Q372 : Why Does God Pay Attention to the Tribulation Temple?

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Q372 : Why Does God Pay Attention to the Tribulation Temple?

I’ve been studying along with youa on this very difficult passage of Revelation 11b.

I am completely stumped by the first two verses from that chapter.

1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there. 2 But exclude the courtyard outside the temple. Do not measure it, because it has been given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for 42 months. (Revelation 11:1-2)

I don’t know about you, but this statement left me with more questions to ask the Lord.

This passage raises numerous questions for any interpreter of God’s Word. It touches on issues of God’s sovereignty and the ways in which He uses evil to bring about His intended results.

One of my questions is; if the Antichrist has a hand in erecting this temple and Christ had already sacrificed Himself as the Paschal Lamb, then why is there a distinctive difference between Jews and Gentiles that must be adhered to when this temple will be erected while Israel is in unbelief?

That’s the part that’s hard for me to grasp or understand, because God is holy, and during the tribulation much of Israel will be in unbelief, so why is God even regarding this temple as holy?

I’ve heard you say there will be some who will believe Jesus is Messiah, but wouldn’t these believers who know worshiping in the Temple be aware that the curtain had been torn during Calvary? And there won’t be any need for priest? I do understand this is not the church, but God is still holy. Right?

Will some of the Jewish people, who’ve come to believe in Messiah during the tribulation, will come to believe from the 144,000 witnesses and the witness of God’s last two Prophets? Will God’s presence be there in the Holy of holies? Why is it called the temple of God?


A372 : by Tony Garland

It’s important to realize that although Jewish/Gentile distinctions have been erased “in Christ” (Col. 3:11; Gal. 3:28), this refers to access to and standing before God in regard to salvation. Jewish/Gentile distinctions remain relevant to God in other aspects of His plan.1 Remember, it was after the cross when Jesus referred to the coming time of Jewish dispersion (the present period) “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). (For more on that topic, see my presentation: Times of the Gentilesa.) Jesus Himself makes a Jewish/Gentile distinction applying to the present age in which we live.

Also: Jesus words to Jerusalem recorded at the end of Matthew 23 (Mat. 23:37-39) are spoken to the Jewish nation: prophesying His return is contingent upon Jewish (not Gentile) acceptance of His Messiahship. This too is a Jewish/Gentile distinction which continues in our age and relates to God’s purpose to restore the Jewish nation to faith (Romans 9-11).

God has remaining work with Israel, even though the majority of Jews are in unbelief, this does not negate the “Jewishness” of what God is up to and His ongoing interest in bringing it about—even in the midst of unbelief.

This is similar to God’s involvement in the life of an unbeliever prior to coming fully to faith. In such situations, the object of God’s salvific purpose does not yet have a godly perspective informed by the Scriptures, but God’s grace extends beyond these limitations because of His greater purpose.

In regard to the Jewish/Gentile (nations) distinction related to the Tribulation Temple of Revelation 11, God is not necessarily instituting the distinction, but stating a historical reality that part of the temple grounds will be given over to the nations. Remember too — at this point in history — the nations are building toward an apex of unbelief toward God, yet they are extending control and influence over something they know nothing about: the temple grounds and services which were once uniquely Israel’s (Rom. 9:3-5).

That’s the part that’s hard for me to grasp or understand, because God is holy, and during the tribulation much of Israel will be in unbelief, so why is God even regarding this temple as holy?

The temple itself is not explicitly deemed “holy” in this passage. Instead, it mentions the “holy city” — Jerusalem. (Jerusalem will always be the holy city due to God’s choice of the city and its ongoing role—even if in the hands of unbelievers at times.) Jesus refers to the focal-point within the temple as the “holy place” (Mat. 24:15), but in the context of the Tribulation Temple this may simply be an application of the traditional name for the location rather than an endorsement that God considers the things taking place there as “holy.” (The erection of the abomination of desolation in the “holy place” will not be seen as holy.) We should bear in mind, however, that the location denoted as the “holy place” will eventually be considered truly-holy in the millennial temple (Ezekiel 41:4).

