Common, among those Protestants who tend to accept the idea of a literal understanding of the Bible and have interest in matters prophetic, is the belief that before Jesus returns there will have to be a new (or rebuilt) temple in Jerusalem.
Popular Protestant writers Dr. T. LaHaye & J. Jenkins (known for their "rapture" position, please see Is There A Secret Rapture for the Church? When and Where is the Church Protected?) go so far as to declare:
All prophecy teachers who interpret the Scriptures literally agree that a Jewish temple in Israel will be rebuilt…
That there will be a third temple is predicted by the prophet Daniel, the apostles Paul and John, and none other than Jesus Himself. They all taught that Israel's third temple will be rebuilt either before the Tribulation begins or soon thereafter, for it is seen in complete operation by the middle of the Tribulation. Obviously, since Israel does not now have a temple, a third temple must be rebuilt for such an event to occur.
...the Antichrist desolates it near the middle of the Tribulation. (Are We Living in the End Times? Tyndale House, Wheaton (IL), 1999, pp.122, 126).
But is that strictly true? Did Daniel, Paul, John, and Jesus all specifically predict a third Jewish temple? Did any of them?
This article will attempt to explain why a Jewish temple prior to Christ’s return is not strictly necessary according to an analysis of many of the relevant prophetic scriptures.
First, it needs to be brought out that the New Testament itself basically uses two Greek terms for temple: they are hieron (ίερόν) and naos (ναος or ναον). While the Greek term hieron always seems to refer to a physical temple in the New Testament (usually a Jewish one, but sometimes a pagan one, e.g. Acts 19:27), the term naos does not always do so.
Perhaps because hieron is used more frequently (71 times) in the New Testament (and is the term most often translated into English as temple), some seem to have confused it with the naos term for temple.
Naos is used 47 times in the New Testament, and while it is clearly referring to a physical temple approximately 19 times (mainly in the Gospels and Acts), it is clearly not referring to a physical temple on earth in many of the remaining verses.
Jesus was the first in the New Testament to use naos to refer to something other than a Jewish temple in scripture:
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
21 But he spake of the temple of his body. (John 2:19-21, KJV throughout)
So, while the Jews were thinking that naos was a referring to a physical Jewish temple in verse 20, the scripture is clear that in verses 19 and 21 that Jesus was referring to naos to mean something else.
While the children of Israel clearly were the people of God in the Hebrew scriptures (e.g. Exodus 3:10) and built “the temple of God” (2 Chronicles 23:9) in Old Testament times, has there not been a change since Jesus came (Hebrews 7:12)?
The Hebrew scriptures state that the Jews were God’s holy people (Deuteronomy 7:6), yet the New Testament shows that God’s holy people are Christians:
13 Jesus Christ…15 He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:13, 15-16)
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, (1 Peter 2:9)
Could Christians, God’s holy people (Daniel 12:7), represent God’s holy temple in the end-times?
Does the New Testament connect Christians (Jews or Gentiles) or non-believing Jews with the temple of God?
To determine that, let’s look at those passages in the New Testament that refer to a naos “temple of God” on the earth after the resurrection.
The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Corinth:
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:16)
Notice that the Apostle Paul supports the idea that the naos temple of God now has to do with Christians, not necessarily the Jewish peoples (except those who are Christians and have the Holy Spirit). Additionally, his wording “know ye not” indicates that this is something that they already should have known.
Notice that the Apostle Paul told the Christians in Ephesus basically the same thing:
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Thus, Paul’s writings regarding the naos temple have to do with Christian people and not a Jewish building.
And while I do believe that the Bible should normally be interpreted literally, it is clear that the Apostle Paul repeatedly used the term naos metaphorically to refer to true Christians.
While He was on the earth, Jesus taught He was greater than the physical, hieron, Jewish temple:
6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. (Matthew 12:6)
And while the following does not use the either of the Greek terms for temple, it seems consistent with the view that the current temple, in God's eyes, is not a physical one as the hieron temple had a sanctuary and tabernacle (1 Kings 8:4-8):
1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. (Hebrews 8:1-2)
Years ago when I had a just taken a class on koine Greek, I attempted (with a lot of book assistance) to translate from the Greek, a second century writing from Melito of Sardis. It is named Melito On Prophecy and is called the Papyrus Oxyrhynchus I. 5 (the Greek used was as shown in Paulsen H. New Test. Stud. 25, 1979, pp. 443-453). The document is a fragment, but my understanding of it suggests that Melito taught that Christians were God's temple.
Notice also more from the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul:
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
"Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." (1 Peter 2:4-6)
16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
According the the New Testament, in the Christian era, Christians are the temple of God.
Contrary to the assertions/implications of Dr. LaHaye & J. Jenkins, there is no verse in the New Testament by Jesus that is referring to a Jewish hieron temple being rebuilt related to the Tribulation (nor Paul or Daniel for that matter).
While it is difficult to “prove a negative” I did a Greek word search of hieron in the New Testament and could find no verse that backed up the assertions of Dr. LaHaye & J. Jenkins in this area that a third Jewish temple is required before various end-time prophecies can be fulfilled.
