News out of the Middle East makes it seem impossible that Jewish religious rites will ever again be performed on the Temple Mount. Yet the Bible explains events that will unfold at the site.
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Twenty-three. That is the number of times armies have surrounded the city of Jerusalem throughout history. Egyptians, Assyrians, Romans, Muslims, and Christian Crusaders have all had their turn.
Fifty-two. This is how many additional occasions the city has been attacked. It has been utterly destroyed twice.
Forty-four. That is how many times Jerusalem has been captured and recaptured.
Yet surpassing all these numbers combined, which come from Eric H. Cline’s Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel, are the differing opinions on how to bring actual and lasting peace to the City of Peace.
Today, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians largely center on the Gaza Strip, which is just over twice the size of Washington, D.C., and is governed by the terrorist organization Hamas. For years, the global community has favored a two-state solution, with the idea of having two official nations—one Israeli, the other Palestinian—peacefully exist side by side. Often this answer includes the contested city of Jerusalem being under international supervision.
Yet repeated failures to implement this have left many disillusioned. For example, in the wake of the most recent Israeli response to Hamas firing rockets into the Jewish state, The Washington Post published an article titled “Beneath the Conflict in Gaza Lies the Death of the Two-State Solution.”
The publication cited a Pew research poll that showed a growing segment of Middle Easterners believe that Israel and an independent Palestine could never peacefully co-exist. In Egypt, the number of people who believe this jumped from 40 to 48 percent over last year. Tunisia rose 14 points to 71 percent during the same time. Among Israelis, it went from 38 to 45 percent, and in the Palestinian territories it rose from 61 to 63 percent.
The Post article stated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “signaled clearly…that the two-state solution was off the table. In a speech discussing the current Operation Protective Edge [the military campaign to stop rocket fire from Hamas], he made this stark pronouncement: ‘I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.’”
A growing number of Palestinians also favor alternate solutions, such as seeking full Israeli citizenship as part of a single binational state.
Even more perplexing in all of these attempts at peace is what to do with the Temple Mount. Some staunchly favor maintaining the status quo—allowing Muslim control of the area including the Al-Aqsa mosque and the iconic Dome of the Rock.
Yet the deep religious, historical and cultural importance of the site brings out a myriad of competing opinions, especially among those of the Jewish religion. The most visible are Israeli groups devoted to building a new temple on the site. (Two other Jewish temples have stood there previously.) These organizations seek to emulate the Israelites who returned from captivity to build the second temple in 538 BC.
One such group ran a video advertisement that included the tagline, “This is the generation. The children are ready.” The words followed a sweeping camera shot of Jerusalem’s Old City featuring cranes and scaffolding circling an under-construction temple—with the two mosques nowhere to be seen.
This organization is doing everything in its power to ready a new center of worship: completing priestly garb to the specifications of Exodus 28, breeding red heifers for sacrifices, building a menorah from 95 pounds of gold with a price tag of $2 million, and so on.
Other Jews want a temple, but take a less potentially inflammatory approach by daily praying the words, “May it be your will, O my God and God of my fathers, that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days…”
Not all those of the Jewish faith agree. The group that favors a temple being built cites rabbinical teachings that their efforts may speed the coming of the Messiah. Others feel that no structure should be constructed until after the Messiah’s coming. One other tiny group feels Jews should not even be in the Holy Land until the Messiah comes.
Christian denominations are similarly mixed on the idea of a third temple.
Many evangelical groups—with Bible prophecy as a motivation—heartily support Israel and the building of a third temple. Some even send considerable sums of money each year for charitable causes in the nation. Similar to some in the Jewish community, they believe supporting Israel will help speed end-time events.
All of these plans and theories are stated without addressing a hulking roadblock.
Imagine the uproar if Israelis went on the mount and leveled the Dome of the Rock to make way for their own temple. The entire Muslim world—and potentially the whole international community—would rally against tiny Israel.
Such issues can leave diligent Bible students unsure of who and what to believe. Yet this need not be. You can know what events to expect for the Temple Mount!
There are a number of verses in the Bible that are used to support the idea of another temple. One is in II Thessalonians 2: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…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 opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (vs. 1-4).
These verses speak of a man called “the son of perdition” who will sit “in the temple of God” just before Jesus Christ’s Return.
Another clue is found in Daniel: “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days” (12:11).
Verse 9 shows that the context for these events is “the time of the end.”
