Dr. Thomas McCall, the Senior Theologian of our ministry, has written many articles for the Levitt Letter. He holds a Th.M. in Old Testament studies and a Th.D. in Semitic languages and Old Testament. He has served as Zola’s co-author, mentor, pastor, and friend for nearly 30 years.
This article appeared originally in the July 1997 Levitt Letter.
“When is the Temple going to be rebuilt?” the man asked earnestly, although with something of a humorous glint in his eyes. We were sitting at the speaker’s table at the farewell dinner in Jerusalem for Zola’s December 1996 tour group. I responded in kind, “That’s interesting, I was going to ask you the same question.”
“But you wrote the book,” continued Gershon Salomon, leader of the now-famous group in Israel called the Temple Mount Faithful, as he referred to Satan in the Sanctuary, the first book that Zola and I wrote together (long ago, it seems) in 1973.
“Yes, but you made the foundation stone,” I replied, as if I needed to remind him of the most significant thing, from a prophetic point of view, that he had ever done. We laughed, but this exchange launched a discussion that lasted for over thirty minutes about the future Temple in Jerusalem.
The atmosphere of the conversation was lighthearted as we discussed this important and very serious part of biblical prophecy. At the table were two of Gershon’s trusted associates, along with some of Zola’s tour staff. I was delighted to talk personally with this man, about whom I had read much in the news media but had never before met.
For those readers who are not familiar with Gershon Salomon, he is the leader of the small but resolute group that is determined to lay the consecrated foundation stone for the Third Temple. The Temple Mount Faithful went to great lengths to produce a proper stone according to biblical requirements, and performed the very serious ceremony of anointing it with the specified water from the Pool of Siloam. It was their intention a few years ago to place this consecrated stone on the Temple Mount as the first step in the great task of rebuilding the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Their efforts were met with considerable resistance, however, both from Arab Moslems who feared that such an act would lead to the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, and also from Jewish leaders who disagreed with Gershon on religious and geo-political grounds.
In Israel there are some changes underway. The Palestinians have built a casino called The Oasis outside of Jericho in order to raise a lot of cash. Israelis and visitors are cordially invited to gamble, but some of the Palestinians themselves disapprove. The Hamas, whose usual specialty is blowing people up, were religiously wounded. They said the place reminded them of Rahab, harlot of Jericho, who said to Joshua and his men, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land.” Hamas thinks that the casino owners are playing into the hands of the Israelis.
I’m afraid the casino is an example of what the Palestinians do with the land when they acquire it. They are not an advanced culture, and they have never founded an indigenous economy. As a matter of fact, they are dependent on Israel for their livelihood, as witnessed by the fact that they protest so strongly whenever Israel closes the borders in answer to some terrorist action. As we reported last month, the fact that monies are “wasted, looted, or misused… inspires foreign investment to stay far, far away from Gaza,” the Palestinian headquarters. Will Palestine really be a viable new country if it is totally dependent on its next-door neighbor for its financial health?
A large body of Jewish scholarship teaches that only the Messiah can rebuild the Temple, and that no one else should initiate such an activity. The Temple Mount Faithful, on the other hand, represents the much smaller element that believes that the Jews must rebuild the Temple in order to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. From a purely secular viewpoint, Israeli politicians are fearful of a Moslem uprising — indeed, a jihad (holy war) — if they allow the Temple Mount, currently dominated by Moslem shrines, to be disturbed.
The Temple Mount Faithful tried to install the foundation stone on the Temple Mount, but was stopped by Israeli police. The matter was pursued legally all the way to Israel’s Supreme Court, where it was decided that, in order to preserve religious peace, the stone could not be placed on the Temple Mount. But the stone had already been consecrated and could not be discarded. So it was placed in a prominent site, in a circular parkway facing the American Consulate and not far from the Damascus Gate. It is unmarked, however, and one would never know what it represents unless one were told. Such is the fate of the Temple Mount stone, somewhat in limbo, awaiting the right time and circumstances for installation on the authorized site of the Temple.
The Temple Mount Faithful organization, though small and somewhat stymied by court decisions, is still promoting the rebuilding of the Temple. Gershon Salomon and his colleagues consider themselves to be on a divine mission. They believe that the burden of bringing in the Messianic Age rests on their commitment to rebuild the Temple of the Almighty.
Gershon is not only well-versed in the Rabbinic views about the Temple, but he is also conversant with the evangelical biblical interpretations concerning the Tribulation, the Antichrist, the Tribulation Temple, and the Second Coming of the Messiah — Christ Jesus. Our conversation not only went into prophecy about the Temple, but also delved into the heart of the Gospel of Christ and the need that both Jews and Gentiles have for the atonement that He alone provides. The restoration of the nation of Israel is not the only great prophetic development of our time. The restoration of the Israeli church, represented by numerous Messianic congregations throughout modern Israel, is also a fulfillment of Scripture.
Most Israelis, of course, do not believe in Yeshua, or, for that matter, even have a strong belief in God. Only 10% of Israelis would call themselves “religious.” This means that some 90% of the Jewish population of Israel is not moored in faith, and is therefore open to the prophetic developments that will cause Israel, along with the rest of the world, to come under the sway of the Antichrist.
An important part of the coming Tribulation has to do with the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple and its desecration by the Antichrist:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. (Matthew 24:15–16)
In this famous sermon, called the Olivet Discourse, Christ has already explained that the Temple He and His disciples were then viewing would be destroyed. In the portion of the sermon quoted above, He looks down the prophetic road to the time when another “Holy Place,” or Temple, would be built in Jerusalem, and then desecrated by the Antichrist.
The question arises as to when the Tribulation Temple will be rebuilt. All we know for sure is that it must be in place by the middle of the Tribulation. It is not clear how much before that time it will be built. It may be constructed during the first half of the Tribulation; however, there is no reason why it could not be built before the beginning of the Tribulation, or, indeed, before the Rapture of the Church! After all, the Second Temple stood for a generation after the beginning of the Church Age before it was destroyed; it may be that the Third Temple will exist during the final years of the Church Age. Our Lord may return to accomplish the Rapture at any time. We should not be surprised if efforts to build the Tribulation Temple intensify in the days ahead.
According to the Scriptures, there are actually two future Jerusalem Temples: the Tribulation Temple and the Millennial Temple. The latter will be built by Christ Himself when He returns to Israel to reign over the earth for a thousand years.
The members of the Temple Mount Faithful appear to be preparing the way for the construction of the Temple that will be used during the Tribulation. As we parted, I told Gershon, “Zola and I wrote about you over twenty years ago, but we didn’t know your name.” He seemed to genuinely appreciate our conversation, as did I and the tour staff. When Zola and I wrote Satan in the Sanctuary, we knew that in time, and in order for the Scriptures to be fulfilled, there would have to arise zealous Israelis who would be dedicated to rebuilding the Temple.
Gershon and his Temple Mount Faithful have stepped into that role, along with other groups such as the Temple Institute in Jerusalem. The fulfillment of biblical prophecy marches onward, moving inexorably toward the Second Coming of the Messiah, both because of and in spite of the views and attitudes of the Israelis and the other peoples of the world.