However, there is another phrase that can be used to refer to the Jerusalem temple area and that is the Greek expression topos hagios (τόπου άγίου in Acts or τόπω άγίω in Matthew) which tends to be translated as “holy place” or sometimes “sanctuary”. The expression topos literally means region or place (Liddell H.G, Scott R. Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, 1996, p. 1806) and is most often used in the New Testament to mean a location as opposed to a structure.
Versions of the phrase topos hagios were used by non-believing Jews for the temple (Acts 6:13; Acts 21:28). Yet, topos hagios can also be understood to simply be the area where the old temple of God was as opposed to the temple building itself. For example, notice the following:
28…and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (Acts 21:28b)
The term temple above is translated from hieron, while the term holy place is from the Greek expression topos hagios—thus an apparent distinction is made between the building (hieron) and the location (topos hagios).
Also notice the following which uses the Greek terms topos and hagios and translates them as “place” and “holy” below:
33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. (Acts 7:33)
Thus, the New Testament shows that the terms topos and hagios can refer to a holy location as opposed to being restricted to a structure.
It is in that context or perhaps context of the city of Jerusalem itself (as it is the “Holy City”, cf. Matthew 4:5; Revelation 21:2) which may be what Jesus was intending to convey when He used a version of topos hagios in Matthew 24:15 (which was the only scripture in Dr. LaHaye & J. Jenkins’ previously cited book, p. 122, concerning Jesus and the temple).
Notice what Jesus stated:
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (Matthew 24:15)
In that verse, Jesus says that we should look at Daniel (which is covered later in this paper). Jesus also taught that the one who reads this passage needs understand something—perhaps Jesus’ comment itself suggests that the apparent idea that “a physical Jewish temple may be required” may not be correct.
Carefully notice that no temple of any kind is mentioned in this passage. Bible literalists should realize that perhaps a future Jewish physical temple is not being referred to by Jesus here, but that Jesus is referring to either the area the temple was originally built at or to the city of Jerusalem.
Thus, it seems improper to teach that Jesus is specifically teaching that a third Jewish temple will be rebuilt as there is no scripture in the entire New Testament that shows that He specifically taught that.
In their book, Dr. LaHaye & J. Jenkins cited Daniel 9:27 and Daniel 11:31 presumably as proof that Jesus is somehow predicting the building of a third Jewish temple.
Let us quote both of those passages below:
27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:27)
31 And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. (Daniel 11:31)
Notice that while those scriptures are referring to sacrifices, neither one of those passages says anything about a temple being built or involved. And while that may be an obvious assumption, it is simply not a biblically required conclusion.
The Hebrew text of Daniel 11:31 uses the phrase hammiqdash hamma'oz literally "the holy place stronghold," “the sanctuary stronghold” or "the temple stronghold" which supports the idea that it can be referring to a specific place or area (such as an area where an altar may be placed) as opposed to the idea of requiring a temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
Thus, Daniel did not specify in his writings that a third Jewish temple must be built. (More on Daniel 11 can be found in the article Who is the King of the North?)
Perhaps it should be mentioned here that I do agree with Dr. LaHaye & J. Jenkins (cf. pp. 107,194) that Great Tribulation (cf. Matthew 24;15-21) begins in the middle of the week in Daniel 9:27 when the sacrifices are stopped (and 3 ½ years are left). See also End of Mayan Calendar 2012--Might 2012 Mean Something?).
But I disagree that this means that a Jewish temple must be built.
The Bible is clear that a third temple will eventually exist (Ezekiel 40-48), but it is only clearly in existence after Christ returns (cf. Ezekiel 48:35).
Accordingly, most of mainstream Orthodox Judaism seems to believe that the rebuilding of the temple is not to occur until the coming of the Jewish Messiah and may be done by Divine Providence (e.g. Clorfene C. The Third Temple: Who Will Build It? Jewish Magazine, issue 16).
Yet, while certain other contemporary Jewish scholars seem to contend that a physical Jewish temple (Hebrew: בית המקדש, Bet HaMikdash; "The Holy House") is required for the resumption of sacrifices, this appears to be based more upon Jewish tradition than the Bible.
Jesus Himself, however, specifically warned against taking the traditions of Jewish religious teachers above those of the Bible (e.g. Mark 7:13) (see also Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings).
It should be understood that the Bible itself nowhere teaches that animal sacrifices require a temple in Jerusalem.
Until Solomon built the first temple (1 Kings 6:14), the Bible shows that the Jews sacrificed on altars. David, Solomon's father, for example sacrificed on an altar (2 Samuel 24:25), as did Aaron and his descendants (Exodus 20:24; Leviticus 1:10-11). And prior to all of that, Abel (Genesis 4:4), Noah (Genesis 8:20), Abraham (Genesis 22:9-13), and others sacrificed animals to God.
So for over 3,000 years, animal sacrifices were offered without a Jewish temple.
Even after the first Jerusalem temple was built and left in ruins, the Bible itself specifically shows that sacrifices were made in the time of Ezra BEFORE the second temple was ready:
6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid. (Ezra 3:6)
One may argue that since it takes the participation of Jewish religious leaders in order for Jewish animal sacrifices to be resumed, that the above scripture is a moot point.
And it might be if there were no Jewish religious leaders that thought that they could not sacrifice without a temple.
But the fact is, that although they are in the minority, there are significant numbers of Jewish religious leaders who are intent on starting animal sacrifices as soon as possible. And these Jewish leaders do not believe that they have to wait in order for a temple to rebuilt in order to do so.
