Is Israel Ready to Rebuild the Temple? – Program 2

By: Dr. Randall Price, Dave Hunt, Dr. Dave Breese; ©1993
Why is the Ark important to the Jewish people? Can the Temple be rebuilt without it?

Contents

The Ark of the Covenant

Introduction

John Ankerberg: Today on the John Ankerberg Show, are the Jewish people ready to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem? If they were to begin building this year, what political shockwaves would it cause the nations in the Middle East? And where would the erection of the third temple place us on the prophetic calendar of events predicted in the Bible? In a previous program, I asked this question of Dr. Gleason Archer, one of the premier Hebrew teachers in our country.

[Excerpt]

John Ankerberg: If you heard, Dr. Archer, that they were going to start rebuilding the temple next week, according to your Bible chronology, what would that say to you?
Dr. Gleason Archer: I’d say that the tribulation is very near.
Ankerberg: Gershon Salomon is the leader and chairman of the Temple Mount Movement in Israel. On October 8, 1990, he led a procession of Jewish people and attempted to bring the cornerstone for the third temple to the temple mount. It caused a riot that drew worldwide attention and resulted in the United Nations condemning Israel for this event and Saddam Hussein firing SCUD missiles against Israel during the Gulf War. But, concerning the rebuilding of the temple, Gershon Salomon confidently states:
Gershon Salomon: And I have no doubt that you and I, we shall see the Ark of the Covenant in the middle of the third temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem very soon—in our life.
Ankerberg: Randall Price is one of the authors of the new book, Ready to Rebuild. He has worked many years in Jerusalem and is finishing his PhD in Hebrew studies at the University of Texas. This is what he warns:
Randall Price: The rebuilding of the temple, and even the temple mount itself, has the potential to ignite a conflagration in the Middle East of proportions of a third world war.
Ankerberg: When will the third Jewish temple be built? What problems lie ahead for Israel? What significance does this event have to biblical prophecy? My guests who will be answering these questions are: Dr. David Breese, Dave Hunt, and Randall Price. We invite you to join us.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We have three biblical scholars with us tonight, Randall Price, Dr. David Breese and Dave Hunt. And we’re talking about the incredible prophecies that God has put into the Bible that should indicate to us some serious thinking is in order. What do some of these signs that are coming forth in our own lifetime mean? Where is it leading us? And specifically, the fascinating topic of the Jewish temple. Maybe this is not something that you’ve thought about, but let us introduce it to you. Dr. David Breese, why is the Jewish temple in Jerusalem that is still to be built, why is this something that our audience should consider to be important? Why are we talking about this topic and what place does it have in terms of biblical prophecy?
Breese: I think from our point of view tonight there are perhaps two important things that might be suggested in answer to that question. First of all, when the temple was built, you recall that David wanted to build the temple, and it was rather commissioned to Solomon because David had involved himself in too much blood. But the building of the first temple was a time of immense rejoicing on the part of the people of Israel. In fact, just to read those chapters of Solomon’s prayer and the rest of it is a fantastic experience. It’s difficult for us to realize with what ecstasy they welcomed the first temple. A remembrance of that ecstasy continues to this very day.
In my judgment, within the Jewish mind today there’s a pensive feeling, a nameless longing that, “Oh, that it could be like once it was.” I recall standing in front of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the Hebrew University one time and speaking to a Hebrew gentleman. And we were speaking about the scrolls and he said to me, he said, “Sir, you cannot imagine what this means to us, the people of Israel, to have the actual paper, the actual ink, and the actual understandable language 2500 years after it was written. It is a marvelous thing.” He had tears in his eyes when he said that.
Now, if they feel that way in response to the Dead Sea Scrolls, multiply that by thousands. How will they feel with the temple that is rebuilt?
Now, I think for our purposes today we do well to remember that the temple represents really an architectural representation of a piece of theology. And that theology is that man is a sinner, that he cannot approach God in his own name and by his own credentials. Therefore he needs the sacrifice of a lamb in order to be present and appear with any credential before his Heavenly Father. And I think as we see these remarkable and very emotional things develop, we ought to remember that the New Testament says, with reference to a situation that could only be illustrated by the Old Testament temple, “We have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmity, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). That verse gets it credential from the temple in the Old Testament. And it ought to create therefore in us, whether we are Jews or not, that inconsolable longing, like C. S. Lewis says, for a land that we have never seen; for a relationship with God that is not visibly obtainable in this world; but will be a reality by faith now when we believe in Christ, and in actual sight, when that temple is rebuilt, will be the cause initially for rejoicing of the whole world, in my opinion.
