You are hereWhat Does the Bible Say About Rebuilding the Temple?
What Does the Bible Say About Rebuilding the Temple?
by Gary DeMar
Dispensational premillennialists need a future "tribulation temple" so their idea of antichrist can take his seat (2 Thess. 2:4), place a statue for people to worship (Rev.
13:14-15), and proclaim himself to be god (2 Thess. 2:4). But what the dispensationalists really need is a verse that states that there will be another rebuilt temple since there's already been one. Rebuilt-temple advocates
Tommy Ice and Randall Price admit that "There are no Bible verses that say, 'There is going to
be a third temple.'" Having made this revealing concession, they go on to claim "that there will be a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem at least by the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation period." As we will see, the Bible says no such thing. Does the Bible predict that a third temple will be built, one following
Solomon's temple and the post-exile temple that was still standing in Jesus' day? Don Stewart
and Chuck Missler insist that the "The crucial issue boils down to how we interpret prophecy.
There are two basic ways to interpret Bible prophecy. Either you understand it literally or you do not. If a person rejects the literal interpretation then they [sic] are left to their own imagination as to what the Scripture means. . . . We believe it makes sense to understand the Scriptures as literally requiring
the eventual construction and desecration of a Third Temple." The authors are careful to say
only that another rebuilt temple is required. A third temple is required only if you're a
dispensationalist. Jesus' completed redemptive work makes the need for a rebuilt temple
unnecessary. His ministry begins with the declaration that He is our tabernacle (John 1:14), "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (1:29), "the temple" (John 2:19-21), and the "chief cornerstone" (Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20). By extension, believers are "as living stones, . . . being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God
through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). Those "in Christ" are the true temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; Rev. 21:22). Jesus and the people of God are the focus of the only temple that has any redemptive significance. To be "in Christ" is to be in the temple and all it stood for, "the renewed centre and focus for the people of God"4 (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 1:2, 30; Gal. 3:14, 28; 5:6). The NT references to the temple of stone only refer to its destruction (Matt. 24:1-2) never its reconstruction. It is highly significant that "Jesus never gives any
hint that there will be a physical replacement for this Temple. There is no suggestion, either in the Apocalyptic Discourse or elsewhere, that this destruction will be but a preliminary
stage in some glorious 'restoration' of the Temple."
The original temple was a shadow of things to come. It was designed to be a temporary
edifice looking forward to the completed work of Jesus Christ. For dispensationalists to insist
that another temple is needed to complete some type of covenantal obligation with the Jews goes
against the entire NT and makes the "first covenant . . . faultless," with "no occasion sought for a second" (Heb. 8:7). Let the Bible settle the issue:
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who
has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a
minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not
man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; hence it
is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on
earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts
according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just
as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for,
"See," He says, "that you make all things according to the pattern which was
shown you on the mountain." But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry,
by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been
enacted on better promises (Heb. 8:1-6).
The writer of Hebrews declares that Jesus entered "through the greater and more perfect
tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation" (9:11). Since Jesus
completed His redemptive work, any new temple "made with hands" is not much
different from a pagan temple that has no inherent life or redemptive value (cf. Acts 17:24; 19:26; 2 Cor. 5:1).
"[T]he description of the Jerusalem Temple as 'made with hands' . . . is a
strong means of playing down its significance. This had been a way of belittling the pagan
idols (e.g. Ps. 115:4; cf. Isa. 46:6); to describe the Temple in such a fashion was potentially incendiary." This is because "the author of Hebrews believed the Jerusalem Temple was but a 'shadow' of the reality now found in Christ (8:5)." The "new covenant" had made the "old covenant" obsolete (8:13)
Stewart and Missler have made it very simple for us to determine whether the Bible
addresses the issue of a rebuilt temple. If the Bible is interpreted literally, the need for a third temple should be explicitly stated. What biblical evidence do they offer to support their claim that "the Bible, in both testaments, speaks of a Temple that has yet to appear"? From the OT
they use Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11 for support. Ice and Price can only find only one verse for support--Daniel 9:27.
