Temple Mount: Its History and Future

The Temple Mount was an important location in the history of Israel and Judah. This same area is prophesied to play a major role in the end times and beyond.

The biblical history of the Temple Mount—a leveled area on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem—began long before the construction of the first temple. About 900 years before the first temple, Abraham was told to go to Mount Moriah (the Mount of the Lord) to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2, 14).

This location was near the village of Salem, which later became Jerusalem (Joshua 18:28; 2 Chronicles 3:1). It was here that Abraham came to give a tithe to Melchizedek and was “blessed by the better” (Genesis 14:18-20; Hebrews 7:1-4, 7-8). This particular location seems to have already been chosen by God for His future temple.

Coming forward 400 years to the time of Moses, we see in the Song of Moses a reference to “the mountain of Your inheritance, … which You have made for Your own dwelling” (Exodus 15:17). At the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, God commanded through Moses that Israel should “seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place [habitation in the King James Version]; and there you shall go” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

When God first began working with the Israelites, His place of dwelling was a portable tent, called the “tabernacle” (Exodus 25:9; 26:1). It was the location for worship on God’s annual holy days, where God “put His name” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

Over the years, this tabernacle moved to various locations, including Kadesh, Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob and Gibeon. After approximately 400 years of the tabernacle being moved from time to time, a permanent temple of stone was built for God in the city of Jerusalem—the site being chosen by God Himself (Psalm 132:13; 1 Kings 11:13; 14:21; 2 Chronicles 33:7).

Acquiring the future Temple Mount

When David became king over all of the tribes of Israel, one of his first tasks was to capture and secure the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites and rename it the City of David (2 Samuel 5:7-9). By capturing the stronghold of Zion, David gained control over the very strategic areas of the city and the citadel. Jerusalem then became the center of Israel and Israel’s capital. This made it possible for David to later negotiate the purchase of the area that would become the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount location was acquired by David following his sin of taking a census of Israel. God stopped the angel of the Lord who had been sent to punish David and Israel for their sins and instructed the angel to inform the prophet Gad to tell David to erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:18-24).

Following the purchase of the threshing floor from Ornan, David built an altar and “offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the LORD.” God answered David by supernaturally igniting the burnt offering by fire from heaven. David realized that God had shown him “this is the house of the LORD God” (1 Chronicles 21:24-30; 22:1).

Because David had been a man of war who had shed much blood, God did not allow him to build the temple. But David was allowed to make preparations for his son Solomon to construct the temple (1 Chronicles 22:5-9).

The first temple period

Solomon began building the first temple in the fourth year of his reign, which was 480 years after Israel came out of Egypt (1 Kings 6:1). The Temple Mount, which was the platform for the temple, required huge foundational stones to flatten and stabilize the site. This platform, or foundation, was required because Mount Moriah was not level, but was rounded at the top. It would be enlarged later, during the second temple period, to eventually become the trapezoid-shaped Temple Mount that it is today.

The first temple lasted about 375 years before it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

God had told Solomon that if he or his descendants turned away from obeying Him, “this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight” (1 Kings 9:6-7).

Although some of Judah’s kings served God, the majority turned away from the Lord and allowed the nation to practice idolatry. Finally, in the time of Ezekiel (597 B.C.), the prophet saw in a vision the glory of the Lord depart from the temple (Ezekiel 10:18). In a few years the temple was totally destroyed.

The second temple period

The second temple was constructed over the site of the first temple on the Temple Mount following the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity (535-515 B.C.). It did not have the beauty and splendor of Solomon’s temple.

Later, Herod the Great would rebuild the second temple with better stones. This was the temple that Jesus came to during His ministry (John 2:20). The second temple period lasted almost 600 years from 515 B.C. to A.D. 70.

At the beginning of this second temple period, the prophet Haggai (520 B.C.) was inspired to write, “‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former. … And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:9). The greater glory of the second temple refers to when Jesus Christ came to it and offered eternal peace for man through His sacrifice.

