The Third Temple
The question is asked: Could Israel rebuild the Jewish Temple alongside the Muslim shrines already on the Temple Mount?
The answer is: Yes.
At least, that is the short answer.
The debate continues – sometimes rages – over the exact configuration and location of the first and second temples (the ones destroyed by the Babylonians and the Romans, respectively) and more particularly the location of the Holy of Holies, or the inner sanctuary of the temple which only the high priest was allowed to enter, and then only once a year (Yom Kippur).
Many theories have been raised and studies made regarding the location and configuration of the Temple and its various elements. Some have suggested that the Holy of Holies is located under the Dome of the Rock, at the center of the Mosque (or Shrine) of Omar, built by Muslims in the seventh century A. D. If so, then this important Muslim shrine would have to be removed before the Temple could be rebuilt in its original location. Such action would, of course, precipitate violent reaction from Muslims around the world.
The plain fact is that, to date, no one has settled the matter of the Temple's location with any definitive authority. In fact many Orthodox Jews refuse to visit any part of the Temple Mount for fear of inadvertently stepping on the spot of the Holy of Holies or some other sacred location.
But would such knowledge be absolutely necessary before the Temple could be rebuilt? What if the location of the Holy of Holies was less important to the Jewish religious establishment than merely having a rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount? What if the form of Judaism became more important than the spirit of Judaism?
Since the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 A. D., devout Jews have of necessity worshiped God in places other than Jerusalem or on the Temple Mount. This development could be part of the meaning of a prophecy Jesus Christ made to a woman at a well while visiting a city in Samaria during His earthly ministry, saying:
- - - "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4: 21 – 24 NIV)
While many devout Jews continue to pray daily that God will allow them to rebuild the Temple, others are less certain that it should be rebuilt or that it could be rebuilt prior to the beginning of the Jewish Messianic era. Those who want to rebuild the Temple remain deeply divided over the appropriate locations and configurations of the various structures and holy places.
But perhaps none of this really matters in the end. Perhaps, in the End Times, the decision of where to locate the Third Temple on the Temple Mount will be less a religious decision and more a political decision. Such a development would not be without precedent. Throughout its ancient history, Israel time and again sacrificed its worship of God on the altars of power politics and international diplomacy. Indeed, it was often the main business of the Old Testament prophets to condemn such behavior.
Jesus Christ himself, the greatest of all the prophets (besides, of course, being the Son of God, Very God, and the atonement for the sins of the world) condemned the religious establishment of His days-on-earth for their apostasy, heresy, spiritual blindness and worldly mindedness. And what did the religious establishment do? It conspired with the Romans to have Him nailed to a cross.
Perhaps, in the End Times, the debate over whether and where the Third Temple should be built will be moot. Perhaps the decision regarding its location will be made by a religious establishment more interested in accommodation and earthly power politics, and less interested in spiritual authority.
Such a possibility is not without precedent.
And given such possibility, a study of the Temple Mount and its shrines suggests an intriguing possibility. It would appear that there may be plenty of space on the Temple Mount to accommodate the Third Temple, if one is not too picky about location.
Below is a schematic of the Temple Mount, drawn to scale, with the location of the principal Muslim shrines together with a conceptual layout of the Jewish Temple and environs depicted. The only problem area would be the Court of the Gentiles. But that might be the meaning of a prophecy in Revelation, where John the Revelator is given a measuring rod to measure the Temple – all but the outer court, which is given to the Gentiles.
Below is an aerial view of the Temple Mount today:
Below is the same view, with a conceptual Third Temple in place of the Dome of the Rock (something that would inflame the rage of Muslims the world over):
Below is a compromise (the Third Temple alongside the Dome of the Rock: