The Millennial Temple
August 25th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE
Dr. W.A. Criswell
8-25-85 10:50 a.m.
I thought today I would preach out of the National Geographic magazine. That is why I got it up here. Dr. Merrill, you are going to like that. Oh dear! Well, as you know I am preaching through the Book of Ezekiel, which is a new introduction to me. I went to school for years and years. I went to school for twenty-two consecutive years, and I cannot remember having ever heard the book mentioned anytime I went to school. I went to seminary six years. They just pass it by. They do not even look at it, and those who do put it down.
Well, as you have been attending these services, I have been studying, and praying, and reading, and poring over the Book of Ezekiel. And I can say in all truth there has never been a study in my life that has ever meant more to me than these months that we have been reading and expounding the Word of God in Ezekiel.
We have come now to the climax; the end of the book beginning at chapter 40, Ezekiel chapter 40. And the vision that he has in this nine concluding chapters of the book is a vision of the millennial temple. Now because we haven’t time, I just read the introduction, the first two verses of chapter 40. He pinpoints it to the exact day.
In the five and twentieth year of our captivity –
been over in Babylon as a slave, as a captive for twenty-five years –
in the beginning of that year, in the tenth day of that month, in the fourteenth year after the city was smitten –
after Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the king of Babylon, by Nebuchadnezzar –
in the selfsame day the hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me, thither.
Then he tells where the Lord brought him.
In the visions of God, He brought me into the land of Israel.
Now he is over there a slave in Babylon, but in the vision God took him to the land of his birth where he was a priest. He was thirty years old when he was carried a captive into Israel. "He took me into the land of my birth, my homeland, and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as a frame of a city on the south" [Ezekiel 40:2]. He is there in a high mountain, and as we will see, as we shall see, a place, he calls it oblation, sanctified and hallowed for the worship of God, on which high mountain the millennial temple is built; and the city of Jerusalem is to the south. Then follows after, in minutest precisest detail, the description of that temple, the millennial temple.
Now as I read, and as I study, and as I pore over those books, everybody, seems to me, spiritualizes the vision; they all do. They say there is never to be any such temple built. It is an ideal. It is a spiritual allegory, and it stands for certain things, and it means certain things, but there is no temple as Ezekiel describes that has ever been built, or will ever be built. So they spiritualize, they allegorize, they ideal the passage.
Now it would be a strange thing for you, I would think, to come here to this sanctuary and hear me preach for forty-one years, as I preach, literally, the Bible – I am a biblical literalist. I believe what the Bible says. I believe God meant what He wrote here in Holy Scripture. So when I preach, for forty-one years you’ve been listening to me, I preach the Bible as being literally true. Now, if we come to these climactic chapters in Ezekiel, and all of the sudden I become an allegorizer, I become a spiritualizer, I don’t believe the Word of God as it says, I think it means something else, and then I sit down and try to think through what I think it might mean – if I did that, you would have every right to say, "Preacher, I just don’t quite understand you. Forty-one years, you in that pulpit preaching the Bible is literally true, and now when we come to this great vision of the prophet Ezekiel, you spiritualize it." Well, my brother, we’re just not going to do that. We are not about to do that. We are not even thinking about doing that. We are going to look upon this beautiful, incomparably meaningful millennial temple as one that one of these days in the millennium is going to be built.
Now that is the background of what we are going to preach about this morning, the millennial temple; a reality that God will bring to pass when Jesus comes to make everything right in this world, when He establishes His millennial kingdom [Matthew 13:41]. Now so precisely and minutely does Ezekiel describe this temple that you can see pictures of it in books. They draw pictures of it. They draw sketches of it. There is no minutest detail in that temple that is not measured and presented and described.
