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"See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes." (Malachi 4:5)
The world is suddenly awash with talk of rebuilding the Jewish Temple. This is one of the last pieces of the jigsaw that yet needs to fall into place. It is another significant indication that we are right at the gates of the Tribulation period itself.
The second Temple of Jesus' time was constructed over a period of thirty to forty years. If the Temple were to be constructed today, it would be built in a fraction of that time. The Temple Institute in Israel has already made many of the sacred artifacts needed for use in the Temple itself.
The Temple Institute has prefabricated large sections of the Temple structure, as well as having drawn up comprehensive and complete architectural plans, so that when the right time comes these pre-made sections can simply be taken to the site and built into the superstructure of the Temple itself. It is even possible to visit their website and view an in-depth three dimensional computer tour of what the newly-built Temple will look like after its completion.
Other crucial pieces of the Temple, much more difficult to construct than the building itself, has also been completed and are now ready for use. Based in the Old City area of Jerusalem, the Temple Institute has completed the reconstruction of the sacred Temple altar, to the specific and exacting standards prescribed in the Pentateuch.
This absolutely essential piece of the puzzle means that the Jewish nation now has the holy altar necessary once again to begin offering sacrifices. It is the altar itself which would make the sacrifices offered on it holy before God. Aside from the Holy of Holies, it is the lynchpin of the entire Temple. It is now ready for use.
The significance of this development should not be underestimated. Building this altar has been quite an undertaking; approximately 5 meters (16 feet) tall and 16 meters (52.5 feet) wide, with four "horns" or raised corners, and a ramp. It is unique. Nothing like this altar has been seen on this earth in two thousand years.
To complete the preparations, the Temple Institute has also made all the priestly garments necessary for the priesthood to minister, even going so far as to train priestly families in the conduct and expectations of a Priest who ministers inside a newly built Temple.
Passover sacrifices have been reenacted and practiced so that the mechanics of the process are understood and closely adhere to the standards laid out by the Law of Moses. They have, in effect, carried out historically accurate trial runs in preparation for the real thing.
Understanding the various processes is, in itself, is also no small undertaking. The roots of sacrifice are found in the Book of Exodus. In preparation for the 10 plagues on Egypt, the death of the firstborn, God tells Moses to speak to the people of Israel and instruct each household to obtain a lamb on the 10th of Nisan. The lambs should be kept until the 14th, when the people of Israel should slaughter them at dusk.
Next, they should take its blood and put it on the doorposts and on the lintel of the house in which they were eating. The fire-roasted lamb should then all be consumed that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This Feast of Passover has been observed ever since, with one exception. Ever since Jesus Christ died on Calvary as the spotless Lamb of God, the sacrificial lamb has been missing from the Passover celebration. See also: Revelation 5.6
Pure olive oil, fit for use in the Menorah of the Temple, has been produced in the last few months, the only time this has happened since the fall of the Second Temple. The production of four and a half litres of the precious olive oil this year was an extremely complex process due to the necessity of keeping it pure according to Jewish law.
In addition, ceramic flasks to hold the oil also had to be made to conform to the standards of religious purity required for use in the Temple itself. The production of the olive oil required precise knowledge of an extremely specialized and complex area of Jewish law.
Oil of this quality has not been produced since the beginning of the Diaspora of the Jews in 70AD. Literally nothing like this has been seen in Israel for almost two millennia.
Another significant development is the quest for a perfect Red Heifer or Para Adumah, a three-year-old female cow with totally red hair that is supposed to be able to restore a state of purity after ritual slaughter, something necessary for temple worship. There have been no perfect Red Heifers in Israel for over 2,000 years, however the Temple Institute is trying to change that.
In late 2015 the Temple Institute attempted to raise funds with its "Raise a Red Heifer in Israel" campaign on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Earlier in 2015, the Temple Institute's previous Indiegogo campaign successfully raised over $100,000 which will be used to develop architectural plans for the Holy Temple.
