptures such as Daniel, the Olivet discourse, 2 Thessalonians and Ezekiel (amongst others); whether or not a dual-covenant is considered to be in place; and whether Old Testament promises of the restoration of Israel remain unfulfilled or have all come true in the Messiah (2 Corinthians 1:20). Such factors determine, for example, whether Daniel 9, 27 or 2 Thessalonians 2, 4 are read as referring to a still-future physically restored third temple.
Other of these perspectives are illustrated below.

Christian mainstream

The dominant view within Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christianity is that animal sacrifices within the Temple were a presage of the sacrifice of Jesus made for the sins of the world through his crucifixion and shedding of his blood on the first day of Passover. The Epistle to the Hebrews is often cited in support of this view: the Temple sacrifices are described as being imperfect, since they require repeating (ch. 10, 1–4), and as belonging to a covenant that was “becoming obsolete and growing old” and was “ready to vanish away” (ch. 8, 13). Christ’s crucifixion, being a sacrifice which dealt with sin once and for all, negated any need for further animal sacrifice.
Further, the veil or curtain to the Holy of Holies is seen as having been torn asunder at the crucifixion, figuratively in connection with this theology (Ch 10, 19–21), and literally according to the Gospel of Matthew (ch 27, 50–51). For these reasons, a third Temple, whose partial purpose would be the re-institution of animal sacrifices, is seen as unnecessary and thus superseded.

Dome of the Rock – Outside view from the rooftop of Franciscan Monastery in Old Jerusalem, February 2018

Dispensationalist

Those Protestants who do believe in the importance of a future rebuilt Temple (viz., some dispensationalists) hold that the importance of the sacrificial system shifts to a Memorial of the Cross, given the text of Ezekiel Chapters 39 and following (in addition to Millennial references to the Temple in other Old Testament passages); since Ezekiel explains at length the construction and nature of the Millennial Temple, in which Jews will once again hold the priesthood; some others hold that perhaps it was not completely eliminated with Jesus’ sacrifice for sin, but is a ceremonial object lesson for confession and forgiveness; and that such animal sacrifices would still be appropriate for ritual cleansing and for acts of celebration and thanksgiving toward GOD. Some dispensationalists believe this will be the case with the Second Coming when Jesus reigns over earth from the city of New Jerusalem. Some interpret a passage in the Book of Daniel, Daniel 12, 11, as a prophecy that the end of this age will occur shortly after sacrifices are ended in the newly rebuilt Temple.

 

In 1762, Charles Wesley wrote:

We know, it must be done,
For GOD hath spoke the Word,
All Israel shall their Saviour own,
To their first state restor’d:
Re-built by His command,
Jerusalem shall rise,
Her Temple on Moriah stand
Again, and touch the skies.

Dispensational Evangelical

Many Evangelical Christians believe that New Testament prophecies associated with the Jewish Temple, such as Matthew 24–25 and 2 Thessalonians 2, 1–12, were not completely fulfilled during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and that these prophecies refer to a future Temple. This view is a core part of Dispensationalism, an interpretative framework of the Bible that stresses Biblical literalism and asserts that the Jews are still GOD’s chosen people. According to Dispensationalist theologians, such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye, the Third Temple will be rebuilt when the Antichrist, often identified as the political leader of a trans-national alliance similar to the European Union or the United Nations, secures a peace treaty between the modern nation of Israel and its neighbours following a global war. The Antichrist later uses the Temple as a venue for proclaiming himself as GOD and the long-awaited Messiah, seeking worship from humanity (the false Messiah).

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox

Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that the Eucharist, which they hold to be one in substance with the one self-sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, is a far superior offering when compared with the merely preparatory Temple sacrifices, as explained in the Epistle to the Hebrews. They also believe that Christ Himself is the New Temple, as spoken of in the Book of Revelation and that Revelation can best be understood as the Eucharist, heaven on earth. Their church buildings are meant to model Solomon’s Temple, with the Tabernacle, containing the Eucharist, being considered the new “Holy of Holies.” Therefore, they do not attach significance to a possible future rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple.

The Orthodox also quote Daniel 9, 27 (“… he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease …”) to show that the sacrifices would stop with the arrival of the Messiah, and mention that according to Jesus, St. Paul and the Holy Fathers, the Temple will only be rebuilt in the times of the Antichrist.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and 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.”
(2 Thessalonians 2, 3–4)

Latter Day Saints

Latter Day Saints believe that the Jews will build the Third Temple and after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Jews will accept Jesus as the Messiah and most Jews will then embrace the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then, it is believed, the Third Temple will be GOD’s Temple as Christ reigns on the earth and it will become the Jerusalem, Israel LDS (Latter Day Saints) Temple

Muslim view

Many Muslims autorities view the movement for the building of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount as an affront to Islam due to the presence of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in the stead of the former Holy Temple. Today the area is regarded by the majority of Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam. Thus, Muslims are resolute in calling for recognition of their exclusive rights over the site and demand that it be wholly transferred to Muslim sovereignty; furthermore, some Muslims deny any association with the Mount to the former Jewish Temples which stood at the site.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was initiated in reaction to Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian Christian who set fire to a 12th-century pulpit of the Al-Aqsa mosque, in an attempt to initiate the second coming of Christ. The protection of the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in the primary mandate of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The Temple Mount bears significance in Islam as it acted as a sanctuary for the Hebrew prophets quoted in the Quran. Islamic tradition says that a Temple was first built on the Temple Mount by Jacob and later rebuilt by Solomon, the son of David. Traditionally referred to as the “Farthest Mosque” (al-masjid al-aqṣa’ literally “utmost site of bowing (in worship)” though the term now refers specifically to the mosque in the southern wall of the compound which today is known simply as al-haram ash-sharīf (“the noble sanctuary”), the site is seen as the destination of Muhammad‘s nightly travel (Isrā’ ), one of the most significant events recounted in the Quran and the place of his ascent heavenwards thereafter (Mi’raj).

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, the Temple Mount has the significance as a Holy site/Sanctuary (“haram”) for Muslims primarily in three ways, the first two being connected to the Temple. First, Muhammad (and his companions) prayed facing the Temple in Jerusalem (referred to as “Bayt Al-Maqdis“, in the Hadiths) similar to the Jews before changing it to the Kaaba in Mecca sixteen months after arriving in Medina following the verses revealed (Sura 2, 144 ; 149 and 150). Secondly, during the Meccan part of his life, he reported to have been to Jerusalem by night and prayed in the Temple, as the first part of his otherworldly journey (Isra and Mi’raj).

Imam Abdul Hadi Palazzi, leader of Italian Muslim Assembly, quotes the Quran to support Judaism’s special connection to the Temple Mount. According to Palazzi, “The most authoritative Islamic sources affirm the Temples”. He adds that Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims because of its prior holiness to Jews and its standing as home to the biblical prophets and kings David and Solomon, all of whom he says are sacred figures in Islam. He claims that the Quran “expressly recognizes that Jerusalem plays the same role for Jews that Mecca has for Muslims”.

 


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