How can we know that Christ’s return is near? (Part 4)
We already alluded to the fact that the man of sin will sit as God in the Temple of God, pretending to be God Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:4). We also saw that this will happen just prior to the return of Jesus Christ. This means, a Third Temple will be built in Jerusalem so that the man of sin can occupy it. When we see that that Temple will be built, we will know that Christ’s return is imminent.
A further question is as to why a Temple would be built in the first place. One answer is: To fulfill the desire of the Jews to bring daily sacrifices at the Temple Mount. And even though it is true that sacrifices can be brought before the foundation of the Temple has been laid and the erection of the Temple has been completed (compare Ezra 3:6, 11), it is also true that the Jews would not bring daily animal sacrifices unless the preparation of the Temple is underway (compare Ezra 3:8-10).
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary explains the passages in Ezra 3:6-11: “They could not at once have a temple, but they would not be without an altar… And they made preparation for the building of the temple without delay…”
Barnes Notes on the Bible adds: “They restored the old altar of burnt-offerings, which stood directly in front of the temple-porch, upon the old foundation.” In other words, on the Temple Mount. Soncino writes to verse 8: “…‘house of God’ probably denotes the site where the First Temple had stood on which they planned to erect the new Sanctuary.”
We should also notice that the occurrences in Ezra 3 were unique, in that the Jews were allowed to leave their Babylonian captivity and to return to Jerusalem in order to build the Temple there (Ezra 1:2-5; 2:68; compare also Ezra 4:1-3).
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges points out: “The burnt offerings were regularly made on the altar, although there was no Temple building, nor Temple worship. Such a thing would have been almost incredible to the Jew of later centuries.”
The Bible clearly prophesies that the Jews will bring daily sacrifices, which will subsequently be suppressed by an invading foreign power (Gentile nations under the leadership of a military commander, the “beast”). The sacrifices will be suppressed by that power for 2,300 evening-mornings (Daniel 8:14) or 1,150 days (as daily sacrifices are brought twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, compare Exodus 29:38-39), until the sanctuary will be cleansed. The foreign power will also place there the abomination of desolation, to be discussed later (compare Daniel 8:11-12; Daniel 11:31). All of this will happen at the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
It is important to understand the correct meaning of Daniel 8:13-14. A superficial reading might lead to the conclusion that animal sacrifices will be given for 2,300 evenings and mornings (1,150 days) until the foreign power invades Jerusalem and suppresses them. But that is not correct. Rather, we are told that the daily sacrifices will begin at a given point and will then cease for 1,150 days. We are not told specifically when they will begin and for how long they will be given, but as other prophecies indicate, they will be given for only a short time until the foreign power will invade the Middle East, bringing about the Great Tribulation. This shows too that the building of the Third Temple will have to be completed or nearly completed when the foreign power invades and conquers Jerusalem and the man of sin will sit in the Temple.
The German Bible, Hoffnung fuer Alle, renders Daniel 8:13: “When will one be able to give God again the regular sacrifices? When will the rebellion against the Lord of Heaven and the terrible sacrilege of the Temple end?”
The Revised English Bible translates Daniel 8:13-14 as follows: “… ‘How long will the period of this vision last? How long will the regular offering be suppressed and impiety cause desolation? How long will the Holy Place and the fairest of all lands be given over to be trodden down?’ The answer came, ‘For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings, then the Holy Place will be restored.’”
Notice carefully: 2,300 evenings and mornings were to pass before the sanctuary would be cleansed or restored. During this time span, the daily offerings would be suppressed; the “transgression of desolation” or the “abomination of desolation” would appear; and the Holy Place (or the sanctuary or the Temple) would be trodden down or trampled underfoot.
In addition, Daniel 12:11 says that there will be 1,290 days AFTER the daily sacrifices were taken away AND the abomination of desolation will have been set up.
Some say that Daniel is referring to the day of Christ’s return and tells us to count backwards, but if we were to count backwards from such an assumed day of Christ’s Second Coming, then Daniel 8:13-14 would tell us that the daily sacrifices will be abolished for 1,150 days before Christ’s return, while Daniel 12:11 would tell us that the daily sacrifices will be abolished for 1,290 days before Christ’s return. Both statements could not be correct, as they would contradict each other. This shows that we must wait until God reveals to us the clear meaning of those days, as there is certainly importance attached to them.
