16.5.9. Tribulation Temple

Several passages of Scripture indicate that the activities of the Antichrist involve a future Jewish Temple:1
  • Daniel Dan. 9:27 - The prince who is to come confirms a covenant for the duration of The 70th Week of Daniel. In the middle of the week, “he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” This implies an preexisting Temple within which sacrifice and offering had been taking place.
  • Daniel Dan. 12:11 - The daily sacrifice will be taken away and the Abomination of Desolation is set up. The context indicates that this occurs during “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a [Jewish] nation” (Dan. Dan. 12:1). A Temple must have been standing in which the daily sacrifices were being offered.
  • Matthew Mat. 24:15 - Jesus predicted that the Abomination of Desolation would stand “in the holy place.” This refers to a location within the Temple.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2Th. 2:4 - Paul indicated that one of the acts of the man of sin would be to exalt himself “above all that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” [emphasis added]
  • Revelation Rev. 11:1+ - John is told to measure “the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.” The context is during the Tribulation, prior to the return of Christ.
It is beyond all doubt that a Temple exists at the time of Antichrist. The only question which remains is which Temple? As we have already mentioned, most preterist interpreters take Nero to be The Beast and understand the fulfillment of his overthrow by Christ (Rev. Rev. 19:20+) to be his suicide in A.D. 68. They see John’s mention of a Temple in Revelation Rev. 11:1+ as internal evidence for an early date for the writing of Revelation. If this were an acceptable explanation and interpretation, then the Tribulation Temple would be none other than the Second Temple prior to its destruction by Rome in A.D. 70. However, attempts to find fulfillment of the book of Revelation, not to mention all the other related prophetic themes, in the events of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 require an enormous amount of creative and imprecise interpretation, not to mention outright reversal of textual meaning.2 Although preterists maintain that since John is told to measure the Temple (Rev. Rev. 11:1+) it must therefore have been standing in John’s day, this is not necessarily so:

Regarding Preterist assertion that this is Herod’s temple, to be destroyed in 70 A.D., there are at least two problems with this view. Firstly, most scholars date the book of Revelation after that destruction and secondly, It does not matter at all whether the temple is thought to still be standing in Jerusalem at the time that John sees the vision, since that would not necessarily have any bearing upon a vision. John is told by the angel accompanying him during the vision to ‘measure the temple’ (Rev. Rev. 11:1+). Measure what temple? The temple in the vision. In fact, Ezekiel, during a similar vision of a temple (Eze. Eze. 40:1-Eze. 48:1) was told to measure that temple. [Preterists] would agree, that when Ezekiel saw and was told to measure a temple, that there was not one standing in Jerusalem.3

There is an additional problem with the preterist view that the Tribulation Temple is the Second Temple: no one in the early church—the saints who lived closest to the times of both Nero and John—understood the preterist scheme. They did not see Nero as the Antichrist and the destruction of Jerusalem as the fulfillment of the book of Revelation. Some of the earliest interpreters, like futurist interpreters of today, expected the Temple to be a rebuilt Temple future to John’s day:

Therefore, when he [the antichrist] receives the kingdom, he orders the temple of God to be rebuilt for himself, which is in Jerusalem; who after coming into it, he shall sit as God.—Ephraim the Syrian, A.D. 373.4

But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that “many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”5

As we discuss elsewhere, the Date of the writing of the book of Revelation is most likely in A.D. 95 or 96 at the end of Domitian’s reign. At that time, no Temple stood in Jerusalem. Therefore, the passages mentioned above which have not yet been fulfilled require the rebuilding of a Jewish Temple. It would appear that this Tribulation Temple must be in place no later than the midpoint of The 70th Week of Daniel in order for the man of sin to sit in the Holy Place and for the Abomination of Desolation to be set up. The Temple may actually be built well in advance of that event, especially since it appears that the breaking of the covenant between the Antichrist and “many” in Israel contravenes the resumption of sacrifice and offering which would previously have been taking place at the site of the Temple (Dan. Dan. 9:27). Either the Tribulation Temple will be complete by the time the sacrifice is resumed or, as in the days of the rebuilding of the Second Temple, the sacrifices will be resumed while the construction of the Temple is in progress. As we discussed in relation to the Temple of the Believer, there is nothing which precludes the existence of a Jewish Temple side-by-side with believers who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. This was the situation for almost four decades after the Day of Pentecost until the destruction of the Second Temple:

The early Jewish church—before the destruction of the Temple—was indwelt, sealed, and filled with the Spirit and yet continued to worship in the Temple! This would imply that the Third Temple could be built during the church age and even sacrifices commenced without there being a necessary conflict with “spiritual worship.”6

Moreover, a rebuilt Jewish Temple would most likely be the product of orthodox Judaism which rejects the Christian reality of the Temple of the Believer. So views concerning the compatibility of a physical Temple while a spiritual Temple already exists within each believer may be irrelevant. There is also the possibility that the Church will be taken in the Rapture prior to the construction of the Tribulation Temple. Finally, we note that during the Millennial Kingdom, a physical Temple will exist alongside believers in Jesus. As to the practicality of rebuilding the Temple, there is much controversy. Considerable debate attends the identification of the precise location of Solomon’s Temple upon the Temple Mount and whether the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque preclude any possibility of a future Jewish Temple on the Mount. There is also disagreement concerning whether a Jewish Temple could be built upon the Temple Mount while the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque continue to stand. Some investigators claim that the Second Temple stood at a slightly different location than that occupied by the Dome of the Rock. Others say this is a moot point because Muslims would never allow the Jews to build anything anywhere upon the Temple Mount so long as Islam controls the location. Similarly, orthodox Judaism considers all Islamic presence on the Mount to be a defilement of their historical holy location. It is beyond the scope of our treatment here to consider the issues related to the precise location and ability to rebuild. See Temple-Related Websites. See commentary on Revelation 11:1.

Notes

1 We have only included passages which are definite references to the Tribulation Temple. Other passages may be related to the Tribulation Temple, but such reference is less certain (e.g., Rev. Rev. 13:6+, Rev. 13:14+). Some see a passage in Isaiah as denoting an unaccepted Temple at the time of the end: “Isaiah [Isa. Isa. 66:1-6] speaks of a house or temple being built for God which He does not sanction. It cannot refer to Solomon’s Temple or the Temple built by Zerubbabel, because God did sanction both of them. Nor can it refer to the Millennial Temple. That one will be built by Messiah, and God will certainly sanction it. Therefore, the only temple that this could refer to is the Tribulation Temple. . . . What God wants Israel to do at this time is to return to Him in faith, not merely to build Him a house.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 138. Although this may be possible, the passage may simply denote God’s dislike of insincere worship offered within the existing temple.

2 The city of Babylon in Revelation Rev. 18:1+ is taken to be Jerusalem. God’s defense of the city of Jerusalem recorded in Zechariah Zec. 12:1, Zec. 14:1 is taken to describe its destruction by Rome. For an excellent summary comparison of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 with Zechariah, see [Thomas Ice, “The Olivet Discourse,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 182].

3 Thomas Ice, “Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled?,” in The Conservative Theological Journal, vol. 4 no. 13 (Fort Worth, TX: Tyndale Theological Seminary, December 2000), 309.

4 Thomas Ice and Timothy J. Demy, When the Trumpet Sounds (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), 113.

5 Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. I (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), s.v. “ECF 1.1.7.1.5.31.”

6 Randall Price, The Coming Last Days Temple (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1999), 501.