9. The Temple and Two Witnesses

(Revelation 11)

In Revelation 11, explicit reference is made to the temple service as well as the desecration of the temple in the middle of the tribulation period. Which temple is this? In the history and prophecies about Israel reference is made to the following four temples:

1.   The temple of Solomon. This temple was destroyed just before the Babylonian captivity, but after the return of Israel it was rebuilt again. It is commonly referred to as the first temple.

2.   The temple of Herod. This temple was built for the Jews by Herod in the last century before Christ. It is known as the second temple.

3.   The temple of the tribulation period will be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the coming tribulation period after a covenant with the Antichrist. It is referred to as the third temple.

4.   The millennial temple will be built in Jerusalem after the coming of the true Messiah (Ezek. 40-44). It is described as the fourth temple.

The measuring of the temple, as well as its desecration, is described as follows by John:

“Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying: 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 under foot for forty-two months” (Rev. 11:1-2).

This prophecy was written 25 years after the temple of Herod (the second temple) was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and can therefore only refer to a third, future rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. The third temple, which will be completed and put into service during the first half of the tribulation period, will be desecrated by the Antichrist. Apart from the prophecy in Revelation 11, there are various other references to the third temple in the Bible. Daniel says:

“Then he [referring to the Antichrist] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [that is a year-week of seven years] but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Dan. 9:27).

The termination of the sacrifices in the middle of the tribulation period will coincide with the time when the Antichrist will assume his role as military dictator, declare himself to be God, and have an image of himself placed  in the temple. In the Holy of holies, where only the High Priest may enter once a year to bring a sacrifice for the nation on the ark of the covenant of the true God, the Antichrist will order his image to be placed and demand to be worshipped in the place of God. About this rebellious act, Daniel says:

“And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation… [This] king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished" (Dan. 11:31, 36).

The Lord Jesus also referred to the abominable image of the Antichrist that will be erected in the temple at the beginning of the second half of the seven year tribulation period, described as the great tribulation:

“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place… then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24:15-21).

Paul also mentions the Antichrist’s desecration of the temple in the middle of the tribulation, when he describes him as the “man of sin… 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 (2 Thes. 2:3-4).

In Revelation 13 the full implications are spelt out of the placing of the image of the beast in the temple and of the forced worship of the Antichrist as the self-declared god of this world:

“He [that is the false prophet] was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. 13:15).

In the middle of the tribulation the Antichrist will declare himself to be God. He will not only stop the Jewish religious sacrifices, but will abrogate all the other religions, as he will exalt himself above every god that is worshipped. That will amount to the obliteration of all religions, aimed at substituting them with the universal worship of the Antichrist by people of all faiths.

We know that the Antichrist will, as an end-time ruler, be a living person on earth during the Second Coming of Jesus (Rev. 19:19; 2 Thes. 2:8), and, as has already been shown, there will definitely be a temple in Jerusalem during his reign.

The age-old conflict

The great animosity of Satan against the temple is, however, not confined to the end-time. Through the ages the Temple Mount has been and still is one of his prime targets – the reason being that God chose to establish His Name on this holy site in Jerusalem and to make important revelations from it (Ps. 48; 132:13-15). It is also the place to which Jesus will return after His feet touch down on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4) and He has destroyed His enemies. He will then go down into the Kidron Valley, cross the Brook Kidron, ascend Mount Moriah and enter the temple site through the East Gate (also known as the Golden Gate) to proclaim His position as Messiah-King and to restore the throne of David for His millennial reign.

The East (or Golden) Gate is to this day completely sealed up with large stone blocks built into it by the Arabs when they became aware of the biblical prophecy that this special gate was to be kept shut “because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it” (Ezek. 44:2). The Lord Jesus has entered the East Gate during His triumphal entry and knowing the prophecies of His Second Coming, the Arabs wanted to be sure He would not be able to enter the rebuilt East Gate – as if that would be able to prevent Him!

For many centuries the temple also demonstrated God’s plan of salvation, i.e. the atoning death of Jesus for sinners. Every sacrificial animal that was brought through the Sheep Gate to the temple to be sacrificed pointed to the Lamb of God who would be slain, just outside Jerusalem, for the sins of humanity.

Do you understand why Satan and his hordes so fiercely hate this place? His intention has been and is to transform the Temple Mount into a place where a god other than the God of the Bible is worshipped, in preparation for the universal worshipping of the Antichrist here during his evil reign on earth. Since the seventh century – in 638 AD, which was six years after the death of Mohammed – the Temple Mount has been in Arab hands. It is as if Satan challenges God through the temples of a foreign god on this site, which is intensely sacred to Jews and Christians. The Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand here.

The Dome of the Rock straddles the rock where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, who was a type of the Messiah. On the dome of this mosque the following words are inscribed: “God does not have a son!” Muslims regard it as blasphemous if anyone says that God has a Son, and spit on the ground in contempt. The Allah of the Koran is, therefore, not the Triune God of the Bible! Further, the Muslims claim it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah. Clearly, ‘Ishmael’ is still mocking ‘Isaac’ (Gen. 21:9).