Since Daniel was written after Solomon's temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Dan. 1:1-2) and before the second temple had been built by the
returning exiles (Ezra 6:13-15), it stands to reason that the "sanctuary" whose "end will come
with a flood" (Dan. 9:26) must refer to the second temple that had not been built at the time the prophecy was given. It was this post-exile rebuilt temple that was desecrated by Antiochus
Epiphanes around 170 B.C. but not destroyed. After a period of misuse and disuse, Herod the
Great restored and enlarged this second temple, a project that started around 20 B.C. and was
completed just a few years before it was destroyed in A.D. 70. It was this
same temple that Zacharias served in (Luke 1:9), that Jesus was taken to as an infant (2:27),
that had been under construction for forty-six years when Jesus prophesied that He would be its
permanent replacement (John 2:20), that Jesus cleansed of the money changers (Matt.
21:12), that He predicted would be left desolate (Matt. 23:38; 24:2), whose veil was "torn
in two from top to bottom" (Matt. 27:51), and that was finally destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70.
Is there any indiction in the three passages from Daniel that we are to skip over what we
know was a rebuilt temple, the very temple that was standing in Jesus' day, and look for another
unmentioned third temple? Would Jews living in the first century have made the historical leap
over the temple that was standing before them and suppose Jesus was describing yet another
temple? As Ice and Price admit, the Bible does not say anything directly about another temple.
The passages from Daniel cited by Stewart and Missler and Ice and Price can easily find their
fulfillment in the rebuilt temple that was standing during the reign of Antiochus (Dan. 11:31; 12:11) and the second temple's destruction in A.D. 70 (9:27). In fact, Ice and Price find the fulfillment of Daniel 11:31 in the sacrilegious acts of Antiochus:
The abomination of desolation was something that took place the
through Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. when he stopped
sacrifices and desecrated the second Temple by sacrificing an unclean
pig on the
altar and setting up in its place a statue of Jupiter. This literally
11:31. Therefore, these future events will be similar in kind to the
prototypes-they will be real, historical events in a last days'
Daniel only mentions one sanctuary (8:11, 13; :26; 9:17, 26; 11:31; cf.
12:11). What indication
does the reader have that two temples are in view? The temple that Jesus
said would be torn
down and dismantled stone by stone was the "last days' Temple," the only one
Daniel. We know that the last days were a first-century reality, not the
prelude to the period of
time just before a pre-tribulational rapture: "God, after He spoke long ago
to the fathers in the
prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to
us in His Son,
whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world"
(Heb. 1:1-2; cf.
Acts 2:17; James 5:3).
Now we are left with Daniel 9:27 as the only verse from the OT that Ice and
contend supports the need for a third temple. But there is a problem with
their reasoning. They
argue that "the city and sanctuary" in Daniel 9:26 refers to Herod's temple
that was destroyed
when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70 (Luke 21:6): "Jesus,
seeing Himself as
the Messiah, therefore saw the Romans as the people . . . who will destroy
the city and the
sanctuary. Knowing that He would soon be cut off (crucified), He likewise
knew that the
Temple's destruction would soon occur."10 In the span of two verses, these
authors find two
temples, one in Daniel 9: 26 and another one in Daniel 9:27, separated by
2000 years. As a
careful reader will note, the "sanctuary" (temple) that appears in Daniel
9:26 does not appear in
9:27. This means that Daniel 9:27 is describing events related to the
already mentioned sanctuary
of 9:26 which Ice and Price say refers to the temple that was standing in
Jesus' day. For Ice and
Price to find another rebuilt temple, Daniel 9:27 would have to say
something like this: "After an
unspecified period of time, he will make a firm covenant with the many for
one week, but in the
middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering in the
third sanctuary; and
on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a
destruction of the third sanctuary, one that is decreed, is poured out on
the one who makes
desolate." Of course, not one word of this is found in Daniel 9:27.11
Since, as we have seen, the OT says nothing about a third temple, maybe the
something about it. Stewart and Missler and Ice and Price claim to have
evidence for a rebuilt temple in three NT passages: Matthew 24:15, 2
Thessalonians 2:3-4, and
Revelation 11:1-2. On Matthew 24:15, Stewart and Missler write: "Jesus spoke
of this prophecy
being still future to His time (Matthew 24:15)."
