While the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple sounds preposterous in this day and age, it is inevitable. It will not be long before a Third Temple in Jerusalem graces the skyline in place of Islam’s Dome of the Rock.
I will give a brief historical overview of the two previous Temples before demonstrating the over-riding evidence for the erection of a third in my next post.
The First Temple
Solomon, son of King David, laid the foundations of the First Temple on Mount Moriah in 1011BC. Work was completed seven and a half years later in 1004 BC. Although Israel’s King Solomon was the builder, the temple had been conceived in the heart of his father, David. It was David who received the blueprint from God, and laid up the materials for its construction.
On completion, when Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant into the temple and offered sacrifices to God, the Shekinah glory of God entered the Holy of Holies and the priests and Levites were unable to stand in the powerful presence of the living God. (1 Kings 8:10)
The Temple Layout
Both first and second temples consisted of the Porch, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, separated one from the other by a heavy curtain or veil. This inner sanctuary was surrounded by courts through which the worshiper would enter and ascend gradually to the heart of the building. The Court of the Gentiles was by far the largest of these courts, more than fourteen acres in extent, and could be entered by people of all nations.
Directly opposite the Eastern gate, a broad flight of steps ascended to the gate Beautiful, the entrance to the court of the Women. On pain of death, no Gentile or unclean Jew could pass beyond this point.
Within the court of the Priests, sacrifices were made and burned on the brazen altar. Before the steps to the inner temple stood the massive brazen sea, supported by four pairs of bulls facing outward towards the four points of the compass. This was where the priests washed themselves in preparation for service. The court of the Priests was accessible to the Israelites only when they participated directly in the sacrifice they had made. Twelve steps led from there up to the Sacred Porch, within which, on either side of the entrance to the Holy Place, stood the two massive pillars of Jachin and Boaz. The show bread, or the bread of presence, consisting of twelve loaves of unleavened bread was laid out afresh every Sabbath day on the golden table in the Holy Place.
Only the High Priest ever entered the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year on the 10th day of Tishri, the Day of Atonement. On this day sacrifice was offered to God for the sins of the nation of Israel.
The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was first brought into Solomon’s Temple in the seventh month, and placed within the Holy of Holies. Within the ark were the two tablets of stone on which were the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God. Two golden cherubims spread their wings over the Mercy Seat within the Most Holy Place where once a year the blood of the sacrifice for the atonement of the nation was sprinkled.
Razing of the First Temple
Any violation of Israel’s separateness threatened the temple itself. When compromise and idolatry was introduced, or when time impaired the nation’s memory so that the essential focus of Israel and Judea’s worship was lost, the temple suffered. Even King Solomon, in the end, chose to ignore the law and to follow his own lusts. As a result, ten of the twelve tribes were torn from the hand of his son, and the temple served Judea only. The first temple retained its splendour for only thirty-three years before undergoing various pillages and profanations. At length it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 588 BC after having stood for 424 years, and Israel and Judah were taken into captivity to Babylon.
Fifty-two years later, King Cyrus of Babylon permitted a rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Many of the Jewish captives made their way back to their land and the foundation of the second temple was laid by Zerubbabel. (Zechariah 4:9) The dimensions of this temple were double that of Solomon’s Temple, but those who had known the first temple wept. The glory of God’s presence was missing from this new building. The Ark was lost, as was the Urim and Thummim, or ‘lights and perfections’, the divinely appointed means of communicating with God.
Zerubbabel’s Temple was dedicated twenty-one years after the laying of the foundation, but in 163 BC, it was profaned and plundered by Antiochus Epiphanes who stopped the daily sacrifice, offered swine’s flesh on the sacred altar and disallowed the worship of Jehovah; an act destined to be repeated in the future by the Roman Antichrist. Three years after Antiochus Epiphanes, the temple was purified, repaired and rededicated by Judas Maccabaeus.
Herod the Great was the last of the builders of the temple. He was the son of Antipater, an Idumaean, and was a favourite of Julius Caesar. Herod the Great was declared King of Judea by Anthony, and he endeavoured to find favour with the Jews by restoring Zerubbabel’s Temple, which by this time was in a poor state of repair. He may have also hoped to fulfil in his own person the Messianic prophecy in Malachi 3:1:
…and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
This non-Jew had helped impose the Roman yoke on Judah. He introduced the quinquennial games in honour of Caesar, erected theatres and gymnasia in Jerusalem, and slew all but two members of the Sanhedrin as well as his own wife and sons. Despite his efforts to gain their goodwill, he remained odious to most Jews.
Still known as the Second Temple, Herod’s temple was in service during the time of Jesus’ ministry, although work continued on some of the outbuildings. Built with massive stones of white marble, it was praised for its beauty and workmanship and was said to rise like a mount of gold and snow. In accordance with the prophecy of Jesus, who said that there would not remain one stone upon another that should not be thrown down, the temple was completely razed by the Romans in AD 70, after Jesus’ death.
Three Temples are prophesied. Both the first and second Temple were destroyed on the 9th day of the Jewish month of Ab, (around our August). Tisha B’Av is a time of mourning for Jews until this day.