SEVERAL OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS PREDICTED THAT DURING THE
MILLENNIUM, ISRAEL BELIEVERS WILL WORSHIP GOD IN A WAY THAT
REQUIRES A NEW TEMPLE. Note the following references:
1. The house of the Lord.
"It will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip
with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks
of Judah shall be flooded with water; a fountain shall flow from
the house of the LORD and water the Valley of Acacias" (Joel 3:18
2. The house of the God of Jacob.
"Many people shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the
mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will
teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of
Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from
Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
3. The sanctuary of God.
"The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine,
and the box tree together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary;
and I will make the place of My feet glorious" (Isaiah 6o:13).
The prophets also envisioned animal sacrifices for Israel during
1. Burnt offerings and sacrifices.
"Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful
in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on My altar" (Isaiah 56:7).
2. An altar in the house of glory.
"They shall ascend with acceptance on My altar, and I will
glorify the house of My glory" (Isaiah 60:7).
3. Burnt offerings, grain offerings, and sacrifices.
"For thus says the Lord: 'David shall never lack a man to sit on
the throne of the house of Israel; nor shall the priests, the
Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle
grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually"' (Jeremiah
4. Feast of Tabernacles, altar, and sacrifices.
"This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all
the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of
Tabernacles.... The pots in the Lord's house shall be like the
bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah
shall be holiness to the Lord of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices
shall come and take them and cook in them" (Zechariah 14:19-21).
It is difficult to interpret these passages literally
without concluding that the Messiah will establish a Temple in
Israel for the millennium. This Temple will be distinct from any
previous historical Temple. It will contain some of what was
lacking in one or more of the first three Temples (Solomon's,
postexilic, and tribulational [Herod's temple - Keith Hunt]):
Gentile worshipers and the shekinah glory of God (Isaiah
2:2-4; 60:7,13; Jeremiah 33:18; Ezekiel 37:26-28; 43:1-7; Haggai
2:9; Zechariah 6:12-13; 14:20), as well as a distinct
architecture on an expanded Temple Mount (Ezekiel 40-48).
EVIDENCE FOR A LITERAL MILLENNIAL TEMPLE
Ezekiel 40-48 contains the most extensive description of the
predicted Millennial Temple. Five lines of evidence confirm that
this passage should be interpreted literally.
First, a careful reading of Ezekiel 40-42 gives the strong
impression of a literal Temple because of the immense number of
details given concerning its dimensions, parts, and contents. If
the Scriptures devote so much space to a detailed description of
this Temple, we can assume that it will be as literal as the
Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. The fact that its structure
and ceremonies will have a symbolic and spiritual significance
does not argue against its literal existence, for even the
Tabernacle was a literal structure in spite of the fact that it
was filled with symbolic and typical significance.
Second, Ezekiel was told to "declare to the house of Israel
everything you see" (40:4), which seems strange if the Temple was
to symbolize only general truths. Even more significant is the
fact that the Israelites were to "keep its whole design and all
its ordinances, and perform them" (43:11). This is an exact t
parallel to the pattern of the Tabernacle that Moses saw on the
mountain, which God commanded him to construct (Exodus 25:8-9).
Third, the Temple of Ezekiel 8-11 was clearly the literal
Temple of Ezekiel's day, even though the prophet saw it "in the
visions of God" (8:3) while he himself was still in Babylon
(8:1). These four chapters mention "the door of the north gate of
the inner court" (8:3), "the porch" (8:16), "the altar" (8:16),
"the threshold of the temple" (9:3), and "the east gate of the
LORD'S house" (10:19). Chapters 40-42 give no indication
whatsoever that they describe an ideal Temple instead of a
literal Temple. In fact, one finds descriptive formulas that are
similar, if not identical, to those in chapters 8-11: "in the
visions of God" (40:2; see 8:3), "a gateway on the inner court"
(40:27; see 8:3), "the porch of the house" (40:48; see 8:16),
"the altar" (43:18; see 8:16), and "the gate that faces toward
the east" (43:1; see 10:19), through which the glory of the God
of Israel is seen returning exactly as He had departed in 10:19
and 11:23. If the Millennial Temple is not to be a reality, why
insist that the return of the God of Israel will be a reality?