This is true. But the
rebuilt temple was still
standing when Jesus said that "the abomination of desolation which was
spoken of through
Daniel the prophet" would stand "in the holy place." Notice the audience
when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through
Daniel the prophet"
(Matt. 24:15). When who sees it? When "you see it," that is, when those in
Jesus' audience see it.
Ice and Price never explain the audience reference "you." If Jesus had a
distant future audience in
view, He would have said "when they see the abomination of desolation." Here
interpretation of Matthew 24:15: "'The holy place' is a reference to the
most sacred room within
Israel's Temple. What temple? The third Temple, since it is a future event." There is no
mention of a future rebuilt temple or even an implied reference. Jesus does
not say, "When they
see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the
prophet standing in
the rebuilt holy place." The holy place, the sanctuary, was right before
their eyes (Matt. 24:1-2).
Ice and Price argue that "the apostle Paul gives us perhaps the clearest
passage relating to
the third Temple in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4."14 Since Paul wrote before the
rebuilt temple was
destroyed in A.D. 70, what is it in these verses that tells us that the
temple in which the "man of
lawlessness" takes his seat is "the third temple"? Paul does not describe
"the temple" (lit.
sanctuary) as a rebuilt temple. What would have led his audience to conclude
that he was
referring to, using Ice and Price's words, "the future third Temple," when
the temple was still
standing in Jerusalem when he wrote his letter? The "man of lawlessness" was
"now," in their day (2:6, 7), and the Christians at Thessalonica knew the
identity of the restrainer
Third-temple advocates try to muster support for their position by
11:1-2. They begin by assuming that Revelation was written nearly three
decades after the
temple was destroyed.
From this unproven assumption, they conclude that
John must be
measuring a rebuilt temple. The passage says nothing about a rebuilt temple.
The words "shortly"
and "near" (Rev. 1:1, 3) are used to describe the time when the events
outlined in Revelation
were to take place. These words are meaningless if the events have not taken
place. The fact that
John is told to "rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and
those who worship in it"
(11:1), is prima facie evidence that the temple was still standing when John
revelation. How could John have measured a temple that did not exist in his
day? Ice and Price
insist that the temple that John is told to measure is the literal temple,
not a "spiritual temple."
"For example, in Matthew 24 Jesus is speaking about a literal Temple, since
in the context of the
passage he is standing and looking directly at the second Temple."17
Following Ice and Price's
argument, how could the temple John was told to measure be a literal temple
if it hadn't been
built yet? On the contrary, John was told to measure the literal Temple that
still had worshipers
in it, the same temple that Jesus stood in and Titus destroyed in A.D. 70.
The burden of proof is on rebuilt-temple advocates to come up with just one
unequivocally states that there will be a rebuilt temple. Since they admit
that "There are no Bible
verses that say, 'There is going to be a third temple,'" we must conclude
preoccupation with a rebuilt temple is misguided.
1. Thomas Ice and Randall Price, Ready to Rebuild: The Imminent Plan to
Rebuild the Last Days
Temple (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1992), 197-198.
2. Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild, 198.
3. Don Stewart and Chuck Missler, The Coming Temple: Center Stage for the
(Orange, CA: Dart Press, 1991), 193.
4. Timothy J. Geddert, Watchwords: Mark 13 in Markan Eschatology (Sheffield,
JSOT, 1989). Quoted in Peter W. L. Walker, Jesus and the Holy City: New
Perspectives on Jerusalem (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 9.
5. Walker, Jesus and the Holy City, 8.
6. Walker, Jesus and the Holy City, 10.
7. Walker, Jesus and the Holy City, 208.
8. Stewart and Missler, The Coming Temple, 194.
9. Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild, 200-201. Emphasis added.
10. Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild, 68.
11. For an exposition of Daniel 9:24-27, see Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness:
Obsession of the
Modern Church, 4th ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), chap.
12. Stewart and Missler, The Coming Temple, 194.
13. Stewart and Missler, The Coming Temple, 199.
14. Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild, 199.
15. For a verse-by-verse exposition of 2 Thessalonians 2, see DeMar, Last
chaps.22 and 23.
16. For a defense of a pre-A.D. 70 date of composition for Revelation, see
Kenneth L. Gentry,
Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation, 2nd ed. (Powder
American Vision, 1999).
17. Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild, 200.
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