Does the Temple have to be rebuilt for the Antichrist to sit in it?
I would like to suggest the idea that an end times temple or altar may be unnecessary prior to the coming of the Antichrist, and all within the confines of a literal interpretation. I am not suggesting that there will be in fact no temple ever, before the second coming. Only that it is very possible for their never to be one, and we should not be surprised if that happens. In my interpretation, I will not allegorize anything. I will look at the original meaning of the words involved.
Why we may be lacking evidence for the Antichrist sitting in a rebuilt temple:
1. Daniel speaks about the Antichrist more than any other book of the Bible besides Revelation. He talks of desecrated temples (11:31), desolated temples (9:17), and destroyed temples (9:26). However, when discussion shifts to the Antichrist and his acts of abomination, he never ever mentions a temple.
2. The largest book on end time prophecy given by Jesus, the book of Revelation, is 22 chapters long. It talks of the Antichrist idolizing himself (Revelation 13), an idol being set up (Revelation 13), desolation of Israel (Revelation 12), forced worship of Antichrist, and a new economic system associated with him. Nevertheless, amidst all this detail, one thing Revelation never ever talks about is the Antichrist sitting in a rebuilt temple.
3. Matthew 24 is Christ’s amazing summary of the end times up until His return. This comes after Christ laments Jerusalem and tells them that the temple will be destroyed. Also, in a chapter earlier, he says Zechariah was slain between the temple and the altar. Even after all this overt discussion of the temple, he fails to use that term to describe the location of the abomination of desolation in the end times. He simply says “holy place” – using a Greek construct (“topos hagios”) that generally refers to locations, as opposed to structures, in the New Testament and the Septuagint. The word that is used for the “Holy Place” room in the temple is simply a variation of “hagios.” “Topos hagios” can refer to a location, or even the location of the sanctuary, as is the case with Leviticus 10:17 in the Septuagint. But it is interesting to note that when “topos hagios” is used, ESV makes the distinction and translates it “place of the sanctuary.”
Why the evidence we do have may suggest there will be no temple:
1. Daniel 9:26 prophesies the destruction of the sanctuary. After this, it proceeds to say how a future ruler will make a covenant with many people for seven years. In the middle of the seven, he stops “sacrifice and offering.” The NIV says he goes on to set up the abomination of desolation on the wing of the temple. However, this is poorly translated, as the original says the desolater will come “on the wing of abominations.” “Wing” (Heb: kanaph) means a bird wing, edge, corner, or extremity or pinnacle, (or when speaking of clothing, a skirt). This is hardly terminology to describe the Antichrist sitting in the main part of the new temple, especially since a verse earlier it says the sanctuary was destroyed. This “wing” could mean the Antichrist gets on the pinnacle of the temple. However, that would fly in the face of most theology regarding a desecrated temple, as most assume the Antichrist gets inside of the temple based on 2 Thess. 2:4, not on top of it.
27"And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of (D)abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a (E)complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
2. Revelation 11:1-2 gives John instructions to measure the “temple of God” and the altar, and the worshipers there. However, he tells John to cast aside the court outside the temple, and not to measure it, because it is given to the Gentiles, who will trample the holy city for 42 months. If this refers to a temple on the ground, it would hardly be evidence that the Antichrist sits in a rebuilt temple. It seems to contrast the trampled outer court with the temple. If the Antichrist sat in the temple building as God, this contrast would not make any sense, as both the temple AND the outer court would be trampled. The likely reason that the temple area is spoken of as separate from the trampled area could be largely explained by how every use of “temple of God” throughout Revelation refers to God’s dwelling in heaven.
1Then there was given me a (A)measuring rod like a staff; and (B)someone said, "Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2"Leave out the (C)court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for (D)it has been given to the nations; and they will (E)tread under foot (F)the holy city for (G)forty-two months.
3. Zechariah 6 says that Jesus will build the temple of the Lord. This prophecy was given while the second temple is still standing. In addition, Daniel 9:26 predicts the temple’s destruction. Logically, this verse could easily be explained by saying the third temple will be built by Jesus in the Millenium (though this may not be a required interpretation).
12"Then say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, a man whose name is (P)Branch, for He will (Q)branch out from where He is; and He will (R)build the temple of the LORD. 13"Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will (S)bear the honor and sit and (T)rule on His throne Thus, He will be a(U)priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices."'
Sacrifice and Offering
There is one clear reference to end time “sacrifice and grain offering” in the Old Testament in Daniel 9:27. This is the case because Daniel 12:11 omits the word “sacrifice” in the original manuscripts.
