There is widespread talk in Israel concerning a revival of their temple culture which has been discontinued for almost two millennia after having been ended by the Roman Empire which destroyed the second temple in AD 70 and dispersed Israel from their land. Particularly among orthodox Jews, there is growing consensus that the temple culture needs to be fully revived before Israel will once again enjoy the privileges of prosperity and an unthreatened existence, which will follow if they honour their ancient covenant with God. Various religious leaders are of the opinion that peace in Israel and the Middle East can only be secured in this manner, as their honouring of God by way of the temple service will bring peace to Israel as well as all other nations. The condition for peace is that they should be prepared to serve and worship God at the temple in Jerusalem, and subsequently commit themselves to conducting their affairs in accordance with His Word.
According to biblical prophecies it is clear that two more temples will be built in Jerusalem in the end-time. Revelation 11 makes specific reference to temple service in Israel and to the desecration of the temple during the tribulation. 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. It is commonly referred to as the first temple. The temple was a holy place where the Lord revealed Himself to Israel, but the nation at large did not walk in accordance with His guidance and precepts.
2. The temple of Herod. This temple was built for the Jews by Herod in the last century before the birth of Christ. It is known as the second temple. It was Herod’s purpose that the temple service would occupy the Jews to the extent that it would suppress their Messianic expectation. Herod was a type of the Antichrist since he strongly denied that Jesus was the Messiah or King, and tried to kill Jesus shortly after His birth.
3. The end-time temple of the tribulation period. This temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem after a covenant is made between Israel and the Antichrist (Dan. 9:27). It is referred to as the third temple. The Antichrist will deceive Jews into accepting him as their promised Messiah, and encourage them to seek spiritual cleansing through ritualistic sacrifices, thereby explicitly rejecting Yeshua and His sacrifice on the cross. After 3½ years he will declare himself to be God in this temple and, like Herod, he will attempt to kill the true Messiah.
4. The millennial temple. This temple will be built in Jerusalem following the second coming of the true Messiah (Ezek. 40-44). It is described as the fourth temple. During the millennial kingdom it will serve the purpose of referring back to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who was crucified for the sins of the whole world (Heb. 10:5-12). In this way people in the millennium will be able to appreciate the authenticity of the blood atonement which was made when the spotless Lamb of God was sacrificed for our sins. The activities in the temple typologically referred to the Messiah’s work of grace.
Modern Israel is rapidly approaching the time when the third temple will be built. In Revelation, John refers to the measuring of the temple, as well as its desecration for a period of 42 months during the tribulation period:
“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 given 25 years after the temple of Herod (the second temple) had already been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and can therefore only refer to a future, rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. However, one of the major stumbling-blocks which needs to be overcome, is the presence and high profile of Islamic religion on the Temple Mount where two of their famous temples have been erected, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque, with a third one which has been added more recently. Muslims allege that, from the rock upon which the Dome of the Rock was built, Mohammed ascended to heaven and later returned with a command by Allah to subject the whole world to the authority of the Koran. They also believe that it will be to this place that Isa, whom they regard to be the true Jesus, will return to complete the Islamisation of the world. To them, the Temple Mount is the third holiest place after Mecca and Medina.
Muslims clearly do not intend abandoning their control over the Temple Mount; neither will they demolish the Dome of the Rock to allow for the building of the Jewish temple. However, the view entertained for many years that the Dome of Rock occupies the site where the temple should be built, appears to be incorrect. Various experts hold the opinion that the temple can be built directly to the north of the Dome, leaving space of about three to four metres between the two buildings. Despite the unlikely nature of this prospect, it should be borne in mind that the Antichrist will be accepted as the common messiah of all faiths, leading to a deceptive spiritual reconciliation among the various faiths. A multireligious ecumenical situation such as this would allow for close co-operation between the mosque and the temple. Therefore, the possibility exists that they may both be accommodated on “God’s holy mountain”, where they will co-exist peacefully during the first half of the tribulation period.
Various organisations in Israel are preparing for the building of the temple and the reintroduction of the priestly service.
Israel’s traditional religion revolves around the temple service, which calls for the reinstitution of a fully functioning temple in Jerusalem. Modern Israel is on the threshold of the revival of their Old Testament temple culture and their reverting back to these practices will have far-reaching consequences for the entire Jewish nation – including their form of government. The following reforms are contemplated by the leaders of the temple project:
· The power of the Sanhedrin should be extended to enable them to rule the nation in conjunction with a king. This king must recognise the supreme authority of God and govern his people by means of his own officials as well as the Sanhedrin. The Lord will be consulted through the mediation of a high priest before important decisions are taken, thereby observing a theocratic form of government. At present Israel has a secular, democratic government which is not recognised by orthodox leaders.
