By Gil Afriat
We’re experiencing an almost incomprehensible reality today, and the events around us are changing at a dizzying pace. In a matter of a couple weeks, Israel, just like many nations, has come to a grinding halt: everyone, except those in critical services, is ordered to stay in their homes. We believe that God has been preparing believers for this time: a month ago a 40-day global fast (The Jesus Fast) was called by evangelist Lou Engle which many of us here in Israel, along with countless around the world, have joined. We are already in a posture of denying ourselves and seeking Him, and now with the current crisis, we are called to stand in the position that God has prepared for us in the face of a global pandemic.
Is God Sovereign?
Many are wondering, “What is going on here?” First of all, we know that God is sovereign; He is on His throne and nothing happens without His allowing it. The enemy cannot put together this plague behind God’s back, and God is allowing it while at the same time working multiple good objectives through it according to His perfect will. What good objectives might God be working through this crisis? I know that many of us recognize some of them, and I see several positive objectives God is working through this challenging time. In this article I would like to focus on one.
One important objective God is working through this crisis: In His mercy, God wants to wake up those who are walking in darkness without the knowledge of Him, those walking in apathy to the most basic and essential question of their lives: does God exist or not, and if He does, what does that mean for me? We know that God uses crises to wake up those who are living in apathy, who are living for an interminable future without considering their mortality and the meaning of their lives. One thing this pandemic has done is shatter the illusion that people’s day to day lives will continue without significant disruption. The pressure, worries, tasks and pleasures of day to day life keep people in the dim valley of life without the knowledge of God. In fact, the pressures and tasks of day to day life are an excellent tool which the enemy uses to keep people from being able to focus and ponder the deeper questions of their existence.
All Flesh is Grass
It is clear to see that God is working through this crisis to wake people up to the fact of how fragile their existence is, to the fact that our days on the earth are finite. More than that, God is giving everyone the time and the space to stop and ponder these questions, not for just a moment or two, but for a concerted period of time to meditate on these questions, to seek, and to ultimately find, by His grace, the truth—salvation through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
The Zechariah 12 Connection
Even though this chapter deals with the final battle for Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation before our Lord appears in the sky to all, I strongly believe that God is causing a foreshadow of this prophecy to happen today. Zechariah 12: 9-14 says:
It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations [today, all the viruses!] that come against Jerusalem. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves
Notice how what is written in this verse places special emphasis on the idea of each and every family being together by itself. Until today, I didn’t understand how or why this would happen, however this passage describes the situation today of families being quarantined in their homes together. Not only that, this passage points out that there, in their “quarantine”, God pours out His Spirit of grace and supplication. I believe that a special grace is available right now which God is pouring out on the people of Israel, and on all nations, to receive a revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. These verses In Zechariah 12 encourage and give us hope that in this difficult time we will see significant fruit of salvations among the people of Israel, in the Muslim world, and around the whole world.
Our Calling as Priests
God is always calling us to partner with Him, and especially in this situation: during this time of separation God is calling us to stand in our roles as priests unto God (2 Peter 2:5) to intercede for our nations, to petition the Mercy Seat for the lost. It is our prayer that God would use the pressures of this pandemic to draw people to him, to soften their hearts, and to give them ears to hear and eyes to see the great salvation He has prepared for them!
by Tamar Afriat
Since the beginning of 2020, the news cycle has been dominated by constant attention-grabbing headlines which put last week’s news far from the mind. However, during the first couple months of 2020, there were two unprecedented and highly significant events for Israel and the region—events which, for better or worse, have had surprisingly little coverage in the media or had coverage that greatly misinterpreted their impact and significance. This article will take a look at the first significant event which happened in 2020.
THE US ASSASSINATES IRANIAN MILITARY CHIEF AND CHECKMATES IRAN
On January 3, 2020, US President Donald Trump authorized the targeted assassination of Major General Qassem Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and mastermind of Iran’s military operations outside Iran. With Suleimani at the helm, Iran’s military tentacles have been sewing terror and chaos across the Middle East, all the way from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza to Yemen. The US State Department said that it killed the Iranian general because he was actively planning attacks against US troops in Iraq and the region, but the significance of his removal goes far beyond American interests. It is hard to overstate the importance of Suleimani in Iran (the only more powerful man in Iran was the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah himself), and the huge blow to Iran’s ability to carry out its proxy militia strategy across the Middle East—supporting the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and propping up the Assad regime in Syria, all which bear the hallmarks of Iranian involvement: chaos, violence, radicalization and active aggression against Israel.