Ankerberg: Okay, Dave Hunt, we’ve talked in other programs, but in your book you talk about some of the signs of the time that cast shadows. I’d like you just to bring us up to date on some of the signs of the time that could show that the rapture could happen at any moment, and then after the rapture Christ coming during the time of the end of the tribulation, could come about. What are some of those signs and see if you could mix that with the temple verses that are in Scripture. Bring us up to date here.
Hunt: Well, of course, the primary sign, and one that I’ve been writing about for a number of years, writing a number of books about, when Jesus was asked, “Well, what will be the sign of your coming?” After He said the temple would be destroyed, it shook His disciples and they said, “Well, what will be the sign of these things and your coming and the end of the world?” in Matthew 24:3. They thought this would all take place simultaneously. It doesn’t. And He began to give signs of these events.
He was dealing with three different events, not necessarily in that order, and they didn’t understand it. And He talked about “wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilence, famine” and so forth. And a lot of people have written books and preached sermons about that. But I noticed that the very first sign He gave, the one that He emphasized three times in that chapter, I didn’t hear people speaking about it or writing about it. And that really caused me to begin to write some books. And the very first thing He said was, “Beware that no one deceive you. Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many.” And then in verse 11 He says, “Many false prophets will arise, many false Christs, and will deceive many.”
And then in verse 24, “For many false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so convincing that if possible it would deceive even the elect.”
So, if you put it in our modern language, just to sum it up, Jesus was saying what we would have never said. If you had asked—well, my goodness, I wouldn’t give away my age; people might think I haven’t hit 40 yet you know—but if you’d asked me 50 years ago what would be a sign, and you could see into the future, you would say, “Well, skepticism, atheism. We’ll have men on the moon and computers and nobody will believe in God, no interest in religion anymore” you would have been wrong.
Jesus said “the last days prior to my return would be characterized by an explosion of interest in spirituality.” It just seems incomprehensible, but it’s true. But He said it would be deceptive, false spirituality, false ideas, false doctrines, and apostasy in the church.
So the temple, of course, is related to that. I’m staggered that, if you know Jewish people, you know the intellectualism, you know the atheism, the rejection really, not only of Christ but of their own Scriptures, of the Bible. You know the reformed, the modernism and so forth, that they still have this burning desire; that they still hold this, not just the temple, but where it would be, the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant. They still believe in this. I think to them it would be a symbol of a return to the greatness of Israel that somehow they would have recovered that part of themselves that has been lost and denied to them by the anti-Semitism, the persecution down through history. And that the world would recognize who they are once again and they would attain to this status of leadership and respect.
Ankerberg: Alright, Randall, bring us up to date from what we said last week and primarily that these prophecies in the Scripture that surround the temple, we were talking about 2 Thessalonians 2. A lot of Christians know that that portion Paul says that someday the Antichrist is actually going to come to the Middle East. He’s going to go into the Jewish temple. So there’s got to be a Jewish temple there. And he’s going to blaspheme and claim that he’s God, alright? So it’s got to be there if that’s going to take place. And you were talking about last week that, not only is there a lot of interest in Israel concerning the rebuilding of the temple, but the fact is, now a couple of key questions have been answered that there’s been speculation on before. Namely, the Jews now know for sure, absolutely certain, where the temple should be rebuilt. Just summarize that for the folks last week that missed the program.
Price: Well, based on the archaeological results of Dr. Leen Ritmeyer, who recently released his work based on his doctoral dissertation, they concluded that the Dome of the Rock, that Islamic structure that sits just to the southwest of the temple mount, is the exact location where the temple, both in the time of Jesus and in the time of Solomon, stood. Based on that kind of information, now there’s the possibility of building the temple on the correct place. The difficulty is that that cannot be carried out at the present time due to the very presence of the Islamic structure.