· Jewish culture should be rooted in the temple service, which by necessity requires the building of a temple in the prescribed place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The end-time restoration of Israel on their own land cannot be regarded as complete until a temple has been erected and has become fully operational as the symbol of Israel’s political, religious and cultural life. The temple is regarded as the heart of biblical Jerusalem and the entire nation.
· According to the orthodox Jewish faith there can be no reconciliation between God and man without regular sacrifices in the temple for the remission of the people’s sins: “…without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11). Orthodox Jews who do not accept the final sacrifice of the Messiah as the Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29; Heb. 10:1-18) see themselves as having no alternative but to revert to the Old Testament’s sacrificial system. Jews who do not share this view are regarded as apostates and even enemies of Israel.
· A new basis for international relations is envisaged through the temple service and its associated form of government. Isaiah 2:2-4 is often quoted in support of their vision since this scripture describes Jerusalem as world capital where a government of righteousness for all nations will be established. God will rule and His reign will bring about an end to all hostilities between nations. The building of the so-called “Third Temple” is associated with the coming of the Messiah. Under His rule Israel will be a blessing to the whole world.
Preparations for the rebuilding of the temple are at an advanced stage, and this is the source of great expectations for the imminent coming of the Messiah. The following are the most significant indications of the revival of the temple culture:
The Sanhedrin is a traditional Jewish council of religious leaders who, during biblical times, were the highest judiciary body within the framework of the Torah in Israel. On 13th October, 2004, after an absence of almost two millennia, a Sanhedrin was again instituted in modern Israel. This body, however, does not enjoy official status in Israel and is recognised only by orthodox Jews. The new Sanhedrin comprises 71 prominent rabbis and other Jewish scholars.
The founders of the modern Sanhedrin regard their forming such a council as nothing less than their duty (mitzvah). Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish scholar, described the steps that should be taken to form a Sanhedrin. During the time of the second temple (the temple of Herod during the first century) the Sanhedrin was the supreme body responsible for the administration of justice from a religious point of view. The 71 members of the Council were seated in a semi-circle in a special room on the Temple Mount.
During the meetings of the present Sanhedrin the possibility of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem is a major point of discussion. They are trying to determine the exact spot where the third temple should be built. This is a very difficult assignment since they are not allowed to do archaeological excavations on the Temple Mount, which is under the control of a Muslim committee.
After Israel had recaptured the Temple Mount from Jordan in 1967, they ceded the area to Muslim control due to the presence of the mosques there which are constantly being visited. To Muslims, this site is highly significant. However, Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran and Muslims are simply using the presence of Palestinians in Israel to undermine the Jewish nation and deprive them of their rights to the land and the city of Jerusalem. This is the main reason for the strong Islamic resistance to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, as well as excavations on the Temple Mount to expose the foundations of the previous temple. The new Sanhedrin formed a committee of professors, archaeologists and religious leaders to investigate and thereby attempt to determine the correct location of the temple with a view to its rebuilding, and to submit their report to the full Council.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, one of the executive members of the Council, said that it is most fitting that the new Sanhedrin considers the rebuilding of the temple since it is of great significance to the cultural and religious identity of the Jewish nation. He expressed his disappointment at the government’s withdrawal from certain parts of Israel’s territory, thereby relinquishing Israel’s dream of full restoration. The Sanhedrin seeks ways to strengthen the roots of the Jewish faith by once again uniting Israel as the Chosen People around the temple service and the Torah.
Members of the Sanhedrin do not recognise the present democratic government of Israel and have committed themselves to electing a king to rule over the nation. This is a dangerous course which orthodox leaders have embarked on, considering the fact that the false messiah will pretend to be a descendant of David and lay claim to the royal throne of Israel.
In an effort to honour the demands of the Torah, the Council wrote to all governments early in 2007, emphasising that the world was on a disastrous course. In terms of Isaiah 2:2-4, they proposed that the temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem in order to once again experience the presence of God in pursuing peace on earth.
For obvious reasons, the Sanhedrin will welcome the false messiah when he appears on the scene, since he will pretend to be the true Messiah and will speak to their hearts by allowing Israel to rebuild the temple. Great disappointment will be soon to follow.
Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Sanhedrin is also CEO of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem. This Institute collects and manufactures furniture, altars, special equipment and robes for priests, which are all requirements for the resumption of the temple service. They have already produced golden lampstands, a bronze laver as well as a golden crown for the High Priest. The robe of the High Priest is ready, as well as garments for 120 priests.
All these items still need to be purified by sprinkling them with specially prepared purification water (cf. Num. 19:1-9). To be able to prepare this water they first need to find a red heifer with no hair of any other colour on it. The heifer must then be slaughtered and burnt, after which a small amount of its ash can be used to prepare holy water. The problem is that, for the sake of continuity, the remains of the previous red heifer’s ash must first be found and placed on top of the present heifer when it is ritually burnt.
Archaeologists are still searching for a container with ash that was used during the time of the second temple, and for the Ark of the Covenant, which were both hidden in an unknown place. Should the ash of the previous red heifer not be found in time, and no heifer which complies with all the demands of the Torah be available in Israel, the temple equipment cannot be purified. Chaim Richman says:
“The temple equipment has been made in a state of impurity since all of us are presently impure. And we will remain impure until we find a red heifer of which the ashes can be used for purification ceremonies in the way prescribed by the Torah. Should no red heifer be found the High Priest will enter the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement in a state of impurity.”
What a great advantage we have in the New Testament to be purified by the blood of the Lamb when we approach the Lord’s throne of grace through the torn veil! We do not need earthly priests as mediators as we have a great High Priest who has prepared the way for us (Heb. 10:19-22).
The modern Sanhedrin is so strongly committed to reconciliation with God by way of Israel’s Old Testament sacrificial service, that they started building an altar in November 2009 in accordance with biblical instructions. After the completion of the altar, invitations were extended to Jews all over the world to attend the Passover in Jerusalem at the end of March 2010, when Paschal lambs would have been slaughtered and sacrificed on the new altar. However, the Jewish government refused to permit these sacrifices, in fear of provoking anger among Muslims.
Various Jews from the tribe of Levi are being trained as priests in special schools in Jerusalem and New York. There are 613 Old Testament laws with which they have to acquaint themselves. In July 2007, a major conference for priests and Levites was held in Jerusalem. Jews with the surname of Cohen are descendants of the first priest, Aaron, and may thus be trained as priests.
The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement is an orthodox group which strictly observes Israel’s biblical mandate to their land. The leader of the movement, Gershon Salomon, is actively concerned with emphasising the importance of rebuilding the temple among Jews in Israel and abroad, particularly in the USA.
Gershon and his followers have made a few attempts to lay a 4½ ton cornerstone to commence the building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount, but the Israeli police have prohibited them from doing so because, following the Six Day War in 1967, the Temple Mount was placed under the control of a Muslim committee, the Waqf. Any efforts to rebuild the Jewish temple on this site will give rise to a new jihad against the Jews by militant Muslims. Israel’s government tries to avert such a situation, thereby suppressing the ideal of orthodox Jews to build the third temple at this point in time.
Meanwhile, the Temple Institute, the Sanhedrin, as well as Gershon Salomon’s group, keep on proclaiming the message that the rebuilding of the temple is demanded by the Torah, and that it will also be a blessing to the world by introducing a time of international peace and harmony among the nations. They often quote the following Scripture from Isaiah 2 and Micah 4:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:2-5).
From an orthodox Jewish point of view it is a very noble objective to pursue, therefore one can appreciate the reason for their being so passionate about the temple project. However, their vision for Israel and the world is lacking in one important aspect, and that is due to the fact that the Torah and all the sacrifices and feasts of the Old Testament only had a preparatory role to play with a view to the coming of the Messiah. These institutions and practices were all fulfilled in the Messiah and His once for all sacrifice on the cross.
It is, therefore, completely erroneous to assert that the rebuilding of the temple and the observance of the law will be the solution to the world’s moral and spiritual problems. The shadowy practices of the law can neither save Israel nor the world – only the Messiah’s atonement on the cross can do that. Once He rules from the throne of David in Jerusalem and the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9), global peace will prevail and all nations will abandon their weapons to recycle them for the manufacturing of agricultural implements. Israel as a nation will have to discover this important truth before they can flourish spiritually and materially. By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in the sight of God, for by the law is the knowledge of sin, but no deliverance from sin (Rom. 3:20). The law is Israel’s tutor to the Messiah as only He can save from sin (Matt. 1:21; Gal. 3:24).