Internationally Trump’s action called a “reckless act of war”
As soon as the news of Suleimani’s assassination broke, the international media exploded in one accord, calling Trump’s move tantamount to an act of war and a dangerous escalation of tensions between the US and Iran. As the world watched the funeral procession of Suleimani in Baghdad where mourners draped his grave in the red flag—a call for revenge of the “martyr’s” death—and listened to top Iranian leaders vow harsh retaliation, pundits and politicians around the world began warning that the Iranians would hit back hard, leading to more violence and destabilization.
The Israeli pundits were saying something else
Across the board, from left to right, experts and government officials in Israel called Trump’s move a brave decision—a deterrent to war, not an act of war—a move which showed leadership and sent a powerful message to all terrorist leaders in the region: your heads are on the line. Suleimani’s assassination put Iran into a quandary; they understand that President Trump will not hesitate to put action behind his words, and, if they react by attacking American interests or allies, the US has promised to destroy fifty-two strategic sites in Iran, the destruction of which would put Iran back twenty years. So, how did Iran ultimately respond to Suleimani’s assassination? It attacked a US military base in Iraq which inflicted minor causalities on US military servicemen, a symbolic act which showed that they are not interested in further escalation of hostilities with the US.
Iran’s Situation Today: Iran is finding itself limited and crippled. Firstly, the Trump administration’s sanctions are having the desired effect—everyday Iranians are unhappy with their government’s spending their resources on outside military escapades while the economic situation at home continues to worsen. Iran’s profile in the Middle East is beginning to tarnish on the Arab street as well; for all its brash military actions, the everyday people are left with the violence, death, refugees, chaos and economic collapse Iran’s policies leave in their wake.
Iran’s Spiritual Awakening? More than anything else, the most important change of all is what seems to be happening inside Iran. According to some sources, Iran has the fastest-growing church in the world as disenfranchised Iranians leaving Islam are coming to faith in the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua, and worshiping the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What’s more, these believers who are coming to faith are doing so outside of the established, denominational church (which in the Middle East tends to be anti-Semitic\anti-Israel), and Iranian believers are expressing love for Israel and Jews whom they see as the brothers of their Savior. This is the most meaningful development for Iran, Israel and the Middle East by far.
David is a born street evangelist: He’s outgoing, friendly, has a winning smile and a passion to share the Messiah with people—even in the face of physical attacks. Every week you can find him somewhere on the streets of Tel Aviv, witnessing and praying with people. Here’s his story!
Something is Missing
“I grew up in a traditional Jewish home, that is, we kept the religious traditions. For a while my older brother studied in a yeshiva (a religious school) and my mom highly revered the orthodox way of life. She would go to the rabbis for council and did her best to make sure we all went to the synagogue, particularly on high holidays. I would go, but inside I didn’t connect to anything there, and I felt that there must be something deeper than all this—I didn’t know what it was, whether it was God or not, but I knew that something was missing.
In 2002, after serving in a combat unit in the IDF for three years, I flew to the US and began selling Dead Sea products at a mall. I was making great money and living large: parties, drinking, drugs, all the pleasures that the world can offer. Despite living what I thought was the good life, I wasn’t experiencing real happiness. In my heart I felt something was missing, but I didn’t know what. Then one day at work, I met a Jewish customer who told me something every interesting; he said that he loved to feel God in his life every day. And then he asked me a very interesting question: “Have you ever felt God in your life?” My answer was no, but I wondered to myself, “How can you actually feel God?” When I went home that evening, his question kept nagging me. Finally, I said to God, “I want to know from You what the truth is!” I decided to do something about it: I started reading the Bible.
I was reading in Psalm 22 where it’s written, “My God my God why have You forsaken Me?” and “they pierce my hands and my feet” about someone who’s being tortured and mocked. The moment I read this, I was afraid that it was talking about Yeshu the Notzri (a derogatory name given Him by the rabbis). So, I did what any good son would do: I called my mom! She knows a lot about religion and tradition, and I thought if I read the verse to her she could help me understand it. When she heard what I read, she was as startled as I was and warned me, “That’s a gentile book. We are forbidden to read it.” She thought I was reading something to her from the New Testament! I told her, “Mom, this is from the Hebrew Bible, it’s Psalms!”