Notice the following news report:
The 71 members of the "Re-established Sanhedrin" say they want to begin sacrificing animals again, despite the absence of the Temple, the ritual altar and all the required implements listed in the Bible. Rabbi Dov Stein of the group admitted…
"We want to do the sacrifice, but we have political problems," Stein said. "We hope there will come a time when the government will agree. We will push for that to happen.” (Rabbis aim to renew animal sacrifices. Associated Press. Feb 28, 2007. http://www.jpost.com)
The “Sanhedrin” group referred to above began to form in 2004 and claims to have “the consent of hundreds of rabbis, scholars and leaders” (http://www.thesanhedrin.org/en/index.php/The_Sanhedrin_Initiative viewed 09/11/08). It also has been working on implements, including those related to having an altar.
This group has made some attempts to offer sacrifices in the past, but has often ran into political opposition. Yet, because the Muslims have a strong presence at the site of the old Temple Mount (Har HaBayit) with their al-Aqsa Mosque, some consider the actual construction of a Jewish temple there to be impossible.
Furthermore, perhaps it should be realized that the government of Israel does have a certain amount of respect for Yisrael Ariel, the founder of the Temple Institute. Yisrael Ariel is also a member of the "Re-established Sanhedrin". Actually, the Israeli government announced that Yisrael Ariel was winner of the Yaakov Egerst Memorial Award for Jewish Culture by the Ministry of Education for some of his work (Rabbi Yisrael Ariel to Receive the Jewish Culture Award for 5769. Israel National News. Oct 7, 2008).
The Temple Institute itself is not planning on building the temple until after what seems to be politically impossible. This is what its website has stated:
When will the reconstruction of the Holy Temple Commence?
There are two approaches to answering this question.
One approach is based on the geo-political dynamics of the Temple Mount, and the other approach is based on the desire of the nation of Israel and her fellow nations to rebuild the Holy Temple.
Geo-politically, the Temple Mount has to be cleared of the Dome of the Rock and the mosques which are presently located upon it before the physical rebuilding of the Holy Temple can begin. Many scenarios can be imagined which would accomplish this, the most promising, and not necessarily the most far-fetched, would entail Moslem recognition of the Mount as the intended location for the rebuilt Temple. With the acquiescence of the Moslem world the Moslem structures currently on the Mount would be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere...
the Temple Institute is not building the Temple offsite. We are building a stone altar offsite so that when the opportunity arrives we can move it to its proper location on the Mount. The Divine service, including the offerings can begin before the building of the Temple itself, once the altar is built and standing in its proper place. (http://www.templeinstitute.org/frequently-asked-questions.htm viewed 11/10/13)
The Muslims are not interested in getting their famous Dome of the Rock and mosques removed. So, that type of change is not likely, even after a war.
Yet in a nation as politically fragmented as modern Israel, the time may come when a ruling coalition will itself have in it some members of a small religious group that will insist on the resumption of sacrifices for it to remain in office. And allowing sacrifices on a small altar certainly would seem politically more plausible than the construction of a Jewish temple with the removal of the Dome of the rock or een otherwise next to the al-Aqsa Mosque. While this may not be seen as viable in every possible Israeli administration, it certainly is a possibility for a future one.
But be that as it may, the Bible itself allows for the resumption of animal sacrifices without a physical temple being rebuilt. Hence, from a biblical perspective, a rebuilt third Jewish temple is not required for the prophecies in Daniel (or any other part of the Bible) to be fulfilled--and its proper place does not seemingly need to be where the current Dome of the Rock is. Notice also an interesting scripture from Ezekiel:
12 This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple. (Ezekiel 43:12)
Biblically, all that is required are Jewish religious leaders willing to sacrifice in Israel, and anywhere on or sufficiently near the Temple Mount would apparently do. And there are enough willing Jewish religious leaders currently to conclude that animal sacrifices can occur at almost anytime. Perhaps I should mention that when I visited the Temple Institute in October 2013, one employee I spoke to there essentially admited that they did not need a temple to sacrifice--and that is consistent with scripture and published statements from the Temple Institute.
For formal clarification of the position of Jewish leaders, this author contacted the reconstituted Sanhedrin some time ago and asked why it felt that sacrifices could be started before a temple is rebuilt.
The response received was:
Rabbi Yeshayahu Hollander wrote:
רמב"ם, מעשה הקרבנות, פרק יט , הלכה טז והלכה יז:
טז [טו] מִי שֶׁשָּׁחַט קֳדָשִׁים בַּזְּמָן הַזֶּה, וְהֶעֱלָה חוּץ לָעֲזָרָה--חַיָּב: מִפְּנֵי שְׁהוּא רָאוּי לִקָּרֵב בִּפְנִים--שֶׁהֲרֵי מֻתָּר לְהַקְרִיב, אַף עַל פִּי שְׁאֵין בַּיִת, שֶׁקְּדֻשָּׁה רִאשׁוֹנָה קִדְּשָׁה לְשָׁעָתָהּ וְקִדְּשָׁה לָעֲתִיד לָבוֹא, כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ.
