The True Temple or the Trendy Tribulation Temple?

D.A. Bass

In what Temple do you rejoice and find your hope? There are two temples in which Christians place their hopes in our day. Let’s explore them and see where they lead! Two Temples: the True Temple and the Trendy Tribulation Temple. Let me tell you the Temple in which I rejoice:

  1. I rejoice and find my hope in the Temple of Christ’s body

    There can be no starker contrast than that of the time bound Temple of the Jews and the eternal Temple of Christ’s body. Jesus draws a clear line between them when he cleansed the Temple by casting out the money changers. The Jews asked him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body…” John 2:18-22

    It is into this body that I have been made a member! Paul tells us that when the Father raised Jesus to his right hand “he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:22-23

  2. I am now a living stone in the heavenly Temple

    This body is also the true Temple: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5

    All to which the earthly Temple only pointed is now a reality in heaven. I am a spiritual stone in a living, heavenly Temple! Paul says the same thing as Peter in Ephesians, when he calls Christ the chief cornerstone of the heavenly Temple, “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (2:21)

  3. The one and only Temple is the Heavenly Temple

    The true Temple is the heavenly one that could only be foreshadowed by Israel’s earthly Temple. It was meant to picture Christ, not be an eternal verity in itself. When speaking of the passing nature of the earthly temple sacrifices, Hebrews says:
    “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Hebrews 9:23-24

    Any earthly temple and its sacrifices can only be approximations, at best. Only in heaven – where Christ now ministers on our behalf – is true reconciliation made for our sins. Temple sacrifices were not the thing itself but only a copy or passing shadow of Christ and his real, efficacious sacrifice: “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” Heb. 8:5

  4. Temples are now obsolete and irrelevant to God

    With the coming of Christ and the cutting of the New Covenant, all of the rites, ceremonies and institutions of the Old Covenant matter not one whit at all. They are obsolete and irrelevant to God. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:13 When the author of Hebrews wrote this letter, the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing. In AD 70 the glorious Herodian Temple “vanished away,” being razed to the ground, “not one stone standing upon another,” as our Lord predicted.

    There is no longer any need for an earthly Temple! “He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:8-10 There is no need ever to have an earthly Temple.

If all of these things are true, what can we say about trendy tribulation temple teachers who claim that a third Temple will be rebuilt before the Great Tribulation? Countless dispensational Bible teachers claim breathlessly that plans are already in place and being executed to build a Temple in Jerusalem in which pious Jews will again offer sacrifices, anticipating the Great Tribulation, the abomination of desolation initiated by the AntiChrist, and its enduring prominence throughout the 1000 year millennium of Christ’s reign on the earth.

This is a long standing verity among dispensational premillennialists. Tim LaHaye in his book Are We Living in the Last Times? says unequivocally “All prophecy teachers who interpret the Bible literally agree that the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt.”

Let me just say that in a rare point of agreement that I, too, believe with dispensationalists that the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt! Amen! Surprised? One should not be if the student understands the interpretive principles of the genre of Apocalyptic.

One of the crucial interpretive principles of apocalyptic is that of recapitulation.

Recapitulation – The Bible repeats biblical themes throughout redemptive history.

The classic example of this principle is precisely how it is used by Paul in Romans 5 where he states quite clearly that Adam “was a type of the one who was to come.” (A principle strenuously opposed by literalists like dispensationalists…). The “one to come” was Christ who recapitulated Adam’s place for the entire race of men where Christ obeyed where Adam disobeyed and thus won redemption for all that are his. Paul puts this way: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness led to justification and life for all men.” (5:18)

Apocalypse uses this principle ubiquitously. One of those repetitive themes is that of “the abomination of desolation,” i.e., how a Temple is desecrated by an unclean act or person. Contrary to the “literal” method of interpretation, our Lord himself insists that this has happened 3 times already in redemptive history. In Matthew 24:“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)…” What does he mean by this enigmatic statement?

