Jerusalem

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The Three Temples

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I referred to the 70 AD destruction of the temple in my previous article, ‘Are These the End of the Days?’ and indicated that I wanted to write about this – so here goes.

The Future Jerusalem Temple

Dispensationalism usually includes the concept of a new Millennial Temple in Jerusalem.

The idea here is that a new Jewish temple in Jerusalem will be one of the last ‘signs’ preceding the second coming of Christ and his subsequent one thousand year rule on earth. The teaching is that Jesus will come ‘in the air’ to collect his saints, will then defeat the devil and his demonic and human armies in the battle of Armageddon, and then take up residence in the Jerusalem temple while we all remain in heaven for a thousand years.

The biblical warrant given for this belief is Matthew 24:15 and 2 Thessalonians 1-12. I do not agree with this particular end-time doctrine, and I will tell you why.

The Three Temples in Scripture

King Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem according to the plans that God had given his father David. When the temple was dedicated in about 1003 BC the glory of the Lord filled it as a sign of his presence there (1 Kings 8:10-11).

However, some 400 years later the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the glory of the Lord departing from the Temple (Ezekiel 10:18). Not long after that, Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia removed the holy artifacts from the temple and then later destroyed it.

When the Jews returned from exile in Babylonia, they started to rebuild the temple, but this was only fully completed in 20 BC by King Herod. It was not the same as the original temple and God’s glory was not there until 9AD. When Jesus was 12 years old, he spent time in the Temple with the teachers of Israel. The glory of God had returned to the temple, but only briefly and infrequently. Why?

Because the glory of God was now embodied in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ – He, not Herod’s building, was the true Second Temple.

In 30 AD, Jesus died on the cross, resurrected, and ascended, but a short while later the Third Temple came into being. Just 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit birthed the church. No fancy building, no choirs and instruments, just 120 fervent disciples of Jesus. He came like a mighty fire and wind and filled every person gathered with his powerful presence.

From that moment onwards, the church has been the place of the presence of God, the Third Temple; and by ‘church’, I mean every gathering of believers anywhere on earth at any time during the last 2,000 years.

‘Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (Ephesians  2:19-22).

So then, the First Temple was built by Solomon, the Second Temple was the body of Jesus Christ on earth, and the Third Temple is the church. What then is the Millennium Temple of which people speak?

Dispensationalist Theology

The whole idea of a physical end-time temple is a product of dispensationalist theory. Those who hold to this theology weave together several texts to make the case for a third physical temple:

  • They take Matthew 24:15 as a proof text in the assumption that Jesus was referring to something other than Herod’s Temple. However, the evidence points to the discourse of Matthew 24 as referring to the Jerusalem temple of Herod just before its destruction in 70 AD. The Roman General Titus, after a long siege of Jerusalem, occupied the Temple and shortly thereafter leveled and burned it to the ground. Titus, who later became Caesar, stood in the holy temple with his soldiers and Roman emblems and ensigns. His soldiers rampaged through the city killing everyone they could. In the end, a large number of Jews fled to the Temple in the hopes of finding safety, but the soldiers overwhelmed and slaughtered them. The Roman historian (an ex Israeli) General) Josephus recorded that the bodies were piled up in a huge heap in the temple with the blood flowing in a flood over its floors. What an abomination! What Desolation! The pagan desecration of the Temple and the ‘sacrifice’ of thousands of humans where the blood of sheep used to be spilled for the sanctification of the nation.
  • A second dispensationalist idea is that if Jesus is going to return to reign on earth for a thousand years then he must surely have a temple from which to operate. Many years ago, I went to a conference in Jerusalem organised by dispensationalist Christian businesspersons. The main speaker told us that we should all convert our currencies into Scheckel because in the (soon coming) millennium the Jewish currency would be the only medium of exchange in the entire world! When Jesus returns, he will require neither a temple nor a currency.

The House of Cards

The whole dispensationalist end-time scenario collapses like a house of cards because of its incorrect assumptions. It assumes that Jesus will come again not only for a second but also for a third time – once in the air to catch up the church (The Rapture) and again after the battle of Armageddon to reside on earth for a thousand years. However, Jesus said nothing about coming again twice! 

A second assumption is that Jesus was referring to an end-time temple when responding to his disciples’ question about when Herod’s temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24). While his teaching contains patterns and principles applicable to all ages, his description of the destruction of the temple perfectly fits the 70 AD sacking by the Romans.  This took place exactly one Jewish traditional generation after he made his statement just as he said it would (Matthew 24:34).

A third assumption is that the six verses in the book of Revelation that describe a ‘Millennium’ (Revelation 20:1-6) refer to a literal 1,000 years and not a symbolic representation of the church age. This is quite an assumption in the light of the almost entirely symbolic nature of the book of Revelation. If you want to read my views on this subject then you can get the book ‘Revelation in the Light of the Stars’ HERE or read the summary of my commentary on Revelation 20:1-6 HERE.

While on the subject of the book of Revelation, this is how John describes an aspect of the New Jerusalem (a depiction of the New HeavenEarth): Revelation 21:22,

‘I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.’

I mention this here because I believe that Jesus will come again just one more time. When he does, he will first gather the believers still on earth to join the multitude that is already with him, deal with Satan, judge the nations, and establish a new merger of Heaven and Earth that I call HeavenEarth. There will be no need for a temple or anything like today’s church in this new realm because Jesus will be tangibly and eternally among his people, both spiritual and physical.