Ankerberg: Now, if it’s there, we’re at a stalemate, it would seem. How in the world could the Jews ever rebuild when you’ve got the whole Arab world watching? And this could just spark off World War III if that was somehow started to be destroyed and they started to build the temple. So the question is, what’s going to motivate that to take place? One of the sleepers, as I call it, that’s out there that people have speculated a lot about, which I find fascinating, is this thing of the Ark of the Covenant. Talk about this, first of all from Scripture. Why is the Ark of the Covenant important to the Jewish people, and if this comes forth in our day, what will it mean to Israel?
Price: We go back in Scripture to 1 Kings 8, where Solomon dedicated the temple. He gives us a little bit of the idea from the theology of the temple why the Ark of the Covenant is so important. In 1 Kings 8:27 he said, “But indeed shall God dwell on earth? Behold, heaven and highest heavens cannot contain Thee, much less this house which I have built.” His point is that an earthly structure, how can it contain the eternal God? And yet that was the very purpose for that structure. God’s presence was manifested in that place.
In the very beginning, when the tabernacle was erected, the term for tabernacle, mishkan means a dwelling place, and even the word temple itself means a house. And so it’s looking at a structure which housed this Ark which was the place where God’s visible presence was manifested. The Ark itself was simply a box within which was contained three elements: the tables of stone which were broken at Sinai which have on it the commandments of God; a pot of manna, one of the last remnants of that particular provision of God to the Israelites in the wilderness; and then the staff of Aaron which had budded because it was a competition between he and Korah over who was actually the priest of God. Each of those elements represented some sort of defiance against the will of God, as a result represented human sin.
Above that was a flat area called the Mercy Seat, and upon that the blood was poured. And it was that beautiful picture to all of Israel of the redemption that God would provide. As those cherubim, these angelic creatures that were represented over the Ark, looked down into that box, all they saw was human sin, but when the blood covered that over the Mercy Seat, why God’s presence which dwelt above it, it was hidden, covered by the blood. So it became a beautiful picture of what God intended to do as He sent the Messiah.
So that becomes a very important object for Israel in terms of worship. And wherever the Ark was, God seemed to be present, whether it be in warfare or it be there at the tabernacle or the temple itself. Now, as we move forward in history, particularly for history as we looked at 2 Thessalonians 2, it says that the Antichrist will seat himself in the temple displaying himself as God. Well, the Ark of the Covenant was the place where God’s presence was displayed, and to seat himself in that place and display himself as God might require that the Ark of the Covenant be present, so that he would seat himself in relationship to that, not be harmed in any way. And that would be one of the greatest testimonies to Israel that indeed a god was present with them.
As we go back to the Old Testament, there may be an expectation of this in one of the Prophets, in Jeremiah 3:14-17. It’s written in the context of the time period of the establishment of the kingdom of God, Messianic rule, when Christ has returned already physically to this earth and set up His earthly reign. Verse 17 says, “at that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all the nations will be gathered to it [Jerusalem], for the name of the Lord, nor shall they walk any more in the stubbornness of their evil heart.” And so we have that picture of Israel re-gathered, regenerated, and now brought to that place to worship the Lord who now Himself physically is present in Jerusalem.
But the verse before that has been very cryptic to a lot of interpreters. It says, “And it shall be in those days, when you are multiplied and increased in the land, declares the Lord, that they shall say no more the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. And it shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they miss it, nor shall it be made again.” Because with the Lord physically present, there is no need for an Ark to represent that presence. He has fulfilled all of its types, and so He takes its place. And so there’s no need to remember it or to miss it or to search for it.
But the verse implies that the time just prior to that there would be a great bevy of activity of people searching for the Ark, concerned with the Ark, expecting the Ark, and that would be the period of the tribulation. But the Ark is there and all of the concern for it. And we see in our present time an excitement over the Ark of the Covenant, whether we go back to Indiana Jones and all of the search for the lost ark or look at some of the things in the paper today with Vendyl Jones and excavations at Qumran, all of these things together show that throughout the papers and throughout the media there’s a concern over this historical object.