Another Jewish rabbi, Judah Ben Samuel, prophesied that ten jubilee cycles of 50 years each (cf. Lev. 25:8-13) would elapse between the occupation of Jerusalem by the Turks and the beginning of the Messianic era. Nicoletta (2010) said the following on these prophecies:
“Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel was a top Talmudic scholar in Germany. Just before he died in the year 1217 he prophesied that the Ottoman Turks would rule over the holy city of Jerusalem for eight jubilees. That is 400 years (8 X 50). The Ottoman Turks did take control of Jerusalem 300 years after the rabbi’s death in 1517 and, in accordance with this prophecy, lost Jerusalem 400 years later in 1917. It was during WWI in 1917 that the British General Edmund Allenby walked into Jerusalem on Hanukkah without firing a shot. The timing of this with the holy day and the ease at which it occurred indeed make this moment of history extremely significant. … The Rabbi then went on to say that after the eight jubilees, the ninth jubilee would have Jerusalem being a no-man’s land, which it was from 1917 to 1967 until the Six-Day War. The Rabbi’s prophecy then stated that in the tenth jubilee Jerusalem would be controlled by Israel and then the Messianic end times would begin. That would bring the time to 2017.”
Although there are different opinions regarding the rabbi’s prophecies, they are nevertheless remarkable in their accuracy. The culmination of 400 years of Turkish control over Jerusalem is a well known historical fact. It is notable that he foresaw a subsequent fifty-year period during which Jerusalem would be a no-man’s land, followed by 50 years of Jewish control prior to the Messianic end-time. Since 1917, Palestine had been a British mandate during which it did not really belong to any nation. In 1948, following the independence of Israel, biblical Jerusalem (the eastern part of the city) was nominally under Jordanian control while an escalating conflict continued over who the rightful owners of Jerusalem were.
During the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Old City and the entire West Bank area were recaptured by Israel, which resulted in the whole of Jerusalem being under sole Jewish control for the first time since the Babylonian Exile. This brought and end to fifty years of tussle over the ownership of Jerusalem and large parts of the land of Israel. This would, according to the rabbi, be followed by 50 years of Jewish control over the city until 2017 when the Messiah’s reign of peace is expected to begin.
Bible students know that Israel’s control over Jerusalem and the future rebuilt temple will only last until the middle of the tribulation period (Daniel’s 70th year-week). After that, the Antichrist will declare himself to be God in the temple (2 Thess. 2:4), Israel will revoke their covenant with him because of this, and will then be forced to flee hastily from Jerusalem and other Jewish territories (Matt. 24:15-21). This crisis will be followed by 42 months of great tribulation before the Messiah will come to establish His reign of peace.
However, there is no clear biblical support for the time-frame of this prophecy made by Judah Ben Samuel, and it is merely quoted to shed light on Jewish thoughts regarding the rapidly approaching end-time. Many of them also expect the imminent coming of the Messiah when Israel will fulfil their role as God’s people. One aspect of this prophecy, which is corroborated by Scripture, is the statement that the long period of Jerusalem’s trampling by the Gentiles will be followed by a period of Israel’s partial restoration, and only then will the Messiah come and introduce Israel’s full restoration.
The sensational but very disturbing news from the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem is that the Third Temple will be a house of prayer for all monotheistic faiths, of which Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the most important. The Lord’s words in Isaiah 56:7 are quoted as justification for this announcement: “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” This statement is wrongly interpreted in a multireligious way in order to also give recognition to non-biblical faiths such as Islam.
A Jewish website, www.godsholymountain.org/ promotes the idea of “God’s holy mountain” being open to all faiths. According to current plans, the religious activities in nearby Islamic mosques as well as those in Roman Catholic sanctuaries will be integrated into the temple service. The executive director of the Temple Institute, Jehuda Glick, says that they are waiting on the coming of the Messiah as only he can authorise the building of the temple.
The multireligious thinking which is foundational to the campaign for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem is exactly in accordance with the biblical account of the temple for the coming tribulation period. John says that in the end-time a false messiah will appear on the scene and that he will be followed and worshipped by the members of all religions: “And all the world marvelled and followed the beast … and they worshiped the beast, saying, who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? … And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:2-7).
The promise in Haggai 2:9 is also quoted with regard to the rebuilt temple: “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former. ... And in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts.” The Sanhedrin extends this promise to all nations without the prerequisite of them having to abandon their own form of faith.
The Antichrist will be recognised as the Messiah-King, not only by Israel, but also by all the nations of the world. This false prince of peace will be globally accepted and recognised as religious and political leader by way of formal treaties. The covenant with him will be in force for seven years, which is known in Israel as a year-week: “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate” (Dan. 9:27).