When Christ was asked by His disciples what would signify the end of the age (Matthew 24:3), He referred to the “great tribulation” (verse 21) and, at that same time, “‘the abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (verse 15; compare, too, Mark 13:14, adding, “where it ought not”).
In Luke 21:20, in the parallel account, Christ is quoted as saying, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”
Daniel 11:31 refers to Antiochus Epiphanes as a forerunner for another end-time fulfillment. When Antiochus set up the first “abomination of desolation,” he overran Jerusalem with armies; did away with the daily sacrifices, which were brought AT THE TEMPLE; and erected an image of Zeus (or Jupiter) in the “holy place” — the TEMPLE. He and his followers began offering pigs to their pagan deity in the Holy TEMPLE in Jerusalem.
Something similar will happen again when the end-time abomination of desolation occurs. This might include the erection of an image in the Temple, which could present a false Christ or a statue of the “Virgin Mary.” In addition, we read in Revelation 13:14-15 that a religious power will create “a speaking image” of the political and military beast power. Some have suggested that “the false prophet will attempt to lead the people to finance the erection of a great image in Jerusalem… When the image speaks, Jews and Gentiles, Roman Catholics and Protestants, wherever they are, will worship the image or be killed if they refuse” (Lehmann Strauss, “The Book of the Revelation”). Finally, we also read that the false prophet will sit in the Temple of God and pretend to BE God, constituting the final and ultimate abomination of desolation in the holy place. It is very possible that he will be using the “speaking image” (perhaps a religious statue in the Temple) to “prove” his divinity while sitting in the Temple. The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown wrote: “Rome’s speaking images and winking pictures of the Virgin Mary and the saints are an earnest of the future demoniacal miracles of the false prophet in making the… image to speak.”
Other passages confirm as well that a literal temple will be built in Jerusalem just prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation. For instance, Revelation 11:1-2 says that an angel of God told John: “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months [or 3 1/2 years].”
We note that Gentiles (referring to European armies under a military leader, the “beast”) will tread the holy city underfoot for 3 1/2 years, and the court, which is outside the temple, will be given to those Gentiles. Luke 21:24 prophesies that the Gentiles will trample or tread the holy city underfoot until “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” We also read in Daniel 8:13 that “some of the host” will be trampled underfoot by a future Gentile ruler (the beast).
Notice again how the Revised English Bible renders Daniel 8:13: “…How long will the regular offering be suppressed and impiety cause desolation? How long will the Holy Place and the fairest of all lands be given over to be trodden down?”
Some have wondered whether a third Temple will be built prior to Christ’s return, or whether the reference to the “Temple” refers to the Church of God, the spiritual Temple. We have addressed and rejected this concern in the last installment.
In addition, in Die Reine Wahrheit of October 1967 (German edition of The Plain Truth), it was stated on page 10 (in the article, “2,300 Evenings and Mornings”): “Yes, a temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, as incredible as it may sound.”
In The Good News magazine, November-December 1987, the following was stated on page 12 in “A Sealed Prophecy,” implying the existence of a Temple before Christ’s return: “The ‘sanctuary’ is to be ‘trampled underfoot.’… the taking away of daily sacrifices and trampling of a sanctuary underfoot is yet a future event. We are nearing the fulfillment of these amazing prophecies about the Temple Mount in Jerusalem…”
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote the following about the man of sin, in the Plain Truth of June 1967:
“This European power, resurrecting for a VERY short while the Roman Empire, will take over the city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2.) They will take the Temple, and plant the palace of their headquarters there. With this coming military leader, pictured in Revelation 17 as the symbolic ‘beast,’ will be a supreme religious leader, called ‘the False Prophet,’ [Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10] and the ‘man of sin.’ So will you turn next to II Thessalonians 2:3-4: ‘Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day’ — the Day of the Lord, verse 2 — ‘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, showing himself that he is God.’ So there will have to be the Temple there!”
An additional passage, which shows that the Jews will build an end-time Temple in Jerusalem, just prior to Christ’s return, is Psalm 79:1-7. This is an end-time psalm, as verse 6 shows. God is asked to pour out His wrath on the nations — a reference to God’s pouring out of the end-time plagues of His wrath, as described in Revelation 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19. In this context, Psalm 79:1 says: “O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; Your holy temple they have defiled. They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.”