Now the background of all of this is that God has chosen to meet with His people in a sanctuary. Now I didn’t invent that; that’s God. The heart of the Old Testament of Judaism, of the Old Testament faith and religion, the heart of it lies in the assembling of God’s people in a sanctuary. It is no different with us in the New Testament. The same God there is our God today. Jesus is called Jehovah in the Old Testament, Jehovah Jesus. Now God ordained that we worship Him in a sanctuary. We come together [Hebrews 10:25]. We have a name for us. In the Greek in the New Testament, God calls us an ekklēsia, we are an assembly. In the English language they finally changed it to church. But that is the program and will and purpose of God for our people, that we meet together. When a man says to you, "I can worship God just as well under a green tree or on the side of a flowing creek as I can in church," he is lying. He is prevaricating. God never said anything that even approached that. From the beginning, God has purposed that His people come together. It has a social side to it that is undeniable and eternal. We come together to worship the Lord. We sing His praises. We read His Word. We bow in prayer. That’s God.
Now the Lord said – and I will name these passages but you don’t have to turn to them – the Lord said in Exodus chapter 25, beginning at verse 8:
Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, Moses, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
Now I’m going to read the conclusion of that twenty-fifth chapter. "And Moses, Moses, you look, you see to it that you make everything after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount" [Exodus 25:40].
And Hebrews 8:5 quotes that. God said to Moses, "I will meet you and your people in a sanctuary, and this is the way that I want you to make it." And the pattern of that sanctuary is from heaven. And God said to Moses, "You make this sanctuary according to the pattern that I give you" [Exodus 25:40]. And the Lord gave him the pattern of the tabernacle on the mount where he listened to the voice of God forty days and forty nights [Exodus 25:8-9].
The same kind of a thing, the exact pattern of the thing, happened when David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the temple. In 1 Chronicles 28, verse 9:
And thou, Solomon my son,
the Lord hath chosen thee to build a house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it.
Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of all that he had received from God by the Spirit.
All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.
And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of a good courage, and do it . . .
[1 Chronicles 28:9-12, 19-20]
So when the temple was built, it was built according to the pattern that God moved David in writing to draw and to give to his son Solomon. Now there is to be a temple. Now that temple of Solomon was recreated by Zerubbabel and recreated again by Herod. Now there is to be a temple on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem in the tribulation. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation: "There was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel said, Rise, and measure the temple of God" [Revelation 11:1]. And when I turn to the fifteenth chapter, "After that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony, was opened" [Revelation 15:5]. There is a temple of the Lord God in the tribulation.
Now had I not seen it here and read it here in the Revelation, Jesus spoke of that temple in His apocalyptic discourse in Matthew 24 [Matthew 24:15]. And He quoted Daniel chapter 9, Daniel chapter 11, and Daniel chapter 12, referring to that temple in the tribulation [Daniel 9:17, 26; 11:31; 12:11]. And in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, in chapter 2, verse 4, the apostle Paul says that the man of sin, the ultimate Antichrist, is going to sit in the last three and half years of that tribulation, he is going to sit in that temple presenting himself, declaring himself as God [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4].
Now what do you think about that? What do you see on that Mount of Moriah in Jerusalem today? You won’t see any temple there. There is a mosque there. It is called the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock, or the Mosque of Omar. And right to the south of it, right below it there is the Mosque Al Aqsa. Of all of the places that are holy to the Muslim, first is Mecca, second is Medina, and third is Dome of the Rock. They say that from that place Mohammed ascended into heaven, and they show you his footprint on the rock. And they say that Gabriel – and they will show you his handprint on the rock – that the angel Gabriel held this rock earthbound because the rock wanted to follow Mohammed into heaven. And they look upon that place as being the hallowed and holy ground of the Islamic world. Yet God says in the days of the tribulation there’s going to be a temple to Jehovah on that rock. Now we have a confrontation awaiting us in this weary world.
What about the Jews, and that rock, and that temple site? Before the Six Day War was fought in June of 1967, in May, before that war was fought in June of 1967, the Washington Post ran this quarter page advertisement in their newspaper. I quote from it:
To persons of the Jewish faith all over the world: a project to rebuild the temple of God in Israel is now being started. With divine guidance and help, the temple will be completed. It will signal a new era in Judaism. Jews will be inspired to conduct themselves in such a way that our Maker will see fit to pay us a visit here on earth. Executive talent, administrators, and workers on all levels are needed. God will know those desiring to participate.