  1. The first abomination that caused desolation was committed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.
  2. The second abomination that caused desolation was committed by Antiochus Epiphenes in AD 167 when he invaded Jerusalem and tried to impose Greek customs and ways on the Jews by sacrificing a pig on the alter of the Temple.
  3. The third abomination that caused desolation was the one being foretold by Jesus here in Matthew 24: When Titus of Rome invaded Israel in AD 66 and burned and destroyed the Temple in AD 70.

As we saw in our treatment of Daniel and the genre of apocalyptic, Daniel was first prophesying of the desecration of Antiochus Epiphenes. But Jesus, understanding full well the genre of apocalyptic that he was using at the very moment just as Daniel did, wants the reader to understand that the abomination of which he spoke was very much like that prophesied by Daniel, being recapitulated: A man of sin who so pollutes the temple that it is profane, i.e., unusable as a sacred place. To Jesus’ mind, the abomination of desolation he was prophesying would recapitulate that spoken of by Daniel. If the reader understood apocalyptic, they, too, would see this. When we understand apocalyptic, we understand Jesus’ Olivet Discourse: He foresaw Titus’ abomination of desecration, not that of some future AntiChrist!

With these things in mind, let me first take up the fatal misunderstandings of the Trendy Tribulation Temple coming:

  1. It is being rebuilt by unbelieving, Kabbalist Jews, not pious believers

    There is a kind of Catch 22 involved with the Trendy Tribulation Temple: It is being rebuilt by unbelieving, Kabbalist Jews so it cannot be by definition God honoring; but if they were Jews believing in the Messiah, they would not rebuild it in the first place! What do I mean by this?

    First of all, those spearheading the rebuilding of the Temple are unbelieving, Kabbalist Jews – unbelievers! We know this of a certainty. Kabbalah is the ancient, mystical interpretation of the Torah according to principles ensconced in the ancient mystery religions going back to Babylon and Egypt – and even further. Features like the Tree of Life and the mystical interpretation of numbers (gematria) are employed to uncover the “deeper” meaning of God’s Word. Do you see where this goes? Ostensibly the true wisdom of the Torah is hidden from man by God and can only be uncovered by the practice of Kabbalah.

    One of the foremost advocates of Kabbalah is a man named Rabbi Chaim Richman, the International Director of the Temple Institute which is dedicated to rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. In addition to this damning evidence, we can observe from the construction of the Council of the 70, or the Third Temple Sanhedrin, that it is structured precisely after the pattern of the Kabbalah Tree of Life.

    If you were not aware of this, understand now that the Third Temple cannot be rebuilt unless and until the Jewish religious authorities, or Sanhedrin (going all the way back to Moses; it was the Sanhedrin which crucified Jesus and persecuted the early Church…) are first established. This has been done. In fact the meeting chamber has already been built – according to the precise pattern of the Kabbalah, not the Bible! There are many videos of this glistening new synagogue chamber: Underground (a la Ezekiel 8), facing east with the backs of the Sanhedrin to the Temple (a la Ezekiel 8), and an idol to the sun at the center of the synagogue chamber – although cleverly disguised as a “pomegranate,” as it is euphemistically called. The seating of the chamber is even precisely ordered according to the Kabbalist Tree of Life and gematria.

    Much more can be said; suffice it to say that there is abundant evidence that the Third Jewish Temple is not being constructed as a Temple to the God of the Bible, Yahweh, as were the first and second Temples, but after the pattern of the god of the mystery religions. It is, in the first place, a synagogue of Satan (Revelation) and will be in the second place a Temple of an antichrist.

    How could it be anything different? I solemnly warn all of you, this Temple is a friend of the Beast and an enemy of Christians – no matter how enthusiastic are its “Christian” supporters now! How could it be any different? The Jewish Sanhedrin crucified the Lord of glory; after his resurrection and ascension, they persecuted his followers, the Church, in synagogue after synagogue. Anyone who thinks that things will be different once the Temple is rebuilt and sacrifices inaugurated are naive fools.

  2. An earthly temple would be an abomination to God, not a sweet savor

    Despite the gaga rose colored glasses that Trendy Tribulation Temple teachers have on when they teach on the rebuilding of the Temple, our Lord sees it clearly for what it is: A stench in his nostrils.

    A metaphor in the Bible for when God is pleased with worship is “a sweet savor unto the Lord.” All thru the Pentateuch, God calls properly offered sacrifice “a sweet savor unto the Lord.” That sacrifice/worship improperly offered he rejects as “a stench in my nostrils.”

    It must be clearly understood from the outset that the purpose for the Temple and its sacrifices was to serve as a type and picture of things to come: “They serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things,” as Hebrews insists. Earthly temples were not meant to endure forever. When the real thing comes the copies and shadows must go away. In fact, not just the Temple and its sacrifices per se must now of necessity go away, but the entire Old Covenant and the Jewish order must disappear. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Heb. 8:13

    That which was ready “to vanish away” was the Temple in the author of Hebrew’s day; and it did in AD 70 when Titus took Jerusalem and burned the Temple. If you want to know what God thinks of Temples now, look at Jerusalem in AD 70! The true Temple in heaven is now functional upon the death of Christ. Christ has entered the true, heavenly Temple w his own blood, to which all those sacrifices in the earthly temple of the Jews only pointed as a copy/shadow! “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Hebrews 9:24

    Even more, he ministered in that heavenly temple with his own blood on our behalf: “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12

    You profane and desecrate the blood of Christ and that eternal redemption when you get vapors over the rebuilding of a third Temple. Many of you not only get excited over the prospect because you think it indicates the approach of end times, but you pray for it and give money to its rebuilding like John Hagee who has given over 70 million dollars to causes in Israel – including the rebuilding of the Temple, one of his favorite pet projects.

    God demonstrated the finality of Christ’s work and the obsolete nature of the Temple when, at his Son’s death, the text tells us “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…” Matthew 24:51 That single act demonstrates to us that we now have access to the presence of God where before it was restricted in the earthly temple: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” Hebrews 10:19-20

    Brothers we must listen to the message of Hebrews. It is a message that has direct application to this very issue of the rebuilding of the Temple. Hebrews was a book written by a Jew for Jews in order to dissuade them from abandoning the Christian Church and going back to the Temple and its now obsolete sacrifices. There were so many reasons to love the Temple and its rituals and liturgies: They were truly beautiful! Those great traditions going back generations were difficult to surrender!

    But Hebrews is uncompromising: “As I swore in my wrath,‘They shall not enter my rest.’” It was no time to compromise. Christ had come; the old order was vanishing away; the temple was obsolete. A much more glorious temple and sacrifice had come, the real one that saves us “once for all” from our sins!

    So what has changed, dear listener? What can a third temple add for the Jew except abomination that causes desolation of the heavenly, spiritual temple? There is one temple now for both Jew and Gentile, the heavenly one, where our risen Mediator has gone “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

    No Jew will please God with a temple. There is only one way to God the Father now and that is thru Jesus and his blood by which “we have confidence to enter into the holy places!” Dear Listener, if you love Jews and want to see them saved preach the gospel to them and urge them to become a part of the Church and stop swooning over The Trendy Tribulation Temple! What makes you think for a moment that when it is rebuilt that God will take pleasure in it, that the sacrifices offered in it will be “a sweet savor unto the Lord?” It is in Christ’s sacrifice that he takes pleasure completely, finally!

    A restored Temple in which animal sacrifice is renewed is an implicit rejection of Christ and his sacrifice. It is an insult and abomination to the Father and the Son! Your trendy tribulation temple is sheer unbelief – unbelief in which the so-called Christian is complicit by encouraging and enabling the Jew to take it up! It is an implicit rejection of the very gospel itself.

    To add insult to injury, the dispensationalist asserts that this Tribulation Temple will endure for the 1000 year millennium – and that Christ will take delight in it! Do you seriously mean to tell me that the One who offered his sacred blood once for all is really going to be pleased with the now profane “blood of bulls and goats that could never take away sin though repeatedly offered?” The real abomination of desolation is the very rebuilding of the Temple and its sacrifices which are a stench in the nostrils of the Father. Once and awhile I will hear the lame explanation, “Well, pastor, they will only be memorial sacrifices!” As if this explains anything!

