The Millennial Temple
August 25th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-25-85 8:15 a.m.
And no less, bless the wonderful and multitudinous people who are listening to this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And in our preaching through the Book of Ezekiel, we have come to the last chapters. The message is entitled The Millennial Temple, and it is based upon Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48, Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48 [Ezekiel 40:1-48:35]. I will just read the introduction of the vision. If we had hours we would look at all of it. He pinpoints the exact moment:
In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month,
in the fourteenth year after the city was smitten—
after Jerusalem was destroyed—
in the selfsame day the hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me, thither.
In the visions of God, brought He me into the land of Israel.
Now he is in Babylon; he is a slave, captive there [Ezekiel 40:1]. And in the vision God brought him into the land of Israel and set him “upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south” [Ezekiel 40:2], then follows these nine chapters of description of the millennial temple [Ezekiel 40:3-48:35]. Now, all of the commentators that you will read—I hardly know an exception—and all of the expositors and all of the interpreters will spiritualize these chapters that follow after. There’s no such thing, they say, as a possibility of this temple that Ezekiel describes as being literal.
Now you have been listening to me preach for forty-one years. And I am a biblical literalist. I just believe the Bible as it is, and follow its words as they say. And you’re not expecting me to stand up here now after forty-one years, and say, “I believe that this is a spiritual ideal; that it is not a literal temple, nor was it ever expected to be.” You’re not thinking of my coming here to the Bible, now after forty-one years, and saying, “We’re going to look upon this as a spiritualized ideal.” No we’re not!
Every syllable and every sentence and every indication of this millennial temple that Ezekiel describes, every measurement in it, every detail in it is so exact that you can find books that will take pictures of this millennial temple [Ezekiel 40-48]. They will make sketches of this millennial temple. And for me to stand here and spiritualize it, allegorize it, idealize it, saying that no such temple will ever be built, it’s just in the vision and imagination of the prophet, for me to do that is unthinkable! So we’re not going to do it. We’re going to look upon this temple as someday being actualized, realized. It is coming to pass. It is the worship place of the Lord God Jesus Jehovah in the millennial reign of the King of heaven and earth.
Now with that basis and with that understanding, why, let’s start. The heart of the Jewish faith, kind of like the heart of our faith, is in an assembly. Now this man who says, “I can worship God under any green tree and on any running river bank or creek bank,” now that’s in his idea; that’s not God’s. You won’t find that in the Bible, never. In the Old Testament, God’s people gathered in some kind of a sanctuary [Leviticus 8:3; Numbers 11:16; Joshua 18:1; Ezra 10:9]. And in the New Testament we are commanded “Not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25]. Even the name of us, ekklēsia, church, means an assembly. We gather at worship in the name of the Lord. Our faith, as the Judeo faith, is always social, always. It’s us. It is we. It is God’s people.
Now this is the will of God for us, I say, from the beginning. For example, and you don’t need to turn to these passages, I’ll just read them: for example, the Lord said to Moses, when he brought His people out of captivity, He said to him, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it” [Exodus 25:8-9]. Now turn the page from this [twenty-five] chapter of the Book of Exodus, and the last verse says, “And you be careful, and you look that you make all of this after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount” [Exodus 25:40]. And that’s recorded, of course, in the Book of Hebrews. God says, and the pattern of that worship sanctuary is in heaven [Hebrews 8:5]; and God showed it to Moses, and said, “You make this according to the pattern. And I will dwell in the sanctuary that you create” [Exodus 25:8-9].
Now when I turn to the temple, I read the same things. For hundreds of years, God met His people in the tabernacle. Then He says, and I’m reading now from 1 Chronicles 28: , “Thou, Solomon my son,” says David . . . “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” [1 Chronicles 28:10-11]. And it’s the same pattern that God showed to Moses [Exodus 25:8-9m 40], the pattern of all that he had 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” [1 Chronicles 28:19]. I read all of this to emphasize that God intends for His people to meet Him in a sanctuary. So, when we come to the days of the tribulation, we find that they are going to meet in a temple. Isn’t that an amazing thing? We’re going to have a temple, a temple in the tribulation [Revelation 11:1-2].
Oh, dear me! Now what? Because when you go to Jerusalem and you visit that Holy City, you’re not going to find any temple there. You’re going to find the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock, and you’re going to find to the right of it, just below it, the Mosque Al Aqsa, and they are shrines of Islam. And next to Mecca and next to Medina, the most sacred shrine of Islam is that mount where the Dome of the Rock, the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock is located.
Now Islam says that on that rock you will find the footprint of Mohammed when he ascended from there to heaven, and they show you that footprint. And the Mohammedan says, and on that rock you’ll find the handprint of Gabriel when he held the rock earthbound because the rock wanted to follow Mohammed into heaven. That is a sacred place for them. And yet when I read about the tribulation—now remember I’ve said we had a tabernacle in the wilderness [Exodus 40:33-34] and we had a temple under Solomon [1 Kings 6:14], that it was recreated under Zerubbabel and under Herod [Ezra 6:15]. Today there’s a mosque there, the holy shrine of Islam; but when I read the Revelation, I find a temple in the tribulation. For example, in Revelation 11, “There was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God” [Revelation 11:1]. Man, there’s no temple there for him to measure. I turn the page in chapter 15: “After that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened” [Revelation 15:5]. There is a temple there on top of the mount and no mosque. There’s a temple there [Revelation 11:1-2].
Now you have, in the development of today’s history, you have a strange come to pass. Before the Six Day War was fought in June of 1967, on the twenty-first day of May in 1967, before the war—now you get those days—in May of 1967, before the Six Day War was fought in June of 1967, the Washington Post ran this quarter page advertisement. Quote:
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 in all lands are needed. God will know those desiring to participate.