Fourth, God promised to the line of Zadok an everlasting
priesthood (1 Samuel 2:35; see 1 Kings 2:27,35). This confirms
God's promise of an everlasting priesthood to Zadok's ancestor
Phinehas (Numbers 25:13), which confirms His promise of an
everlasting priesthood to Phinehas' grandfather Aaron (Exodus
29:9; 40:15; see 1 Chronicles 6:3,50). Furthermore, God confirmed
this promise of an everlasting priesthood through Jeremiah
(33:17-22), who linked the perpetuity of the Levitical priests
with the perpetuity of the Davidic kingship and the perpetuity of
the earth's rotation on its axis! In view of these promises of
God, confirmed again and again, it is highly significant that the
Millennial Temple of Ezekiel will have the sons of Zadok as its
priests (40:46; 44:15). The intrinsic probability of this being
fulfilled literally is strengthened tremendously by the mention
of 12,000 Levites who will be sealed by God during the yet future
seventieth week of Daniel (Revelation 7:7). [It is NOT the 70th
week of Daniel but a sealing of 144,000 Israelites from the wrath
of God which is the day of the Lord as given in other prophecies
- Keith Hunt]. If these are literal Levites, it would hardly be
consistent to maintain that the Temple is spiritual or
figurative. And if God's promises to Aaron, Phinehas, and Zadok
may be spiritualized, how can we insist that His promises to
David (2 Samuel 7:13,16) will be fulfilled literally?
Fifth, the Bible teaches that although true Christianity does not
require an earthly temple, altar, or sacrifices (John 4:21;
Hebrews 7-10), such provisions will exist for Israel following
the rapture [resurrection of dead saints and/or change for the
living saints from mortal to immortal - Keith Hunt] of the church
(Matthew 24; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 11:1-2; see Hosea
3:4-5; Daniel 9:24,27). Furthermore, Revelation 20:9 indicates
that Jerusalem, the "beloved city" will once again be "the camp
of the saints" during the millennial age.
OBJECTIONS TO A LITERAL MILLENNIAL TEMPLE
The area of the temple courts (about one square mile) of
Ezekiel's Temple would be larger than the entire ancient walled
city of Jerusalem, and the holy portion for priests and Levites
(about 40 by 50 miles) would cover an area six times the size of
greater London today. Some say that it could not possibly be
placed within present-day Palestine between the Jordan River and
the Mediterranean Sea Ezekiel 47:18). The millennial Jerusalem
would be about 40 miles in circumference and thus ten times the
circumference of the ancient city.
However, Israel will have the only sanctuary and priesthood
in the world during the millennium, so the temple courts and
sacred area will need to be greatly enlarged to accommodate the
vast number of worshipers and the priests who will serve them
(Isaiah 2:3; 6o:14; 61:6; Zechariah 8:20-23). Various Old Testa-
ment prophecies speak of great geological changes that will occur
in Palestine at the time of Christ's second coming, so it is not
impossible to imagine a 2500-square-mile area for the Temple and
city fitted into a reshaped and enlarged land (see Isaiah 26:15;
33:17; 54:2; Zechariah 14:4-10). The latter passage speaks of new
valleys, new rivers, and a flattening of portions of land "like
the Arabah" (NIV) that "will be raised up." The entire Dead Sea
region may be lifted up more than 1300 feet, above the present
sea level, for it will contain fish "of the same kinds as the
fish of the Great Sea" (Ezekiel 47:10). Revelation 16:20 states
that toward the end of the Great Tribulation, gigantic
earthquakes will cause islands and mountains to vanish. Both
Testaments thus speak of topographical and geographical
changes that will accompany the inauguration of the millennial
kingdom. Jerusalem itself, the beloved city (Revelation 20:9),
will be the capital of the world, and its size will surely be
proportionate to its importance.
Some people cannot imagine why a system of animal sacrifices
would be reinstituted after the one perfect sacrifice of Christ
has been accomplished, especially in the light of Hebrews 7-10.
This may be the most formidable objection to a literal
interpretation of Ezekiel's Temple. However, several
considerations tend to modify the force of this objection.
First, the millennial system of sacrifices described by
Ezekiel differs profoundly from the Aaronic system. It is not
simply a reinstitution of Mosaic Judaism. Mr.Pentecost points out
that there will be no ark of the covenant, tables of the law,
cherubim, mercy seat, veil, golden lampstand, or table of
showbread (Pentecost, pp. 520-24). Instead of a high priest, a
prince who has some royal or priestly powers will be on duty, but
he will actually be neither king nor high priest. The Levites
will have fewer Temple privileges, except for the sons of Zadok,
who will serve as priests....
