Is God's Temple Under Construction?

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Is God's Temple Under Construction?

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Many Jews long for it. A number are actively preparing for it. Bible prophecy says it will happen. Amazingly, it directly concerns you.

Before Jesus makes His prophesied return to earth, certain passages in the Bible appear to state that a third physical temple of God will be constructed or will be undergoing construction alongside an operational sacrificial altar, possibly directly on the ancient temple site atop Mount Moriah in the city of Jerusalem.

Since Judaism—a variant of the original Israelite religion established by God thousands of years ago—has adapted and functioned for nearly 2,000 years without an operating temple, one might be initially hard pressed to understand and appreciate the once-central role the temple of God played.

Let’s review a brief history of the first and second physical temples to better understand the significance of what God is doing today. Let’s also see how they may concern you!

The first physical temple in Jerusalem

First constructed and dedicated by King Solomon in the 900s B.C., the temple replaced the mobile sanctuary, commonly called the tabernacle, that was first developed during the time of Moses soon after the Exodus. This elaborate portable “temple” first served to house the resplendent Ark of the Covenant, which was placed in a designated space called the Holy of Holies—a space God’s presence would occupy.

An estimated 15 to 20 stories high, the first temple complex made up about half of the city of Jerusalem at the time it was built. While the building was finished during the eighth month on the Hebrew calendar (1 Kings 6:38 1 Kings 6:38And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.
American King James Version×
), it was not formally dedicated by King Solomon until nearly a year later in the following seventh month of the calendar, at the time of the annual Festival of Tabernacles (1 Kings 8:2 1 Kings 8:2And all the men of Israel assembled themselves to king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.
American King James Version×
; 2 Chronicles 5:3 2 Chronicles 5:3Why all the men of Israel assembled themselves to the king in the feast which was in the seventh month.
American King James Version×
).

The finished temple, which towered over the city, meant different things to different people. Reflecting the future statement by Jesus that “a city that is set on hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
American King James Version×
), the temple was specifically set on Mount Moriah by God to be “of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations” (1 Chronicles 22:5 1 Chronicles 22:5And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death.
American King James Version×
, New International Version, emphasis added throughout).

To the ancient Phoenicians up north, the presence of a new regional superpower was most welcome. After becoming king, David ultimately united all of Israel, creating a regional military and political presence that could not be ignored. In fact, the new united kingdom that grew under King Solomon, David’s son, stretched its borders far, shunting aside the Assyrians. The hated Assyrians now no longer dominated the Phoenicians, who were regional leaders in trade.

Now, with no more tribute being paid to the Assyrians, the Phoenicians were eager to forge strong ties with the burgeoning military power to the south, particularly since it seemed to win major battles effortlessly. Phoenicia thus was quick to recognize the victorious King David of Israel, sending diplomatic emissaries south with gifts of prized wood from the legendary cedars of Lebanon.

The Festival of Tabernacles dedication of this mammoth and glorious physical structure was an event of epic scale. Shortly before a dramatic dedication prayer by King Solomon, the priests carried the cherished Ark of Covenant, which contained the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments had been written by God Himself, into the new Holy of Holies.

As the priests withdrew from this sacred space, “the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple” (1 Kings 8:10-11 1 Kings 8:10-11 10 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
American King James Version×
, NIV)

The first temple dominated the early history of the united kingdom of Israel. But what does that have to do with you? Let’s read on.

The once-proud temple destroyed

Tragically, despite this majestic and awe-inspiring beginning, the people of Israel and Judah ultimately allowed the beauty and magnificence of the physical temple to eclipse God Himself. They allowed, then promoted, its desecration. Despite many dire prophetic warnings from Moses to Jeremiah and more, first Israel, then Judah, turned to other gods, powerless idols of clay and stone (Ezekiel 8:5-17 Ezekiel 8:5-17 5 Then said he to me, Son of man, lift up your eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up my eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry. 6 He said furthermore to me, Son of man, see you what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn you yet again, and you shall see greater abominations. 7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. 8 Then said he to me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had dig in the wall, behold a door. 9 And he said to me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. 10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed on the wall round about. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the middle of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then said he to me, Son of man, have you seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the LORD sees us not; the LORD has forsaken the earth. 13 He said also to me, Turn you yet again, and you shall see greater abominations that they do. 14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then said he to me, Have you seen this, O son of man? turn you yet again, and you shall see greater abominations than these. 16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said to me, Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, see, they put the branch to their nose.
American King James Version×
). As a result, they would pay a severe price.