A Picture on the Internet
In my search for answers, I started reading and searching on the internet. I always had wondered about the all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, and, in particular, I had wondered why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. I’ll never forget this moment: one day while I was looking up information about the sacrifice of Isaac on the internet, I found a picture which showed Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice to God, and above it was a picture of Yeshua on the cross—God offering His Son as a sacrifice for us. When I saw this picture, I felt warmth all over my body, and I cried out to God. I felt that Yeshua was right there next to me. That was the moment that I can say that my whole journey with God truly began.
As soon as I accepted Yeshua into my heart, I began devouring the Word. One day I was reading in Isaiah 44 where it’s written in verse 6 that God says, “I am the first and the last.” Not long after that I was reading in Revelation where Yeshua says, “I am the first and the last”, and suddenly I realized that Yeshua is also God. No one had told me! It was a revelation that came straight from Him through His Word. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I was so amazed that I spent the rest of the evening just worshipping Yeshua.
The moment that you believe that Yeshua is God and you cling to Him as God and King, your connection with Him grows much deeper. He’s not just the Savior, the suffering servant Isaiah talks about. He is God and King. Here in Israel many people will say, “Ok, Yeshua is the Messiah. He’s Lord, but He’s not God.” It takes a revelation from God for Jews to get over the hurdle of accepting that the Messiah is also God. Like Yeshua said in John 8 when the Pharisees were challenging Him: I told you that you would die in your sins if you do not believe that I am he. Isaiah 43:10 says, “Understand that I am He…I, even I, am the LORD and Beside Me there is no savior”. Saying, “I am He” to a religious Jewish audience means one thing: I am God.
But, putting the New Testament aside for a moment—the Hebrew Bible itself says that the Messiah is God. Jeremiah 23 says, “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch…This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” In Zechariah 12 the LORD says, “They will look on Me whom they have pierced”. Isaiah 9:6 says that the child born to us will be called “Mighty God, Everlasting Father”. This revelation of Yeshua as God is so important. I have seen that those who have the full revelation of Yeshua as God experience a deeper relationship with Him because they have the fullness of who He really is.
The more I learned, the more Yeshua won my heart and I just fell in love with Him. When I came to faith in Yeshua, you could say that I was a typical Israeli “punk”: I smoked all the time, cigarettes, nargila (middle eastern water pipes), e-cigarettes. You name it, I smoked it. But as I grew in my faith, I would talk to Yeshua all the time. Once while I was talking to Him, I had an e-cigarette in my hand, and I suddenly I felt disgusted by it and threw it away from me. From then on, I gave it all up. I had been an impatient, hot-tempered person before I came to faith. I come from a Moroccan Jewish background, and Moroccans are known in Israel for their warm but explosive temperaments—that was me. You couldn’t have a normal conversation with me: I’d cut you off. I’d swear. I was prideful and impatient. All of that began to change as I grew in my relationship with Yeshua: He was what I was missing my whole life. His peace touched my heart and changed me for good.
You’ve Betrayed Your People and Your Heritage!
When I first told my parents about my faith in Yeshua, they did not take it well at all. They told me that I had betrayed my religion and my people. My mom, in particular, had a very difficult time. I told her about my new faith during a time when there had been some tragedies in my family, and this news that I had, in her eyes, betrayed my people and my faith, was very difficult for her. She even blamed my believing in Yeshua for the bad things that were happening in the family.
When I moved back to Israel, my parents began to see the changes that had taken place in me. They saw that I was suddenly a serious, responsible person whereas before I was just interested in having fun. They saw that I didn’t have the same bad temper as before, that I wasn’t smoking anymore—they knew how addicted I had been to smoking and drugs. It didn’t take long for them to realize that all these changes in me were because of what God had done for me through his Son. Praise God they now know that He’s not Yeshu the Notzri but Yeshua the Jew who came for all of us—first for the Jews and then for the rest of the world. It’s just that we, the Jewish nation, rejected Him when He came. It’s my heart’s cry that my people would discover their savior and King, Yeshua the Messiah!
