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19 January 2019

A Millennial Temple? Grasping At Shadows

Jerusalem Temple
Premillennialism predicts that a new Temple will stand in Jerusalem during the Millennium; the location of Christ’s throne and the global center of worship. The ancient feasts, sacrifices, and other Mosaic rituals will be restored, and national Israel will finally fulfill its role as the light of the world.
This expectation is based on Chapters 40-48 of the book of Ezekiel, as well as Isaiah 2:2-4 (“in the last days the mountain of Yahweh’s house will be established on the top of the mountains…and all nations will flow to it”). There are four problems with this interpretation:
1.     Only one scriptural passage refers to a thousand-year period and it does not mention a temple (Revelation 20:1-10).
2.    Revelation locates Ezekiel’s ideal temple in “New Jerusalem” (21:1-22:5).
3.    Jesus Christ is the true Temple foreshadowed by the earlier Tabernacle and Temple “built-with-hands.”
4.    In the New Testament, Jesus is the “light of the world,” not Israel
The only passage that refers to a thousand-years period is Revelation 20:1-10. In it, Satan is bound to prevent him from deceiving the nations. Saints martyred “for the testimony of Jesus” are vindicated; they reign with Christ for the period. The “rest of the dead” will not live until the thousand years are ended. Neither Temple nor Jerusalem is mentioned.
Satan is loosed at the end of the Millennium to deceive the nations and to gather them to the final battle against God’s saints. This confrontation results in the destruction of the wicked and the final judgment.
In contrast to claims of a Millennial Temple, in Revelation 21:1-7, John sees “a new heaven and a new earth,” and the “holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” John is carried “in the spirit to a great and high mountain” to see the descent of the holy city (21:9-10). This alludes to Ezekiel 40:1-2 where the hand of Yahweh carried Ezekiel “into the land of Israel to set him upon a very high mountain on which was the frame of a city on the south.”
In John’s vision, an angel took “a golden reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.” Similarly, in Ezekiel 40:3-5, a man “with a line of flax in his hand and a measuring reed stood in the gate…And, behold, a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man’s hand a measuring reed six cubits long, of a cubit and a handbreadth each: so he measured the thickness of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed.”
The New Jerusalem has “A wall great and high; with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written on it, which are of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: on the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.”
Likewise, in Ezekiel 48:30-35, “The gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel, three gates northward…And at the east side three gates…And at the south side three gates.”
In Revelation 22:1-2, John saw “a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” On either side was “the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits yielding fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (22:14; 22:19).
This last passage alludes to Ezekiel 47:1-12 where the “waters proceeded out from under the threshold of the house eastward.” On either bank grew “every tree for food, whose leaf shall not whither, neither shall the fruit thereof fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because the waters thereof issue out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for food, and the leaf thereof for healing.”
The final verse of the book of Ezekiel reads, “The name of the city from that day shall be, ‘Yahweh is there’” (48:35). This corresponds to Revelation 22:3, “and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be there.”
John does state that he “saw no temple” in New Jerusalem, but he refers to its lack of a physical building. In it, the “Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple,” just as the city has no more need of the light of the sun or moon, “for the glory of God illuminated and its lamp is the Lamb.”
In the end, the holy sanctuary encompasses the entire creation. God’s presence is everywhere; all unclean things and persons are excluded from the heavenly New Jerusalem.
Consistently in the New Testament, Jesus is the true and greater Temple, the habitation of God prefigured in the earlier Tabernacle (John 1:14; Colossians 1:19; 2:9). He is the true Bethel, the “house of God,” the real mediator between heaven and earth (John 1:51). He is the temple Made-without-hands destroyed by evil men but raised from the dead, according to scripture (John 2:17-21).
Questions about the proper location of a temple building are no longer relevant; with the arrival of Jesus “the hour is coming and now is when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24).
Disciples collectively form the “temple of God” where His Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). They are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone…in him all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple, a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22).
In Christ, all the fullness of God dwells (Colossians 2:9-17). Christians are built up, established, and made “complete in him”; Jewish and Gentile believers are “circumcised with the circumcision Made-without-hands.” Since disciples have been quickened in him, no longer are they subject to calendrical and dietary rites. Such practices had their time and place, but in the end are mere “shadows of the coming things.” What was foreshadowed under the old system has arrived in Jesus Christ.
