IS A REBUILT TEMPLE ON GOD’S AGENDA?
According to popular prophecy teaching, the antichrist, an evil political figure, who will come out of one of the great world powers, (thought at one time to be from the European Union, the ten horns of Daniel 7:7) will appear on the world’s stage at some time during the great tribulation. He will be revealed after the church is secretly raptured and out of the way, setting himself up in God’s rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and proclaiming himself to be God.
Is there any Biblical justification for this teaching?
”Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day (the day of the Lord – vs 2) will not come until the rebellion (the falling away – apostasia) occurs, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4 (NIV).
If we read this passage without referring back to the discussions on the antichrist, the man of lawlessness and the man doomed to destruction, we could erroneously interpret this as referring to a specific individual. However, we have already seen, from John’s identification of antichrist and Paul’s identification of the man of lawlessness, the man doomed to destruction, that they are both referring to more than one person, a category of people who deny the deity and humanity of Jesus, who have Judas-like characteristics and who have fallen away from the faith.
Once again, in order to understand Paul’s teaching correctly, we must examine his use of words in the original language. One English word is used to translate two Greek words for ‘temple’. The Greek word ‘hieron’ from the root meaning ‘hallowed’ or ‘holy’, is used in the New Testament to refer to the physical structure of the temple, that which is devoted to God, and everything outside of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. It is never used figuratively.
A second Greek word, ‘naos’, from the root word meaning ‘to dwell’, is always used with reference to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary which is the dwelling place of God. The ‘naos’ was the place where only the priests ministered.
After the Book of Acts, the word ‘hieron’ is only used once (1 Cor 9:13), referring to the physical temple. In the Book of Revelation, only one word, ‘naos’, is used for the temple.
In John 2:19, 21, Jesus spoke of His body as the temple (naos). “Destroy this temple (naos), and I will raise it again in three days…But the temple He had spoken of was His body.’”
If we allow Paul to interpret his own writings, we will see clearly that he equated the naos with the people of God, both individually and collectively. In his explanation about the problem of sexual immorality, he wrote, ‘All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple (naos) of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.’ 1 Corinthians 6:18,19 (NIV).
Not only is each individual a temple of God, but also the church collectively. Paul said, “In Him (Jesus) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple (naos) in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:21,22 (NIV).
Without using the word naos, Peter explains the same concept in 1 Peter 2:5, “…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Since the “naos” in the New Testament is used of believers as the dwelling place of God, Paul’s reference to the naos in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 can only refer to a succession of individuals who deny the deity and humanity of Jesus, who have fallen away from the faith and who operate in a Judas-like, treacherous way to set themselves up in the church as God, usurping the place and authority of Christ and speaking in His name. Therefore, Paul cannot possibly be talking about a single, evil, political figure arising from outside the church who proclaims himself to be God in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem after the rapture. Accurate interpretation of the language and context does not allow it.
Before we conclude this examination of the Biblical facts, we must ask the question, what would be the purpose of a rebuilt temple? Is it in God’s agenda to have the temple rebuilt in Jerusalem?
The book of Hebrews is an extended and comprehensive apologetic regarding the completed work of Christ on earth. To sum up, the writer says, ‘It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…First He said, “sacrifices and offerings you did not desire”…then He said, ‘”Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:4,8-10 (NIV).
“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place, once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” Hebrews 10:12.
To have the temple rebuilt and to re-introduce the sacrificial system would be to negate everything Jesus did on the cross and to step out of the freedom of grace and back into the slavery of the Law.
(To be continued…)