I’ve heard you say there will be some who will believe Jesus is Messiah, but wouldn’t these believers who know worshiping in the Temple be aware that the curtain had been torn during Calvary? And there won’t be any need for priest? I do understand this is not the church, but God is still holy. Right?

It seems unlikely that the Jews who are involved with the Tribulation temple will be true, born-again believers. More likely, they will be walking in Old Testament revelation (Judaism).

Like the apostle John, Ezekiel was shown a temple which was measured at a time when no temple stood (Eze. 44-48). From what we can tell, that temple is also future and reinstates animal sacrifices2 and a priesthood—in accord with the priestly covenantb.3 In light of passages in Hebrews, this initially strikes us as inconsistent. But what it really reveals is an inadequate understanding on our part of how God will interact with humanity throughout the entire course of history—as well as differences between the purpose of animal sacrifice vs. the one-time sacrifice of Jesus: a large topic in its own rightc.

Will some of the Jewish people, who’ve come to believe in Messiah during the tribulation, come to believe from the 144,000 witnesses and the witness of God’s last two Prophets? Will God’s presence be there in the Holy of holies? Why is it called the temple of God? I do believe that a primary purpose of the 144,000 witnesses is to turn apostate Israel back to God. Regarding the Revelation 11 temple, I do not believe God’s presence will be there. Ezekiel clearly depicts God’s Shekinah (resident/dwelling) glory departing prior to the Babylonian captivity (Eze. 8:4-6; 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23) — only to return to the Millennial Temple (Zec. 8:3; Eze. 44:1-2; 48:35). The Shekinah has been absent from the Holy of Holies the entire Times of the Gentiles, with the exception of the person of Jesus — for a short period — at the first coming.

The temple of the church is not the last templed. The tribulation temple, as incorrectly-motivated and flawed as it might be, still leads in the direction of a spiritually-restored Israel (Romans 11:25-26) and an ultimate millennial temple to follow. Jerusalem will always be the holy city and will, in the millennium, once again be the site of a truly holy temple.

God is calling out the events of the Tribulation Temple, not necessarily out of approval, but in recognition of what will transpire in relation to the big picture of future events which are all part of His plan to bring the nation through a very difficult time leading to the ultimate acceptance of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob." (Rom. 11:26)

Blessings in Christ, Tony


Endnotes:

1.In the bigger picture, Jewish/Gentile distinctions remain, as do male/female (Eph. 5:22-27) and master/slave relationships in NT times (Eph. 6:5-8). The point of the qualifying phrase "in Christ," is that all these groups are equal in the eyes of God before the cross.
2.Regarding sacrifices in the future millennial kingdom, see Num. 25:12-13; Ps. 106:30-31; Isa. 19:21 (?); Isa. 56:6-7; Isa. 60:7; Isa. 66:18-23; Jer. 33:17-22; Eze. 20:40; Eze. 37:26-28; Eze. 40:38-46; Eze. 46:1-24; Mal. 3:3-4; Zec. 14:16-21
3.Regarding the priestly covenant, see Ex. 18:8; Ex. 18:19; Ex. 29:9; Ex. 40:15; Num. 8:14-16; Num. 18:7; Num. 18:19; Num. 25:6-8; Num. 25:10-13; 1Chr. 6:1-8; 1Chr. 23:13; Ezra 7:1-5; Ne. 13:29; Ps. 106:30-31; Jer. 33:18-21; Jer. 35:18; Eze. 37:26-28; Eze. 40:46; Eze. 43:19; Eze. 44:15; Eze. 48:11; Zec. 14:21; Mal. 2:4-8; Mal. 3:3-4; Heb. 7:13-14. Note especially Jeremiah 33:17-22 which applies similar wording to the permanence of the Davidic and Priestly covenants. Erroneous conclusions by numerous commentaries to the contrary, Jesus cannot fulfill the priestly covenant, not being in the line of Levi (leading to Zadok)—a fact the writer of Hebrews emphasizes (Heb. 7:13-14).


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