Will the Jews build a temple in Jerusalem, prior to Christ's return?
When we consider all the Biblical Scriptures related to this topic, it appears very likely that a temple will be built in the near future, prior to Christ’s return.
When Christ was asked by His disciples what the sign of His coming and of the end of the age [of this present civilization] would be (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.”
From these passages, we see that the abomination of desolation refers to foreign armies which will desolate Jerusalem. But is this ALL that the term, “abomination of desolation” refers to? Christ pointed out that the prophet Daniel spoke about the “abomination of desolation.” He did do so on three occasions — in Daniel 9:27; 11:31 and 12:11. (An additional similar reference can be found in Daniel 8:13). The way those passages are worded, they seem to refer to more than just armies. Daniel 11:31 states that a king of the North shall muster forces, “and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and PLACE THERE the abomination of desolation.” Daniel 12:11 states: “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is SET UP…”
These end-time prophecies predict that a future “king of the North” will invade Jerusalem and take away daily sacrifices — indicating that the Jews will, in the future, begin to bring again daily sacrifices in Jerusalem. It is true that the Jews don’t need to have a temple to bring daily sacrifices (compare Ezra 3:6) — but this does not mean that the Jews will NOT build a temple, to bring daily sacrifices there.
Returning to the prophecy in Daniel 11:31, most commentaries agree that particular passage refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, at least as a forerunner for another end-time fulfillment. As The Nelson Study Bible points out, “Antiochus polluted the altar by offering a sow upon it. He declared the daily sacrifices and other Mosaic ceremonies illegal and committed an abomination of desolation by erecting an image of Zeus in the holy place (9:27; 12:11). Jesus said a similar thing would happen just prior to His return (see Matt. 24:15).”
We should take note of the fact that at the time when the first “abomination of desolation” was set up, Antiochus 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.
Please note the following comments published on June 24, 2004, by the Arutz Sheva National News: “After their conquest and occupation of Judea, the Syrian Greek Hellenists (c. 168 BCE) attempted to ‘break’ the Jews. They set up an idol and began offering pigs to their pagan deity in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When they began to spread their heresy among the Jews, they started in a small town called Modi’in. They set up an altar in the town square and instigated some weak Jew to offer a pig up as a sacrifice in plain public view. Public acceptance was meant to imply that the Jews were repudiating the Torah and their covenant with the [God] of their fathers. But in a clear example of the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’, it sparked a national revolt instead, when a priest by the name of Matityahu took a sword, stabbed the turncoat Jew and the Syrian Greek officials, and declared, ‘Whoever is zealous for the Torah and is steadfast in the Covenant, let him follow me.’ The revolt spread, and ultimately was successful, leading to a liberation of the Judean homeland from occupation. The Jews cleaned-up the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and re-lit the menorah. And Hanukah is celebrated until this day, throughout the Jewish world, as a holiday of the liberation of the Jews and Judaism from pagan culture.”
Since the original abomination, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, involved the existence of the temple, it is reasonable to conclude that the final abomination of desolation will likewise involve an existing temple. Other Biblical passages confirm this conclusion:
We read in Revelation 11:1-2 that an angel of God tells 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].” Some rightly point out that the term “temple” or “temple of God” in the New Testament can refer to God’s Church [compare Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17]. They claim that the reference in Revelation 11:1-2 speaks exclusively to the Church. Although the Church might be included here, the more obvious and intended meaning is a reference to a literal temple in Jerusalem. After all, the Gentiles 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. It is difficult to see how all these references could just exclusively refer to the Church.
The Nelson Study Bible comments: “John is given a reed like a measuring rod, much like that used by Ezekiel (see Ezek. 40: 3, 5) in his vision of the measuring of the temple (see Ezek. 40-48)… This is the temple of the tribulation period that will eventually be desecrated (see 13:14, 15; Dan. 9:27; Luke 21:24; 2 Thess. 2:4)… Luke 21:24 prophesies that the Gentiles will tread the holy city underfoot until ‘the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.’ Apparently the period of forty-two months is the conclusion of ‘the times of the Gentiles.’ ‘Gentile’ here may also be translated ‘nations’ (v. 9; 10:11).”
Another Scripture, indicating the existence of a future temple in Jerusalem, just prior to Christ’s return, can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. Paul writes:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [of Christ’s return] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
This “man of sin,” who is also called “the lawless one” in verses 8 and 9, is identified in the book of Revelation as “the false prophet” (compare, for example, Revelation 16:13; 19:20; see, too, Revelation 13:13-14). This religious figure will deceive people through “great signs” (Revelation 13:13; 19:20). We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 that the coming of the lawless one is “according to the working of Satan, with all power, SIGNS and lying wonders.” This false prophet will receive his powers to perform great signs from Satan and his demons (compare Revelation 16:13-14).
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!”
The Ryrie Study Bible comments:
“… the Antichrist [this is an incorrect designation — rather, the passage speaks about the false prophet] will desecrate the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem by placing himself there to be worshipped… This will be the climax of man’s great sin of self-deification, in open defiance of God.”
The Nelson Study Bible adds:
“The man of sin will proclaim himself to be divine and will sit in the temple of God, acting as if he were a god… The man of sin will probably stand in a physical temple in Jerusalem, and declare himself to be a god, the ultimate fulfillment of the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel (Dan. 7:23; 9:26, 27; 11:31, 36, 37; 12:11) and Jesus (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14). These prophecies may have been partially fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes erected a pagan altar to Zeus in the temple of Jerusalem in 167 B.C. (175-164 B.C.), or when Titus destroyed the temple in A.D. 70. Others have interpreted Paul’s reference to the temple of God as a reference to the church.”
However, we read that the returning Christ will consume the man of sin “with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Therefore, this man of sin will exist at the time of Christ’s return. He will proclaim himself to be God, not just “a god.” It is highly unlikely that Paul was talking about the Church as the temple of God in this context. There is no Biblical evidence that the false prophet will be sitting in God’s true Church, proclaiming himself to be God. However, Christ warned His Church in Matthew 24:11 that “many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
One argument that has been advanced for the idea that the “man of sin” is or will be a religious leader within the true Church of God is that he allegedly has to fall away from the truth, which he once knew. This is, however, not in accordance with Scripture. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 does not say that the end-time “man of sin” must fall away from the truth, which he once understood. Rather, the passage only states that Christ will not return “unless the falling away comes first, AND the man of sin is revealed.” It does not say that that man of sin once knew the truth and that he will fall away from the truth.
An additional passage which suggests 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.”
Another Scripture, which seems to make reference to a future physical temple in Jerusalem, can be found in Psalm 122:1: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’ Our feet have been standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem!” David wrote this psalm before there ever was a temple–the house of the LORD– in Jerusalem.
Other prophetic references to a future temple in Jerusalem could perhaps be found in Ezekiel 8:5, 16, as well as in Ezekiel 9:1-7. All these Scriptures are prophecies for the end-time, and they seem to refer to a physical temple and the abominations which will be practiced in it.
Finally, we find detailed descriptions of a future physical temple in Jerusalem in the book of Ezekiel, beginning in chapter 40. We know from those Scriptures that a literal temple will be in Jerusalem after Christ’s return. Ezekiel 40-46 do not tell us, however, when this future temple will be built. Is it possible that Ezekiel 40-46 describe the very same temple which the Jews will begin to build just prior to Christ’s return?
In conclusion, considering all the Scriptures on the topic, it appears very likely that a temple will be built in Jerusalem just prior to Christ’s return. Most certainly, God will give a clearer understanding about these things, as the time draws nearer.