Sunday, November 13, 2016

Signs of the Times, or Time of the Signs?

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; “and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.     Matthew 16:1-3  NKJV

I think most of us who believe in the imminent rapture of the Church would agree that we are living in what could accurately be called the times of the signs.  A quote I am sure that most of you have heard concerning the times we are living in goes something like this; “when you see the Christmas decorations going up, you know that Thanksgiving is near”.  So too, we as the Church are seeing the preparations for the events which we are told will occur during the seven year period called the tribulation which follows the removal of the Church to be with our Father in heaven.

In the passage from the book of Matthew, the religious leaders were asking for a sign from Jesus.  I have always found this rather funny considering Jesus had just fed the four thousand with seven loaves and fishes.  My question has always been, just what would it take to convince them?  I believe it is obvious that there was nothing Jesus could have done, and Jesus Himself believed it as well because He told them that the only other sign they would receive was His resurrection.  Just as in Jesus’ day, we find today that there are many who still are not convinced we are not living in the end times in spite of what we see happening all around us.

While some might wonder about where the results of our presidential election place us in the scheme of end times events, I think it very telling that the position and support our incoming President has towards the nation of Israel seems to be so overwhelmingly positive.  My immediate thought after seeing the election results was just what moves might the nation of Israel make now that they have such positive support from our incoming administration?  It did not take long to get an answer as this past week the reestablished Sanhedrin asked both President elect Trump and Russian President Putin to facilitate the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.  When I first read that my immediate reaction was to remember the question from the passage above and wonder, “How’s this for a sign?” 

“And beside the border of Judah, from the east side to the west side, shall be the allotment which you shall set apart, 25,000 cubits in width, and in length like one of the portions, from the east side to the west side; and the sanctuary shall be in the middle of it. “The allotment that you shall set apart to the LORD shall be 25,000 cubits in length and 10,000 in width. “The holy allotment shall be for these, namely for the priests, toward the north 25,000 cubits in length, toward the west 10,000 in width, toward the east 10,000 in width, and toward the south 25,000 in length; and the sanctuary of the LORD shall be in its midst.             Ezekiel 48:8-10  NASB

Could it be that with the support of these two leaders the Temple could actually be rebuilt as predicted in the scriptures?  I believe it is entirely possible, especially if they can come up with a solution which would somehow mollify the Muslim community with regards to the Temple Mount.  The generally accepted school of thought is that this temple will be built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, sharing space with the existing Muslim shrines.  It will be defiled by the antichrist after three and one half years, and eventually be destroyed at the end of the Great Tribulation when the Temple Mount is split in two by a great earthquake.

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.                   Zechariah 14:4  NKJV

This destruction will naturally require a fourth temple to be built, which is the one we find described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 which scholars refer to as the “Millennial Temple”.  It is a massive structure much larger than the original temple, and according to the description given in the passage above, is located not in Jerusalem but north of the city “beside the border of Judah”.  By studying scripture and comparing the geographical descriptions of the different areas revealed in this passage, many believe that the location of the temple will be where the ancient city of Shiloh was located.  There is historical precedent for this location because this is where the Tabernacle stood for close to 400 years before the Israelites made Jerusalem their capitol.

Of course, leave it to me to throw a wrench into the accepted school of thought.  As I studied the subject of the temple, and began to search the scripture for passages relating to temples past and present, I noticed a few things that made me wonder if there was something we might be missing if we follow the accepted school of thought concerning four temples.  First of all, the Bible only speaks of three temples, not four.  Nowhere are we told of a third temple being built on the Temple Mount, rather it has simply been assumed that one will be.  The only temples revealed in scripture are Solomon’s temple, Zerubbabel’s or Herod’s temple, and the Millennial temple. 

Now you might think that in itself may not be enough to cause those who advocate for four temples to rethink their position, and I would agree.  So let’s look at something else that might be cause to reconsider.  Most understand that the antichrist will defile the temple after three and a half years have elapsed after the peace agreement, an event referred to as the “abomination of desolation”.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”          Daniel 9:27  NKJV

We also know that this has happened once before in 167 BC by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  This resulted in a revolt by the Jews and eventually to a cleansing and rededication of the temple which is celebrated to this day by the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  So what is my point?  There is a saying by biblical scholars which states; “pattern is prologue”.  The study of typology in the scripture has shown that much of what has happened throughout the Bible was setting a pattern that would be repeated at a later date.  My question is this; if the antichrist defiling the temple is a repeat of the first “abomination of desolation”, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that the future temple will be cleansed and rededicated rather than destroyed?

I want you to look closely at a verse from this same chapter from Daniel, which contains a phrase that I believe may be overlooked by many.

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.                    Daniel 9:24  NASB

This verse relates what has come to be known as the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks.  It reveals God’s plan for the nation of Israel from that time until the end when He will return to earth.  It also lists six things which will be accomplished at the end of those seventy weeks.  Did you catch that last phrase?  “and to anoint the most holy  place”.  This phrase in the Hebrew is “mashach qodesh qodesh” , which is translated “to Anoint; to smear, anoint, spread a liquid”.   Anoint what?   Scholars and commentators agree that the most holy (place) is the temple.  If this is the case, doesn’t it seem logical to assume that it is not destroyed, but rather consecrated for millennial worship?   Are we being told here that there are just three temples, not four?  This phrase was used in the book of Exodus as well and was also referring to anointing the Tabernacle.

And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint (mashach) the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy. Exodus 40:9  KJV

Again, this might not be enough for some to change their belief in how many temples there will be, but I want to suggest that this scenario is a very believable one in light of the current situation that exists between the Muslims and the Jewish people.  It seems much more believable that the Islamic world would allow a temple to be built in Shiloh rather than on the Temple Mount.  With the authority of the prophecy of Ezekiel, it seems reasonable that the Jewish people would agree as well.  As I have studied this subject, I have found that there are others who have asked this same question and agree that this scenario is a distinct possibility. 

Whatever God’s plans for the temple mount are, it appears that we will know very, very soon just what they are.  Of course, let’s not forget that as believers in Jesus Christ and having accepted His sacrifice for our sins, if the Temple is rebuilt during the first half of the seven year tribulation as many believe, we will watch these events from the comfort of our heavenly home.

Keep watching.