While there are a few potentially confusing concepts here, notice that the temple sacrifices are prophesied to stop. In order for something to cease, it must have started again.
The context of Matthew 24 also addresses the end of the age (Matt. 24:3) and speaks of the verse mentioned by Daniel. In it, Jesus Christ states: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso reads, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains” (Matt. 24:14-16).
There are other complex topics mentioned in this passage, but notice that there will be a “holy place.”
Also note the important phrase “whoso reads, let him understand.”
God wants His servants to understand what is coming for the world. Notice the start of Revelation 1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass…” (vs. 1).
Editor-in-chief of The Real Truth David C. Pack wrote about this concept in his book The Bible’s Greatest Prophecies Unlocked! – A Voice Cries Out. In this excerpt, he starts by referencing Matthew 24:15.
“Next consider verse 15, which concludes referring to ‘Daniel the prophet’ and the admonition ‘whoso reads, let him understand.’ Most today do not—and will not—understand the events soon to smash into civilization. Here is one big reason. God’s servants obey Him (Acts 5:32). Understanding flows directly from obedience to God: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments’ (Psa. 111:10).
“Grasp this. All real understanding of God’s Plan and spiritual truth comes from God. It is only the action of His Spirit that opens one’s eyes. Notice: ‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened’ (Eph. 1:17-18).
“All who yield themselves in obedience to God, wishing to be His disciples—His servants—will be able to understand all the great prophecies to be fulfilled in the last days! Professing Christianity refuses to obey God, rejects His authority over them—and remains blind as a result. No amount of trying to understand will unlock God’s purpose to those who ignore His commands.
“This is the great first key to grasping the meaning of major biblical prophecies. They are intended for, and will only be understood by, God’s people. All others will remain in confusion, mangling and misunderstanding the horrific, world-shattering events that will soon directly impact every person on the planet!”
While it can seem as if a temple potentially being built in Jerusalem is a gigantic event, it is just one of many other prophetic events. In order to fully understand what the Bible states about it, you must understand prophecy in general.
A crucial fact about how the Bible is laid out is found in Isaiah chapter 28. It explains that God’s Word is written, “…precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little…” (vs. 13).
In other words, information about any given biblical topic is found throughout the entire Bible “here a little, and there a little.” This is especially true with prophecy as was demonstrated in the verses above from Daniel, Matthew and II Thessalonians. They all speak of similar or related events—the daily sacrifices, the abomination of desolation, and the son of perdition—but each contain different details. Even though these three passages were written decades apart by different authors, God inspired bits of information to be recorded in each. Only when put together can one see the whole picture.
Another key to understanding prophecy is to approach it with an open mind. Allow God’s clues to open up the meaning. In fact, the Bible is written in such a way that it interprets itself. Any time there is a symbol used—and most prophecies involve symbolic language—the Book always explains what it means.
Again, bring an open mind. Do not allow anything that you have learned previously to cloud what God’s Word actually says.
To know if the Jews will soon begin priestly duties again on the Temple Mount, one must check if the timing is right. Understanding individual prophetic events hinges on when they occur. Remember the terms used in the three verses first quoted in this article. They spoke often about the “end” and “the end of the days.” Elsewhere in the Bible, this time period is referred to as the “last days.”
For instance, Genesis 49:1 states, “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.”
When are these days set to occur and how can you know whether we are in them? Mr. Pack thoroughly covers what signs would accompany this time in the booklet Are These the Last Days?
Mr. Pack wrote: “The longest single prophecy in the Bible is found in Daniel 11. Chapter 10 introduces it and chapter 12 completes it. Numerous times (six in chapter 12 alone) is found the word ‘end.’ The first time that ‘the time of the end’ appears is in Daniel 11:40.
“Yet the prophet Daniel was not permitted to understand the prophecy he recorded. When he asked God (12:8) its meaning, God told him that it was ‘sealed till the time of the end’ (vs. 9). It was to be unsealed when that time came—and this has happened. Verse 10 teaches, ‘the wise shall understand,’ but that ‘none of the wicked shall understand.’ This means that some—a relatively very few—will understand, while most will not understand Daniel’s prophecy!
“Daniel 12:4 gives two vitally important clues to know when the end time has arrived. Notice: ‘But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.’”
