The traditional perspective on this topic is quite clear; a third temple needs to be built in Jerusalem so that the abomination of desolation can occur. It is believed this event kicks off the last 3-1/2 years of tribulation by the Beast power. It is based on viewing the events before Christ’s glorious return through the lens of the 70-Weeks Prophecy of Daniel. This lens is applied whether one holds a pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, or even a pre-wrath perspective. We reject the conclusions derived from this lens because of the many problems it produces.
One key problem, which is the focus of this article, is the failure to consider the underlying work that God and his Christ are engaged in on Israel’s(1) behalf and how that relates to the inclusion of the Gentiles. When this underlying purpose becomes the lens through which we view scripture, all the conflicts and contradictions dissolve, and we’re left with a more unfiltered view of God’s plan for all humanity.
Interested in some of the details of God’s underlying purpose for Israel?
Israel-God’s Chosen People
To see that the descendants of Jacob (Israel) have been and still are special to God is not difficult. It may not be obvious on the surface, and it’s certainly made worse by ideas like “replacement theology,” but we need only step back to see that even Christ’s work had Israel’s descendants built into the core. Let’s begin with the Apostle Paul’s description of his brethren.
4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
Paul has provided a fundamental perspective, a paradigm, through which he sees the work God is doing comes through Israel for the benefit of the Gentiles (the world). If one continues to read Romans 9, 10, and 11, it becomes clear that God’s work will be achieved through Israel’s disobedience, just as it does for those under the new covenant in Christ. Were any in the new covenant called because of their own righteousness? No, they were all called from disobedience into the marvelous light of Christ (1 Peter 2:7-10). Why should Israel’s fate be any different? Certainly their path to Christ is different from those currently under the new covenant, but scripture makes it clear – their ultimate destiny is the same as ours.
Godly Correction Leads to Repentance
Let’s begin by looking at the path Israel has taken up until the time of Christ. I cannot do it justice, so I’ll rely on the inspired words of Stephen. I suggest you take a moment and read Acts 7 fully, then return. I will only highlight some of Stephen’s main points.
- It begins with Abraham, a Gentile, called from the land of the Chaldeans
- Through the promises to Abraham, God blesses Issac his son, and Jacob (Israel) his grandson
- From these descend the twelve patriarchs; the twelve sons of Jacob, forming the twelve tribes of Israel
- Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, was sold into slavery in Egypt by his older brothers
- God would take the suffering of Joseph and turn it into glory
- The glory of God displayed in Joseph was not merely for Joseph’s benefit, but for the building of a nation
- Protected through the famine in Egypt, Joseph is reunited with his father and brothers
- As promised by God, the descendants of Abraham (through Jacob) increased and multiplied while in Egypt
- Over time there arose a Pharaoh in Egypt who did not know Joseph, and feared the numerous Israelites. This Pharaoh dealt harshly with the Israelites.
- Moses, saved from the law of death imposed by the Pharaoh in Egypt, grew up in the instruction and wisdom of the Egyptians, and became mighty in word and deed.
- Having fled Egypt for killing an Egyptian while protecting his Hebrew brethren, Moses encounters God in the wilderness of Midian.
- It is here that God calls upon Moses to redeem his people out of Egypt that they might serve him.
- It was Moses whom God sent to redeem his people with great signs and wonders in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.
- God entered into a covenant with them at Sinai, and although they were disobedient and he corrected them, eventually Joshua led them into the promised land.
- It was during the days of King David that his son, Solomon, would build a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
- Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands – did not His hands make all these things?
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
- Did you note that Stephen recognized the temporary nature of the glorious temple built by Solomon? He even quotes Isaiah 66:1-2.
- Notice the contrast Stephen makes between the sign of the first covenant with Israel; physical circumcision, and that of the new covenant; a circumcised heart and ears.
- Notice also the degree of their stubbornness – you always resist the Holy Spirit.
- Even Christ criticized the Jewish authorities for their treatment of the prophets
- These prophets announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One.
Their response to Stephen was as emotional as their response to Christ, and resulted in the same conclusion – death. That is all they know, and that is where their lack of faith and short-sighted judgment always leads.
Yet through all Israel’s disobedience, God remains faithful to them, fully intending to complete the work he started.
8 “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. 9 But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
10 “Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord,
nor be dismayed, O Israel;
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
11 For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord;
I will make a full end of all the nations
among whom I scattered you,
but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.