One could say that since there are some passages that could seem to refer to a temple, and at least one passage that refers to “sacrifices and grain offering” the most logical thing would be to assume that both are there at the same time as a unit.
This is problematic for a couple of reasons:
1. The book of Ezra shows how sacrifices can be given on an altar years before the actual temple is completed. So just because there are sacrifices present, it in no way is indication of the presence of an operating temple.
2. The very verse that proves the presence of “sacrifice and grain offering” uses words that are inappropriate for a rebuilt temple building. Daniel 9:26 speaks of the destruction of the sanctuary, which happened in 70 A.D. It goes on to explain how someone will make a covenant for seven years, then half way through a person will come who causes desolation. When the desolator comes, he is described as coming on the “on the wing of abominations.” “Wing” (Hebrew: kanaph) means “edge, corner, skirt, wing (bird), extremity or pinnacle. “Extremity”, “corner”, “pinnacle”, or “edge” does not seem to accurately describe a man sitting in the center of a new temple building, as many people believe. Also, the fact that no new sanctuary is introduced after its destruction in verse 9:26, strongly indicates this is not referring to a new temple.
Digression: Is an altar necessary?
A side note regarding “sacrifice and grain offering.” Though this likely involves some form of reinstated altar worship, this is by no means required. The word for “sacrifice” is “zebach” which means the following:
From zabach; properly, a slaughter, i.e. The flesh of an animal; by implication, a sacrifice (the victim or the act) -- offer(- ing), sacrifice.
It is a slaughter, but by implication, a sacrifice, according to the definition. Jews to this day use kosher slaughtering procedures throughout the world. It is interesting to note that this is illegal in some countries. Also, more interesting to note is that Hitler banned kosher slaughtering practices upon his invasion of a country. Simply banning “shechita” (kosher slaughtering) may provide the fulfillment of part of this prophecy.
The word for “grain offering” is “minchah.” Its definition
can be found below.
It’s interesting to note that a simple Google search of this word reveals that it is daily practiced by Jews -but not in the form of sacrificial offering. “Minchah” is a common term for recited prayers in the afternoon, which many Jews do everyday.
So, if the Antichrist simply bans kosher slaughter of animals and daily Jewish prayer, it may be able to be considered a fulfillment of this prophecy.
2 Thessalonians 2:4
It is not impossible, but there would not be adequate evidence for a belief in a rebuilt temple, other than this verse. In addition to this, we have seen there are reasons to believe that the temple indeed may not be rebuilt before the time of the Antichrist. In light of all of this, we have to wonder, is this what 2 Thessalonians 2:4 really means? Or are there hidden assumptions that may be influencing how it is read?
2 Thessalonians 2:4
The Greek word used for the temple complex/enclosure is heiron. When it speaks of Jesus going to the temple and teaching, this is the word that is used. However, the word for temple here is “naos.” This can refer to the Jerusalem temple, but only its inner sanctuary building. Also, “naos” can be applied to heathen shrines as well. It can also be used of a “sanctuary” where God dwells, as is the case when the Bible speaks of the church or believers as the “temple” of God, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The word “naos” is often translated “sanctuary” in some literal translations (ESV & Young’s literal Translation). This is eye-opening, considering how sanctuary is used in Daniel 9:17:
Though Daniel was written in Hebrew, not Greek, it is interesting that one of the word’s for the temple is used even of a place where no building is present. Hebrew has about 3 words for temple, heykal, qodesh, and miqdash. Greek, however, only has two, which forces the author to choose between them.
So, can “naos” be used to describe a “desolate sanctuary” as miqdash is used above in Daniel 9:17?
According to one Dictionary writer, it certainly can be.
noun In , a temple, as distinguished from hieron, a shrine (chapel) or sanctuary (in this latter sense not necessarily implying the presence of any edifice).
For those who are unaware, an “edifice” is a building. Here, this very large dictionary written in the early 1900’s says that the word “naos” when contrasted to “heiron” does not even have to refer to a building. So it cannot be proven that Paul is talking about a new building, though the concept is indeed possible and not without merit.
It is true that many people have believed that a temple is required for the Antichrist to desecrate, including early Church fathers. However, an analysis of the passages in question may show how this idea may be unnecessary. It is not intended to prove absolutely that there will be no temple or altar rebuilt, or to disrespect the work of those who have previously researched these issues. It is only meant to say that it is completely feasible for the revealing of the Antichrist at the abomination of desolation, and then the second coming, to both take place without the presence of any rebuilt temple or altar.