יז [טז] הַשּׁוֹחֵט קָדְשֵׁי גּוֹיִים בַּחוּץ, חַיָּב; וְכֵן הַמַּעֲלֶה אוֹתָן בַּחוּץ. וְהַגּוֹיִים מֻתָּרִין לְהַקְרִיב עוֹלוֹת לַה', בְּכָל מָקוֹם--וְהוּא, שֶׁיַּקְרִיבוּ בַּבָּמָה שֶׁיִּבְנוּ. וְאָסוּר לְסַיְּעָן, וְלַעֲשׂוֹת שְׁלִיחוּתָן--שֶׁהֲרֵי נֶאֱסַר עָלֵינוּ לְהַקְרִיב בַּחוּץ; וּמֻתָּר לְהוֹרוֹת לָהֶם, וּלְלַמְּדָם הֵיאַךְ יַקְרִיבוּ לְשֵׁם הָאֵל בָּרוּךְ הוּא.
Hichot Maasei HaKorbanot [The Procedures of Offering Sacrifices]
He who slaughters a Sacrifice in this period [when we have no Temple], and offered the sacrifice outside the Azara [the alloted area of the Temple] - is culpable, because the offering must be performed in the Azara, SINCE IT IS PERMITTED TO PERFORM SACRIFICES despite having no Temple, since the sanctity of the Temple is eternal.
He who slaughters the sacrifice of a gentile outside the Azara is culpable, as is one who performs the offering. NON JEWS are permitted to offer burnt-offerings anywhere, on an alkter which they built. Jews may not help them in the performance of this sacrifice, since Jews may not offer sacrifices outside the Azara. But we may instruct them and teach them how to perform sacrificesto the ASlmighty God, Blessed be He.
Additionally, it is worth noting that on 5766, Rabbi Benyamin Fuss published a 445 page book on Sacrifices of non-jews, of which the text proper is of 372 pages [the rest are indices, etc.] called Torat Habamah: Regarding sacrifices on an Altar outside the Temple. (Email from the Sanhedrin webmaster Abrahamson to Bob Thiel September 17, 2008).
Rabbi Yeshayahu Hollander is the English language spokesman for the nascent Sanhedrin.
The webmaster of the Sanhedrin added the following in a subsequent email:
This quote comes from Maimonides' (Rambam) work the Mishneh Torah.
The nascent Sanhedrin sees itself as the continuation of rabbinic jurisprudence, and must take into account all halachic works written to date, and proceed from there. (Email from the Sanhedrin webmaster Abrahamson to Bob Thiel September 17, 2008).
Thus, it appears to be a longstanding position of some Jewish scholars that Jewish sacrifices can be started on an altar and, as long as it is in the area of the old temple, that a physical temple is not first required.
This is consistent with Ezra’s previously quoted practice.
Furthermore, in a case heard in 2010 by the Supreme Court in Israel concerning the sacrifices there was the following report:
The organizers also demanded to be allowed to celebrate this coming Passover holiday on the site of the Holy Temple by offering the Paschal sacrifice. They noted that according to Jewish Law, the Holy Temple does not need to be built in order to resume the sacrificial offerings. They emphasized accordingly that the Temple Mount organizations are not trying to change or make modifications to any existing structures on the Mount, but rather aim to receive permission to build a temporary altar, which would be dismantled immediately following the Passover Offering. (Fendel H. Supreme Court: No Passover Sacrifice Again This Year. IsraelNN.com, March 24, 2010. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/136699)
And although the court ruled against allowing this on current political grounds, the point is that there are many Jews are willing to resume the sacrifices without a temple being built or the Temple Mount at all modified.
In 2011, some Jews intend to ask for permission again. The following was in an email that was sent from Israel on Febraury 20, 2011, but I received the evening before from Boruch Fishman:
I received permission from Rav Ariel, Director of the Temple Institute, to request permission from the Jerusalem Police to bring the Pesach offering this year. I will be going to the Police the last week before the Jewish month of Nissan. This week I will be writing to King Abdullah of Jordan via his web site to let him know of our plans and to request his special support for bring the knife onto the Temple Mount, which will be the most difficult part of our request.
The alter will be a special temporary alter, and after arranging the wood we will wait a certain amount of time for fire to descend from Heaven, as it did in first Temple times. If we are unworthy of that we will light the fire with a match.(Email from Boruch Fishman to COGwriter. Received in California, February 19, 2011)
Now, because of the political situations in Israel and Jordan (Jordan has had protests this year), it is almost impossible that official permission will be granted by either or both governments. But the fact is that many Jews intend to sacrifice and ultimately will fulfill Bible prophecy related to this. It should also be noted that Boruch Fishman, like me and the Sanhedrin, does not believe that a temple is actually needed to start sacrifices.
In the Protestant world, however, 2 Thessalonians is often cited as the proof that there must be a Jewish physical temple before certain end-time prophecies can be fulfilled.
Essentially, what some Protestant prophecy writers seem to believe (as well as CBCG and some others in COG groups) is that since sacrifices are mentioned as being stopped (Daniel 9:27) and a temple is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, that the two MUST be directly connected.
The “temple” Paul referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (a key end-time scripture involving a temple and the one most commonly pointed to as proof that a Jewish temple is required) is also translated from the Greek word naos:
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 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, shewing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Since the Greek term naos is used, those who take the Greek literally realize that it is not necessary that it is a “Jewish temple in Israel” that the “man of sin” sits in. (The man of sin could possibly sit on something that has been called "Satan's throne" if it is relocated to Jerusalem.)