Rebuilding of the temple

Intensive preparations have been in progress for many years aimed at rebuilding the temple on its original site on the Temple Mount. Many Israelis cherish it as their ultimate dream to see the temple being rebuilt. Now that they have returned to their land, this ideal is much closer to realisation. One of the major obstacles to this is the high profile of Islam on the Temple Mount with its two mosques. The Muslims, the Temple Mount is the third holiest place on earth after Mecca and Medina. The fact that the Dome of the Rock was restored at a very high cost, including new golden plates on its dome, is an indication that Islam has no intention of leaving the Temple Mount.

For many years is was thought that the Dome of the Rock stands on the spot where the temple should be rebuilt, but archaeological excavations disproved this idea. The Jewish temple can be build directly north of the Dome of the Rock, with about 3½ metres between the two buildings. If it is kept in mind that the Antichrist will offer himself as the common messiah of all faiths, it can be expected that these two shrines will indeed stand alongside each other. Islam and Judaism will then co-exist as sister religions with all the other amalgamated world religions for 3½ years. Thereafter the crisis of Daniel 9:27 will arise when the Antichrist will declare himself as God in the temple. The Jews will then reject him and break their covenant with him.

For many years there have been Israeli pressure groups who campaigned and planned for the rebuilding of the temple. The most well-known group is the Temple Mount Faithful which was established by Gehrson Solomon shortly after the Six Day War in 1967. Their objective is to free the Temple Mount from what they call its “illegal Arab occupation.” After the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount during the Six Day War the former minister of defence, Moshe Dayan, transferred the civil administration of the 35 acres of the Temple Mount to a Muslim council, the Waqf. Solomon’s group describes this decision as a great set-back for the temple project.

During the past more than 30 years Solomon’s group has made various attempts to gain control over the Temple Mount. Although it is still a Muslim stronghold, he believes that the Jewish temple will be built here in the near future. In 1990, his group attracted the attention of the international media when they asked permission to lay a cornerstone of 4½ tons on the temple site. Although permission was denied to them, riots nevertheless broke out, leading to the death of 17 Arabs.

Subsequently Solomon’s group again attempted to lay the corner-stone, but without success. These orthodox activists are convinced that they will ultimately achieve their purpose. Solomon says that God commanded him to introduce a new period in Israel’s history in which the restored temple service will play a vital role.

Not all the religious leaders in Israel are prepared to provoke violence in their efforts to secure Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. Rabbi Jehuda Getz, chief rabbi of the Western Wall, says that it is not for man to decide how the Jews will gain control over the Temple Mount. That is a matter for God. Getz expressed the opinion that the time is not yet ripe for the temple to be rebuilt. He says that a prophet must first come and indicate the exact spot where the altar should be. In the meantime, no one can start construction work on the temple until this prophet has come.

In spite of these stumbling-blocks to the rebuilding of the temple, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem is busy preparing for this event. They oversee the manufacturing of golden and silver artefacts, as well as ceremonial pitchers and vessels that must be used in the restored temple. The Institute also exhibits various items such as the linen robe that the priests must wear, the cap of the high priest, as well as harps, trumpets, fire-pans, etc.

The Institute's director of public affairs, Chaim Richman, says that his organisation do their work in obedience to the Lord. The Institute does not see itself as a political organisation and consequently does not negotiate with the Muslims or try to drive them from the Temple Mount. Their objective is purely religious, within the framework of the Jewish religious laws, to try to expedite the building of the temple by peaceful means.

Furthermore, there is a school for the training of Levitical priests in Jerusalem. Should the temple be built at short notice, well-trained priests must be available to conduct the temple services. It is accepted, and DNA tests have tended to confirm, that Jews with the surname of Cohen and Kaplan, among others, are descended from the tribe of Levi and are therefore eligible to be trained as priests. To be an expert in Jewish law demands knowledge of the 625 laws that are prescribed by the Torah, as well as rabbinical rules in the Talmud. According to orthodox Jews these laws and traditions must all be revived and honoured in the Messianic era when the temple will be rebuilt.

Dramatic events are expected in the near future in Jerusalem, and those who have a prophetic expectation know that the time for it is near.

The two witnesses

Because the world will be in spiritual darkness after the rapture, the Lord will raise up special witnesses to gather a harvest for the kingdom of God among Israel and the nations during that time. In Chapter 7, mention was made of the 144 000 Jewish evangelists who will be assigned to the evangelistic ministry. In Revelation 11, mention is made of two outstanding witnesses who will be mightily used of God to proclaim the truth and strongly rebuke His enemies:

“And I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

“Now when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

“Now after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them: Come up here. And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Rev. 11:3-13).

Various commentators are of the opinion that the two witnesses will be Elijah and Moses in mortal, physical bodies, who will return to the land and people of Israel. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that Elijah and Moses will personally be sent back to earth to be slain by the Antichrist and his evil forces, which would involve Moses dying for a second time. It is more likely that two outstandingly gifted and godly Messianic Jews, perhaps even drawn from the ranks of the 144 000 evangelists converted to faith in Yeshua Ha Mashiach, will be raised up 'in the spirit and power of Elijah' and Moses. It may, therefore, be instructive to review aspects of the role, exploits and ministry of these two great prophets of Israel – who were singled out for the great honour of appearing on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Redeemer-Messiah Himself – as the parallels with the witnesses are quite striking. Regarding Elijah, it is recorded in the last two verses of the Old Testament that the Lord of Hosts declared:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).

This prophecy was partly fulfilled at Christ's first coming. When the disciples mentioned that "the scribes say that Elijah must come first," Jesus replied: "Elijah has come already." Then they understood He referred to John the Baptist (Mt. 17:10-13), of whom the angel Gabriel prophesied that he would "turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God" and "go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk. 1:13-17; cf. Mal. 4:5-6).

The prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6 will be completely fulfilled before Christ's Second Coming in that just as John the Baptist acted 'in the spirit and power of Elijah' at Christ's first coming, so will the two witnesses act in the same spirit and power before His Second Coming. They will prepare His way by turning 'many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God' and 'the hearts of the fathers to the children… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'

For 3½ years, that is during the first half of Daniel's 70th week, and before the dark days of the great tribulation during the second half of the week, these two witnesses will minister so powerfully to the people of Israel that a remnant of the nation will return to the God of their fathers. In defiance of the Antichrist's ideology of abolishing national identity to achieve world unity, the two witnesses will succeed in restoring this remnant's national identity and calling as a people uniquely chosen of God. There will be a serious generation gap due, probably, to the younger generation preferring to abandon their distinctive national identity in favour of the Antichrist's globalism and the worshipping of the cosmic Messiah of all faiths, while the older generation will cling to orthodox traditions and a lifeless form of godliness due to the continued rejection of the true Messiah. The inspired ministry of the two witnesses will succeed in bridging this gap and unifying the generations in a new-found faith in the coming Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

Elijah is known as the prophet who was mightily used of God to perform great miracles in Israel. When he ascended to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha, his successor, said of him: "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!" (2 Kings 2:12). To Israel, he was worth more than its defence force and chariots because the power of the Lord worked so strongly through him. The two witnesses will come in that same power, and the fear of the Lord will come upon many people. Elijah raised the widow's child from the dead and confronted the prophets of the false religion of Baal, successfully calling down fire from heaven to defeat them. He also "prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months" (Jas. 5:17). In a similar way, the two witnesses will, 'in the spirit and power of Elijah', miraculously use fire to defeat the false prophets of the Antichrist's world religion and to shut up heaven 'so that no rain falls during the days of their prophecy,' i.e. 3½ years.

The two witnesses will also come in the spirit and power of Moses. Moses was, of course, the great leader whom God raised up to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and to the borders of the Promised Land. He also had the role of mediator through whom God gave His Law to Israel (and through them to the world) and who interceded with God on their behalf. Like Elijah, Moses was mightily used of God to perform signs, wonders and miraculous acts of power:

“Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel” (Deut. 34:10-12).

Moses directly confronted the wicked Pharaoh because of his oppression of the children of Israel and announced severe plagues upon the land and people of Egypt. Likewise, the two witnesses will withstand the Antichrist and his wicked global empire that will oppress the people of Israel, and strike the earth with awesome plagues. They will use their miraculous power to kill any enemies who seek to harm them.

Moses was an outstanding type of Christ whom he foreshadowed and clearly prophesied of:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deut. 18:15).

By this prophecy Moses was clearly preparing Israel for both the first and Second Coming of their Messiah. Tragically, as a nation, they rejected Him at His first coming. In the spirit and power of both Moses and Elijah, the two witnesses will urgently and powerfully prepare the remnant of Israel for the imminent Second Coming of their true Messiah and strongly urge them to abrogate and renounce their covenant with the false messiah. The witnesses will admonish and teach the remnant of Israel that they, as well as the witnesses themselves, will have to suffer reproach and persecution for their loyalty to the true Messiah, Jesus, and His coming Kingdom in which Israel will have a key role to play. Both Elijah and Moses faced great opposition and suffered affliction because of their faithful witness and dedication to God and His people. Of Moses it is said:

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ [the Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:24-27).

By taking a firm stand against the kingdom of darkness, ruled by the Satanic triumvirate, the witnesses and the remnant of Israel will pay a heavy price in tribulation for resisting the false messiah. But they will be richly rewarded for suffering affliction for the sake of the true Messiah.

The powerful witness and exploits of the two witnesses will have a world-wide impact during the first half of the tribulation period. It is no wonder that the Antichrist and his followers will be furious because of their activities. When the Antichrist usurps all power and authority in the middle of the tribulation period, he will turn his venom upon the two witnesses and fight against them and kill them. But the Lord will raise them from the dead after three and a half literal days and invite them into heaven, to where they will ascend in full view of their enemies, their mission successfully accomplished.

Subsequently, the dark and stormy night of the Antichrist's reign of terror will engulf the entire world and all its inhabitants for 42 months of the most appalling and gruesome tribulation in the history of mankind. Not many will survive the wars, pestilences, disasters and judgements that will befall the wicked during the awful Day of the Lord.