Temple or Sanctuary? — What Holly Thinks

If we’ve entered the 70th week of Daniel, then according to Daniel 9:27 the next major thing we should expect to see is a time of peace dawning over the Middle East, allowing Israel to return to its temple sacrifices. So, many Christians are awaiting the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. But what if that’s not necessary?

Don’t get me wrong here. I believe the temple will be rebuilt, but perhaps the entire temple isn’t necessary now. Here’s why I say this. There are two Greek words for “temple” in the New Testament: hieron and naos. The first word, hieron, refers to the entire temple precinct, including all the buildings, balconies, porticos and courts. The second word, naos, refers specifically to the sanctuary within the temple, where the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies are. Naos can also refer to a pagan temple or to the spiritual temple consisting of all believers joined together by Christ. Check this out here: hieron and naos.

The word naos is used by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, where he says the Antichrist will go into the temple and display himself as God. This word is also used throughout the book of Revelation, including Revelation 11:1-2, where the apostle John is told to measure the temple (naos) and altar. But note: he is told to leave out the outer court because it’s been given to the nations (United Nations?) for 42 months (the second half of the 70th week).

Here’s food for thought. What if all that’s necessary for the next prophecies to be fulfilled are that a sanctuary and altar are built, allowing Israel to resume its sacrificial system? If a peace deal were to be made, a sanctuary could be accommodated on the Temple Mount while leaving the Dome of the Rock and Muslim holy sites intact. This could make sense of the command given to John to not measure the outer court which will be defiled by the nations for three and a half years.

While rebuilding the entire temple in its ancient location doesn’t seem likely given current realities — with Muslim sites standing in the way — the building of a smaller sanctuary does seem within the realm of possibility. In fact, Jewish chief rabbis who have been secretly meeting with Condoleezza Rice ahead of the Annapolis conference have told her their one request is for a synagogue to built on the Temple Mount (not an entire temple). Read about it here. Likewise, Israeli politician Uri Ariel, a member of the Knesset (Jewish legislature), has spoken of his plans for a synagogue to be built around the Muslim sites. Read about it here. And current negotiations have suggested that the Temple Mount be under outside control, like the United Nations.

So, a possible scenario could look like this. A peace deal is reached between the Israelis and Palestinians in the months following the Annapolis conference. An outside authority takes control of the Temple Mount, ensuring access to both Jews and Muslims. The Jews build a sanctuary and an altar and reinstate their sacrificial system. But the Antichrist betrays Israel, stops the sacrifices and goes into the sanctuary, where he displays himself as God. The sanctuary is defiled by the nations until the end of the 70th week.

That’s not to say an entire temple won’t be built. It could be. Some Jewish groups have drawn up plans for a temple, and unforeseen and divinely arranged circumstances could clear the way. But it seems the Bible may not necessitate this. The use of the word naos seems to allow for either possibility — a full temple or a smaller sanctuary. Since the Bible seems to allow for either possibility, perhaps so should we.

Yet, we know for sure that, eventually, a full temple — built according to the pattern God gave the prophet Ezekiel — will stand during the Millennium and house God’s presence.

Staying tuned!

— Holly Pivec


An FP reader referred me to a Scripture passage that gives precedent for Israel to resume sacrifices without a full temple in place. In Ezra 3, we learn that, about three months after the exiled Israelites returned to their land, the priests built an altar in Jerusalem and began offering burnt offerings — before the foundations of the new temple were laid. From the time the foundations were laid in the spring of 536 B.C. to the time the temple was completed in the spring of 516 B.C. (see Ezra 6), 20 years had passed — all the while sacrifices were being offered.

More food for thought.

— Holly Pivec