With the destruction of the Temple of God in 70 A.D., organized Jewish worship was dramatically altered. Jerusalem had served as the focal point of Jewish life. Along with the obliteration of the Temple and the City of Jerusalem, Jews, themselves, were driven into other regions and nations. Eventually, rabbinical leadership emerged among many religious Jews, and that influence continues even now—both in the State of Israel and among scattered Jewish populations.
A rabbi is a teacher of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and rabbis also teach Jewish tradition.
Rabbis are not priests unless they come from the Tribe of Levi and only from descendants of Aaron—according to God’s instructions to Moses:
“‘Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the LORD, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death’” (Numbers 18:6-7).
Not all Levites were priests, but all priests descended from the Tribe of Levi and were, furthermore, of the lineage of Aaron (compare Exodus 40:12-15).
From the biblical record, we see that Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His time.
Among these was the Sanhedrin, a kind of high council which dealt with both religious and legal matters. Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the high priest, to be tried for blasphemy.
This religious structure among the Jews was swept away by the Romans. While there have been weak attempts to re-establish these former Jewish practices throughout the centuries, only in recent decades have religious Jews begun to be successful.
In recent times, attempts have been made to revive the Sanhedrin. According to a Wikipedia article, “2004 attempt to revive the Sanhedrin,” we note:
“Beginning in October 2004, an attempt was made to re-establish a revived Sanhedrin, a national rabbinical court of Jewish law in Israel. The organization heading this attempt referred to itself as the nascent Sanhedrin or developing Sanhedrin, and regarded itself as a provisional body awaiting integration into the Israeli government as both a supreme court and an upper house of the Knesset. The Israeli secular press regards it as an illegitimate fundamentalist organization of rabbis. The organization, which was composed of over 70 rabbis (similar to the composition of the original Sanhedrin), claimed to enjoy recognition and support from the entire religious Jewish community in Israel. However, it was mostly ignored by the Haredi community, and stirred debate in both religious and secularist circles. There has not been a ‘full meeting’ of the Sanhedrin since 2005 and its leader resigned in 2008… Haredi Zionist rabbis involved in the Sanhedrin revival attempt included Yisrael Ariel and Yoel Schwartz…”
An organization called the “Temple Institute” is currently heavily involved in plans for the Third Temple of God. Here is what they state on their homepage, www.templeinstitute.org :
“The Temple Institute is dedicated to making the Holy Temple a reality in our day, and toward this end, the Temple Institute has, for 36 years, been building and planning and researching and teaching and sharing with you our reconstructed sacred vessels and priestly garments, our books and paintings, our red heifer candidates, our teachings and insights and our love for HaShem and the Holy Temple!”
There are also dedicated Temple Mount extremists seeking to have access to the Temple Mount to offer sacrifices—something which is now illegal in the State of Israel.
The topic of a “Third Temple” being built on the Temple Mount seems to resonate among Israelis and onlookers from other nations more and more while being violently opposed by the Moslem world.
Here is the point for us to consider: Prophetic events reveal that a Third Temple will be built before the return of Jesus Christ. Animal sacrifices, presumably at the Temple, will be ongoing for a short period of time as Daniel 12:11 reveals, but they will be stopped.
The Bible portrays a fully functioning Temple of God which will include Levites, priests and a High Priest, a descendant of Aaron. Only the High Priest can enter the Holy of Holies—once a year on the Day of Atonement:
“‘And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD’” (Exodus 30:10).
How will this be possible? How can anyone know who is a rightful descendant of Aaron?
An article from the Baltimore Sun, dated July 9, 1998, reported:
“A team of scientists say they’ve used modern genetics to prove a biblical tradition — that today’s members of the Jewish priestly class who consider themselves descendants of the brother of Moses can indeed trace their origins back thousands of years.
“The researchers from England and Israel say they found that members of the kohanim, who call themselves descendants of Aaron, the biblical high priest and brother of Moses, share a Y chromosome with similar genetic markers that distinguishes them from the general Jewish population.”
Oral traditions among so-called Jewish families also attest to family lineage. Remember, Levites have lived with the Tribe of Judah since the revolt of Jeroboam after the death of Solomon:
“And from all their territories the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel took their stand with him. For the Levites left their common-lands and their possessions and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them from serving as priests to the LORD” (2 Chronicles 11:13-14).
High priests have been chosen and anointed in different ways. Of course, as we have seen, God directly chose Aaron and had Moses anoint him (compare Leviticus 8:12), and Solomon appointed a new High Priest:
“The king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his place over the army, and the king put Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar” (1 Kings 2:35).
The Sanhedrin also appointed High Priests from the Aaronic line. In an article from www.chabad.org, the following appears:
“…Both the king and the Sanhedrin serve as representatives of the entire nation, and as such are entitled to appoint the individual whose service in the Temple is discharged on behalf of the entire nation.”
Based on the history and tradition of how a High Priest has been chosen, it follows that when the time comes, Jews will be able to both identify and then install a High Priest for service in the coming Third Temple.
The Book of Zechariah portrays historical events AND prophetic ones! In Chapters 3 and 6, the High Priest named Joshua is mentioned. The context of Joshua’s role in the events described here are quite decidedly prophetic—along with a person named Zerubbabel who could perhaps refer to the national leader.
This prophecy is addressing a future High Priest who is yet to emerge in the end-time events leading to the building of a Third Temple in the City of Jerusalem and to the powerful return of Jesus Christ to establish God’s Kingdom.
Note: For a thorough presentation of events in the Book of Zechariah, please consult our booklet, “The Book of Zechariah–Prophecies for Today!” (Written by Evangelist Norbert Link).
Lead Writer: Dave Harris