The Calling of an Evangelist
When I first came to Tiferet Yeshua, there was a couple who would go out every week to witness on the streets who invited me to join them. We prayed together before we went out and then headed to the streets. At first, I was afaid, and I would let them approach people while I’d stand aside to see if it ended up in punches. After awhile, though, God gave me grace and it came more naturally to me. It’s not easy talking to people about Yeshua, and many Israelis don’t want to hear about Him. But, I feel called to bring the message of the Jewish Messiah to the people of Israel—to ask people, “Why are you here? What does God want from you? What does the Bible say about it?” It’s my prayer that what I share, the questions I ask them will have the same effect on them as that one question someone asked me all those years ago in America, and that they would open their hearts to God and say, “Show me who you are!”
At the end of Sukkot (Tabernacles), we mark one last holiday called Shemini Atzeret, or the Eighth Day Convocation, that is not well-known and is somewhat obscure:
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days…on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work.” (Leviticus 23:34, 36)
It is the last bionically mandated holiday in the Torah and, according to rabbinical tradition, marks the conclusion of weekly Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle, starting with Genesis. Considering that Paul says that the holidays are a shadow of things to come in Colossians 2:17, what is the meaning of this mysterious holiday which only gets a brief mention in Leviticus 23:36 and 39? It seems to be tacked onto the end of Sukkot, but rabbis say it is a separate holy day in its own right and call it “the closing festival”.
Biblical Holidays: A Shadow of Things to Come
All of God’s holidays point to His ultimate plan for redemption. The spring holidays of Passover and Weeks (Pentecost) foreshadowed the first coming of Messiah. In the same way, the fall holidays of Rosh HaShanah (Day of Trumpeting), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Tabernacles) foreshadow the culmination of the great tribulation, the rapture, the defeat of the Antichrist and his armies, Yeshuah’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His coronation as king (which we believe will coincide with the holiday of Sukkot). Additionally, Sukkot foreshadows the Millennial reign (thousand-year reign) of Messiah described in Revelation 20 when He will literally dwell, or tabernacle, with us here on earth.
A Thousand Years Like a Day
If we consider that 2 Peter 3 reminds us that a thousand years with the Lord is like a day, and currently on the Hebrew calendar we are towards the end of the 6th day (5,780), we anticipate Messiah’s Millennial reign on the 7th day—or the 7th century on the Hebrew calendar. So, perhaps the Eighth Day Convocation can tell us what will happen on the eighth day (8th century) of the Hebrew calendar which will coincide with the culmination of Yeshua’s Millennial reign. (Note: the Hebrew calendar is not an exact science and may be off by even by several hundred years, meaning that we may have hundreds of years before we reach the culmination of the end of the age or it could be right around the corner)
What Happens After the 7th Day? Hint: Genesis 1
Revelation 20 describes the Millennial reign of Messiah on earth which culminates in a rebellion led by Satan, which God will destroy, followed by the great white throne judgement when God will judge the living and the dead. Seems like the end of the story, right? Actually, it’s just the beginning: Revelation 21 describes something extraordinary that’s difficult to grasp: the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. So, it seems that Shemini Atzeret, the special Eighth day Convocation after Sukkot—which symbolizes the Millennial reign—foreshadows God’s creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth (interestingly, the symbol for eternity looks a lot like the number 8). So, just as Jews around the world begin reading Genesis 1:1 on Shemini Atzeret, the holiday itself foreshadows the new Genesis of creation after the Millennium when God the Father Himself will dwell with people:
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.’ (Leviticus 23:23-25)
The Day of Trumpeting: back to the original meaning
Of all the biblical feasts, this is the only one we don’t refer to using its biblical name. It is also a holiday that has had subsequent traditions superimposed on it, obscuring its original prophetic meaning. The biblically holiday we celebrate as the first of the fall high holidays is not called Rosh Hashanah (New Years) by the Bible but rather the Day of Trumpeting. The Bible mandates this holiday take place on the first day of the 7th month of the biblical year—not the first—which is Nissan, the month of Passover. The reason this holiday meant to be commemorated by trumpet blasts came to be known as the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) dates back to the Babylonian exile: during their time in Babylon, the Jewish exiles were influenced by the Babylonian culture around them, and, as a result, they adopted Akkadian\Babylonia month names and practices. That’s right, all the Hebrew month names are Babylonian in origin.