At the beginning of the year-week all nations will be allowed to continue practising their own religion on condition that all of them recognise, worship and follow the new world leader as their common messiah. The Antichrist will be Messiah to the Jews, Christ to the deceived Christians, Krishna to the Hindus, the fifth Buddha to the Buddhists, and the Imam Mahdi to the Muslims.
All the major religions will fully support this self-declared God-man – including deceived Christian churches which will be functioning at virtually full strength after the rapture. These will be the churches that had previously rejected the virgin birth, deity and resurrection of the true Christ, together with various other fundamental Christian doctrines. Because of their spiritual treason against evangelical Christianity they will be committed followers of the false christ of all religions and fully immerse themselves in his global culture of sin. The Bible describes this false christ in terms of his true character as the “Antichrist” (1 John 2:18) and “the man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:3).
The Antichrist will be so strongly motivated by his inclination to self-deification that he will declare himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem at the mid-point of the seven-year tribulation. He will further exalt himself above all religions by raising his position from messiah to that of God. Paul describes him as the one “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 Thess. 2:4).
After 3½ years, not only will he order the termination of the daily sacrifices and offerings in the rebuilt temple, but also abolish other religions and have their places of worship demolished or burnt. The beast and the kings who rule with him “will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Rev. 17:16).
That will mark the end of the Antichrist’s association with the alliance of world religions, which John describes as “the mother of harlots” – an ecumenical body, or mother organization, to all the apostates (Rev. 17:5). After this moment the Antichrist will no longer merely be their common messiah but he and his image will have to be worshipped as the only God by all people.
A strong demand of their worship will not only be imposed upon the Jews but also upon the followers of all other faiths: they will either have to worship the Antichrist and his image in the Most Holy of the temple as God, or be subjected to summary execution. The false prophet will globally enforce the worship of Satan and his false christ, and will also possess the occult power to make the image to speak: “He 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).
The Lord Jesus referred to this situation, when He said that the Antichrist will defile the Most Holy place of the temple by placing his image there. The Jews, who would refuse to kneel before the image and to worship the new world leader as God, will have to flee for their lives in great haste (Matt. 24:15-22). Long before Daniel had referred to this end-time dictator and said: “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 (the image of the beast)… Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god… he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Dan. 11:31, 36, 44).
Israel’s continued national rejection of the deity and Messiahship of Jesus is paving the way for the concluding of a covenant with the Antichrist. They will be entering into a covenant with death as this “other messiah” will go forth from Satan – and one of his hidden, major objectives will be to annihilate all Jews. The international community will welcome and support the concluding of a covenant with the new world leader as they will all be deceived by his ecumenical approach and false offer of peace.
Israel’s current intention to build a temple which will be a place of worship to all nations is part of the multireligious deception to which all people and faiths are presently being subjected. This will lead to a covenant with the Antichrist, and he will grant Israel the right to build a temple in which members of all faiths will be welcome. This temple will create the ideal opportunity for the Antichrist to deceptively declare himself to be the universal “god of this age” (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4) and to demand the worship of all people. The orthodox sentiments of the Jews will suit him well, since the majority of Israelis wish to rebuild the temple because of their continued rejection of the true Messiah and His sacrifice on the cross. They want to reinstate the Old Testament system of sacrifices for the atoning of their sins. These are the sacrifices which the Antichrist will ban when he declares himself to be God in the temple.
We are on the threshold of the rapture and the revelation of the false Christ of all faiths. Israel (with the exception of a small group of Messianic Jews) is preparing the way for him, as are all the apostatised Christian churches who have become unfaithful to the true Christ. The non-Christian religions have long been preparing for the coming of the false messiah. Shortly after the Antichrist’s restrainer (the true church as a temple of the Holy Spirit) has been taken out of the way, he will be revealed (2 Thess. 2:6-8). Following this, the Jewish temple which dates back from the pre-Christian era will be rebuilt as the symbol of a Christ-rejecting new world order under the leadership of the Antichrist.
Orthodox Jews do not realise that the temple itself is an image of future things, and that its symbolism directly refers to the Messiah’s redemptive work. The entire plan of the temple, the symbolic meaning of its furniture, as well as the activities in the temple and in the outer court, point to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the dedication that we owe to Him.
The gate leading to the court provides an entrance to the Lord’s sanctuaries, and was fulfilled at the coming of the Messiah. He said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). On entering the court we first encounter the altar for burnt offering, where sacrifices were made for the atoning of people’s sins. All these repetitive sacrifices pointed to Jesus’ once for all sacrifice (John 1:29). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). Further on, we come to the laver where the priests washed their hands after offering the sacrifices, resulting in the water being mixed with blood. That was the proof of a completed sacrifice. After Jesus had died on the cross, water and blood flowed from His side as a sign that He had died and laid down His life for us (John 19:33-34).
As one enters into the Holy place and walks straight forward one reaches the incense altar. It had an overlay of gold and was used for the burning of incense as a continuous sweet aroma to the Lord. This sweet-smelling aroma symbolised continuous prayer.
Right at the back of the incense altar was the veil which divided the Holy from the Most Holy place. The Ark of the Testimony (or Ark of the Covenant) was here, which represents God’s throne of grace. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement, to atone for the nation’s sins. The true presence of the Lord was therefore not accessible to the people and the ordinary priests, as they were prohibited from entering the area behind the veil. However, the divide between the Holy and Most Holy was removed by the personal sacrifice of our High Priest, Jesus Christ. We read in Luke 23:45 about the moment when Jesus died on the cross: “Then ... the veil of the temple was torn in two”.
That means that the Old Testament’s sacrificial system and prayers by High Priests were abolished and that every believer is now permitted to enter before the Lord’s throne of grace, through prayer. Paul says: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:19-22). Since that moment the need for the temple service has become redundant as the Lord no longer reveals Himself to believers through mediators.
All the focus points mentioned above follow a straight line which runs from the gate through the altar for burnt offerings, the laver and the incense altar, to the Ark of the Covenant behind the veil. This line represents the man-God-relationship, and is an illustration of how a person may enter from the sinful world onto the path to salvation, to be reconciled with God through the Messiah. That is the vertical perspective which reaches upwards to the Lord’s throne of grace.
There is another line which lies perpendicular to and cuts across this one to form a cross – that is the horizontal perspective. At the two sides of the Holy place there are, respectively, the golden lampstand and the tables with the showbread. The lampstand refers to the Messiah as the light of the world, and the showbread to Christ as the bread (or sustainer) of life.
Through His crucifixion the Lord has, on the vertical level, opened the way to His throne of grace in heaven in order that sinners may be forgiven and be spiritually regenerated. For that reason He could stretch out His arms horizontally on the cross to be the light to a dark world and the bread of life to perishing humanity. It is His express will that both of these perspectives be observed in the lives of His disciples. We should walk according to His ways, experience the continued cleansing by His blood (1 John 1:7), and pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17); but we must also move out to proclaim Christ to a lost world.
These two perspectives – love towards God (vertical), and love towards our fellow-humans (horizontal) – are reflected by the two tablets containing the law and also in Christ’s summary of the law, commonly referred to as the New Testament’s law, or fundamental principle, of love (Matt. 22:37-39; John 13:34-35). These are the same two perspectives which we also encounter in the temple service.
The temple of God is a place where the Lord reveals Himself in His holiness and love, and from where the message must go out that the Saviour has come to seek and to save those who are lost. In the New Testament, the temple of the Lord is in the hearts and lives of people who were regenerated by Him, and through whom He reveals Himself to the world. He only lives in a holy temple, and that is the reason why He expects us to be blameless in holiness.
However, many Christians do not realise that they were called upon to be temples of the Lord and to live holy lives. To such believers Paul asks: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). How does the temple service function in your life?
Consider the great dilemma in which the orthodox Jews are who still adhere to the Old Testament shadows of the temple service, simply because they refuse to accept that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who sacrificed His life for our sins and opened the way to God’s throne of grace through the torn veil. Their situation is indeed lamentable, and it amounts to a form of self-imposed spiritual exile. According to their own perceptions, the absence of a physical temple prohibits these people from being reconciled with God. Even if they do build a temple, they will be barred from God’s presence by a veil, except for one day a year, when they will seek God’s presence in vain through obsolete animal sacrifices.
The discovery must first be made that the sign of the cross in the plan of the temple prophetically points to the Messiah who came in the fullness of time to fulfil the law and the prophets. How wonderful it is, that the day will indeed come when the remnant in Israel will look on Him whom they have pierced, and bitterly grieve for Him (Zech. 12:10). Only then will the whole nation who survived the time of Jacob’s trouble, conclude a new covenant with the Lord and no longer serve Him through the mediation of priests and animal sacrifices.