The dimensions of the Temple and courts are changed, and
they are removed from the city. The later rabbis, who lost the
true significance of Old Testament prophecy, were deeply
"troubled by the contradictions between Moses and Ezekiel," and
they hoped that Elijah would explain away the difficulties when
he returned to earth.
Second, though animal sacrifices and priests have no place
in Christianity, this does not mean that they will have no place
in Israel after the rapture [resurrection and change - Keith
Hunt] of the church. The Scriptures make a clear distinction
between Israel and the church. The fact that God will have
finished His work of sanctification in the church by the time of
the rapture [resurrection/change - Keith Hunt] is no warrant for
assuming that He will have finished His work of instruction,
testing, and sanctification in Israel. In fact, one of the main
purposes of the 1000-year earthly kingdom of Christ will be to
vindicate His chosen people Israel before the eyes of all nations
(Isaiah 60-61). People who are saved following the rapture
[resurrection/change to immortality - Keith Hunt] of the church
will not be members of the bride of Christ, though they will be
"made perfect," like all the redeemed (Hebrews 12:23).
Third, even in the age of grace, God uses the symbolism of
the bread and the cup of communion to remind Christians of the
awful price that Jesus paid on the cross. Drinking of this "cup
of blessing" (1 Corinthians 10:16) does not involve a re-offering
of the blood of Christ in contradiction to the book of Hebrews,
but it serves as a powerful "remembrance" of Christ and a
powerful proclaiming of "the Lord's death until He comes" (1
Corinthians 11:25-26). Likewise, in the context of distinctive
Israelite worship, the five different offerings, four of them
with blood-shedding, will serve as a constant reminder to the yet
unglorified millennial Jews [Israelites and Gentiles - Keith
Hunt] of the awful and complete sacrifice that their Messiah, now
present in their midst, had suffered centuries earlier to make
their salvation possible. In view of the fact that bloodshed may
exist nowhere else in the entire world (Isaiah 11:69), such
sacrifices upon the Temple altar would be doubly impressive.
However, such sacrifices will not be voluntary and purely
memorial as is true of the Christian communion. Ezekiel says that
God will "accept" people on the basis of animal sacrifices
(43:27), and they are "to make atonement for the house of Israel"
(45:17; see 45:15). In other words, just as in Old Testament
times, the privilege of life and physical blessing in the
theocratic kingdom is contingent upon outward conformity to the
ceremonial law. Such conformity did not bring salvation, and this
has been God's plan in every dispensation. It is a serious
mistake, therefore, to insist that these sacrifices will be
expiatory. They could not completely take away guilt (Hebrews
10:4) and thus cleanse the conscience of the Old Testament
Israelite (Hebrews 9:9,14), nor will they in the millennial
kingdom age. But these sacrifices will be effective (as they once
were) in sanctifying millennial Israelites "for the purifying of
the flesh" (Hebrews 9:13,23; see 9:10) as an essential
purification ritual because of God's infinitely holy presence in
their midst (Hullinger, pp.287-89). For this reason, their
symbolic and pedagogic value, unlike the communion service, will
be upheld by a system of forced participation. For example, those
who decide to neglect the annual feast of Tabernacles will be
punished by a drought or a plague (Zechariah 14:16-19). The
offerings will serve as effective vehicles of divine instruction
for Israel and the nations during the kingdom age.
JOHN C. WHITCOMB
Alexander, Ralph. "Ezekiel" In "The Expositor's Bible
Commentary," Vol. 6. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids:
Feinberg, Charles L. "The Prophecy of Ezekiel." Chicago: Moody
Hullinger, Jerry M. "The Problem of Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel
40-48," Bibliotheca Sacra 152 (July 1995), pp.279-89.
McClain, Alva J. "The Greatness of the Kingdom." Grand
Pentecost, J. Dwight. "Things to Come," Grand Rapids:
Sauer, Erich. "From Eternity to Eternity." Grand Rapids: Eerdmans
Publishing Company, 1954.
Walvoord, John F "The Millennial Kingdom." Grand Rapids:
This is indeed what the prophets teach. The prophecies of the
first coming of the Messiah were literal in all ways. Hence all
the prophecies around what will happen at and after the Messiah's
second coming, must also be taken literally, if we are going to
be consistant with the Bible, if we are not consistant then as
some athiests says, "You can make the Bible say anything you want
it to say."
Entered on this Website, April 2009.