While the audience of 2 Thessalonians may have concluded that Paul was referring to the Jewish temple, I simply do not believe that in the Christian church era that “the temple of God” must be expected to be a Jewish temple. And there are other physical options (see for example, Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill).
Furthermore, because it is commonly believed (Ryrie Study Bible. Moody Press, 1985, pp. 1758, 1784, 1811, 1842) that 2 Thessalonians was written (c. 51 A.D.) BEFORE the letters to the Corinthians (c. 56 & 57 A.D.) and the Ephesians (c. 61 A.D.), this may possibly be part of why the Apostle Paul specified in his later letters that Christians were the temple of God.
But is probable that even those in Thessalonica may have known that Paul was speaking of some type of a future Christian building because Paul had spent time with them (and regularly preached to them, per Acts 17:2) before he wrote his letters to them.
The fact that Paul expected that the Corinthians should have known that they were the “temple of God” before he wrote his letter to them (cf.1 Corinthians 6:19), strongly indicates that he considered this to be a known concept.
Perhaps, it should be added that even among earlier professors of Christ there has long been the view that another Temple would NOT be rebuilt.
Catholic Saint Thomas Aquinas (died 1274):..."Others, however, maintain that never will...the temple be rebuilt (Connor, Edward. Prophecy for Today. Imprimatur + A.J. Willinger, Bishop of Monterey-Fresno; Reprint: Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford (IL), 1984, pp. 76,78)
Hence, the idea that no temple will need to be rebuilt in Jerusalem is not a new concept, but is consistent with some earlier understandings (it is not totally clear what all the actual sources Thomas Aquinas used for his report).
An altar is all that is needed for sacrifices, though some may wish to put up a tent or build an actual temple in Jerusalem--but it is not strictly required.
Now, as far as a physical building goes related to 2 Thessalonians 2:4 goes, that is a different matter and will be touched upon later here (as well as in the article Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill). As far as the identity of the 'man of sin,' please check out the article Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2? and/or watch the video Who is the Man of Sin?
One of the problems with understanding 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is that some seem to believe that naos refers to Christians when no definite article is next to it in the New Testament, but that when a definite article is with it in the Greek that it is always referring to a Jewish temple.
On the surface, this belief seems to be supported by one of the leading Greek lexicons (Bauer W. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. University Of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 665-666), which shows the definite article when mentioning the temple of Jerusalem as the definition of naos, but not when naos is defined as related to Christians.
However, this understanding seems lacking for at least two reasons.
The first is that the use of the definite article in koine Greek does not mean that a “Jewish” temple must be referred to in the New Testament when the combination of a definite article and naos appear in scripture.
Because, for one example, that combination occurs in I Corinthians 3:17 where it (τοῦ ναον) is clearly (though metaphorically) referring to Christians.
The second is that the term naos itself was never limited to buildings that were either Jewish or Christian. The Book of Acts refers to a silver naos built for Diana (Acts 19:24).
Another respected Greek lexicon (Liddell, p.1160), also makes it clear that naos has historically been used to refer to a variety of religious shrines and buildings. And it would appear that since the definite article would have assuredly been used in combination with naos for them, to believe that in the New Testament that this MUST always be referring to the Jewish temple simply seems to be an unfounded conclusion.
If a Jewish temple is not necessarily being discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, then where else might the “man of sin” sit?
While there may be several explanations, the one that I currently believe makes the most sense is that the “man of sin” (also known as the King of the North in Daniel 11 and “the Beast” in Revelation 13) may be sitting in some type of formerly Christian occupied building for some short while during the Great Tribulation.
The Bible teaches that just before the Great Tribulation begins that the most faithful portion of the Church will be protected, but other Christians will not be:
14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent…
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:14,17)
Even Catholic scholars have long tended to believe that the woman in Revelation 12:14 represents the true church:
The Church shall flee as to a desert in Antichrist's time, but not decay or be unknown, no not for so short a time. (Apocalypse, Annotations Chapter 12, Rheim’s New Testament of 1582, p. 556)
Which part of the church?
The same Catholic commentators call them “the faithful elect” (ibid, p. 557).
This would seem to be the most faithful, Philadelphia portion of the Church, which are the “people of God” (Hebrews 4:9) that seems to hold onto some type of “Jewish” characteristics (Revelation 3:7-9).
Because they are the only ones to whom Jesus promises protection from the period that is apparently the Great Tribulation:
7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write…9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:7,9-10)
Hence, since it is the most faithful Philadelphia Christians that are protected on the earth during the time of the Great Tribulation that comes upon the whole earth (see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra), then perhaps the building that the man of sin sits in will be a building that once was used by of the Continuing Church of God.
On the other hand if Revelation 11:1-2 allows for it (which it may or may not, see below), there is an ancient building, usually now referred to as the "Cenacle" (the word is a derivative of the Latin word "cena," which means dinner), that may be the possible location. It is believed to have been used by the original Christians in Jerusalem until the Greco-Romans took it through with Imperial support in the fourth century. A better designation than 'Cenacle' may be the Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill as it was long called the "church of God" and it is located on a western Jerusalem hill that is commonly referred to as Mt. Zion (more information about this location is in the article Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill).