Always in the thought of a Jew is the temple in Jerusalem. After the Six Day War in 1967 speculation immediately arose, after the Israelis seized Jerusalem, put the city together in their hands, they immediately speculated, the whole world did, over the possibility of rebuilding the temple, and Time magazine devoted a page to that possibility.
Now in the National Geographic of last month, July 1985, there is a long leading article in the National Geographic about the Jews and the rebuilding of that temple. And I read from the last paragraph, "But a new unapologetic age stirs as Israelis return to the strength of their Jewish past. In the rough settlements of Judea and Samaria, they dream of their ancient kingdom. In Jerusalem, some of the priestly clan," the kohanim, in Hebrew the name for priest is kohen; when you see a Jew named Cohen his name is Mr. Priest, Mr. Cohen. "In Jerusalem, some of the priestly clan, the kohanim" – in Hebrew, the plural is "im, im," like cherub, cherubim plural, seraph, seraphim plural, kohanim meaning many priests – "In Jerusalem some of the priestly clan, the kohanim, study the archaic laws of animal sacrifice in preparation for the rebuilding of the temple," this minute, right now. And these are some of the things that in my study I quote. Rabbi Shalom Kahem Abener, quote, "We should never forget that the supreme purpose of the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of our state is the building of the temple. That is why God is gathering us home," the rabbi says.
In Israel today, Jews are learning the temple rituals and studying the manufacture of priestly garments. In Jerusalem, Yeshiva Hakohanim trains young Jews for the priesthood in a fifteen year course that includes animal sacrifices. Because the only place to sacrifice is the temple, and because the only place the temple can be erected is on Mt. Moriah where the Dome of the Rock mosque is, all time and history are preparing for that final confrontation that leads to the Third World War and the final tribulation.
In March 1983, dozens of Jews were arrested for trying to blow up the Dome of the Rock. In January of last year, Israeli security threatened an assault on the mount including a plot to blow up the mosque. One of those arrested was a man who sought to steal an F-16 war plane to blast the mosque off the rock. The Muslim supreme council warned, "If the attempted explosions had succeeded, all Arab countries – and Israel is surrounded by fifty million Arabs – "all Arab countries would have immediately launched a jihad, a holy war, against Israel," end quote, which is what some of the Jews want. If they obliterate the mosque, the Muslims would wage war in such a vicious jihad that "the messiah," quote from them, "the messiah would come and save his people from destruction."
We are facing those last critical days. I have been to Jerusalem seven times, and I never look at that mosque on the Dome of the Rock but I have the inward intuitive conviction that the day is soon approaching when either God by His hand in an earthquake, or the confrontation between Israel and their Arab neighbors, are going to blow it up. That thing is there for the moment, but when that day comes, you are going to see the denouement of all history. It will be the end of the world, and we will enter the ultimate and final tribulation.
Now, in that tribulation you have, as I just read out of the Bible, you have a temple. The Jews will rebuild that temple. And in the days of the tribulation, the seven years of the tribulation, it is there [Daniel 9:26]. Now beyond the days of the tribulation, when Jesus comes again, I don’t know what will happen to that temple in the tribulation. I am just supposing that the Armageddon – Armageddon is a war, it climaxes in a great battle at which time Jesus comes – but I am just supposing that in that war of Armageddon that lasts seven years, precipitated by the invasion of Israel on the part of Russia, I am just supposing in that awful war, atomic war, the whole world gathered there to battle, two hundred million soldiers from China alone [Revelation 9:16], I am just supposing that in that awful war, when for a thousand six hundred furlongs, when from Megiddo down to Bosrah, blood is up to the bridles of the horses [Revelation 14:20], I am just supposing that in that awesome conflict that the temple of the tribulation is destroyed.
Now, when we come to the millennium, in that battle of Armageddon, the Lord comes [Revelation 19:11-16]. And the first thing that happens is, according to Ezekiel, there is going to be built by the hand of God, a marvelous, glorious millennial temple on a high mountain with Jerusalem to the south [Ezekiel 40:2].