Ankerberg: Yes, in brief what you’re saying is that the Scripture sets it up that those that will live in those last days, there’s going to be talk, maybe the Ark itself will show up and be present, alright? Now, bring us to what you’ve heard in Israel, because we’ve only got a few minutes left in this program. Is that the case?
Hunt: Let me just ask, Can you rebuild the temple? What would be the point of rebuilding if they don’t have the Ark of the Covenant?
Price: I think that’s a very valid point. What was the temple for? To house the Ark. If the Ark came, it couldn’t be put in a museum; it would have to be housed within a structure such as the temple—the only proper place for it; the only sanctified place for it.
Ankerberg: So basically, let’s stop right there. What you’re saying is that if somehow the Ark was discovered, the Jews couldn’t keep that in a museum, you’d want to have the temple. And all of a sudden you’d have a grand motivating factor for rebuilding the temple—at least among in Israel, right?
Price: Yes. It would exacerbate tremendously the Arab-Israeli conflict, because now you would have the historical verification to the right of Israel to that particular spot. And beyond that, of course, it would unite world Jewry and bring them together.
Ankerberg: Okay, we’ve got three minutes left, now what have you found out?
Price: Okay. What we found is that, in 1981, when excavators were doing their work at the Western Wall, underneath, right where the Wailing Wall is, but down underground along the original line of that wall, that two of the chief rabbis of Israel, Yehuda Getz and Shlomo Goren were involved with students and clearing some of that rubble and discovered a passageway that had been discovered a hundred years previously, but had been lost through time. And found this gateway that led originally to the temple mount near to the Holy of Holies. As they went through this passageway, they described that they came to another chamber that led to a secret room in which they believe from historical Jewish tradition and documents the Ark of the Covenant lay deposited. They had not said that they actually physically saw it, but they said, “We were close to it. We could have touched it. We wanted to go in, but it was not the time.” But they say, “We know where it is without any hesitation.” So that is what has been said today by leading figures in Israel. And there seems to be good historical and archaeological confirmation of it.
Ankerberg: Okay, Dave Hunt, I mean this kind of sends chills up your spine here. If the Ark was brought out from those rooms, if it’s there, if it’s brought out, what’s that going to mean in Israel?
Hunt: Well, again, John, I hate to sound like a broken record but to me this is just fascinating that people who are atheists, people who don’t believe in this, I mean, I think of a rabbi who says, “Ah, Moses didn’t, the Red Sea didn’t open up. I mean, he found a place where it was shallow, you know.” And then it suddenly hit me, for the entire Egyptian army to drown in water up to their knees, that would be a bigger miracle than God opening the Red Sea. But I mean, this is the mentality explaining everything away. And suddenly, we’re going to find this Ark of the Covenant where God manifested His presence? You touched it and you were killed. That’s why they didn’t want to go into that room—they’re afraid. And now, how is this thing going to be brought out, that these people would think of this.
I don’t know what it’s going to mean to Jewish people other than bringing back to light their origins. The factuality of what the Bible says. And we already had it from Dr. Breese here, this is a picture of the redemption—and from Randy as well—of the redemption that God would effect through the Messiah. You couldn’t get into this Holy of Holies except once a year, and not without blood, which He had to offer for Himself and for the sins of the people. And that veil was rent. I was asking Randy today, what were they going to do about the fact that veil was rent? I guess they’re going to have a new veil and so forth. But somehow it has to confront Israel with the picture, the symbology and the reality of what that stood for. We believe that has been fulfilled. But it could be a focus for them back again. Now, of course, what that’s going to mean with the Arabs, rebuilding of the temple, that’s a fascinating subject.
Ankerberg: Alright, next week what I think we need to do, you guys, is go to how and when the temple could be rebuilt. And Randall has actually got some of the building plans and he knows the time frame it would take, which I find fascinating.
But secondly, we also want to talk that inside the Christian church, those who actually look at the Bible. They say, “It doesn’t make a particle of difference what’s happening in Israel, because Israel is not even included in prophecy.” These verses that we’ve been talking about, they interpret them a different way. We want to hit that straight-on and see if we should go their direction or if we ought to take what the Bible is saying as being something that is real. So I hope that you will join us next week.

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