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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Christopher Peppler

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3 thoughts on “The Three Temples”

  1. Thanks for this timely word, Chris.
    Yes, dispensationalism has attained a huge following over the last century and we need to return the church to a solid theological foundation.
    This especially so in our current time, where the church seems to be at a crossroads and eschatology is being badly mistaught.
    Similarly, I am busy with a book on the rapture which, I trust, will help rectify current errors which seem to be gaining undue currency in our time.

  2. Pingback: TruthTalks: The Three Temples | Truth Is The Word

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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.