To rightly interpret scripture’s teaching about the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem a thorough study of 1st & 2nd Samuel, 1st & 2nd Kings, and 1st & 2nd Chronicles which record the history of God’s people from the time of the Judges to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586BC is absolutely essential. Properly fixing the times and the prophets with their corresponding dates and prophecies must be understood within their original context.
Most of the scriptural support for the theories presented by Dispensational Eschatology is taken from the book of Ezekiel, although other references to Daniel, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians, and Revelation have been also cited, this article focuses primarily on their claims related to Ezekiel.
Jeremiah prophesied that the Jews would be captives in a foreign land for 70 years. That period of captivity began in 606BC when many of the king’s family were taken to Babylon. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among those early captives.
“This whole land shall be a desolation and an
astonishment;these nations shall serve the king
of Babylon 70 years” – Jer. 25:11.
10 years later (596BC) a 2nd group of mainly priests and skilled craftsmen was taken. Ezekiel was among them. 10 years after that Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and completely destroyed the city, including Solomon’s Temple. The remainder of the Jewish people then became slaves to Babylon.
In 539BC Babylonia was conquered by the Medo-Persians led by Darius and Cyrus. Within 3 years King Cyrus gave the Jews permission to restore Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple (2 Chon. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). The first group of captives returned in 536BC led by Zerubbabel. It is important to understand that the 70 years of the Babylonian Captivity was literal and historically occurred 606- 536BC.
As reported above, there were 3 different times the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon. There were also 3 different times that Jews were permitted to return to their homeland. The 1st group who returned were led by Zerubbabel and rebuilt the temple. The 2nd group returned in 458BC led by Ezra, who reorganized temple worship; the 3rd group was led by Nehemiah in 444BC, who rebuilt the walls protecting Jerusalem from enemy attacks.
The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther record Jewish history during the rule of the Persian Empire (538-432BC). Ezra and Nehemiah focus on the captives who returned to Judah. Esther relates what happened to the Jews who remained in Persia.
Most scholars agree that Ezra’s parents were among those who were taken to Babylon. Therefore, he must have been born there. Further research provides evidence that Ezra wrote the books of 1st & 2nd Chronicles and Psalm 119 as well as the book of Ezra. He also established synagogues as a place to worship because the Jews were in Babylon and their temple had been destroyed. Ezra is also thought to be the first responsible for compiling together all the books of the Old Testament into one book.
This collection of all OT literature would have been the scriptures Christ Himself read from as mentioned in several NT Gospels. History bears complete proof that the rebuilt Temple predated Herod’s Temple, which was standing at the time of Christ’s earthly mission.
“The Jews then answered and said unto Him, What sign can
you show us, seeing that you do these things? Jesus answered
and said unto them, destroy this temple, and in 3 days I
will raise it up” – Jn. 2:18.
Although most Jews thought that Jesus was speaking about the literal temple, His prophecy was obviously a metaphorical reference to His BODY – destroyed, but resurrected 3 days later. Dispensationalists have also wrongly concluded that this foretells a yet future rebuilding of a literal temple, which was destroyed in 70AD. Both the temple and the body of Jesus, appear to be types of the Church that is built of living stones, a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual
house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” – 1Pt. 2:5.
“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” – Ep. 2:20
Therefore, the supposition that any rebuilding of the temple AFTER the resurrection of Christ must be taken figuratively, rather than literally. A prevailing view among Dispensationalists is a portrayal of a new religious state with a literal rebuilt temple and sacrificial services in the predicted Millennial Age in a new, but literal physical city of Jerusalem. They claim this is the proper interpretation of the prophecies found in the last 9 chapters of Ezekiel.
The key to a proper understanding of the book of Ezekiel (completely overlooked by the prognosticators) is the fact that the closing chapters antedate the opening ones by 5 years. When this is rightly understood, everything falls into place and the book of Ezekiel no longer appears to declare a rebuilding of a millennial temple.
Dispensationalists are convinced that the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 is a fulfillment of prophecies concerning the Jews and the land. But popular knowledge on these matters is not very exact nor more than merely superficial!
Many who follow the Dispensational view are looking with great expectations to a “soon” fulfillment of “that blessed hope” of Christ’s return to reign in His kingdom during a literal, actual 1000 years of peace and prosperity on a literal, physical planet earth. They further believe that a center of world government and of universal worship will be in a rebuilt literal, physical city of Jerusalem. They trust that the last 9 chapters of the book of EZEKIEL are a portrayal of THAT predicted Millennial Age.
But as they so fervently desire the realization of any Millennial glories, there is a painful undercurrent of uneasiness because a prayerful, anointed reading of Ezekiel as a forecast of those days reveal that they do NOT declare them to be days of deliverance and everlasting glory. Instead, they reveal days of constant ritual blood-shedding of various kinds of beasts on the insatiable altar of the new temple.