Dr. Michael P. Germano wrote about that building:
In Jerusalem, just outside the Zion Gate of the Old City near the crest of Mount Sion, lie the partial remains of an ancient synagogue consisting of a niche, walls, floors, and foundations, incorporated into a dilapidated building…
Do these ancient ruins belong to the first-century Judeo-Christian synagogue seen by Roman emperor Hadrian on his grand progress? Are these the remnants of the building on Mt. Sion…called the Church of the Apostles and the Holy Church of God? These are the traditions…tradition suggests this is also the site of the Upper Room where Jesus of Nazareth observed his last Passover with his followers and where his disciples resided following his Crucifixion awaiting the Day of Pentecost…
In this work its identity and title is simply “the ancient synagogue” or the Ancient Church of the Apostles. In the fourth and fifth centuries, however, orthodox…referred to the building in a variety of ways.
For Eusebius it was the “Holy Church of God” (Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel 6.18; Ferrar 1920b:30-31). Cyril said it was the “Upper Church of the Apostles” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 16.4; Schaff and Wace 1989a:116). Egeria often referred to it as “On Sion” (Wilkinson 1971:294). Epiphanius, alluding to it in its second century context, said when Hadrian visited Aelia Capitolina it was a small “Church of God” (Epiphanius, De Mensuris 14; Koester 1989:93). Theodosius said it was “Holy Sion which is the Mother of all Churches” (Wilkinson 1977:66)…
On July 30, 381, following the First Council of Constantinople, emperor Theodosius I issued an edict authorizing the seizure of the properties of all non-orthodox churches. This resulted in the ancient synagogue, then in possession of Judeo-Christians, passing into Greco-Roman Christian control. The surrender was made to the orthodox bishops. (The AncientChurch of the Apostles. Copyright © 2002 by Michael P. Germano, pp. 1-4).
Even though the original Christians who used that location for around three centuries held to what are most often known as Judeo-Christian (as opposed to Greco-Roman) practices, there have been reports that the Catholics of Rome would like to expand their presence and basically takeover the Cenacle (Owen R. Vatican offers swap deal to regain site of Last Supper. The Times, October 13, 2005). Vatican-Israeli meetings related to this in June 2013 allowed the Catholics to once again hold their mass services there (Sontag R. Upper Room on Mt. Zion To Open for Catholic Worship. Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, June 18, 2013. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/6/prweb10836870.htm viewed 06/22/13). But I did discuss this at the site on October 24, 2013 with a Jewish rabbi named Avraham Goldstein. He said his group once owned this site and only allowed the Israeli government to have it under one condition that it had not (in his view) fully kept. And that condition would not allow the Catholics to have it--though they could share it in his view. There were archealogical items below the building of interest to the Jews that he felt would not be appropriate to leave Israeli hands.
Even though the nation of Israel has not agreed to allowing the Catholics of Rome to once again regain ownership of the "Cenacle" site, it certainly would seem possible as part of the peace deal of Daniel 9:27 (which most Bible-believing theologians seem to believe will be between the nation of Israel and the one who will be the Beast of Revelation 13), if it does not for other reasons possibly happen sooner.
It may be that what was possibly the first and original church building location of the early Christians could appear to be a potential location of the “temple of God.” Perhaps it should be mentioned that the Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill is believed to have been at least partially made up of stones that came from the temple in Jerusalem that was taken apart brick by brick from 70-73 A.D. Thus, from a Christian perspective, and possibly God's perspective, it may very well be that this is truly considered the physical remnant of the Temple of God. And although the original building has been mainly destroyed, a corner wall exists as most likely parts of the building's foundation. Hence, since it seems that the wall and foundation contain stones from the last Jewish Temple that the area around this building may also meet the requirements to be what the man of sin will want to sit in. More information about this location is in the article Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill.
However, because of Revelation 11:1-2 and the persecution of Christians during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:17), it may be that a building more recently used by the faithful Christians might be better used for political purposes by “the man of sin,” than the remains of this ancient one in Jerusalem. However, there may also be 'political reasons' that site of the original Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill may be better choice for him, including possibly also the fact that the Continuing Church of God has referred to it often, has it on its letterhead, and even the front cover of its first magazine. I believe that the Continuing Church of God will be leading the final phase of the work, and this would include publicly identifying this 'man of sin' before many others do. And he may wish to demonstrate that he is above the faithful church, by placing something and sitting in the area of the original Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill.
Furthermore, since the Bible shows plans for Jerusalem apparently for eternity (cf. Revelation 21:2-3), perhaps it may be that the ancient location of where the apostles themselves (who became part of “the temple of God”) may possibly be what God had in mind when He inspired Paul’s writings.
But irrespective of which building is referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, it would not seem to be possible for it to be a Jewish, non-Christian, temple in Jerusalem.
A former Christian building would seem to be much more likely.
Revelation 11:1-2 is the other place in the New Testament, not previously quoted herein, which uses the naos temple of God expression related to the earth that should be discussed.
Although this is a potentially tricky passage, carefully notice what it does and does not say:
1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. (Revelation 11:1-2)
While at first read, the above may suggest that a physical Jewish temple is being referred to, the fact is that the above passages do not state that a Jewish temple will be built or that the Jewish temple will be “the temple of God,” even though a “temple of God” and a reference to Jerusalem are both referred to in them.