According to the crowdfunding site:
"The Temple Institute has joined forces with experienced cattle ranchers here in Israel. These experts in the science of animal husbandry, under the halachic supervision and guidance of the rabbis of the Temple Institute, will utilize the technique of implanting the frozen embryos of Red Angus cattle in Israeli domestic cattle. The end result of this program will be the introduction of the Red Angus breed into Israel. This method, authorized and approved by Israel's Ministry of Agriculture, has already proven successful with the birth of a number of male Red Angus. The location and other details of the cattle ranch will remain undisclosed to the general public during the initial stages of the project.
Although the campaign fell short of its $125,000 goal the Temple Institute still plans to move forward as funds become available. The Temple Institute is not alone in planning for a red heifer. There have been reports of red heifers several times in the past few years from ranchers in the United States, although all have gone on to later be disqualified.
Many Rabbis within Israel believe that when a perfect red heifer is found it will be a clear indication that the rebuilding of the temple is imminent.
The Temple will ultimately be rebuilt in Jerusalem as it is crucial to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Beginning with Daniel, who had a vision of the Temple in Daniel 9:27, Jesus Himself echoed Daniels warning about an abomination standing in the holy place in the Last Days in Matthew 24:15. Paul also mentioned it in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. The Temple Institute is making fulfillment of this Biblical prophecy a near reality through their work and dedication.
The only thing that seems to be missing is the political will, the 'go ahead', to move this process forward. All things humanly possible are being done to prepare for the rebuilding of the Third Temple.
However, hugely significant problems remain which must be overcome before even a stone can be put down.
For political and safety reasons, rebuilding a Temple would seem almost an impossibility at present. This is because Islam currently controls the Temple Mount and for Jews to destroy the Dome on the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque so as to build the Jewish Temple would likely provoke an immediate world war.
Amazingly, these political and safety impediments on rebuilding the Temple are not the most significant problems.
The current raging debate within Judaism is exactly who has the authority to begin the rebuilding process of the Temple itself? Is it God, the Messiah or someone else? Nobody really knows and there is no consensus on this absolutely vital issue within Judaism.
Without resolution of who has the authority to rebuild there can be no Temple, and these are the reasons why.
The question of who has the authority to begin the rebuilding process exists because nobody today really knows exactly where the Holy of Holies from the Second Temple was located on the Temple Mount. This is the reason why Jews are forbidden from entering the precise area where the second Temple was built, lest they inadvertently stand on the sacred and consecrated area which housed the Holy of Holies. To do so, even inadvertently, is punishable by death under Mosaic Law.
The second major stumbling block is that all Jews are currently ritually impure, which also prevents any Jews from entering the precise area where the Temple used to stand. In order to become ritually pure Jews would need the ashes of a Red Heifer, administered by a priest who could trace his family and ancestral lineage back far enough to validate his claim to priesthood. No such priest exists who can trace his lineage to this exacting standard. The reason is that when Israel and Judah were dispersed to the four corners of the world, all lineage records were lost.
This therefore means that under Mosaic Law there are no priests eligible to administer the ashes of a Red Heifer and therefore able to make Jews ritually pure enough to enter the Temple complex area. It is a terrible Catch-22 situation.
The next major problem concerns the Altar of the Temple itself, specifically the location of the Altar. The Law of Moses is very precise about exactly where the Altar must be located. It cannot go just anywhere; it needs to be in exactly the right place. When they built the Second Temple the Jews used reliable witnesses who could testify to the correct spot. In fact, the prophets Haggai, Zephaniah and Malachi are believed within Judaism to have been the three witnesses used to verify the Altars correct location.
No such witnesses exist today. Even if a Temple could be built, they could never offer sacrifice as they simply do not know where to locate the Altar. They have absolutely no idea where it should go; no idea whatsoever.
Assuming that they were able to rebuild the Temple in exactly the right spot and then locate the Altar allowing for sacrifice, also in exactly the right spot, the Temple would still need Priests whose genealogy can be absolutely determined and verified. No such verification exists anymore. It would be a Temple with no priests.
The next major issue is the High Priest. There can be no functioning Temple without a functioning High Priest. To appoint a High Priest there needs to be a Sanhedrin, 70 - 71 ordained Rabbis acting as the Supreme Council of all Israel. There can currently be no Sanhedrin that satisfies Mosaic Law because each Rabbi must satisfy Mosaic Ordination, which was transmitted from Rabbi to Rabbi since the time of Moses. Mosaic Ordination ceased in 358 AD because of persecution.