The consequences of these lawless actions finally reached a bitter climax. The prophet Ezekiel recorded a vision of a dreadful scene. Centuries after Solomon’s magnificent dedication, the presence of God once again took the form of a cloud. God’s mighty manifestation again “filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 10:4 Ezekiel 10:4Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

But this time something terrible happened —all a result of Israel’s manifold sins and rejection of God: “Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple,” rising to the east gate of the Temple Mount and then on to lift above the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 10:18 Ezekiel 10:18Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.
American King James Version×
, Ezekiel 11:1 Ezekiel 11:1Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me to the east gate of the LORD’s house, which looks eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.
American King James Version×
, Ezekiel 11:22-23 Ezekiel 11:22-23 22 Then did the cherubim lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. 23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the middle of the city, and stood on the mountain which is on the east side of the city.
American King James Version×
)

With God’s presence removed, the once-glorious temple became as an ordinary building. Without God’s protection, ancient Jerusalem was doomed.

Finally, the previously unthinkable happened. “The city was besieged … the city wall was broken through” (Jeremiah 52:5-7 Jeremiah 52:5-7 5 So the city was besieged to the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 6 And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. 7 Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.
American King James Version×
). The result? Just as prophesied, in 587-586 B.C. King Zedekiah was forcibly captured and taken captive to Babylon, together with multiple thousands of Jewish families, now simply the booty of war.

Shortly thereafter the captain of the guard for Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem. There “he set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down” (Jeremiah 52:13 Jeremiah 52:13And burned the house of the LORD, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire:
American King James Version×
, NIV).

The promises of disobedience had tragically come to life. Now virtually annihilated, the ruins of Jerusalem and its once-mighty temple became the habitation of crows and vultures (Psalms 79:1-2 Psalms 79:1-2 1 O God, the heathen are come into your inheritance; your holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. 2 The dead bodies of your servants have they given to be meat to the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth.
American King James Version×
).

However, all was not lost. God is merciful. And what came to pass has a direct impact on us today!

Rebuilt, yet not as before

Over time the political sands shifted. Decades later, the Persian Empire conquered the former Babylonian empire, and God caused its king to look favorably toward the captive Jews. Miraculously, King Cyrus of Persia was inspired directly by God to not only allow the Jews to return to their homeland, but to provide funds and supplies to rebuild the previously destroyed temple!

Accordingly, Cyrus the Great issued a decree in 538 B.C. to allow about 50,000 Jews, led by Zerubabbel, to return to Jerusalem and begin the rebuilding (Ezra 1:2-4 Ezra 1:2-4 2 Thus said Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whoever remains in any place where he sojournes, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
; Ezra 6:3-5 Ezra 6:3-5 3 In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be built, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof three score cubits, and the breadth thereof three score cubits; 4 With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house: 5 And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought to Babylon, be restored, and brought again to the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God.
American King James Version×
). This was no easy task, particularly given that the Jews now lacked the massive resources of an emerging superpower that Solomon previously enjoyed.

The Jews ran into numerous difficult challenges, and work lagged. In 520 B.C., nearly two decades later during the second year of the reign of King Darius (who succeeded Cyrus), God subsequently empowered the prophet Haggai to encourage and direct the Jews to again take up the rebuilding of the temple.

But as the rough-hewn walls of the second temple rose up, some of the older people present remembered the magnificence of the first temple and shuddered. Haggai again delivered a critical message from God: “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (Haggai 2:3 Haggai 2:3Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
American King James Version×
, NIV). Obviously the second temple in 520 B.C. was a far distant second to the structure it replaced.

Prophecies of greater glory and destruction

But Haggai then uttered a critical prophecy: “What is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty … ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house’ ” (Haggai 2:7-9 Haggai 2:7-9 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, said the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, said the LORD of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, said the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, said the LORD of hosts.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

This, of course, is nothing less than the prophecy that Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe, would come to this second temple in person! That was fulfilled many times, when Jesus—the desired of all nations (Isaiah 9:6-7 Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
American King James Version×
; Isaiah 42:6 Isaiah 42:6I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
American King James Version×
)—would proclaim and teach many priceless truths in the temple courts (John 7:14 John 7:14Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 21:12-16 Matthew 21:12-16 12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 And said to him, Hear you what these say? And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise?
American King James Version×
). What could be more glorious?

So this second temple had great significance, both for the ancient Jews and for us today.

The second temple would continue to be remodeled and transformed, finally undergoing massive redevelopment by Herod the Great some half a millennium after Haggai prophesied. This massive new structure finally physically eclipsed the temple built by Solomon in many respects. It was to this temple that Jesus Himself came.

But tragedy struck again. A few decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Jews collectively rebelled against the occupying Romans. They failed to trust in God, and they failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The result of the rebellion against the Romans was barbaric carnage, and a first partial fulfillment of Christ’s warnings given on the Mount of Olives came to pass (Matthew 24).

During the Festival of Unleavened Bread in A.D. 70, the Roman general and future emperor Titus surrounded Jerusalem with four legions of battle-hardened soldiers. The engines of war ground for months until July, when the temple area was set ablaze and thousands were slaughtered.

The magnificent temple was gone. And so we come to today. What does all of this mean for you?

What lies ahead regarding a temple?

As we have read and understand, the first and second temples played major roles in ancient Israel that reach across the ages to us. As students of Bible prophecy know, the book of Daniel points out that a future terrible entity “shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Daniel 9:27 Daniel 9:27And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured on the desolate.
American King James Version×
) and that the forces of this entity “shall take away the daily sacrifices and place there the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 11:31 Daniel 11:31And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate.
American King James Version×
).

This was partially fulfilled at the time of the Syrian Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. But Jesus pointed to Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation as something future (Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×
). There was a measure of fulfillment with the Roman destruction that soon followed. But Jesus clearly connected the abomination prophecy with end-time events.

The prophesied cutting off of sacrifices and desecration presumably cannot take place without a functioning priesthood and a sanctuary area, which is part of what shows that a third temple with a functioning altar will likely stand in Jerusalem prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

But as significant as the construction of this temple would be in the march of end-time events, there is something far more significant in God’s plan with regard to a temple being built.

Apart from the ancient physical temples of old, the Bible reveals the present construction of a temple that is of utmost importance to God. That temple has eternal consequences. God Himself is building it.

Where is that temple?

God is dwelling in a new temple

To answer that question, consider what the apostle Paul asked a gentile congregation in the Greek port city of Corinth some 2,000 years ago: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
American King James Version×
, New Revised Standard Version). He went on to emphasize this to the same congregation a few years later, when he told them “We are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16 2 Corinthians 6:16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Why is this critically important to understand? The answer relates to the true definition of a Christian. A person can possess extensive biblical knowledge, can perform great acts of sacrifice and can demonstrate what appear to be major spiritual fruits, but that person may not be a true Christian except for the inclusion of one crucial element.

Paul defines a true Christian in a letter that he wrote to the congregation at Rome: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [the same as the Holy Spirit], he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

So a Christian is one who has living within him or her the Holy Spirit of God, making that person a living temple and part of the collective temple of all those in whom God’s Spirit dwells, the temple now under construction that God is most concerned with!

While the gift of eternal life is just that—a momentous, unbelievable gift from God that cannot be earned—a Christian develops holy righteous character through overcoming trials and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17 2 Peter 3:17You therefore, beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.
American King James Version×
). This holy character results from the construction and development of the living temple of God—reflected in our thoughts, words and actions.

Our own spiritual construction project

Paul tells us, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

How are we to do this? How are we to foster the development of our spiritual temple? Paul continues, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
).

The mind is where we truly surrender to God, where “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 2 Corinthians 10:5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
American King James Version×
, NIV).

The Bible often gives us physical parallels to consider when we are trying to grow spiritually. In reviewing the building of the first temple, consider what David said about our motives for wanting to build our spiritual temple.

To be successful in our spiritual temple construction project, we must first acknowledge God as all-powerful, and then serve Him both with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.

Why is a willing mind so important? Consider this critical fact: “The Lord searches every heart, and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9 1 Chronicles 28:9And you, Solomon my son, know you the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts: if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Wholehearted devotion means we do it with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10 Ecclesiastes 9:10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.
American King James Version×
). We don’t hold back. As David prepared to set up Solomon for the construction of the first temple, we find that he publicly gave his “personal treasures … for the temple of my God , over and above everything I have [already] provided for this holy temple” (1 Chronicles 29:3 1 Chronicles 29:3Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of my own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house.
American King James Version×
).

Even though God is invisible, to succeed in our spiritual temple project we must deploy faith. Why? Because “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”! (Hebrews 11:6 Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Any construction project has milestones and outcomes to meet. Our spiritual temple construction project is no different. As we progress in our Christian construction project, together with the Holy Spirit living and working within us, we will begin to display and demonstrate critical milestones and outcomes. We find them listed in Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version×
: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV). What is the chief defining milestone? As Jesus Himself said: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 John 13:35By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
American King James Version×
).

Why is building a spiritual temple important? As noted earlier, a major purpose for the magnificent construction of the first temple was to bear witness of God’s way of life. It was to be built “in the sight of all the nations” (1 Chronicles 22:5 1 Chronicles 22:5And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death.
American King James Version×
). Similarly, Jesus commanded His disciples to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Finally, building a major construction project is tough work. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the construction of a spiritual temple can produce high anxiety.

But we have a spiritual construction manager onsite! He is prepared to help us with all directions and supplies. Paul declares this promise from God: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 Philippians 4:19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

The same words David told his son Solomon are true for us today as we conduct the construction of our spiritual temple: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly” (1 Chronicles 28:20 1 Chronicles 28:20And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation 1996).

Yes, God’s temple is already under construction. Is He building it within you?