Does Bible Prophecy Require a Third Temple to Be Built?
The Bible talks about sacrifices resuming in Jerusalem, but does this mean a temple must be built there for end-time prophecy to be fulfilled? Many believe so, but what does the Bible say?
For years, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem has been preparing the implements and materials needed for a third temple. In 2015 they completed an altar needed to restart sacrifices and performed a reenactment of the Passover sacrifice. In 2017 they performed a sacrifice near the Temple Mount, a controversial act that resulted in some being arrested. But this year they were given permission to perform a reenactment of the Passover sacrifice at the foot of the Temple Mount.
Since President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. embassy would move to Jerusalem, some Jews have felt emboldened to continue their push to build a third temple and restart the sacrifices. President Trump has been likened to King Cyrus by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for moving the embassy. The Temple Institute has even minted coins representing the half-shekel required for the upkeep of the temple (Exodus 30:13-15). The coin shows Mr. Trump’s image imposed over King Cyrus with the temple on the opposing side.
By comparing Donald Trump to the Persian King Cyrus, some Jews see God guiding Mr. Trump’s hand so that the temple can be rebuilt, just as God historically guided King Cyrus to authorize a second temple after the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians (Isaiah 44:28; Ezra 5:13-14).
Though the Temple Institute represents a radical fringe group in Israeli society, many evangelical Christians support their efforts because they believe the building of a third temple is necessary to fulfill prophecy.
But does Bible prophecy require a temple to be built as a sign of Christ’s return? What does the Bible say about the third temple?
Resuming of sacrifices
After the collapse of Alexander the Great’s empire, his kingdom split into four smaller empires under his generals (Daniel 8:8). A ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes rose to power in the Seleucid Empire. He ruled over the Jews and outlawed worship of the true God. He stopped the daily sacrifices and offered unclean sacrifices to pagan gods instead (Daniel 8:11-12, 13; 11:31). This event is discussed in our article “Abomination of Desolation.”
If the “daily sacrifices” are going to be stopped in the future, that means they must first be resumed!Jesus prophesied that this historical event would also have a future fulfillment. In the end times, a despotic ruler (“king of the North”) would stop the “daily sacrifices” again. We know from Daniel that these events will occur at “the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9) and that “from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days” (verse 11)—indicating a countdown to Jesus Christ’s return.
If the “daily sacrifices” are going to be stopped in the future, that means they must first be resumed! This is why the actions of the Temple Institute and their emboldened plans to resume sacrifices are interesting.
Must a third temple be rebuilt?
After the destruction of Solomon’s temple, the Jews were subjected to 70 years of captivity in Babylon (Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 29:10). Afterward, God began the process of returning them to their homeland to rebuild. Under Ezra’s guidance, a group of Jews returned to Jerusalem and resumed sacrifices to God. These sacrifices were performed before work had even begun on the second temple (Ezra 3:1-2, 3-4, 5-6).
This shows that only an altar is necessary for sacrifices to be offered. A temple is not a requirement.
So why do some believe a temple must be built in Jerusalem in the end times before Jesus Christ returns?
In Ezekiel 40-48 we read about a vision of a future temple. The vision is recorded after the destruction of the first temple and before the construction of the second temple. The second temple was not a fulfillment of this vision because it did not have the physical features described by Ezekiel. So, some connect this with the prophecy of the sacrifices being stopped and conclude that there will be a temple built in Jerusalem before Christ’s return.
But, as we have seen, the sacrifices don’t require a temple. When you study the description of Ezekiel’s temple, it becomes clear that this is a structure that will be built after Jesus returns. Here are some reasons:
- Jerusalem will be known as “THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezekiel 48:35). So this temple will stand at a time when God is ruling in Jerusalem.
- A river will flow from the temple that will heal the land and the seas (Ezekiel 47:1, 8-9).
- The time setting is after God delivers Israel (Ezekiel 39:25-26, 27-28).
- God’s Spirit will be poured out on all Israel (Ezekiel 39:29).
Continue watching Jerusalem and the rise of religious and political powers in Europe that will eventually end those future sacrifices.