Jerusalem is designated to be the royal city of Jesus Christ’s reign on the earth. Ezekiel’s presentation of the Temple he saw has its setting in the future—and in the City of Jerusalem: “In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city” (Ezekiel 40:2).
Other prophecies also speak of Jesus Christ establishing Jerusalem as the place of His future rule:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4; compare Psalms 45 through 48; Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 56:7; Zechariah 14:16).
In these and additional writings about the Messianic age, we are able to view the future as though it has already happened! Remarkable revelations found in the Book of Zechariah give us great insight into Jerusalem’s future—and facts that support the building of a physical House of God just before the return of Jesus Christ:
“Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?’ And the LORD answered the angel who talked to me, with good and comforting words. So the angel who spoke with me said to me, ‘Proclaim, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I am zealous for Jerusalem And for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; For I was a little angry, And they helped–but with evil intent.’ “Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘And a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.’” ‘Again proclaim, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; The LORD will again comfort Zion, And will again choose Jerusalem’”’” (Zechariah 1:12-17).
The LORD’s return to Jerusalem is described further:
“’Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the LORD. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem’” (Zechariah 2:10-12).
The time settings throughout the chapters of Zechariah have events occurring immediately before, during and following the return of Jesus Christ. Joshua and Zerubbabel led the rebuilding of the Temple of God following the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity after the “seventy years”; however, they also serve as prophetic types—representative of individuals who will live and accomplish God’s will in the future.
In chapter 3 of Zechariah, “Joshua” is cleansed and restored, and note that this has to do with his priestly role in the “house” or Temple of God:
“Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “If you will walk in My ways, And if you will keep My command, Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk Among these who stand here. Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign; For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH”’” (Zechariah 3:6-8).
As we point out in our free booklet, “The Book of Zechariah—Prophecies for Today,” pages 31 to 37, the references to the Temple of God in the context of Joshua refer primarily to the spiritual Temple—the Church of God (compare 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and many additional references, proving that God’s Church is called the Temple or the House of God). However, they may also refer to the building of a physical Temple just prior to Christ’s return.
In chapter 4 of Zechariah, “Zerubbabel” is promised that he will both start and finish the building of the Temple:
“So he answered and said to me: ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” ‘ Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you’” (Zechariah 4:6-9).
However, let us also consider what is said about the “BRANCH” regarding the Temple, in Zechariah 6:12-13:
“Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both [margin: both offices].”’”
The One called the “BRANCH” is the Messiah—the One who will return to occupy the Temple of God (as we will see in Ezekiel). From other references in this series of Q&A’s, we noted that God gave the plans for the Tabernacle’s construction and of the Temple built by Solomon—which served to also guide those in Zerubbabel’s time. The future Temple will be built according to the plans given in Ezekiel’s description along with what is recorded about the previous houses of God.
In “The Book of Zechariah—Prophecies for Today,” page 42, we state:
“Even though the vision is talking about the construction of a physical temple at the time of Zerubbabel, it also applies to the end time. As explained above, one application must be seen in the reference to the spiritual temple—the Church. But it is also possible that another physical temple will be built prior to Christ’s return—and that a modern ‘Zerubbabel’ will be used in some way for the accomplishment of that task.”
In this context, we find an additional striking proclamation:
“’Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And this shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God’” (Zechariah 6:15).
“’Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, You who have been hearing in these days These words by the mouth of the prophets, Who spoke in the day the foundation was laid For the house of the LORD of hosts, That the temple might be built”’” (Zechariah 8:9).
Again, we point out in “The Book of Zechariah—Prophecies for Today,” pages 62-63, that the building of the Temple could refer to the spiritual Temple of the Church or the physical Temple in the Millennium. However, we continue to state on page 64:
“It is also possible that the reference to a future temple, which will be built by the BRANCH, could relate to a physical temple still to be built in Jerusalem—just prior to the return of Christ. We know from Scripture that the Jews will bring sacrifices to Jerusalem. If there is a physical temple, then these sacrifices would be brought to that temple, until they are—temporarily—abolished by a European power.
“As we discussed in our free booklet, ‘Is That in the Bible?—The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation?,’ … strong biblical evidence exists for the rebuilding of a temple in the modern Jewish nation of Israel.
“It would also be possible that it is THAT temple which will survive the partial end-time destruction of the city of Jerusalem, which is described as the millennial temple in the book of Ezekiel.”
In the Book of Haggai, a prophecy is given which still has to find its fulfillment, and it may be in a physical Temple of God which must yet materialize:
“‘For thus says the LORD of hosts: “Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,” says the LORD of hosts. “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,” says the LORD of hosts. “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,” says the LORD of hosts. “And in this place I will give peace,” says the LORD of hosts”’” (Haggai 2:6-9).
In what way will “the glory of this latter temple… be greater than the former”? It will be because the glorified LORD, Jesus Christ, will come to this Temple:
“’Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the LORD, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ Says the LORD of hosts. ‘But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness’” (Malachi 3:1-3).
As we have understood for a long time, the above-quoted references in the books of Haggai and Malachi refer foremost to Christ’s Second Coming to His spiritual Temple—the Church. However, purifying the sons of Levi will go hand-in-hand with a ceremonial cleansing of the altar in the Temple of God, which is prophesied to take place AFTER Jesus Christ has returned to the earth (compare Ezekiel 43:18-27)! In fact, in the vision given to Ezekiel, it is the LORD who delegates the purging of the Temple and who rebukes those who have defiled His House:
“And He said to me, ‘Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name, they nor their kings, by their harlotry or with the carcasses of their kings on their high places. When they set their threshold by My threshold, and their doorpost by My doorpost, with a wall between them and Me, they defiled My holy name by the abominations which they committed; therefore I have consumed them in My anger. Now let them put their harlotry and the carcasses of their kings far away from Me, and I will dwell in their midst forever’” (Ezekiel 43:7-9).
Now carefully note what the LORD says about what has been allowed to take place in the Temple of God:
“Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD God: “O house of Israel, let us have no more of all your abominations. When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it–My house–and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of all your abominations. And you have not kept charge of My holy things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you.” Thus says the LORD God: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel”’” (Ezekiel 44:6-9).
This recounting of the detestable shame which will have happened to the Temple finds its parallel in the prophecies of Jesus from Matthew 24 and that of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2—as we have already shown. It appears that some influential Jews will allow the man of sin to occupy the Temple of God. The purging of the Temple at the time of the Millennium proves that prior desecration must have occurred in an existing physical Temple, prior to Christ’s Second Coming. These Scriptures—along with the many others we have cited—point to the fact that a Temple of God will be built BEFORE and NOT AFTER Christ’s appearance!
There is no clear implication that the modern Church of God will have a direct involvement in this endeavor. However, every indication—both by precedence and by the reality of having a restored Jewish nation in the State of Israel—is that the Jews and the Levites with them will find a way to once again erect the Temple of God—the very one that is so meticulously revealed in the Book of Ezekiel!
Considering the precarious situation of the State of Israel, we can understand that there will be violent resistance to any effort to build a Temple to God—especially, on the biblically revealed area now known as the Temple Mount and occupied by the Dome of the Rock along with the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Exactly how circumstances may play out, we don’t precisely know! What we do know and believe is that this will unquestionably take place—and that through the providence of God!
Lead Writer: Dave Harris