What this all Means to Us.

So, instead of looking for a new temple in Jerusalem, let us rather look for the second coming of Jesus on the clouds with great glory.

Until he comes again, we are the Temple on earth, and the place of his presence.

As his word went out from Jerusalem, and then though the person of Jesus Christ, so it now goes out from the church. As the temple was the House of Prayer, so now is the church. All this will be the case until Jesus comes again.

The church is important. The church is the Temple of God made with living stones…us, and we have the great privilege of being the place of his presence in this age.

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Jewish Messiah

Jesus the Jewish Messiah

“If Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah then He is nobodies Messiah” Dr Michael Brown.

For the last several weeks we, in Lonehill Village Church, have been preaching through John’s Gospel using a first-person narrative style as posted in my last message, but, If you missed the message I preached on John 4 (from the woman at the well’s perspective) then click here. One aspect of this is the effect it has had on the preaching team. Each of us has found that in looking at the text through the eyes of someone in the story we have come to clearly perceive things that were previously vague. To tell the story effectively we have had to ask questions like “Why did Jesus say that the way He did?” and “What would the people then have understood him as saying?

Two things emerged with real clarity as we progress through the Gospel series:

  1. How Jesus repeatedly declared himself to be God incarnate, and,
  2. how offended the Pharisees were because of this.

Last week someone emailed to me about my position on the future of Israel – i.e., does God still have a special role for them as a physical nation? This, together with a reignited interest in the Jewish Pharisees sparked by our narrative experiences of John’s Gospel, led me to view several debates on YouTube concerning Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

The three debates I watched are;

  1. Is Jesus the Messiah? Michael Brown vs. Rabbi Tovia Singer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOifPwOvd58
  2. Who Is Jesus? Michael Brown vs. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S4X0v-vFpI
  3. Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? Michael Brown vs. Rabbi Immanuel Schochet  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz5FY958FvQ

Each of them is very long, but they make for interesting and informative viewing. Dr. Michael Brown features in all three and his main website is https://askdrbrown.org/. I appreciate Dr. Brown very much, not only because he is extremely knowledgeable, but also because of his humble and friendly attitude towards debate opponents who at times are bombastic, rude and dismissive. You can find some information on this remarkable man at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_L._Brown and https://askdrbrown.org/biography/

I don’t intend to rehash or even comment on the substance of the debates. Instead, I want to describe the overriding emotion I experienced as I watched and observed. I want to do this because I think it may influence the way some of my reader’s regard both Jewish people and the nation of Israel.

In the Gospels, the Pharisees displayed extreme offense at what Jesus proclaimed himself to be. Not only was He claiming to be the Messiah but, more than that, He declared himself in many ways to be God Incarnate. The Rabbis I observed debating with Dr. Brown are the modern-day descendants of the Pharisees of New Testament times… and they are as offended by Jesus as were their forefathers.

To them, then and now, Jesus’ claims to divinity were the highest form of blasphemy eliciting emotions ranging from extreme irritation to rage. For them, it is inconceivably foolish to consider Jesus the Jewish Messiah, let alone God in human form. But of course, if Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah then He is nobodies Messiah. No amount of debate and logical argument will convince them otherwise for they are in the thrall of a spiritual blindness. John stated the problem by quoting from Isaiah the prophet; ‘they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

“He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them.” (John 12:39-40).
A major contributing factor to the blindness of today’s rabbis is that they consider the oral tradition of the teachers of Israel to be as God-given as the Old Testament itself. As a result, they place the interpretations of past Rabbis above the obvious context and import of many Old Testament scriptures. Of course, they regard the New Testament as irrelevant.

Flowing from their offense at Jesus himself is an equally passionate reaction to Christians who seek to persuade them that Jesus is indeed the way, truth, and life. Some regard evangelism of Jews as ‘murder of the soul’ while others label it more mildly as disrespectful interference in Jewish faith and tradition. Some Rabbis regard Evangelical Christians as idolaters, because we worship a ‘man’ (Jesus), and thus condemn us to Hell.

Jewish MessiahSo what was my dominant emotion as I listened to these terrible statements? Neither irritation, nor anger, but profound sadness. I realised more acutely than ever why Paul had written; ‘I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen’ (Romans 9:2-5). I felt just something of what Jesus must have experienced when He stood on the Mount of Olives and lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:37-39).

I believe that Paul teaches in Romans 9 to 11 that the Jews will one day turn to Jesus in their millions and that the nation of Israel will stand as a testimony to God’s faithful covenant-keeping. But until then I see such a wonderful, intelligent, and industrious people lost in spiritual darkness. I realise that for many Jews these sentiments are in themselves condescending and offensive but I cannot deny how I feel for the Holy Spirit has touched my heart. I pray, and I ask you to join me in praying, for the swift fulfillment of the prophecy of Revelation 1:7;

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen’.
I sense that the time is near when Jews everywhere, and in Israel in particular, will realise that Jesus is, and always has been, their divine Messiah. The spiritual blindness will lift, and in their millions they will declare, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

If you would prefer to LISTEN to this post (along with a bit more information on the topic) then please click on the play button below.

 

 

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.