God never intended to achieve perfection through the Levitical system, otherwise, He would not have promised a future and greater priest (Hebrews 7:11-28; Psalm 110:4). A change of priesthood indicates a change of law, the bringing in of a new order.
The Levitical system was powerless to perfect anyone, therefore, we now “draw near to God with the bringing in of a better hope.” Jesus became the “guarantor of a better covenant,” appointed to a better and “un-transmissible priesthood.”
The Levitical priests entered the earthly Tabernacle to offer “gifts and sacrifices” (Hebrews 8:1-13). But the divine service they rendered constituted “glimpses and shadows of the heavenly things”; the Tabernacle was only the model of the heavenly reality.
In contrast, Jesus ministers on behalf of his people from “the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens in the Holy place and Real Tabernacle pitched by the Lord and not man.” He likewise offered “gifts and sacrifices,” not animal sacrifices but his own life.
Jesus inaugurated a “new and better covenant legislated on better promises” (Jeremiah 31:31-33). The old covenant was “not faultless”; it was unable to achieve “purification of sins,” otherwise God would not have promised a new one (Hebrews 1:1-3; 8:1-11). With the arrival of the new covenant, the old “has been made obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13).
Jesus is the supreme high priest, the final mediator who entered the “greater and more perfect Tabernacle, one not-made-with-hands, not of this building,” to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb 9:11, 24).
Jesus is the “true Light that lights every man that comes into the world” (John 1:4-9; Luke 1:78-79; 2:32; Acts 26:23). The mission previously given to Israel has now fallen to him and to his followers. He fulfills the role because he is the true Israel of God. His disciples also are lights in the world, but only as they reflect Christ’s light (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Revelation 1:20).
With the arrival of Jesus, the light of Yahweh’s word has and is going out to the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. “Thus, it is written and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be proclaimed in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47).
At his ascension, Jesus commanded the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the Spirit, then they were to “bear testimony to me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, in Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The book of Acts documents the early stages of this global mission.
Jesus came to “the circumcision to confirm the promises made to the fathers.” This included the promise that “the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was and is the “root of Jesse risen to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall they trust” (Romans 15:8-9).
The gospel is proclaimed to all nations “for the obedience of faith,” as promised by the prophets and according to the commandment of God (Romans 16:25-16). The scriptures foresaw that God would justify the heathen and therefore proclaimed to Abraham, “In you will all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8). This has now occurred in Abraham’s “seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
As he concluded his testimony before the Sanhedrin, Stephen reminded the temple authorities that “the Most High does not dwell in places made-by-hand.” However much a part of the Levitical system, at the end of the day, temple buildings and tabernacles are man-made structures; shadows, types, glimpses, and models of the true and greater habitation of God’s Spirit.
With the arrival and victory of Jesus Christ, the time of shadows and types have come to an end. He is the end of the Mosaic system for believers (Romans 10:4). The structures of the old regime reached their intended end; the time of fulfillment was at hand. Jesus is the true and final temple, tabernacle and sacrifice, the substance to which the shadows and patterns pointed. Their time and relevance have passed.
The single passage that describes a thousand-year period fails to mention any temple, tabernacle, sanctuary, altar, animal sacrifice, Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine, or any other geographic location.
The individuals who reign with Jesus are never identified by ethnicity or national association. They are recognized for their refusal to take the mark of the Beast and their martyrdom for Jesus.
Elsewhere, the company of faithful saints destined to reign with Jesus is comprised of men and women “from every kindred, tongue, people and nation.” Ethnicity no longer has ANY relevance (Revelation 5:9-10; 6:9-11; 12:11; 14:12).
A temple building in Jerusalem is found in the Millennium only by importing it into the text from elsewhere. This does not mean that the New Testament has abandoned the promises of a future Temple, but it has reinterpreted them in Jesus Christ.
The fundamental problem with the Premillennialist view is that it ignores how the New Testament interprets and applies Old Testament prophecies. Since Jesus is the fulfillment of said promises, the true and final habitation of God’s Spirit, proponents of Premillennialism must explain why it is still necessary to return to the incomplete “types and shadows” of the Levitical system.

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