Also, although some have suggested that the use of a measuring rod requires that a physical Jewish temple is required, it should be mentioned that the Bible shows that Christians are measured (2 Corinthians 10:12-18) and hence this appears to be a scripturally valid way of viewing Revelation 11:2.
Revelation 11:2 specifically seems to contrast, or separate, what happens to the “temple of God” (which the Gentiles DO NOT tread upon) to what happens in Jerusalem (where the Gentiles do tread upon).
Protestant prophecy scholar Dr. J.F. Walvoord wrote the following comments, after he quoted Revelation 11:1-2:
No explanation is given of this command…In the Great Tribulation the temple has already been desecrated…(Dan. 9:27; 12:11-12; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thes. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15)…The Holy City, Jerusalem according to the Scripture, will be trampled under foot of Gentiles for the final forty-two months preceding the Second Coming. (The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook. Victor Books, 1990, p. 572)
Now Dr. Walvoord is correct in indicating that Jerusalem is the Holy City. And he seems to be correct when he indicates the Beast power will be apparently controlling Jerusalem from Daniel 9:27 on, just prior to the Second Coming of Christ.
Yet, if there was a modern Jewish temple (or its remains) in Jerusalem that these passages are referring to, it would seem that it would NOT be under the power of the Gentile Beast power.
Thus, contrary to Dr. Walvoord’s apparent assumptions about a desecrated temple, Revelation 11:2 seems to be saying that “the temple of God” will NOT be in Jerusalem as the Holy City is only the outward court that is given to the Gentiles. This would tend to make the Cenacle location highly unlikely as well.
The way it would seem that Revelation 11:1 could be referring to be some building in Jerusalem would seem to be if the “man of sin” were to sit in the physical Cenacle for a day or two before the 42 months begin and then abandon it. And then that true Christians would worship in it after it was abandoned—and although seems far-fetched, essentially secret worship services did occur for some time in the Cenacle during the first few centuries A.D.
There are a variety of positions taking in commentaries on Revelation 11:1-2. To limit the size of this article, only two will be addressed here.
The first is from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary which states:
Verse 1-2. John is told to take a reed and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein (v. 1), which certainly implies that there will be some kind of temple building in Jerusalem at this time. The statement is made that the holy city will be trodden under foot for forty and two months (v. 2), a time period found also in Rev 13:5, and equal to the 1,260 days of 11:3, and 12:6. (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)
Similar to Drs. Walvoord and LaHaye, the above asserts that Revelation 11:1 is referring to a temple building in Jerusalem, even though verse 2 seems to negate that.
A different (and much longer) explanation is offered in Matthew Henry’s Commentary:
I. How much was to be measured.
1. The temple; the gospel church in general, whether it be so built, so constituted, as the gospel rule directs, whether it be too narrow or too large, the door too wide or too strait.
2. The altar. That which was the place of the most solemn acts of worship may be put for religious worship in general; whether the church has the true altars, both as to substance and situation: as to substance, whether they take Christ for their altar, and lay down all their offerings there; and in situation, whether the altar be in the holiest; that is, whether they worship God in the Spirit and in truth.
3. The worshippers too must be measured, whether they make God's glory their end and his word their rule, in all their acts of worship; and whether they come to God with suitable affections, and whether their conversation be as becomes the gospel.
II. What was not to be measured (v. 2), and why it should be left out.
1. What was not to be measured: The court which is without the temple measure it not. Some say that Herod, in the additions made to the temple, built an outer court, and called it the court of the Gentiles. Some tell us that Adrian built the city and an outer court, and called it Aelia, and gave it to the Gentiles.
2. Why was not the outer court measured? This was no part of the temple, according to the model either of Solomon or Zerubbabel, and therefore God would have no regard to it. He would not mark it out for preservation; but as it was designed for the Gentiles, to bring pagan ceremonies and customs and to annex them to the gospel churches, so Christ abandoned it to them, to be used as they pleased; and both that and the city were trodden under foot for a certain time-forty and two months, which some would have to be the whole time of the reign of antichrist. Those who worship in the outer court are either such as worship in a false manner or with hypocritical hearts; and these are rejected of God, and will be found among his enemies. (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)
The above allows for the idea that Revelation 11:1 has to do with true Christians, and that verse 11:2 may be dealing with compromising Christians or the unconverted.
This paper will briefly mention two alternative explanations for Revelation 11:1-2 which are a bit closer to Matthew Henry’s Commentary than The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
One explanation is that Revelation 11:1 is not referring to a physical building whatsoever, and instead is referring to the group of Christians which are protected during the tribulation (Revelation 12:14-16). The related explanation for Revelation 11:2 in that case would be that those “the court outside the temple” are the Christians that were not protected, but will be subject to Satan during that same time (cf. Revelation 12:17) (see also Laodicean Warning for God's People).
The other explanation is that Revelation 11:1 may be referring to a building which becomes the center for Christian worship by those protected during the Great Tribulation. This would seem to allow it to be understood fairly literally as there are people worshipping there (probably something not openly allowed in Jerusalem at that time). The same Greek word for altar in that verse, thusiasterionor, is also used in Hebrews 13:10 where it clearly is applicable for Christians. The “court outside the temple” could be referring to Jerusalem as it will not be the center of Christian worship then. Those outside are either not Christians (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12) or possibly Christians (and others) who are being persecuted throughout the world by the Beast power (Revelation 12:17;14:12-13).