23 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, 26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”
Even in the midst of their Babylonian and Persian captivity, God reassured them through many prophets of his intention to bless them. He promises their abundance will return not only after their eventual return from captivity, but at a future time when David their King will be raised from the dead. (Jeremiah 3; Jeremiah 31:1-6, 27-30, 38-40; Jeremiah 32:36-44; Jeremiah 33:1-9, 14-16; Ezekiel 11:16-21; Ezekiel 12; Ezekiel 14:12-23; Ezekiel 36:16-21; Ezekiel 37; Zechariah 8:1-8)
Once Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt, the remaining Jews (descendants of Judah and Benjamin) prospered for a time. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before they also rejected the covenant and worshiped idols. As foreseen by Jeremiah, treacherous Judah was more disobedient than her sister Israel (Jeremiah 3:6-11). In pretense she returned to the Lord. This was the state of the Jews during the time of Christ (Matthew 23). This continued disobedience of the shepherds in Jerusalem is what leads to the fulfillment of the days of vengeance brought upon this people.
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The pending destruction of the temple, which Christ warned his disciples about, was to occur in their time (Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2). This was the destruction of the Herodian temple (the second temple) which occurred in 70 A.D. The result of the destruction of this second temple was connected to the dispersion of the Jews – to fulfill all that is written. This is the continued correction upon Judah as described in Jeremiah 30 – I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.
Luke goes so far as to record how long this dispersion is to last – until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. That, however, is the subject of several other articles.
Two Temples Destroyed – Is There a Need for a Third?
By briefly reviewing the history and purpose for Israel’s captivity and dispersion, along with the second temple destruction and dispersion of Judah in 70 A.D., we can begin to understand the work that God is continuing to do in Israel. The Apostle Paul alludes to this in his book to the Romans.
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
23 And even they (Israel), if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you (Gentiles) were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these (Israel), the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Being a student of the scriptures, Paul saw and understood the future God intended for his people. Now, in Christ he could see the means by which that reconciliation and restoration would occur. At the moment though, those in Israel who remain in unbelief continue to be cut off for the benefit of the world (vs 15). Yet God’s intent is that they will not remain in this state.
One reason I conclude that there is no need for a third temple of the Jews to be built is because there is no further dispersion of Israel or the Jews required before Christ’s return. Nor is there any prophesied. Quite the opposite. When our Lord returns and establishes his kingdom, it is then that he will restore Israel as a nation and Judah as a people. At that time, there will be a greater exodus of his people from the nations where he scattered them than there was from Egypt (Isaiah 49; Jeremiah 23).
5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
Since the current dispersion of the Jews (representing the tribe of Judah in Israel) is already established in scripture to span from the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D to the completion of the time of the Gentiles, there appears to be little value in God’s plan for a third physical temple to be built. The remaining prophecies for the descendants of Israel indicate their national restoration and personal redemption under a Davidic king; the Lord is our Righteousness. There are, however, other compelling reasons why a third physical temple seems unlikely.
To dig deeper into other reasons why no third temple is needed.
There is much more to learn about each of these topics, and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
To discover more about Christ’s plans for the period surrounding his glorious return, read my recent book . . .
The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View
At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.
- Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, entered into a covenant with God and unknowingly prepared the way for the world’s redemption (Genesis 17:4-8; Exodus 29:44-46; Romans 9:25-10:4)
- God has not rejected Israel completely (the twelve tribes, the descendants of Jacob) (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 11)
- God will complete his work with Israel for their reconciliation, restoration to the promised land, and ultimately their redemption through the new covenant (Isaiah 43; 54; 65; Joel 2; Amos 4:12-13; Romans 11)
- God has set aside a faithful remnant from the descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel, some of which he will call in the last days prior to the appearance of Christ (Romans 11:1-8 ; Revelation 7:1-8)
- The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, a period of correction for the descendants of Israel, spans the Great Tribulation and a portion of God’s wrath (Jeremiah 30)
1) When I refer to Israel, like the authors of Scripture, I’m referring to the descendants of Jacob (renamed Israel). This does not fit the description of the modern nation of Israel which consists of people from many assorted nationalities. Also, the modern Jews (Judah) represent only one of the twelve original tribes of Israel. In the near future, God will call to himself, for a specific purpose, descendants from all twelve tribes as part of his kingdom-building process (Romans 9:4-5; 11; Revelation 7:4-8).