ANALYSIS---Does The Temple Really Have To Be Rebuilt For Bible Prophecy To Be

by Lawrence J. Joyce, WebToday Editor

Part 2: A common belief among Evangelical Christians is that the Jews have to rebuild their temple in order for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. But a closer examination of the Scriptures suggests that perhaps this is not necessarily the case.

The prophecies in question are: 1.) The Antichrist or his False Prophet setting up the Antichrist's image in the temple; 2.) The Abomination of Desolation taking place; and 3.) The Antichrist setting himself up as God in the "temple" of God.

As to the first prophecy, it is a myth. The Bible simply does not say that the image of the Beast is set up in the temple, or indeed in any other specific location. (Rev. 13:15). (Nor does the Bible say that there were three wise men, for that matter. It simply says that there were wise men with three gifts. See, Matt 2:1-16.)

As to the Abomination of Desolation, the only thing needed for that prophecy to be fulfilled is the existence of the Holy of Holies. (Matt. 24: 15-22; Dan. 9:27 and 12:11). But the Holy of Holies can exist as it did prior to the construction of the first temple: in the Tabernacle. Many Orthodox Jews today believe that only Messiah can rebuild the temple. Perhaps they are right after all. And many Christians who follow Bible prophecy have noted that the progression of events in the Middle East right now seems out of sync with the idea of rebuilding the temple, which could take many years to finish. Also, rebuilding the temple could be violently explosive in the Middle East right now, whereas erecting a temporary structure, the Tabernacle, would not be nearly so. And erecting the Tabernacle on the site of the ancient temples could be a convenient compromise among Orthodox Jews who wish to rebuild the temple and those who insist that they do not do so.

The third prophecy---found in II Thess. 2:4, concerning the "son of perdition" setting himself up as God in the "temple" of God---seems to be the major obstacle to a Tabernacle theory of end-times prophecy. Yet looks, especially first looks, can be deceiving.

The New Testament uses two Greek words for "temple": hieron, which refers to the temple grounds and building, and naos, which refers to the sanctuary. Hieron is used 71 times in the New Testament. Naos is used 44 times therein. II Thess. 2:4 uses the word naos. (All uses of the word "temple" in Revelation use the word naos.)

The uses of these two words illustrates their different meanings. For instance, when the Word says that Satan brought Jesus up to the roof of the temple, it uses hieron. (Luke 4:9). Likewise, when it says Jesus taught in the temple (Luke 20:1), or states that He was on Solomon's porch (John 10:23), it uses hieron. The same holds true when it says Peter and John went to the temple to pray. (Acts 3:1). But when it quotes Jesus as saying that upon the religious rulers who opposed Him would come the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, "... whom ye slew between the temple and the altar," it uses the word naos for "temple", denoting the sanctuary itself. (Matt. 23:35). Indeed, it would not make sense to use hieron, the word for the temple building, in that context, for the altar itself was actually inside the temple building.

Likewise, when Jesus told his opponents that if they destroyed "this temple" he would raise it back up in three days (John 2:19), the word naos is used. The same applies to the references to the veil in the temple being torn when Jesus died. (Matt.27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45). Similarly, when Paul tells the Corinthians that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the word naos is used. (I Cor. 3:16-17; II Cor. 6:16). The same is true when he tells the Ephesians that we are being built as a holy temple unto the Lord. (Eph. 2:21). Thus, the word naos can refer to things either physical or spiritual in nature; but it always refers, in any case, to some form of sanctuary, and is not the word used to specify the temple building and grounds generally. The word hieron is reserved for that.

Particularly noteworthy in this context is the wording of the travails mentioned in Daniel in and around the time of the Abomination of Desolation. There the prophet speaks of desecration and resanctification taking place in the "sanctuary", using two Hebrew words for sanctuary (miqdash and qodesh), but not one of the Hebrew words for "temple"---bavith or heykal. (Dan. 8:11, 8:13-14, 9:17, 9:26, and 11:31). Significantly, Daniel himself uses a Chaldean version of heykal when relating the story of how Belshazzar took the golden and silver vessels from Solomon's temple to drink from at his feast for his pagan gods. (Dan. 5: 2-3). So it is not as if Daniel would not have used a specific word for the temple building itself when the time came to do so.

Given the usage of hieron and naos in the Scripture, then, we must recognize that the statement in II Thess. 2:4 need not mean the temple building. The word naos consistently refers to the sanctuary itself---the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies---either in a physical or a spiritual context. The writings in Daniel likewise resonate with this meaning of the word naos. And the sanctuary, we must remember, can be present in the Tabernacle every bit as much as in the temple building.

Read Temple, part one

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