While the celebrations of this holiday mainly focus on the new year aspect, the traditions observed in this holiday harken back to the original biblical meaning for this somewhat mysterious holiday—mysterious because the bible gives surprisingly little information about the holiday other than the ordinance to observe it as a Sabbath, to blow the shofar (trumpet), and to make offerings and sacrifices. The blessings recited during the holiday meal repeatedly call for God’s deliverance from Israel’s enemies and implore God’s mercy in judging His people. Rabbinic literature refers to this holiday as the day of judgement, the day on which the people pass as sheep before God, the great shepherd.
Trumpeting: what does it mean?
As this day is called Yom Teruah (the day of trumpeting), and blowing the trumpet is the integral commandment of this day, it would make sense to understand what the Bible has to say about the purpose for trumpeting. Numbers 10: 1-9 gives a clear four-fold meaning for the “lasting ordinance” to blow the trumpets:
- To assemble the community together
- To signal the camps to move out
- To call for God’s help when going into battle in the Land against an oppressive enemy
- For heralding times of rejoicing
New Testament References to Trumpeting
The New Testament also references the sounding of trumpets, and that is in relation to end time events. The book of Revelation describes a series of 7 seals and 7 trumpets which are then followed by 7 bowls of wrath, all of which relating to phases of God’s releasing His judgement on the earth.
Other New Testament accounts reveal an important emphasis on the last trumpet in particular. Since Revelation is the only place in the Old and New Testaments which gives a numbered series of trumpets, the last trumpet in Revelation must correlate to end time events, as the other references reveal:
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51-52)
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:16)
The New Testament makes abundantly clear that the “last trumpet” heralds the rapture of the saints, the imminent return of the Lord and the wrath of the Lord poured out on the earth before His return. The question remains: do these end time trumpets have anything to do with the Day of Trumpeting mandated in the Law? While the spring biblical feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and Weeks) foreshadowed the first coming of the Messiah as the suffering servant and initiated His kingdom in the hearts of men, is it possible that the fall feasts (the Day of Trumpeting, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles) coincide with the Lord’s second coming as a judge and the coming of His literal, physical kingdom to the earth in Jerusalem?
The Joel 2 and the End Time Connection
When lining up the end-time events described in the book of Revelation with the description of end time events in the book of Joel, it becomes clear that the fall feats mirror exactly the progression of the great and terrible day of the Lord just before His return when the armies of the antichrist descend upon the land of Israel and surround Jerusalem.
Joel 2: 1-11 (Day of Trumpeting)
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming…
In this passage, the prophet Joel describes the sounding of the trumpet to assemble the people together because a horrible and fierce enemy has invaded the land (remember back to the Rosh HaShanah meal blessings calling for deliverance from enemies). This is also the moment that the Lord Yeshua appears in the sky with the voice of the trumpet and the dead in Messiah are raised and those still alive are raptured.
Joel 2:12-17 (Day of Atonement)
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
This passage in Joel 2 clearly mirrors the Day of Atonement, a time the Lord mandated the Israelites to fast and torture their souls in repentance; here the prophet Joel calls all the people, young and old, men and women, to declare a holy fast and call a sacred assembly to weep, mourn and cry out to the Lord to save them.
Interestingly, Joel 2:15 calls for a fast, which is the Day of Atonement, but it also calls for a trumpet to be blown in Zion, which makes us think that it might also mean the Day of Trumpeting since there are no trumpets blown on the Day of Atonement. However, trumpets are indeed blown on the Day of Atonement every Jubilee year, that is, every 50th year, which brings in an additional level of prophetic meaning to this “last” Day of Atonement—liberation and restoration. (Leviticus 25:9)
All Israel Will Be Saved
The scene that Joel 2:12-17 describes brings to mind another end time prophesy which describes a day when all the nations of the earth are gathered against Judah and Jerusalem and the people cry out in mourning before God:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves…” (Zechariah 12:10-12)
This is the moment that Paul’s prophetic declaration in Romans 11:26 that all Israel will be saved comes to pass. The Bible teaches that Israel will go through terrible tribulation and suffering, but Israel will also be the only nation that collectively receives a simultaneous revelation of Him, accepts Him and is saved, just as Peter in Acts 2 quotes Joel 2 describing that final moment: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So, if the season of the Day of Trumpeting marks the rapture and the Lord’s appearing in the sky, and the Day of Atonement marks Israel’s calling a fast and solemn assembly to weep and mourn over “the one they have pierced”, then Tabernacles can be none other than Yeshua’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem where He will tabernacle with His people!