In these chapters from 40 to 48, Ezekiel says that the twelve tribes of regathered Israel will be allotted their ancestral land, and it goes in a band from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River [Ezekiel 47:13-48:35]. It goes across this way. And it starts at the top, twelve great sections going down to the bottom. And in the middle of those allotments there is a large, what Ezekiel calls an oblation, a dedication to God, a sanctuary that belongs to God. In the middle of those allotments, is this large oblation, a vast land dedicated to the Lord God, and it is divided into three parts. The upper part of that oblation; one third of it is given to the Levites; that’s where Levites, the people that serve in the temple, that’s where they live. In the center of that oblation, there is a section given to the priests. And in that oblation the millennial temple is erected on a high mountain. And then the third part of that oblation is given to the prince, the ruler of Israel [Ezekiel 45:1-7]. Now in the center of that oblation is this glorious temple that arises to God, and it is meticulously described. Every little part of it is carefully measured. And it is there to the glory of the worship of Jehovah Jesus in the millennium.
"Now, pastor, being a literalist, just exactly what are you going to do about two things when you say that temple will be literally built? There will be a temple there in the millennium. Now what are you going to do about two things? First what are you going to do about animal sacrifices?" In Ezekiel, there is meticulous detail concerning the ritual of animal sacrifices, and the Lord Jesus is there. He is the King of all the earth in the millennium, and they are going to have animal sacrifices in that temple [Ezekiel 45:15-25]. And the whole Book of Hebrews in the New Testament says that animal sacrifices are forever done away [Hebrews 9:12; 10:18]. He is our atonement [Romans 5:11]. His blood was shed for the remission of our sins [Matthew 26:28], and no longer do we sacrifice animals. "Now, pastor, you are a biblical literalist. Just exactly what are you going to do about those animal sacrifices in the millennial temple?" [Ezekiel 40:41-43]
Well, I am just like you. I was dumbfounded. And O Lord, what am I going to do? Here I’ve been preaching forty-one years to these dear patient people, and now what am I going to do about a literal interpretation of this millennial temple and its sacrificial ritual? Well, I have prayed and searched the mind of God, and I’m not saying I am omniscient, but I have an answer from heaven to my heart. A sacrifice is a shared meal. Outside of just one, outside of the whole burnt offering, and that was just one little tiny infinitesimal part of the sacrificial system, outside of that burnt offering all of the sacrificial system, all of it was a shared meal. The man brought his family to the house of God. He offered a sacrifice, and he and his family, and if he invited friends or shared it with a priest [Leviticus 7:14], they ate it together. It was a shared meal.
And when that millennial temple is built, it is going to be very expansive. The oblation is very large; it is miles and miles. When that millennial temple is built, Israel is going up to the house of the Lord with an offering, with a sacrifice, and it is going to be sacrificed by the priest [Ezekiel 43:18-27]. And the Israeli, and his family, and his friends, and if he invites the priest, they are going to eat it there. And they are going to eat it in thanksgiving for their God, and King, and Lord, and Messiah, Jehovah Jesus. And they are going to break the bread and drink the cup in love and gratitude to the Lord God who has saved them and delivered them.
And lest I think now that is an unusual thing to do, we do that here in this church once a month. We call it a eucharisteō, a thanksgiving service; a eucharisteō, a eucharist. Eucharisteō is the Greek word for to give thanks. Eucharist is thanksgiving. We gather here once a month, and we break bread, and we eucharisteō, we thank God for what Jesus has done for us Gentiles. And we eucharisteō; we thank God over the cup for the blood that washes away our sins [Revelation 1:5]. We do it here in this assembly of the Lord once a month. They are going to do it in the millennial temple. They are going up to the house of the Lord. They are going to sacrifice. They are going to kill an animal, and they are going to eat it just as we eat meat. They are going to eat with the family. And they are going to eat it in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord Jesus. And they are going to share the meal in love and gratitude for what the Lord God has done for them.
