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Temples in the Last Days

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

- Isaiah 2:2-3

Introduction
Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah and Ezekiel clearly teach that, in the last days, there will be at least one temple. Christ will reign from this temple.

Temples are useful for the general membership too - as place to go to be nearer to God. So we need enough temples for all saints around the world to visit them.

Temples: a sign of the true church

Temples are not the same as churches. Temples are a sign of revealed religion. Throughout history - both before Moses and after Christ, in every part of the world - temples have been built. This is one of the grand and glorious signs of the true church. Marvelous and wonderful things have been discovered about ancient temples (see for example the research by Hugh Nibley, available through FARMS), but on this page I will stick to just the evidence in the Bible.

Some issues are sacred, and not suitable to be discussed here. Hidden teachings in the Bible are discussed elsewhere, in relation to the last 12 verses in Mark. (Incidentally, the scholar who tried to recreate the still missing teachings from Mark, using Clement's letter, came up with something that sounded very familiar to LDS readers.) On this page I shall just discuss temples in the most general way, as revealed in the Bible.

Why build temples?

It is often assumed that, in Old Testament times, the temple only existed in order for the High Priest to perform his ordinances under the law of Moses. That is not true. The High Priest was perfectly able to perform his duties for hundreds of years before the temple was built, using the tabernacle.

It is also assumed that, because the temple is called the House of the Lord, the Old Testament believers thought that that was where he lived. But that is nonsense. When he built the temple, Solomon was perfectly aware that the Lord could not be restrained by four walls. No, the temple had another purpose.

The true purpose of the temple is as follows:

It is the symbolic center of the church.
Hence, when in captivity in Babylon, the ancient Israelites yearned to be back near the temple. When the Christians were not in control of the temple, they still used the temple as symbolic of the highest and holiest place, the place where God is (e.g. in the book of Revelation and elsewhere).

It is a place to go and pray.
"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." (Matthew 21:12-13)

It is a place to go and learn.
"And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions." (Luke 2:46) "In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, ... I sat daily with you teaching in the temple" (Matthew 26:55)

It was therefore also a place that was suitable for the holiest of ordinances.

After the law of Moses was fulfilled, the Jerusalem temple was still used by the Christians for all these purposes, except ordinances (Christians still had ordinances, remember - baptism, the sacrament, etc.) The Christians could not perform their ordinances at the temple, simply because they did not control the temple. Sadly, the New Testament church (led by apostles) did not last long enough or gain enough freedom to build its own temples. After the apostles were killed, the authority and knowledge were lost.


Attempts to deny the scriptures

In New Testament times, although the temple was no longer needed for blood sacrifice, the apostles used to go to the temple to pray. This and other facts show that the temple was still needed. But the apostles were killed, and later generations lacked the knowledge, revelation, or authority to build a temple. So, many Christians have since pretended that they did not need a temple. They try to ignore the plain words of the prophets. These are the excuses they use:

Excuse 1: "the temple only existed for the High priest and law of Moses"

This is not true - as shown above, its main purpose was as a holy place for the church. The atonement of Christ fulfilled the law of Moses, but did not affect the wider uses of the temple.

It is true that Paul emphasizes, again and again, that we do not need a High Priest of the law of Moses. He emphasizes this simply because he is writing to a largely Jewish audience, for whom this is a very difficult concept to get used to. Paul's life, however, shows that the other uses of the temple still apply.

Excuse 2: "when the veil was broken, the temple was no longer needed"

This only refers to a part of the use of the temple, not the whole thing. If the entire temple had become obsolete, then God would have had the whole temple destroyed at that time, and not just the veil. The veil was broken showing that now anyone can enter the "holy of holies." In modern times, anyone who is worthy can enter right to the middle of the temple.

Excuse 3: "the temple was not needed by the Christians"

Nothing could be further from the truth!

The temple was, and should still be, at the center of Christian life:

Acts 2:44-47
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."

The temple was the normal place to find the true Christians (except when, due to persecution, it became a dangerous place to go):

A house of prayer

Acts 3:1-8
"Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. [Did they go up to preach to the Jews? No - this was the wrong time for that - they would only have angered people by being so insensitive. They must have gone to pray.] And a certain man lame from his mother's womb ... seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God."

Acts 22:17
"And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance"

A house of learning

Acts 5:19-21
"But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught."

Acts 5:42
"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."

The symbolic center of the church

In that most symbolic of all books, the Book of Revelation, God is described as being in a temple in heaven. Believers are described as becoming pillars in the temple. Even though the book was written many years after the law of Moses was fulfilled, the temple is still the symbolic center of the church.

Excuse 4: "God does not dwell in a building"

Nobody ever said he does.

Acts 7:48: "Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet"

Which prophet? The prophet was Solomon - the man who God told to build the temple in the first place!

1 Kings 8:27: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?"

Solomon knew perfectly well that the Lord was not going to dwell in a building. The main use of the temple had not changed in New Testament times. The Lord dwells with those who are righteous. The building is the house of the Lord because it is where people pray to, and learn of, the Lord. (Incidentally, the word "contain" is the Hebrew "kuwl," in the sense of "nourishment." The nature of God, and how his influence is everywhere, is discussed elsewhere.)

