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"I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem and build them again as they were before." ---Jeremiah 33:7
"For you have made the town a heap of stones, the fortified city a ruin.
The citadel of the proud is a city no longer; it will never be rebuilt."
It has been widely suggested that before the final day can arrive, the Jewish temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
According to the Bible, however, Jerusalem's temple can only be rebuilt in Christ. Not in bricks and stones. Its material rebuilding has been forbidden by a divine decree.
Pointing to the temple mount and to its buildings, Jesus decreed, "You see all these? I tell you solemnly, not a single stone here will be left on another: everything will be destroyed." (Mt.24:2).
To this day, Christ's prophecy has not yet been wholly fulfilled. Even though most of the stones have come down, a few still remain in place, showing that more destruction still lies ahead.
And long before Herod put them up, Isaiah made a prediction over the fallen precursers of these stones, saying that Jerusalem's temple would never be rebuilt. He called Israel's obsession with stones a 'wrong turn'.
"The Lord hurls a word against Jacob, it falls on Israel. In their pride they have said, speaking in the arrogance of their heart, 'The bricks have fallen down, then we will build with dressed stone; the sycamores have been cut down, we will put cedars in their place'. But God is marshalling his people's enemies against them, he is stirring up their foes...This people's leaders have taken the wrong turning, and those who are led are lost." (Is.9:7-16).
"For you have made the town a heap of stones, the fortified city a ruin. The citadel of the proud is a city no longer, it will never be rebuilt." (Is.25:2).
As scripture, Isaiah's prediction constitutes a mandate which heaven must keep.
According to the prophets, these stones are the very objects which have separated the Israelites from God. Because they have chosen to worship them instead of the commandments He spoke.
"Israel was a luxuriant vine yielding plenty of fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built. The richer his land became, the richer he made the sacred stones. Their heart is a divided heart; very well, they must pay for it: God is going to break their altars down and destroy their sacred stones. Then they will say, 'We have no king because we have not feared God." (Hos.10:1-3).
Another prophecy concerning the shattered rocks of the temple can be seen in a statement in the Book of Maccabees about the profaned stones that were pulled down when the temple was purified after the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. (1 Macc.4:41-46).
Since the temple's ultimate purification centers on Jesus, the scattered stones described in the Maccabean prophecy seem certain to veil by metaphore a prophetic reference to the fallen stones of Herod which were to be profaned by the wicked and worldly priesthood who ruled under Herod's command.
This would mean that the scattered stones described in the Book of Maccabees are the prophetic twins of the stones that Jesus later mandated for destruction.
According to scripture, when Judas Maccabees demolished the desecrated altar, he "deposited these stones in a suitable place on the Temple hill to await the appearance of a prophet who should give a ruling about them." (1 Macc.4:46).
Most certainly, Jesus was that prophet, and his ruling decreed that the stones all be destroyed. Not a single one could be left on top of another. (Mt.24:2). This mandate has become a crucial prophecy of the Christian Church.
God cannot dwell in a house made with human hands. He can only live inside the people themselves. This is why scripture says that we are the 'living stones that make up God's spiritual house'. (1 Peter 2:5) Because God lives inside of us, we, ourselves, form the ultimate dwelling place of God.
Such a dwelling place cannot be duplicated by any kind of building in Palestine.
"Even so the Most High does not live in a house that human hands have built: for as the prophet says: 'With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house could you build me, what place could you make for my rest? Was not all this made by my own hand?" (Acts 7:48-49).
A great ruin was created in Jerusalem, not when the stones that made up the temple building came down, but when the people living there turned their lives over to sin. The ruins are caused by sin, and reconstruction of these ruins occurs when the person breaks with sin.
The only way these ruins can ever be rebuilt is through repentance and conversion into the faith of Jesus Christ. That is because God dwells in people, not in buildings.
Conversion through repentance in Christ is the only construction process that can make a person pure and holy enough to be a fit receptacle for God's Spirit.
Stones are dead -- they cannot make this conversion. The temple Jesus gave us is a living temple -- it is not one built from dead rocks.
Proving this, for the last 2000 years (throughout virtually the entire period of God's reconstruction of the true Jerusalem) the stones in Palestine have remained scattered broken and buried, showing that they had no part to play in the blueprint for God's holy city.
Even the temple mount and its rock of Abraham were ordered abandoned by Christ and allowed to be given away. The worship of God, Jesus said, must be in spirit and truth.
"Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." (Jn.4:21).
Physical worship is not what Jesus preached: "I want mercy, not sacrifice". God did not want the kind of worship being offered Him at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
The whole meaning of the Jewish temple was for the slaughter and sacrifice of animals. Every nook and cranny of that building was constructed for killing. Each part intricately described in the Bible, specifying how the flow of blood should descend, and where and how the bodies of the sacrificial animals should be burned.