    Once more, the dispensationalist denigrates and demeans the gospel: Do we not already have a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice? What might that be? Of course, it is the Lord’s Supper – a meal for Christian and Jew! Our Lord commands us: “Do this in remembrance of me.” The body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the Supper is our memorial, not profane, re-instituted animal sacrifice! The rebuilt Temple and re-instituted sacrificial system is a monstrosity and profanity to the gospel and you dispensationalists who teach and advocate it are participants in this profanity!

    But this is not all…

  3. Those who support and serve the rebuilt Temple unwittingly serve the Beast

    I am constantly amazed at how excited Trendy Tribulation Temple teachers get when they talk about when the AntiChrist will enter the Trendy Tribulation Temple and declare himself god. I actually heard one of these Trendy Tribulation Temple teachers repeat it over and over as he described the rebuilding of the Temple: “This is actually where the AntiChrist will declare himself god!”

    Personally, if I believed this nonsense, it would nauseate me, not thrill me.

    Over the years, as I have studied very carefully the genre of apocalypse, I have come to see that writers such as the apostle John were drawing upon a rich heritage of symbols to describe present day realities with which they and their audience lived. Ezekiel, Daniel, our Lord, the apostle Paul, and the apostle John all did this. One of those symbols was that of the Beast. There have always been beasts to afflict the people of God, not just one in the far flung future.

    • The serpent was the very first beast to afflict our first parents: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” Genesis 3:1
    • The book of Job chronicles the very prototype of Revelation’s beasts from the land and sea: “Behold Behemoth (beast from the land) which I made like you…can you draw out Leviathan with a hook (beast from the sea)?”
    • Babylon is characterized all through the prophets as a beast and monster from the land that afflicts Israel: “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me; he has crushed me; he has made me an empty vessel; he has swallowed me like a monster; he has filled his stomach with my delicacies; he has rinsed me out.” Jeremiah 51:34
    • Egypt is pictured as a beast from the sea, Rahab, who afflicts the people of God: “Egypt’s help is worthless and empty; therefore I have called her “Rahab who sits still.” Isaiah 30:7

    On and on we could go. Suffice it to say that when the Bible speaks of beasts afflicting the people of God, it is not restricting itself to one mega beast in the future in the end times! If this is your teaching, you are so wrong! The Bible is clear that there have always been beasts in every generation which have afflicted the people of God! It was true in Daniel’s generation, e.g., Babylon and Medo-Persia (he wasn’t prophesying about end times) and it was true in John’s generation, e.g., the Roman Empire. John wasn’t speaking of some far off end times Beast/Antichrist!

    Consequently, O dispensational premillennialist, you unwittingly serve the Beast of scripture already – especially as you become enablers of the rebuilding of the third Temple. I have news for you: If your eyes were open, if you were hearing what the Spirit says to the Churches, you would understand that the Beast of Revelation is already here and you unwittingly serve him!

    You bear his mark, the mark of the Beast, already, and you don’t even know it. That mark is not a bar code tattooed on your forehead/hand or a micro chip implanted in your forehead/hand. Rather, as the Bible pictures consistently throughout, it is the sum total of your thoughts, i.e., the forehead, and the sum total of your actions, i.e., your hands, given over to service to the Beast. Before God, you are marked by your thoughts and your deeds, whether good or evil.

    When they are given over to the rebuilding of a profane abomination like a temple in Jerusalem complete with blood sacrifices that can never atone for sin, where your Antichrist will appear to declare himself god, you bear the mark of the Beast. Let me say it again: If you serve the rebuilding of the Trendy Tribulation Temple (pray for it, hope for it, become thrilled at the thought of it, give money towards its rebuilding, make it a part of your belief system), you bear the mark of the Beast.

    The temple, when it is rebuilt, will serve the Beast!

Behold, the biblical alternative to your obsession with the Trendy Tribulation Temple!

Give it up. Return to the true temple, the one not made with hands, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5

I love this Temple! It is the only one for me! How about you? Are you content to be a living stone in the spiritual house of God of which Christ is the cornerstone? What a beautiful ministry we have as priests offering spiritual sacrifices, not bloody animal ones! Join me in exalting the Lord Jesus Christ in his spiritual temple, his body, rather than profaning him by exalting a Trendy Tribulation Temple.