He continued by discussing “the incredible knowledge explosion brought about by the arrival of computers in scores of millions of homes. Great numbers now have access to vast amounts of knowledge—instantaneously! What can be quickly known by anyone seeking information is staggering! Surely we have arrived at the time when ‘knowledge shall be increased’—along with its easy access!
“Daniel also wrote, ‘many shall run to and fro.’ It took the arrival of railroads in the middle of the nineteenth century—then great ships driven by powerful engines to move them ever faster across oceans—followed by automobiles—and finally, jet planes to make our planet almost universally accessible. The arrival of the supersonic Concorde Jet turned the Atlantic Ocean into little more than a large lake. Seemingly, the planet grows smaller daily because of people’s ability to ‘run to and fro’ almost anywhere and at any time!”
Another way to know if these are the end times are the lists of prophetic trends and conditions the Bible says will coincide with the last days. The most comprehensive list is found in Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy, which was recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
Christ stated of the last days, “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars…and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse [various] places” (Matt. 24:6-7).
Take a look at the world around you! This passage reads like the front page of a modern newspaper. All of these trends have existed throughout man’s history, but they are worsening. Anyone who is honest with the facts can see that there are more severe droughts, more virulent diseases, and more earthquakes than ever before.
This means that the time mentioned in the Bible about the daily sacrifices, man of sin, and abomination of desolation is just around the corner!
Another principle of foretold events makes understanding the abomination of desolation much easier: that of duality. Put simply, the former fulfillment of a prophecy helps one understand its latter fulfillment.
“This duality is seen with the ‘abomination of desolation’ prophecy. And what it reveals is fascinating! Let’s examine the historical type of what has already occurred. First, recall the lengthy Daniel 11 prophecy. A crucial part of that prophecy comes up for review and expansion at this juncture.
“In about 176 BC, Antiochus IV…acquired the kingdom from his older brother. After this, Antiochus Epiphanes removed the high priest in Jerusalem and installed someone loyal to himself. Upon a triumphant return from Egypt, in 168 BC, Antiochus sacked the Temple at Jerusalem and took its golden vessels.
“…Antiochus also sent troops to Judea in 167 BC. They destroyed the Temple and its sanctuary. This act stopped the commanded twice daily sacrifices at the Temple (Ex. 29:39-42; Num. 28:4-6). This was an overt attempt to wipe out the Jewish religion with all of its doctrines.
“This military leader also stationed a garrison atop the Jewish Temple Mount, desecrating it. Also recall that Daniel wrote, ‘Yes, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him [Antiochus] the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down’ (8:11).
“Daniel added this in chapter 11: ‘And arms shall stand on his [Antiochus’] part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength [the Jewish Temple], and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate’ (vs. 31).
“Now then, what exactly is this coming ‘abomination’ that will be ‘set up’ again? The truth—born of history—is beyond eye-opening in regard to prophecy.
“The first fulfillment was not just Antiochus’ armies coming into Jerusalem—an early ‘treading it down’ for three years until 165 BC—but the fact that those armies set up an image—a specific idol—on the Temple’s altar, which defiled and made it desolate. Antiochus further polluted the Temple by offering swine’s blood upon the altar.
“These historical events of Daniel 8 are an unmistakable fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 11:31, and a forerunner of the end-time fulfillment of the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Christ in Matthew, Mark and Luke.”
So does the abomination of desolation prophecy mean that a temple will be constructed within the next few years?
Not necessarily! As mentioned earlier, in order for the daily sacrifices to stop, they must first start again. Something will need to be built on the Temple Mount, which also means that there will have to be significant changes in Israeli-Palestinian relations. An entire temple, though, is not necessary for sacrifices to begin again.
Everything covered in this article provides just the barest look at what the Bible records about prophecy. In fact, a full one-third of God’s Word is devoted to it.
To fully grasp its intricacies takes work. Note that every time a Bible topic was mentioned in this article, there was a referenced book, booklet or article. These all take time and diligent effort to read and study.
God does not expect you to take what He says on blind faith. Instead, He wants you to prove what you are learning. This is demonstrated by the command in I Thessalonians 5: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (vs. 21).
The Creator of all things wants you to know what the future holds, but you must work to make it happen. Blow the dust off your Bible—or go buy one if you do not have one—and closely examine what is said in The Real Truth magazine and through the literature found on rcg.org.
God wants you to know what the future holds, but you must back up that desire with sincere action.
If you put the time in, you can understand world events as never before—and your place in them!