This creates a very important question which is never directly addressed by Dispensational teachers. Why would there be a revival of such sacrifices in a future period which is to be the consummation of human history and the perfected development of the Christianity under the personal administration of Christ Himself?
A foundational premise of the Dispensational view is that the present Muslim Mosque of Omar on the temple mount in Jerusalem will be destroyed by the Jews, who will then rebuild their temple and reinstate animal sacrifices. Why such a thing would occur is widely debated by theologians, since Christ is the ONLY acceptable sacrifice. Animal sacrifices are no longer necessary ever again. They were a component of the Old Covenant that was replaced by the New Covenant during this Christian era.
“[Christ] does away with the first in order to establish
the second”– Heb. 10:9.
“[Christ] the Lamb slain from the foundation of
the world’” – Rev. 13:8.
This was further signified symbolically by the rending of the curtain of the temple at the time of the crucifixion (Mt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45). There is therefore, no further need of animal sacrifices. Scripture also declares that true believers are the Temple.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the
Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God,
and you are not your own?” – 1Cor. 6:19
As ALWAYS, a prayerful consideration of this subject under the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit is strongly advised. There are many reasons that the foregoing ideas about Ezekiel’s Temple are ill-founded, misleading, and ultimately false. Therefore, please patiently reconsider the whole matter, guided by a closer reading of the chapters concerned and of the suggestions for their correct interpretation by fully submitting yourself to God with an open heart and objective approach free from preconceptions based on the mere doctrines of men.
In order to rightly divide scripture one must fully understand its 3 main parts. There are sections which are chiefly narratives, historical accounts of the ages of the Patriarchs, Judges, Kings, and Prophets. There are other portions dedicated to worship and wisdom. Some of the major portions do occasionally overlap, like a prophecy being given in a largely narrative section, or vis-versa. But a major oversight when interpreting the Old Testament properly is the understanding that it was written exclusively by and for the JEWISH nation. It details and memorialize God’s covenant relationship with the Jews – ALONE.
The original 12 tribes of Israel were founded by Moses and later consolidated by King David into a united kingdom about 1050BC. It was disrupted by a revolution less than 100 years later. From that period on to the close of the ancient Jewish history there were 2 separate kingdoms: the northern 10-tribe House of Israel with its capital in Samaria, and the southern 2 tribe House of Judah whose capital was Jerusalem. The breach was never healed, and after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, OT Judaism as a nation and chosen people of God ceased to exist.
Modern religious sects calling themselves Jews are NOT the same as those organized by Moses and under covenant with God. Their ritual sacrifices, priesthood, and order of worship, required by the Covenant, are nonexistent. Dispensational Eschatology rejects that idea, and points to this prophecy as support for their theory:
“If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord,
then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation
before Me forever.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘If heaven above can
be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out
beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that
they have done, says the Lord” – Jer.31:35-37.
While a superficial reading of this passage may seem to declare Israel will never cease to be a nation because the ordinances remain forever, a deeper research clearly indicates that those ordinances were part of a CONDITIONAL covenant, NOT an eternal unconditional one. Earlier in His prophecies, Jeremiah reminds the Jews of the CONDITIONAL nature of the covenant. It was definitely an “if / then” proposition.
“The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a
kingdom, to build and to plant it, IF it does evil in My sight
so that it does not obey My voice, THEN I will relent concerning
the good with which I said I would benefit it” – Jer.18: 9-10.
While the ordinances do remain, the promises have been voided due to the breaking of the contract by the Jews. The Law remains forever as a testimony to mankind of their need for a Savior and Who that Savior is. The provisions of the Law however, were nullified by the institution of a new and better covenant.
“For the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there
is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw
near to God . . . Jesus has become a surety of a better
covenant” – Heb. 7:19-22.
Historical records reveal that in 720BC a succession of wars with the Assyrian Empire culminated in the destruction of the northern 10 tribes of Israel as a sovereign nation, and their deportation into captivity. This was preliminary to the foretold final judgment of dispersion among the nations. They were distributed in various territories held by the Assyrian empire, extending from Armenia to Media. The 10 tribes have NEVER returned to Palestine.
Judah retained independence for some 130 years longer, but was finally crushed and deported by Nebuchadnezzar in 587BC. They were held captive in Babylonia for 70 years, until Cyrus permitted those who chose to return and rebuild the nation of the Jews [Read Ezra & Nehemiah]. So, the Jews addressed by Christ were ALL mainly of the House of Judah.
It is important for these essential facts to be clearly understood and rightly considered when making any attempt to interpret the OT prophetic Scriptures. This is especially true when exposed to the tremendous problems involved in the last 9 chapters of Ezekiel in an honest endeavor to find a reasonable and equitable solution.