It’s a good question that believers who study end time scriptures end up pondering. There are prophesies which seem to say that, before the Messiah’s return, a third Temple will be built and ritual sacrifices will be reinstated which the Antichrist will encourage and then put a stop to (Daniel 9, Ezekiel 40-48, Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2). Adding to the obvious interest in the subject is the fact that certain Orthodox Jewish groups are actively making plans to build the Temple and are soliciting support from evangelicals whom they know to be interested and supportive of such a move—albeit for different reasons. With this article, we seek to address some of the main bible passages which speak to this issue and, with God’s grace, hope to shed some light on some possible answers. Also, there are several critical issues in relation to this issue which all believers need to be aware of.
The Abomination of Desolation
In perhaps his most famous end-time discourse, Yeshua speaks of an event which is closely related to the great tribulation of the end times and the activity of the antichrist:
Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. ~Matthew 24:15-16
The book of Daniel, particularly chapter 11, gives details to this seemingly opaque reference:
His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. ~Daniel 11:31-32
The prophecies of Daniel which speak of a future king who would desecrate the Temple, stop the sacrifices, and draw the people of God away from the truth were fulfilled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Hellenistic (Greek) King who in 167 BC, after having desecrated the temple and outlawed the Jewish faith, erected a statue of Zeus in the Holy Temple. Many Jews at that time had adopted the Greek culture and world view. However, the outrages that Antiochus committed caused the devout Jews in the Land to rise up against the Greek rule, and a small but devoted band of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, succeeded in defeating one of the mightiest armies on earth and rededicating the Temple to the service of God.
So, if this prophecy was already fulfilled in 167 BC, why does Yeshua quote this prophecy in relation to end time events? Many biblical events and prophecies have implications beyond their literal fulfillment in history, just as Yeshua spoke about the time of His second coming as being like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37) So, in relation to the unfolding of end time events, it’s clear that Antiochus IV was a type of antichrist.
Where is the Holy Place?
In Matthew 24, Yeshua prophesied that the Temple would be destroyed, which it was in 70 AD. His prophecy about the “abomination that causes desolation” has caused many, if not most, to conclude that a third temple must be built for the antichrist to be able to perform his abomination there literally, just as Antiochus IV did. However, the Matthew 24 prophesy which speaks about an “abomination that causes desolation” makes an appeal to readers to understand what the prophesy is talking about—in particular what is meant by holy place.
If we consider that Yeshua was referring to the Temple in Matthew 24 as the holy place, then we run into the problem of the fact that such a Temple built by Orthodox Jews who reject Yeshua as Messiah will not be a holy place because the Holy Spirit will not dwell there. Yeshua’s sacrifice was once and for all, and no other sacrifice can be made for sanctification (Hebrews 10). On the other hand, the New Testament clearly states that redeemed believers in Yeshua are the Temple of the Holy Spirit:
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? ~ I Cor. 3:16
One could argue then that the “Third Temple” could actually be the collective redeemed body of Messiah.
The Great Falling Away and The Abomination that Causes Desolation
How then are we to understand this “abomination that causes desolation” if the holy place Yeshua refers to is not actually a physical rebuilt temple in Jerusalem? Daniel 11:32 gives us a clue:
With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.
Just as many Jews during the second century BC had allowed themselves to adopt the culture, world view and ways of the Greeks and even welcomed the Greek takeover of Jerusalem, the bible tells us that there will be a time when many believers who’ve adopted the culture and values of the secular, humanistic world around them, those who even deny certain clear truths about the bible (which is already happening today), they will be susceptible to the subtle and seductive “flattery” of the antichrist. This “the great falling away” which the New Testament refers to can only be understood as “falling away from the faith”:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him… Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thes 2:1, 3-4
It speaks volumes that Yeshua chose to say holy place instead of merely “Temple” when giving his prophecy in Matthew 24: since Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection and the destruction of the Second temple, the only holy place on earth is the sanctified spirit of the believer wherein dwells the Holy Spirit. So, by that reasoning, one could argue that Yeshua was referring to the great falling away in Matthew 24 when He spoke about the “abomination that causes desolation”, that it would be a time when believers who have allowed the world to enter in and corrupt their faith, whose love has grown cold, will accept this “man of sin” into their hearts.
A Literal Third Temple? Maybe!
It is possible that there will be a third Temple and that ritual sacrifices will be reinstated before the Lord’s return. Considering the super-charged issues surrounding the Temple Mount, it would take a truly supernatural event to bring about a change in the current status quo; the building of a Jewish Temple could only come to pass under the auspices of the antichrist who may succeed at reaching a false peace between Jews and Muslims. The Temple Mount is one of the holiest sites in Islam and Muslims have administrative control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, most Orthodox Jews are not on board with plans to build the Third Temple, let alone Conservative and Reform Jews who view building the Temple in strictly metaphorical, spiritual terms. Only a certain group of National Orthodox is actively supporting preparations for a Third Temple. There is great resistance to their ideas in secular Israeli society, of course, but also the majority of Ultra-Orthodox are against building the Temple before the return of the Messiah. The mainstream Ultra-Orthodox view is that God is building the Third Temple in heaven according to the dimensions given in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 40-48), and this heavenly Temple will descend from heaven to earth only when the Messiah comes.
So, it goes to reason that if a Third Temple were to be built, considering all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in its way, it will in all likelihood only happen in the context of the antichrist rule at which time the end time tribulation will already be in full swing.
Should Christians Support Jewish Efforts to Build the Temple?
Financially supporting fringe National Orthodox Jewish efforts to assemble the needed animals and implements for the building of the Third Temple will not hasten the day of the Lord’s return. We cannot hasten the coming of the Lord by supporting or encouraging the negative things that prophecy tells us are supposed to happen before His coming: according to that idea, we should then support the moral decline of society because prophecy tells us that evil in society will increase in the end times.
What is clear is that while many believers anticipate the building of the Third Temple to be a super sign that will signal that the end times are upon us, it is fully possible that it won’t happen before the Lord’s return. What will happen for sure is the great falling away which the New Testament warns about: it is a much more serious and insidious thing to be watching out for and guarding against in our midst (not letting the word system corrupt our beliefs and not letting our love grow cold), lest we be found without oil in our lamps when the voice of the Bridegroom is heard. In the darkest time in history, the Lord is calling us to be light!
*A Special Note on Ezekiel 40-48
The eight chapters at the end of Ezekiel written at the beginning of the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the First Temple and proceeded the building of the Second Temple present major challenges to both religious Jewish and Christian commentators. Some see these chapters as the most challenging in the Hebrew Bible.
For Jewish commentators these chapters raise the question: why didn’t the returned exiles under Zerubbabel build the Second Temple according to Ezekiel’s measurements? Their answer is that the Babylonian exiles who returned to build the Temple did not experience a full redemption (geulah shlema) because they were living in compromise in regards to foreign women, and the Ezekiel temple is a heavenly construction which will descend from heaven when the Messiah comes.
For Christian and Messianic Jewish commentators, these verses present a challenge in the fact that they seem to speak about the Messianic age when Yeshua the Messiah will reign on earth for 1,000 years while containing detailed instructions about animal sacrifices—a clear contradiction to the New Testament understanding that animal sacrifice was done away with in the one perfect sacrifice of Yeshua (Hebrews 10).
So Christian and Messianic believers are then faced with the same interpretation challenge as the Jewish commentators: p’shat versus drash—whether to come to terms with the literal meaning of the text or to seek a symbolic meaning in the verses. While religious Jewish commentators make no bones about drash—drawing out more meanings from a passage not literally apparent from the text, many Christian and Messianic commentators are more wary of running away with symbolic interpretations of challenging prophetic scripture which the scripture itself doesn’t offer interpretation to. Either way, we seek the Lord to guide us in all wisdom and revelation into His word by the Holy Spirit! He is faithful to grant wisdom to those who ask in faith (James 1:5)