Although a re-established Sanhedrin was set up in 2004 it still lacks the religious and governmental authority needed to take the process forward. There can be no legitimate Sanhedrin and therefore no legitimate High Priest.
[Note: the priesthood was a familial thing, i.e. you were born into it; not ordained to it. All the priests were Levites; of the Tribe (family) of Levi. This problem of identifying legitimate priests is now being simplified through the use of DNA]
These problems would seem insurmountable. There is no human solution to them. On the face of things then, there can be no Temple.
Jewish tradition does provide an answer though, as does scripture. Scripture strongly suggests that the person who may well provide the necessary authority to begin the rebuilding process of the Third Temple will be the Prophet Elijah himself.
Jesus, in Matthew's Gospel revealed that at the end Elijah, "...will restore all things..." (Matthew 17:11). According to Jewish tradition it will be Elijah who will reveal himself to the Jews before the advent of Messiah. He would have the necessary authority to reveal the exact location of the Holy of Holies and the precise location of the Altar.
Elijah would be able to reveal to the Priesthood their exact genealogies and reinstitute Mosaic Ordination for Rabbis, thus finally enabling the reestablishment of a legitimate Sanhedrin and High Priest.
And further to satisfy Mosaic Law, which prescribes the presence of Two Witnesses as being necessary for legal satisfaction (Deuteronomy 19:15) Elijah will also likely return with another great prophet of old, Moses, through whom the Law was delivered.
This is exactly the picture we see revealed in Revelation during the first half of the Tribulation period,
"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner." (Revelation 11: 4-6)
In the book of Jude, we come across the strange passage detailing Michael, the Archangel, disputing with Satan over the body of Moses,
But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, the Lord rebuke you (Jude 1:9)
There is clearly something unique about the body of Moses and although he did die, perhaps God has a miraculous purpose for him in the last days. The only other person besides Elijah to not die was Enoch, who was taken up to heaven, and as such many scholars also suggest he could yet be this 2nd witness who accompanies Elijah.
These two men appear to be the only exception to the scripture in Hebrews that tells us man is "appointed once to die" (Hebrews 9:27) and perhaps it is because of this role in the last days in which their death and miraculous resurrection on the streets of Jerusalem would yet fulfill this scripture and baffle the world.
When these men are put to death (temporarily) in Jerusalem, we are told in Revelation 11 the whole world sees it and celebrates. Interestingly enough, there is great controversy today among Israel, Jordan, the United States and the Palestinian Authority over a proposal to install security cameras in the Temple Mount area - which would capture such events for the whole world to see.
The testimony of these two witnesses would be during the first 42 months of the Tribulation Period and it would be a testimony for Jesus Christ against Antichrist.
Is it also incidental that 1,260 days is 42 months exactly, the amount of time God gives for the first half of the Tribulation period? Is it also merely coincidental that the amount of time the Jewish priesthood would need to perform all the necessary purification rites and rituals as prescribed in the Torah to purify and inaugurate the new Temple would also last exactly 42 months, from the initial ritual of purification to the final one?
42 months of testimony, 42 months to compete purification, 42 months designated for the first half of the Tribulation.
Scripture tells us that at the midpoint of the Tribulation, after 42 months, the Temple will be desecrated by the Antichrist.
Scripture suggests that Elijah will return soon to the Jewish people at the very beginning of the Tribulation period. He will then restore all things, (Matthew 17:11). It is possible he will be the one to appoint the reconstruction of the Temple, reinstitute the Rabbinical priesthood according to the Law of Moses defining who is eligible for priesthood and who is not. He would have the authority to re-form the Sanhedrin which would then oversee the appointment of a new High Priest. Elijah could guide the building of this Temple once it has been started until it reaches its conclusion at the Tribulations mid-point.
Scripture also tells us, ominously, one other important thing concerning the Two Witnesses,
"If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die." (Revelation 11:5)
Elijah and his companion will actively defend the Temple and its rebuilding process until the 42-month process is complete. They would have to, because if the Temple were to be rebuilt today, the whole Muslim world would come against them.
The growing excitement and speculation over the potential rebuilding of the Temple is a huge indicator that the very end of this age is at hand.