A concise comparison of the measurements cited in Jeremiah 40-43 regarding his vision of a future temple match exactly the dimensions of Herod’s temple, according to archeologist’s reports. Although central in Dispensational Eschatology is a 3rd Temple, yet to be built sometime in the future, dating the actual time of writing (54-64AD) of New Testament prophecies that refer to a temple do not support such a theory. Although many bible scholars argue for later dates (80-90AD) regarding the writing of John’s Epistles, historical evidence leads to contrary opinions. For more about the significance of proper dating, please read these articles: When was Revelation Written? and Further Evidence,,,
The Book of Ezekiel is a collection of documents containing the prophet’s own personal statements and records of visions, prophetic revelations, and divine commissions given to him from time to time during a period of about 25 years. There are 13 such documents, and there is evidence of another, but the earliest of which was not preserved (although the date of it is given). Each section of the book is carefully dated, and it should be noted that in some cases the date covers a group of associated documents, the contents of which were all conveyed to the prophet at about the same date given.
These dates, and the order in which they are placed in the text, must be regarded as having a profound significance in the intelligent appreciation of Ezekiel’s life-work, and the proper interpretation of his messages. This is especially true regarding his visions of a rebuilt temple at Jerusalem and the re-constitution of the then captive nation Israel on the basis of a revised and prolonged Levitical dispensation of priesthood and sacrificial system.
Whatever the cause, it is quite obvious that the whole collection of documents is too loosely arranged, without any consistent regard to the consecutive order of the dates provided by the author. In those times, when a number of such documents had been collected, a receptacle had to be used to keep them all together. Each roll had a tag or docket appended to indicate its contents and its position in the collection. In such a receptacle they could not, of course, be placed in ordered array like volumes on a bookshelf. So, it is easy to see how some scribe arranged them loosely when transcribing them into the earliest volume form, hence the rather confused positions of the dated documents.
A fairly common encounter among translators, some “editorial” notes were found. All the dates given in the text (except chapter I: 2-3), were included by Ezekiel himself, writing in the 1st person. The one exception was added “editorially” by some unknown hand, writing in the 3rd person, and was probably an explanatory note affixed to the collection of documents. Unfortunately, this was later incorporated into the text without anything to mark it as a parenthetical note. It seems to confuse or contradict the date of the 1st placed set of documents dated by Ezekiel;
“Now it came to pass in the 30th year, in the 4th month, on the
5th day, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that
the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God” – Ezek. 1:1.
Before allowing the judgment of dispersion to fall God had graciously determined to give them A FINAL OPPORTUNITY for repentance and restoration, of which Ezekiel prophesied. This final indulgence of divine grace to the apostate nation, and their failure to embrace His mercy, stand forever in this book as the justification before men of God’s determinate counsel and omniscience expressed in the many other prophecies relating to Israel’s long course of regenerative correction and discipline.
Ezekiel was given tangible evidences of the validity of his mission in the form of a divinely inspired written scheme of national restoration and reconstruction. This included elaborate and exactly drawn plans for a new temple, and all of its appointed ritual and priestly service, all of which should come into operation once restored in their own land. However, It was all definitely CONTINGENT on the Jews repenting, which they did briefly for the period covered by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ester, only to eventually reject Messiah and ALL future promises, thereby nullifying any yet future hope of restoration.
Therefore, the last 9 chapters of Ezekiel are NOT millennial. They are the record of God’s scheme of renewal, tentatively offered for the free choice of acceptance or rejection by Israel, ABSOLUTELY DEPENDENT on the subjection of their will and the change of their heart towards their Savior. It was however, NOT realized because the imperative conditions were NOT met, and so the offer lapsed, the promise was nullified, and Israel’s national identity as God’s chosen people inevitably ended forever.
Dispensationalists ignore all of this and more, because they are desperate for something, that can be used to argue for the continuation of Jewish sacrifices in the coming age. Under the New Covenant, however, Christians are that sacred temple and temple references in the book of Revelation are quite different when compared to Ezekiel’s temple.
“… the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” – 1Cor. 3:17.
Revelation’s temple gates are unlocked; the size, dimensions, priesthood, and many other things are quite different from Ezekiel’s. It is clear that a physical, literal rebuilt temple is NOT the temple John’s visions recorded in Revelation. History has already recorded the events prophesied by Ezekiel; a subsequent still future fulfillment is NOT consistent with any rules of sound interpretation of scripture.
There cannot be a literal, physical millennial temple since it involves a complete abrogation of the cumulative scriptural teachings about the sole efficacy of Christ’s finished sacrifice, the only perfect, all-sufficient atonement for all men. Any future restoration would be the negation of His consecration to an everlasting priesthood after the order of Melchizedek and a reversion to the never-ending offering of the blood of animals to take away sin, the very reasons for any physical temple to exist.
Prayerful consideration of these facts should reveal that Ezekiel’s prophesied rebuilding of the temple is not to be regarded as a forecast of what is to be in some future Millennium, but only as a conditional outline of what has already transpired prior to 70AD, and what might have been, if the Jews had not rejected their Messiah.