I learned that historically, Israel rebuilt their temple twice.
During the time of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant was housed in a tent and carried from time to time until the Joshua conquered the land of Canaan. The First Jewish Temple was envisioned by David to house the Ark of the Covenant. When King David ruled his kingdom in Jerusalem, he planned to build the temple inside Jerusalem so that all of Israel would come there to worship their one True God, Elohiym Adonai. However, King David died without seeing his vision into a reality but his son, King Solomon did. Solomon completed the construction of the temple and inaugurated it together with the entire Israel nation. In the temple, the Levite priests would serve the people with sacrifices while the people of Israel would pay tithes and offerings to support its operation. And once every year, the High priest would enter the Holy of Holies, the inner most part of the temple and sacrifice a lamb for the sins of the people.
But after the succession of crooked Kings and the splitting of the kingdom, the Babylonians destroyed the temple. This was a judgment by Elohim Adonai against Israel’s idolatry and injustices. God punished them by putting them into exile and making them live under a pagan empire.
Yet in spite of all this, God showed his mercy and compassion to them. He did not leave them without hope. He showed Daniel a vision. Daniel, who was then serving under the pagan Babylonian King, saw that the “Son of Man”, the promised Messiah would come and establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. He would free them from their bondage and end the exile of the Jewish people. He would rebuild the temple and gather them in the true worship of their God, Elohim Adonai. And his kingdom would reign forever and He will be the Lord of all the earth.
After many years, the Persians conquered the Babylonians. They took over the territories and wealth of the Babylonians including the Jewish people. But unlike their predecessor, Persia, under the persuasion of its King’s most favored and trusted servant, Nehemiah, gave permission for any Jew to return in Judea (formerly the land of Israel) and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. And even though, the Jews were still living under a foreign rule at least they would be allowed again to return in their own land and worship their own god in their own temple in their own city, Jerusalem.
The Second Jewish Temple was rebuilt. The sacrifices were re-instituted again and any devout Jew who was scattered all throughout the empire would again bring the tithes and offering to the temple. But since they were still living under a foreign rule they would also need still to pay taxes to the empire. This was probably the reason why Malachi charged the people of Israel with stealing from God. In the book of Malachi, Israel asked how they were stealing from God. God answered that it was through their tithes and offering. He judged them for not giving to God what is God’s because they were more worried of giving what the empire required. And since no one can serve both Empire and God, Malachi foretold in his vision that God would visit their temple and place His judgment into it. He would again destroy it but he would rebuild it anew. And this time, He would rebuild it with something none of the Jews would expect.
Again years had passed. The Romans conquered the Persians and they took over the territories and wealth of the previous empire. But unlike its predecessor, they allowed a conquered nation to have their own king and to control the country; it will be declared as province of Rome and will be assigned a Consul from Rome.
During this time, King Herod developed the surroundings of the Second Jewish Temple the Great. And since he was local leader of the Judea, he would impose further taxes to the Jewish people to cover for his government’s expenses as well as the taxes given to Rome. Now, the Sadducees, an elite religious family during that time, were managing the temple itself. Just like Herod, they impose further taxes to the Jewish people for their expenses as well the taxes given to Rome. And to further increase profit, they even opened the “court of the gentiles” for commercial purposes. On that area, any Jew coming from a far countryside who chooses to buy animal sacrifices in Jerusalem instead of bringing their own could make an exchange there using the Roman “coin” (bearing Caesars image) for currency. Jesus would later condemn this practice during his visit in the temple.
Before his crucifixion, Jesus visited the temple promised by Israel to God and he was dismayed by its condition. He cleansed that temple and drove out the people for their iniquities. His action in the temple caused the religious leaders of his time to plot for his capture and trial. And as recorded by the four gospel writers, Jesus was captured, placed into trial, given up to the Roman and condemned to die at the cross outside Jerusalem in the hills of Golgotha. The prophecy of Malachi was fulfilled: God, through His own Son, Jesus, visited the temple of Israel and zeal for his Father’s house caused him to place judgment against it. He judged that the Second temple would be destroyed and will never be rebuilt again by hands. He declared that his Father in heaven would rebuild it in three days!
But Jesus’ rebuilt temple will not anymore use woods or stones. He was referring to his own human flesh. He was referring to his bodily resurrection. His resurrection was the fulfillment of his prophecy that the place of worship will not be again re-instituted in temples built by the hands but the sown in the Spirit poured out by God in the Pentecost. With his resurrection, all people who believed and baptized with the water and spirit would worship God in all place and they would worship him in spirit and in truth. Any believer would be the living temple of God, a royal priest, offering sacrifices from the unseen altar of his heart, pouring out a living sacrifice – holy and acceptable to God. And this was all made possible because Jesus has become our once and for all sacrifice at the eternal altar in heaven.
The prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled: God freed the people from the bondage of sin. He ended the exile or alienation of world and accepted them because of love and by grace through faith. He rebuilt the temple made of unseen hearts of men by worshipping him by his spirit. He gathered them in the true worship of God, Elohim Adonai. And He made his kingdom come and reign forever with Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
In the year 70 A.D., the Romans finally sacked Jerusalem and the Second Jewish temple has never been rebuilt until this day. The disciples of Jesus during that time left Jerusalem and carried with them the cornerstone of the God’s true temple, Jesus. Even though his own people condemned him, he was vindicated by his Father and exalted to be the head of the Church, the body of Christ, the new Temple. And with the rebuilding of this new temple body, John said:
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. ”
And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”