Do you see anything wrong with that? I don’t, Avon. I don’t. I don’t see a thing in the world wrong with our meeting and eucharisteō, thanking God for what Jesus has done for us. And I don’t see anything wrong in the Israeli according to his ritual, going up to the house of the Lord, to His temple, and eating a meal and saying, "We thank God that He has done so much for us."
Well, that’s what God put on my heart as I studied and prayed over it. "Now pastor, you’ve got one other thing. You have one other thing. You not only have a sacrificial ritual there of animals in that millennial temple [Ezekiel 43:18-27; 45:13-25; 46:1-24], but you have one other thing. It is not built down there in Jerusalem anymore. It is on a high mountain. And out of that temple from the threshold on the east, there flows an enlarging river of water" [Ezekiel 47:1] – that will be the sermon next Sunday – "an enlarging river of water, and it flows down to the east. And when it flows in the east to the Dead Sea and touches the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea comes to life, and it is filled with fishers. It is filled with fish, and fishermen surround the whole boundary of the Dead Sea [Ezekiel 47:1-10].
"Now pastor, what are you going to do about that? Because up there where that temple is to be located, the watershed is to the west; it goes to the Mediterranean. It doesn’t flow to the east. It flows to the west, and it is on a high mountain up there, and there’s no high mountain up there on which to build such a temple. Now what are you going to do about that?" Well, it all depends upon what you think about the Lord God. I think God is going to reshape this whole creation. And I think a part of that creation is going to be a marvelous rearrangement of that Holy Land.
"Now what makes you think that, pastor?" I will give you a good instance of that, and this is just an illustration. In the fourteenth chapter of the prophet Zechariah, he says what is going to happen when Jesus comes down from heaven. He says, verse 4:
And His feet –
Zechariah 14:4 –
and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mountain of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall move toward the north, and half of it shall move toward the south.
And the Lord shall be King over the all the earth.
[Zechariah 14:4, 9]
Now I just read one other out of a multitude, things are going to happen when Jesus comes again. In the Book of the Revelation in the sixth chapter, twelfth verse: "I beheld when He opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake" [Revelation 6:12], and then it describes all the things in heaven and earth. And then it says in verse 14, "And every mountain and island were moved out of their places" [Revelation 6:14]. My brother, if I can believe the Word of God, when Jesus comes there are going to be tremendous, cataclysmic, catastrophic things that happen to this planet Earth! One of them was what Zechariah said: the Mount of Olives, where His feet touch down on this earth, is going to split wide open, and part of it move to the north, and part of it to the south, and a great valley for God’s people in between [Zechariah 14:4].
And according to the Revelation, there are going to be catastrophic, cataclysmic earthquakes, and every mountain and island moved out of their place [Revelation 6:14]. There is going to be a tremendous, tremendous touching of God when He comes down and His feet are planted on this earth [Zechariah 14:4]. Therefore, when I read in Ezekiel of these marvelous things that are going to happen to the Holy Land in rearranging its topography, I say in my heart, well, that’s just one of those things God is going to do when He comes down and His feet touch this earth.
Now I just have one thing to solve in my heart about that, and that is, do you think God could do that? Do you think God could do all of those things to this earth? Do you? Well, just look at you for a minute. My brother, we don’t ever stumble before the omnipotent power of Almighty God, we just don’t do it. He is a God of miracle. I look around the world. I live in a world of miracle. Where did it come from? You can study science, which is nothing but the observation of phenomena, you can study science forever, and you will never find out where this world comes from. God made it [Genesis 1:1]. And you can have a big bang theory or you can have any other kind of atomic theory, but God created this world, and it is a miracle.
