Immediately after signing the Arab-Israeli peace accord, Yasir Arafat almost killed me. Nothing personal, you understand. I just happened to be stepping onto Pennsylvania Avenue when his black limousine sped out of the White House drive way. I'm thankful for having survived the opportunity of becoming the first casualty of the peace accord.
Several of Arafat's top aides weren't as fortunate, being the victims of angry assassins pledged to overthrow the historic treaty. Among 10 radical Islamic groups are the deadly duo of Hizballah and Hamas. On the opposite extreme are right-wing Jewish groups equally deter mined to sabotage peace. They elected a new mayor in Jerusalem to promote their agenda, while radical Arabs re main determined to secure the city for themselves.
Jerusalem's Temple mount has special significance for three world religions. Muslims, Jews, and millions of Christians all claim rights to that patch of real estate. No place on earth is potentially more explosive, politically and prophetically.
To Jews, the Temple mount is supremely sacred because their ancestors worshiped there before the Temple was destroyed and its services halted. Following a hiatus of 19 centuries, many Israelis believe God gave Jerusalem back to them so they can rebuild the Temple. After services resume, they expect the Messiah to set up His glorious kingdom and fulfill the dreams of Jewish people.
Also, many Christians anticipate a new Jewish temple in Jerusalem to set the stage for Christ to rule the world. There's just one obstacle, and it's a big one. The Temple mount is under Muslim control, with the Dome of the Rock being one of Islam's holiest shrines. Muslims everywhere would spill their last drop of blood to prevent the Israelis from erecting a temple there. Jews in turn regard Muslim possession of their ancient Holy of Holies an unspeakable outrage and an intolerable abomination.
It's a no-win situation. Both Jews and Muslims claim divine rights to the Temple mount. Somebody gets desecrated no matter what happens there.
Well, what will happen in Jerusalem? Charles Colson, formerly of Nixon's White House and now a Christian leader, has written a compelling book, Kingdoms in Conflict. He proposes a possible chain of events in which Jewish zealots seize Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock and blow up the Muslim mosque, intending to rebuild their Temple. American Christians shout "Glory, hallelujah!" as the international crisis threatens to be come earth's final war.
Colson's book is fascinating reading. He's not saying all of the above will necessarily happen, but his spine-tingling scenario certainly is plausible. Would it fulfill Bible prophecy regarding the covenant? Or is all the speculation about rebuilding the Jerusalem temple merely a smoke screen?
Recycling false prophecy
Much of today's prophetic excitement actually reflects what false prophets taught in Old Testament times. Six centuries before Christ, Jeremiah warned that continued apostasy would forfeit divine favor (see Jer. 18:7-10; cf. Duet. 28:15-65). Hananiah, a popular religious teacher, opposed Heaven's warning of doom and assured the rebellious Jews that nothing could change their status as God's chosen people (see Jer. 28).
Such fallacies were recycled early in the first century A.D. Jesus warned unrepentant Israel: "The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it" (Matt. 21:43, NKJV). After His death, the blessings of the covenant passed from those who had rejected the blood of the covenant to those who had accepted salvation in Christ (see Gal. 3:9, 29).
Nevertheless, false prophets arose again in A.D. 70, promising the unbelieving nation deliverance from en emy attacks. Josephus reported how presumptuous patriotism prevailed even after the Romans stormed Jerusalem. Unrepentant patriots perished with their false prophets.
Jesus had warned His people to flee from the doomed city of Jerusalem. We would do well to take our Lord's advice today flee from false prophecies about Jerusalem. False faith in that city brought ruin in 586 B.C. and then again in A.D. 70. Could it happen again now?
Competing with Calvary
In his best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth, Hal Lindsey predicts:"There will be a reinstitution of the Jewish worship according to the law of Moses with sacrifices and oblations."* Imagine that modern animal sacrifices in Jerusalem! Wouldn't such an abomination compete with Calvary?
When Jesus died, the veil of the Temple was torn apart, symbolizing the end of the Jewish Temple services and sacrifices. Restoring those animal sacrifices would deny what Christ has accomplished as the Lamb of God. And anything that competes with the finished sacrifice of Christ is the work of Satan. So how can Christians hope and pray that Jerusalem's temple will be rebuilt, anticipating that animal sacrifices will be offered on its altar? How could they associate such idolatry with the fulfillment of a covenant based upon Christ's blood alone?
Jerusalem temple theology poses troubling questions for anyone who values Calvary's saving sacrifice. Enlightened Bible scholars know that the Old Testament is not primarily Israel-centered but Messiah-centered. And the New Testament points away from any Jewish temple on earth to heaven's sanctuary, where Jesus intercedes for us: "Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man" (Heb. 8:1- 3, NKJV).
God's true temple is in heaven now. The Lord, not human beings, built it. Anything built down here would be a counterfeit temple. And that which glorifies the work of humanity in building a false temple must be false teaching. Thus whatever happens at the Temple mount of old Jerusalem cannot be a fulfillment of God's covenant.
What made the difference between true and false prophecy in Israel's history? True prophets said the nation must repent to benefit from the covenant, while false prophets taught that God would bless Jerusalem no matter what. Also, today true prophecy points upward to heaven's temple in the New Jerusalem, while false prophecy points downward to an earthly temple in old Jerusalem. So let us fix our faith within the veil of the heavenly sanctuary, where Jesus intercedes as our high priest with the blood of the new covenant from Calvary.
* Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (New York: Bantam Books, 1979), p. 46.