Peter said that the sacrifices which truly please God are the spiritual sacrifices of mercy, justice and good faith that Jesus made acceptable to Him. (1 Peter 2:5).
When the covenants changed almost 2000 years ago, animal sacrifices completely disappeared. Not just pagan sacrifices, but the Jewish sacrifices as well. Jesus changed the theological outlook of the entire world by showing it a God different from any kind they had ever worshipped in the past.
A physical temple for physical sacrifice is totally opposite of God because God himself is the temple and Jesus Christ is its only sacrifice.
When Jesus said, "Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in 3 days", his resurrection established the fact that he himself was the temple, not the stone building on Mount Moriah.
John proved this when, in his vision, he revealed that there was no temple in the new Jerusalem in heaven. (Rev.21:22). This is worth repeating. There is to be no temple in the new Jerusalem!
According to John, Jesus and God are now the temple. This means that any physical 'temple' built in the last days would actually be a graven image of God.
To make this point clear, Jesus said that we can no longer look to one specific place as we once could in Jerusalem and say, 'Here! or 'There!'
In the New Covenant, the kingdom of God is spiritual and has been internalized into people everywhere on earth.
This goes far beyond the temple. It means that we cannot look even to a specific church and say 'Here!' or 'There!' All the churches are the same -- they all represent the outer chambers of a religion that is now internal.
The new sanctuary of the everlasting covenant is God alone, and it is He that we carry inside of us in the presence of Jesus. Because of this, we now carry the Holy of Holies within our hearts.
That puts the temple of God within each of us individually -- a fact which enables us to carry the temple in our hearts wherever we go.
That is why we have been made a royal priesthood, "so that we can offer the spiritual sacrifices that Jesus made acceptable to God: mercy, justice and good faith." (1 Peter 2:5).
Our priesthood would have no meaning if we did not already have the temple within us to offer these spiritual sacrifices to God, because we cannot offer them in church. (Heb.13:10).
Instead, we must offer them in the community -- wherever we happen to be when we obey the Gospel. Jesus took us out of a worship dependant on physical things and brought us into the kind of spiritual worship that truly pleases God.
This again illustrates the dualism of scripture. God has kept the physical temple of Palestine in ruins so that we might see the invisible temple it really stood for: Jesus within us.
God's sanctuary represents the presence of God dwelling within us. That is why, when David wanted to build a house for the Lord, God said to him: "Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I have never stayed in a house from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today." (2 Samuel 7:5).
To make it clear that God dwells in people and not in buildings, Stephen told the high priests at the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, "Even so the Most High does not live in a house that human hands have built: for as the prophet says: 'With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house could you build me, what place could you make for my rest? Was not all this made by my hand?" (Acts.7:48-49, Is.66:1-2).
Therefore, those who look for a physical temple to be rebuilt in Palestine in the last days have exactly the same kind focus as those who expected the Messiah to set up an earthly kingdom and lead the Jews to a military victory over the Roman empire.
It was this same materialistic attitude -- this love of temple -- that caused the Jews to reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah in the first place.
And as far as a building for sacrifice is concerned, it is no longer needed. The crucifixion has replaced all of the Law's sacrifices -- just as Jesus in his elevation to equality with God has replaced all temples.
It is the Law, not faith that looks to temple buildings, sacrifices and circumcision for justification. The people of Christ look only to faith.
And it is this same kind of faith that the Jews will have to look to at the time of Michael. If their attention does not shift from buildings and walls to faith, their eyes will never open.
In fact, all the destruction that is still destined to come against Jerusalem in the years ahead is for the single purpose of ripping out the last vestiges of physical worship that now stand between the people of Judea and God.
These dressed stones are the last solar pillars. And, according to scripture, they must all come down.
Instead of physical worship, the citizens of Jerusalem have to set their hearts on seeking a God of spirit and truth -- a God, not of temples and sacrifices, but of the Gospel and the Ten Commandments. (2 Ch.19:3).
God intended the temple as a place to house His word. But the Judeans of Christ's time were no longer using the temple for this purpose. They had transformed it completely into an altar for sacrifice.
That is because the word it once contained had been lost. This sacred 'word' -- the Ten Commandments -- had been stored in a chest called the 'Ark of the Covenant' (2 Ch.5:10), which disappeared into history 2500 years ago when Nebuchaddnezzar sacked Jerusalem.
The Ark of the Covenant was built specifically to house God's word. And the purpose of the temple (which came much later) was to house the Ark.
Solomon designed the entire temple around a place called the 'Holy of Holies' -- a room made sacred by the fact that at its center lay the two stone tablets (the Ten Commandments) which the priests had carefully placed there inside a wooden housing called the Ark of the Covenant.
Because the prophet Jeremiah had taken this holy Ark with its sacred tablets and hidden it in a cave during the days of Nebuchaddnezzar of Babylon, the chest with its Testimony had been missing from the temple for 500 years by the time Jesus was born.
For all those years, the word of God was missing from the temple.
This, in fact, is what Jesus represented when he entered Jerusalem -- he was the missing word of God returning to the empty temple. Jesus was God's living rendition of the two stone tablets -- more actually, He was the completion of these two tablets -- the completion promised by Moses (Dt.18:15-19).
When the Jews rejected this living word sent down to them from heaven, their empty temple was allowed to be torn down because it no longer served any purpose to God.
It was rebuilt spiritually in the hearts of those who, through belief, took God's word inside of them.
As proof of this, neither the Ark of the Covenant nor its two stone tablets have ever been seen again, and according to scripture they never will be. Jesus and his Gospel have replaced them.
During their 40 year journey through Sinai, there was no temple. The Israelites conducted their worship in a tent. Throughout this entire period they offered no sacrifices and, instead, held assemblies revolving around the word of God which they kept inside the Ark.
Once they reached Palestine, however, all that changed. There, they erected buildings designed around the sacrifice of animals. This changed the object of worship from the word of God to the altar of sacrifice.
With this shift, the Jewish focus on dressed stones began. They wanted to build the biggest and best temples humanly possible. Lost in this new obsession for altars and sacrifices, of course, was the word of God.
The temple existed, then, so that the sacrifices specified by the Law could be offered by the priests -- so that the priests could offer sacrificial services they thought pleasing to God.
Yet Jesus showed that when we keep the commandments of the Gospel (no matter where we are when we obey them) we conduct services at an even higher altar -- the highest altar that heaven has put on earth -- because when we obey His commandments, we please God far more than anything done by a priest in a church or temple can.
As we have already seen, in Christianity there are two altars and two services. One in the visible church and the other -- the higher one -- in our hearts. These alters and these services mirror the inner and outer chambers of the Jewish temple and the two priesthoods designated by Moses.
Our own priesthood relates to the inner sanctuary which lies hidden within us because our personal sacrifices represent an internal service conducted entirely through obedience to Christ's words.
Because the keeping of Christ's commandments is rarely noticed by others, this sacrifice is hidden and internal -- and that is why it relates to the inner sanctuary: "Your Father who sees everything that is done in secret will reward you." (Mt. 6:4).
In the Law (the Torah), the inner sanctuary could only be attended by the high priesthood, and its most sacred enclosure, the Holy of Holies, could only be entered by the High Priest himself.
The outer sanctuary, on the other hand, was set aside as the domain of the lower priesthood. The works of God go in pairs by opposites, and we can see two sets of opposites at work here.
The Mosaic covenant had its two priesthoods and so does the Christian Church. The low priesthood points to the ministers and theologians who attend to the affairs of the outer visible church. The high priesthood involves all the people within the church who put the word of God into practice in their daily lives, offering the invisible sacrifices that Peter said were most important to God.
God did not come to destroy the Law, but to complete it in Jesus who offered himself as its ultimate sacrifice. The sacrifices offered in church, therefore, can only relate to the crucifixion of God. Animal sacrifices are now meaningless. That is why Christian services see Jesus alone as the Lamb of God.
This is the whole meaning behind the service of communion in church. It is a commemoration of a single sacrifice that took place on a single day in time and which can never be repeated.
God created the two priesthoods to lead us toward understanding that the true sanctuary of God is in our hearts, and not in a building. As we grow in this understanding, the visible structure must diminish and eventually pass away. Therefore, reconstructing it in the last days is opposite the direction that God is leading us.
Understanding this is crucial to our faith.
Because, instead of seeing a grand edifice to God rebuilt in Jerusalem in the last days, what we are actually going to witness in the last days is the final destruction of the outer chamber.
This means that not only will there be no temple rebuilt in Jerusalem in the troubled times ahead, but all the stones still standing there that have not yet been torn down, will fall -- just as Christ's prophecy has announced. And along with them, even the cathedrals of the Church will be ravaged and destroyed in the holocaust that is coming.
"They burned down every shrine of God in the country." (Ps.74:8). The physical sanctuary attacked by the beast at the end applies to this outer chamber and thus to the visible church.
The beast will tear down the last vestiges of the replica; and when he does this, only the true sanctuary will remain -- the spiritual sanctuary in our heart.
If the Beast's disastrous attack on Christianity and his successful conquest of the Vatican do not make this fact clearly evident, the toppling of the wall in Jerusalem will, because, in completion of prophecy, during the tribulations of these final days the very last part of Herod's temple -- the wailing wall -- is also destined to collapse. (Ez.38:21).
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