Excuse 5: the body is the temple

Paul sometimes refers to the body as a temple (e.g. in 1 Corinthians 3:16). This does not man that the temple building is not needed. Paul still used the temple (see above). So did Jesus. Jesus referred to his body as a temple (John 2:19-21), yet still used and respected the temple buildings.

The temple was such an important feature to the Christians that they often used it symbolically. Hence. in Revelation, heaven is described as having a temple. In Ephesians, the church organisation, when running properly (with apostles and prophets), is described as a temple.

Excuse 6: there is no temple in the New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:22
"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it."

John was probably writing some time around AD 96. The Christian church had been established for over 60 years - there were many second and third generation members. So why would he even mention this, if the temple was old and forgotten? (It had even been physically destroyed back in AD 70). The fact that he mentions it would indicate that his audience, informed Christians, would naturally expect the city of God to have a temple. And the only reason for not having a temple is if the whole city is a temple!.

Excuse 7: why did the Christians not talk about rebuilding their own temple?

The temple is not something that is built straightaway.For example, Solomon did not build his temple until several hundred years after Moses. The temple is a sign that the church is secure and well established. Unfortunately, the New Testament church was not in this happy position. They did not have the means or the freedom to even consider building a temple at that time. Their priority had to be avoiding persecution, finding ordinary places to worship, and strengthening the church.

But it is not true to say that the Christians did not look forward to the building of a temple. They knew the Old Testament prophecies and accepted them. The rest of this page is a description of one of the the best known of those prophecies, the prophecy of the temple that is still to be built at Jerusalem.


Zechariah's great vision

Many Christians are aware of Zechariah's great prophecies regarding the Second Coming of Christ. The Second Coming will be physical and literal - it is not just symbolic. But the same prophecies talk of a rebuilt temple, and so this must be literal and physical as well:

A literal temple in the last days

Zechariah 6:12-15:
"Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH [i.e. Christ]; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the LORD. And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God."

When will the Lord be king on the earth, sitting in his temple?

Zechariah 14:1-5, 9, 20-21
"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

"And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. ...

"And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. ...

"In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts."

Note that the temple - the house of the Lord where sacrifices are made - is just as real as the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. If we reject one, we may as well reject the others.

But Christ ended temple sacrifice?

Christ did not end sacrifice, but only animal sacrifice. We are still expected to give our best for the kingdom of God. When the early Christians gave their worldly goods to the apostles, they were sacrificing.

It is true, however, that some passages talk of blood sacrifice in this future temple. It is true that Jesus ended blood sacrifice by the shedding of his blood. But it appears that, when he returns, he will allow blood sacrifice one last time, presumably to allow the Jews to fulfill their covenant responsibilities. This would not be the first tie that the Lord has allowed a temporary and limited continuance of an old something old, for teaching purposes. When Jesus was resurrected, he had a perfect body. But the wounds remain in his hands and sides and feet, just because it is necessary in order for his people, the Jews, to understand. It seems that the temporary return of blood sacrifice is a similar thing.

It would appear that some limited blood sacrifice is essential, because we are living in "the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:21.) It seems that something of ALL previous dispensations must be restored in this, the final summing up dispensation of the world's history, when Jesus Christ himself will return to his temple.


Ezekiel's great and last vision

Ezekiel chapters 40-48 contains a description of the temple that will be built for Christ (the prince) to inhabit. It appears to be the same temple as described by Zecharaiah - like Zechariah, Ezekiel begins by describing the battle of Armageddon (chapters 38-39), then describe the temple that Christ will inhabit, including the detail about the waters coming from Jerusalem to heal the Dead Sea. The scale of the city and temple is vast, but these kinds of secondary details (exact measurements) may depend on the righteousness of the people at the time.

Ezekiel 43: The Lord will rule from his temple

After measuring the city and the temple:

"Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. ... And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. ... And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me. And he said unto me, Son of man, 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 for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. ... Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.

"Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, show them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them."

Notice the precise details - this is a building that is to be actually built.

"And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon. And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering. And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put [it] on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it. ... And when these days are expired, it shall be, [that] upon the eighth day, and [so] forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD."

Ezekiel 44 to 48: precise details, agreeing with Zechariah

"Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same. Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell upon my face."

Chapter 45 goes into more detail about how Israel shall be divided up, how the buildings are to be, etc.

Chapter 46 continues with this precision - if this was just something symbolic, why are there so many distances and technical details?

"Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened. And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening. ... Thus saith the Lord GOD; If the prince give a gift unto any of his sons, the inheritance thereof shall be his sons'; it shall be their possession by inheritance. But if he give a gift of his inheritance to one of his servants, then it shall be his to the year of liberty; after it shall return to the prince: but his inheritance shall be his sons' for them."

Chapter 47 describes how the waters will go forth from the city to heal the Dead Sea. We do not need to assume that this is just symbolic. After all, modern engineers could achieve the same feat if they had enough money. God is far more powerful than any team of engineers.

This was not a minor detail, or just some pleasant piece of symbolism. It is the climax to Ezekiel's great prophecies, and occupies the last eight chapters of his book. This is given in great detail - details that would not be of any use unless the temple was to actually be built. It is in the context of events that have actually happened, or are about to happen- the restoration of the gospel (chapter 37) and the battle of Armageddon (chapters 38-39). They are real, and it seems that so is the temple.

 

 

The bottom line:

Isaiah and Micah and Ezekiel were not false prophets. True worship includes temple worship.

 

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