Solomon built Jerusalem’s first Temple in the tenth century BC as a permanent dwelling for the Ark of the Covenant. The dazzling light of God’s presence appeared in a cloud above the mercy seat and between the two golden cherubim. Hence the Ark was considered the physical embodiment of God’s presence on earth. Solomon’s Temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
In 538 BC, Judeans returned from their captivity in Babylon under the leadership of Zerubbabel to rebuild their Temple. Jerusalem’s second Temple was completed on March 12, 515 BC during the reign of Darius the Great. Zerubbabel’s Temple was a much inferior structure that never approached the magnificence of Solomon’s Temple.
Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews in 37 BC. He renovated Zerubbabel’s Temple with such lavish splendour that it became one of the wonders of the Roman Empire. The manner in which the construction was performed did not interrupt Temple services. Thus Herod’s Temple was also considered the second Temple. The Temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Many believe that the final week of Daniels’s Messianic prophecy will begin seven years before the second coming of Jesus Christ. That period will be dominated by the unholy trinity—the devil, the antichrist, and the false prophet. The Great Tribulation will occupy the last 42 months of that seven year period.
Revelation describes the antichrist as a beast with ten horns, seven heads, and ten crowns. He was like a leopard, a bear, and a lion and the devil gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. A nearly identical description is recorded in chapter seven of the Book of Daniel.
Many envision the antichrist as a tyrant who will rule an empire spanning the entire globe. He will be a man of intrigue who captures the popular imagination and inspires allegiance and devotion. The first 42 months of his reign will be a time of economic prosperity. Some speculate that the earth will be a global village with one bank and a universal currency.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the Great Tribulation will rear its ugly head and prosperity will be replaced by agony and suffering, the likes of which have never been felt since the beginning of time.
It is then that the antichrist will sit in Jerusalem’s Temple declaring himself to be God. Jesus foretold of this event, in the Gospel of Matthew, describing the beast as the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet.
At the present time, there is no Temple in Jerusalem and there hasn’t been a Temple in the Holy City since 70 AD. However, two twentieth century miracles have set the stage for the third Temple in Jerusalem. In 1947, following the Second World War, the United Nations voted for the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine. In 1948, after nearly two thousand years, the nation of Israel was reborn. Not only did the tiny state survive amid hostile Arab neighbours, but in 1967 it unified Jerusalem liberating the sacred sites and making the Holy City its eternal, undivided capital.
Today, both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque occupy the Temple Mount. Because they are Muslim holy places, Jews regard the site of their former Temples as polluted. Since the Temple area is unclean, it is off limits to Orthodox Jews. Even if the two Muslim shrines were eliminated, currently there is no priesthood in Israel and hence no one qualified to cleanse the Temple Mount. In addition to those obstacles, there is a theological problem. A new Temple would necessitate the reinstatement of sacrificial rites. For two thousand years, rabbinical Judaism has taught that God requires mitzvahs rather than sacrifices. Consequently, returning to the sacrifice of bulls and goats could irreparably damage the credibility of the rabbis.
Surely it would take another modern day miracle for the third Temple to be built in Jerusalem. Maybe some of us will be alive to witness that miracle.