Desolation and destruction

The Temple Mount has had a history of war and destruction. In the second century B.C. (168-165) the forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Kingdom slaughtered over 40,000 Jews and erected a pagan altar on the altar for burnt sacrifices. This act is referred to as the “abomination of desolation” in Daniel 11:31. It lasted for three years until the Maccabean revolt overthrew the Seleucids and cleansed the temple. The cleansing and restoration of the temple is commemorated annually in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, also known as the “feast of the dedication” (John 10:22).

This desolation served as a forerunner of what Jesus described would happen in the end times on the Temple Mount (Matthew 24:15).

Just before His crucifixion in the spring of A.D. 31, Jesus told His disciples that “not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Less than 40 years later the second temple (which had been enhanced by Herod) was destroyed and burned by the Romans in A.D. 70.

Although the foundational stones of the Temple Mount apparently remained (a portion of this foundation is known as the Wailing Wall today), the temple that sat on top of the mount was completely destroyed. The events that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple were also a type of a future “abomination of desolation” prophesied by Christ to occur in the end times (Matthew 24:15).

The surface of the Temple Mount would remain in a state of destruction until the Muslim invasions in the seventh century. These resulted in the Dome of the Rock being built over the ancient temple site and the Al-Aqsa Mosque being built on the south end of the Temple Mount. These two structures remain intact today.

The coming abomination

In the Olivet Prophecy Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15). Daniel spoke of more than one abomination. This particular abomination would precede Jesus’ second coming.

Daniel speaks of this end-time abomination in Daniel 12:11. A forerunner of this end-time abomination is found in Daniel 11:31.

The end-time abomination will include stopping the daily sacrifices at the altar (Daniel 8:11-14 12:11). Jesus said this abomination would be “standing in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15) and “standing where it ought not” (Mark 13:14). This seems to indicate that it will stand by or on the altar.

To fulfill the prophecy of the abomination of desolation, at some point in the future, before the Great Tribulation comes on this world, the Jewish people will apparently begin offering sacrifices once again on the Temple Mount.The daily sacrifices were carried out on the altar outside the temple where the people could observe the service. The “appalling abomination” (Daniel 9:27, Tanakh) will be forced on the holy place by the one who will bring desolation to everything holy on the Temple Mount. It may be that there will only be an altar at that time. During the second temple period there were sacrifices on the altar while the temple was being built (535-515 B.C.) and that was also the case during the time Herod was rebuilding the temple.

The apostle Paul wrote that the individual who causes the abomination “sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The meaning of this passage could be that this person will sit in a literal temple of God or that he will exercise his power in the way God did when God presided over the temple. (We note that even though this passage is a prophecy of the future, the second temple was still in existence and functioning when Paul wrote it.)

To fulfill the prophecy of the abomination of desolation, at some point in the future, before the Great Tribulation comes on this world, the Jewish people will apparently begin offering sacrifices once again. Something very dramatic will have to occur for this to happen. The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently sit on the Temple Mount, and they represent major political and religious barriers to any Jewish construction on the Temple Mount.

The millennial temple and mount

The second coming of Jesus Christ will result in a dramatic change to the topography of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. We read of “a great earthquake” that destroys a “tenth of the city” and kills “seven thousand people” at the end of the sixth trumpet in Revelation (Revelation 11:13).

The prophet Zechariah prophesied that a great earthquake will split the Mount of Olives, which is located east of the Temple Mount, creating a new valley through the middle of it (Zechariah 14:4). These earthquakes will apparently destroy the present Temple Mount and require the building of a new one.

The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision describing a new millennial temple in great detail (Ezekiel 40-44). Jesus Christ is coming to set up the Kingdom of God on the earth (Zechariah 14:9), and there will be a temple throughout His millennial rule on the earth.

Christ’s purpose will be to bring humanity to the knowledge of God, to repentance from its sinful ways, and to the path to eternal life. That way is available to those today who desire to know about it.

To learn more about the Middle East, be sure to read the articles in this section on the “Middle East in Bible Prophecy.”

About the Author

Jim Haeffele

Jim Haeffele

Jim Haeffele is a church pastor in the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He currently pastors congregations in Fort Myers, Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida. He has served in the ministry of the Church of God for over 46 years. During those years he and his wife, Lois, have served congregations from Portland, Oregon, where he grew up, to Utah, Ohio, North Carolina, and now Florida.

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