These planets swinging around the sun, and these universes above us and beyond us, it is miracle what God has done. And He is going to redo this earth [Revelation 21:1-2]. It is going to be remade. It is going to be just beautiful. Not only that, but everything in it God is going to remake [Revelation 21:5]. In the eleventh chapter in the Book of Isaiah, he says the wolf is going to dwell with the lamb, and the leopard is going to lie down with the kid: and the lion is going to eat straw like an ox. And the child will play in an adder’s nest [Isaiah 11:6-8], and the child will put his hand upon the deadly most venomous, poisonous reptiles, and they will just be toys for the child to play with. Think of that. I think of that poem by the mystic poet:
TYGER, tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
[from "The Tyger," by William Blake]
Just think of that. Children going to play with deadly adders and cobras, and the ox and the lion are going to eat out of the same bin. It is another world. It is another world. That is God. That is the ableness of God.
And I look at our own homes and families. When I give this invitation, you are going to see some families come down here with babies. Can you believe that? A baby: what omnipotent hand or eye could create such a miracle of life and living? A soul in the image of father and mother and God: what a miracle, God’s hand!
I don’t stumble at it. And when I read in the Bible of the marvelous things God is going to do when He comes again in the millennium, I just say, "Praise the Lord! Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that wonderful?" I live literally in a world of miracle. Not only looking all around me, not only seeing our people bring their babies that God gave them, I live in a world of miracle in the rebirth, the recreation, the regeneration of our people born again, born anew, made on the inside of us like our blessed God [2 Corinthians 3:18]. I say it is a miracle.
Sometime ago, several years ago when Ira McCollister was the leader of our mission work, they had a Christmas dinner down here at the church. And they invited people that had been introduced to Jesus from all of those missions over there in West Dallas. Sweet people, I sat there listening and I cried. I wept for three solid hours. What happened was the program: those men and women had been lifted out of the gutter and had been made to rejoice in the favor, and love, and grace, and forgiveness of Jesus, and they were testifying. A man would stand up and say, "I was in the gutter. I was a helpless, alcoholic drunkard. And this pastor here came to see me, prayed for me, won me to Jesus. And now I have a good job. We live in a nice little home. And the favored light of the sunshine from heaven falls upon us." And another man would stand up, and he would say, "I was violent and vicious, and I beat my children, and I beat my wife, and they dreaded to see me come home." "Now," he says, "I’ve been saved. I’ve been rejuvenated. I’m a new man. And now when I come home, my children open their arms to greet me and meet me and love me, and my wife is happy that I share our home with them."
I live in that kind of a world, changed people, blessed people, God’s intervening hand in the life of His people. So when I read about these marvelous miracles that will attend the coming of our Savior and the building of that millennial house of worship, the sanctuary of God, all I do when I read it, I just say, "Lord, that is just like You." That is just like God. That is the hand omnipotent of heaven itself. And I just thank the Lord and wait for the day of His coming.
Isn’t that going to be a marvelous time when nobody will be sick, and nobody will be crippled, and nobody will be blind, and nobody will be hurt, and everything will be perfect, and every wrong will be righted? And Jesus will be our King and our Lord, and we will see those Israelis go up to their sanctuary, making offerings to God and sharing their meals with love and thanksgiving.
And we will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb with our Savior and break bread with Him, and drink the cup anew with Him in the kingdom of our Lord [Revelation 19:6-9]. There’s a great day coming, my brother. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever lose heart. Don’t ever be depressed. Don’t ever lose hope. There is a better day coming, and Jesus is bringing it with Him. And that’s why we make appeal to your heart to open your soul heavenward and God-ward, and let the sunshine of God’s presence flood in.
Lord, Lord, what a privilege, what a happiness, what a gladness to walk in thy fellowship, to love Thee and serve Thee, and what an infinite goodness God hath wrought for us when He brought us together in the ekklēsia, the fellowship of His church.
"Pastor, this is God’s day for me. I want publically to accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. And I want to belong to this household of God’s people, God’s family, and I am coming." The Holy Spirit may lay upon your heart some other appeal, answer with your life. You will be glad that you did. In this moment when we sing our song of appeal, if you are in the balcony, there is time and to spare, down a stairway, on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, "This is a great day for me, pastor. I am on the way." Angels attend you, God will bless you as you come, and welcome, welcome, while we stand and while we sing.