But even if there are better explanations, Revelation 11:1-2 simply does not support the view that a Jewish temple must be rebuilt before the Great Tribulation can begin.
Instead, of itself, it appears to contradict such a view—meaning that Revelation 11:1-2 does not seem to allow itself to be interpreted as requiring a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. While a physical non-Christian temple can possibly be built prior to Christ’s return, it simply would not seem to be “the temple of God.”
There is an interesting verse in Malachy that discusses a temple. Notice:
1 Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,"
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
Now when Jesus comes again, where does He go? Notice:
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
So, when Jesus returns, He will have His people come to Him. And then, notice where He will end up on the earth:
9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. (Acts 1:9-13)
3 Then the Lord will go forth
And fight against those nations,
As He fights in the day of battle.
4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:3-4)
The Mount of Olives should NOT be confused with the Temple Mount as it is a different mountain/hill. The Mount of Olives was never the site of any accepted Jewish temple.
So, it should be clear that the temple being referred to here is not a physical temple but His people. Jesus is going to come to His people and then will end up at the Mount of Olives, not a Jewish temple.
Furthermore, this is not a new understanding. The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
God made a prophecy in the third chapter of Malachy...Continuing, "...shall suddenly come to His temple..." What kind of temple is He coming to? Are the Jews going to tear down the Dome of the Rock and build a new temple? Oh, no!... A holy temple! Christ is coming to His church! Christ is coming to His temple! Do we see that? The church is the temple. "...in whom ye are also builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Armstrong, Herbert W. Congress of Leading Ministers Hears Defined and Reemphasized Spiritual Organization of Church. Worldwide News, March 6, 1981, p. 10)
Christians are the “people of God” in the New Testament. The New Testament seems to be clear that Christians, and not non-Christian Jews, are the “temple of God.”
Yet, it is not the contention of this paper that a third Jewish temple cannot possibly be rebuilt, for that certainly is a physical possibility.
However, it is not absolutely required to be built in order for end-time prophecies to be fulfilled.
Nor would such a temple likely be “the temple of God.” Nor when Jesus returns is He planning on coming to the old Temple Mount to fulfill specific biblical prophecy--but He is prophesied to be coming to His people (who will be raised up to meet Him).
Thus, if a physical temple is NOT rebuilt and sacrifices DO begin, Christians should not think that there MUST be a physical Jewish temple for the events that Jesus spoke of related to the Book of Daniel to come to pass. Those who insist on something that the Bible does not insist upon need to rethink their positions here.
As the article has shown, according to the Bible neither Jesus, Daniel, Paul, Malachi, nor John wrote anything that absolutely specifies that any Jewish temple will need to be built, prior to the Great Tribulation or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Serious modern Jews intend to sacrifice as soon as they can, and are willing to do it without a physical temple.
Thus, even if a physical temple is or is not rebuilt, the Great Tribulation can still begin. Prophecy will be fulfilled.
Dr. T. LaHaye and J. Jenkins may therefore wish to reconsider their highly publicized positions on this as they appear to be in conflict with the Bible.
Thiel B. Why is a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem Not Required? www.cogwriter.com/jewishtemple.htm (c) 2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013 1216
Articles of possibly related interest may include:
Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill Could this building, often referred to as the Cenacle, which is located on a Mount Zion, possibly have been the oldest actual Christian church building? There is also a video titled Does the 'Cenacle' deal have prophetic ramifications?
Is There A Secret Rapture for the Church? When and Where is the Church Protected? What does the Bible really teach? Who really is left behind?
Laodicean Warning for God's People Is there really a place of safety? Do God's people need to be warned? Warned for what?
There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra This article discusses a biblical 'place of safety' and includes quotes from the Bible and Herbert W. Armstrong on this subject--thus, there is a biblically supported alternative to the rapture theory.
When Will the Great Tribulation Begin? 2014, 2015, or 2016? Can the Great Tribulation begin today? What happens before the Great Tribulation in the "beginning of sorrows"? What happens in the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord? Is this the time of the Gentiles? When is the earliest that the Great Tribulation can begin? What is the Day of the Lord? Who are the 144,000?
Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666 This article explains how the LCG views this, and compares this to Ellen White.
Europa, the Beast, and Revelation Where did Europe get its name? What might Europe have to do with the Book of Revelation? What about "the Beast"? What is ahead for Europe?
Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders? There have been many false leaders--here is some of why you should be concerned about them.
Where Are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel? Are the Americans, Canadians, British, Scottish, Welsh, Australians, and New Zealanders descendants of Joseph? Where are the lost ten-tribes of Israel? Who are the lost tribes of Israel? Will God punish the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom, and other Anglo nations?
Who is the King of the North? Is there one? Do biblical and Roman Catholic prophecies point to the same leader? Should he be followed? Who will be the King of the North discussed in Daniel 11? Is a nuclear attack prophesied to happen to the English-speaking peoples of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand? When do the 1335 days, 1290 days, and 1260 days (the time, times, and half a time) of Daniel 12 begin? When does the Bible show that economic collapse will affect the United States?
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it. Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near?
Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End? Was a 6000 year time allowed for humans to rule followed by a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth taught by the early Christians? When does the six thousand years of human rule end?