Other prophetic end-time references to a future temple in Jerusalem can be found in Ezekiel 8:5, 16, as well as in Ezekiel 9:1-7. These passages speak about a defilement within the Temple, an “image of jealousy” in the Temple, sunrise worship services in the Temple; and punishment of those who defile the Temple, which is also referred to as God’s sanctuary.
The Jewish community in the state of Israel, as well as fundamental Christians, are anxiously waiting for the building of the Third Temple. Contributions and gold have been received from national and international sponsors for the building of the Temple. A blueprint for the building of the Temple exists; and replicas of certain furnishings and utensils for the Temple have been prepared. They include the golden lampstand, the table of showbread, the altar of incense, the Ark of the Covenant, and the crown and ephod for the High Priest.
Many articles have been published over the years, clearly proving the conviction of many Jews and Christians that a Third Temple will be built PRIOR to the arrival of the Messiah. We are setting forth some recent representative samples.
JTA wrote on May 14, 2018:
“The United States dedicated its newly established embassy in Jerusalem in a high-profile ceremony attended by prominent Trump administration officials… The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming votes, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and called for relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem…
“Several of the speakers… reminded the audience that exactly 70 years ago, nearly to the moment of the ceremony, the United States under President Harry Truman became the first country to recognize the new state of Israel.”
Benjamin Netanyahu gave a remarkable speech during the opening of the US embassy, which clearly alluded to the building of the Third Temple. He said, as quoted by the Times of Israel, dated May 14, 2018:
“In Jerusalem, King David established our capital three thousand years ago. In Jerusalem, King Solomon built our Temple, which stood for many centuries. In Jerusalem, Jewish exiles from Babylon rebuilt the Temple, which stood for many more centuries. In Jerusalem, the Maccabees rededicated that Temple and restored Jewish sovereignty in this land.
“And it was here in Jerusalem some two thousand years later that the soldiers of Israel spoke three immortal words… [‘Har ha’bayit be’yadeinu,’] ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands,’ words that lifted the spirit of the entire nation. We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay…
“May the opening of this embassy in this city spread the truth far and wide, and may the truth advance a lasting peace between Israel and all our neighbors. God bless the United States of America and God bless Jerusalem, the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.”
The Daily Star wrote on September 8, 2018:
“The Temple Institute announced the birth of an entirely red female calf that ‘brings the promise of reinstating Biblical purity to the world’. The cow’s birth and sacrifice is said to proceed the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. And the Third Temple’s construction – following the destruction of the previous two – heralds the arrival of the Jewish Messiah…
“Rabbi Chain Richman, director of the Temple Institute, hailed the red heifer’s birth as suggestions the time could be right for the Third Temple…
“Evangelical Christians believe the construction of the Third Temple will herald their own end times prophecy…”
The Bible does not necessitate or prophesy the appearance of a red heifer (note Hebrews 9:11-14 in reference to the abolished need for the ashes of a red heifer; also compare Hebrews 10:8-10, 18; Hebrews 8:13). However, it is very likely that some Jewish clerics may insist that the sacrifice of such a heifer for the purpose of producing the ashes for the water of purification of the Temple Mount, and the Temple itself, will be essential for the reconstruction of the Temple and the coming of the Messiah. But this is NOT to say that other clerics or many Jews will abide by the interpretation of some, and that they will not begin with the construction of the Temple and the offering of daily animal sacrifices before they “find” such a red heifer.
Breaking Israel News wrote on November 8, 2018:
“Jerusalem will have a new mayor next week and more than any other election this year will decide the religious nature of Israel’s capital. The nascent Sanhedrin has addressed a letter to the two candidates emphasizing the role of the Third Temple in municipal current policy… ‘We call on the candidates as well as the voters to make choices based on truth and on the main aspect of Jerusalem, which is the building of the Temple.’
“The Sanhedrin wrote a similar letter [in November of 2016] to U.S. President Donald Trump after he won the election, calling on him to take a role in building the Third Temple just as Persian King Cyrus helped the Jews build the Second Temple after the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE…
“The Sanhedrin has already begun working toward this end, holding full-dress reenactments of the Temple service before the Biblical feasts…”
There is great momentum for the beginning of daily animal sacrifices and the building of the Third Temple. This momentum will intensify. We will know that Christ’s return is near when the Jews begin to bring daily animal sacrifices in connection with building the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
(To be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link