Always in the Jewish mind is the thought of the temple. After the Six Day War in 1967—that’s when they pulled that country together and conquered Jerusalem—after the Six Day War in 1967, speculation immediately arose, after the Israeli seized Jerusalem, over the possibility of rebuilding the temple. And Time magazine devoted a whole page to this possibility. Now, this is last month. This is July’s edition of the National Geographic magazine, and their lead article is on that. I wish I had time to quote from it extensively. I’ll just quote, say one sentence from the last of it:
But a new unapologetic age stirs as Israeli’s 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—kohan is the Hebrew word for priest—the kohanim, in Jerusalem, the priestly clan, study the archaic laws of animal sacrifice in preparation for the rebuilding of the temple.
Now, Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Aviner, “We should never forget.” Now, these are current quotations right now, “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’s why God is gathering us together,” he says. Then I continue: “In Israel today, Jews are learning the temple rituals and studying the manufacture of priestly garments. In Jerusalem, Yeshiva Ha Kohanim 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 the mount where the Dome of the Rock 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 thwarted an assault on the mount, including a plot to blow up the mosque. One of the arrested men sought to steal an F16 plane to blast the mosque off the mount. The Muslim supreme council warned when that was done, quote, “If the attempted explosions had succeeded, 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 such a vicious jihad that, quote, “The Messiah would come to save His people from destruction.” Always that thought of the temple.
And when that confrontation comes—now, it isn’t just I looking at the political situation there that avows that mosque is not going to stay there. You just put it down. Now that’s a human judgment, but it isn’t just I that says that; God’s Book says that. There’s no mosque, the Dome of the Rock, in the Book of the Revelation, in the tribulation. There’s a temple there [Revelation 11:1-2].
Then beyond that temple, there is one other, and that is the temple of the millennium. Now, Ezekiel devotes chapters 40 through 48 to the description of this temple [Ezekiel 40:1-48:35], but he’s not alone in that. I’m reading now from the sixth chapter of the Book of the prophecy of Zechariah, verse 9:
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Take of them of the captivity—
And speak unto them, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the Man whose name is The Branch shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord.
Even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them.
[Zechariah 6:9-10, 12-13]
This is Ezekiel’s description of the holy temple of our millennial kingdom [Ezekiel 30-48]. Now when I look at that temple, and as I say, it is meticulously in infinite detail—it amazes me! There are nine chapters describing that temple [Ezekiel 40-48]. Now when I look at that temple, there are two things that immediately bother. I mean they greatly concern. The first one is this: in that millennial temple described by Ezekiel and by Zechariah and mentioned by others, in that millennial temple there are animal sacrifices [Ezekiel 43:18-27; Ezekiel 45:17]. Now the thing presses upon us: Jesus in His final atonement, shedding of His blood [Matthew 27:32-50], Jesus forever did away with the necessity for an animal sacrifice. The whole Book of Hebrews expatiates on that. That’s what the Book of Hebrews is about, that the Lord Jesus forever did away with animal sacrifices [Hebrews 10:4-14].
Now in the millennial kingdom there are animal sacrifices [Ezekiel 43:18-27, 45:17]. What in the earth do you do with that? Well, I’m just like you right now. What do you do with that? In my studying and praying and asking God for blessing, “Lord, Lord, what?” and it confused me no end, because I say, “I’m a literalist, and this is no spiritualized ideal.” This is an animal sacrifice, a whole system, a whole ritual of animal sacrifices in the millennial kingdom. And Christ did away with all animal sacrifices. “Now what, preacher? You say you’re a literalist?” All right, I will tell you what came to my heart. Now, I don’t claim to be omniscient or inspired beyond any other of God’s servants. I just speak to you out of my heart, as I pray and as I study.
What are those animal sacrifices in the millennial kingdom? This is what I think they are. In that millennial temple there is no Holy of Holies [Hebrews 9:3]. In that millennial temple there is no ark of the covenant on which you sprinkle the blood [Leviticus 16:14]. In that millennial temple ritual there is no Day of Atonement [Leviticus 16:1-34]. Those are three glaring omissions when you read those nine chapters, 40 to 48 [Ezekiel 40-48]. There’s no veil separating between us and the Lord God in His Holy of Holies. There’s no Day of Atonement. There’s no veil separating. There’s no Holy of Holies, and there’s no ark of the covenant.
Then why these animal sacrifices? Well, this is what I think they are. Every sacrifice in the Bible, every sacrifice is a shared meal, all except the whole burnt offering, which is just one [Leviticus 1:3-17, 6:8-13]. All of the other sacrifices, all of them, every one of those sacrifices, thousands and thousands of those sacrifices being made, they were shared meals [Leviticus 3:1-17; 17:3-4]. That’s what a sacrifice is. A sacrifice is a shared meal. The man brings his family. Elkanah will bring Hannah and his family [1 Samuel 1:1-3]. It’s a shared meal [Leviticus 3:1-17, 17:3-4]. That’s what a sacrifice is, a shared meal; all except the whole burnt offering [Leviticus 1:3-17, 6:8-13].
Now, in the millennial temple, what’s going to happen is those Israelis—those Jewish people who have accepted the Lord—are going to the house of the Jehovah Messiah Christ, and they’re going to eat together in their loving worship of the Savior; they’re going to eat together in thanksgiving for Him and in love and adoration of what the Messiah Jesus Jehovah has done for them. That’s what the animal sacrifice is, and that’s what it’s going to mean. They’re going to gather there in their families, and they’re going to eat together a sacrifice. They’re going to eat it. A sacrifice is a shared meal, and they’re going to eat it together in loving thanksgiving and praise to the Lord Jesus.
That’s what we do when we have the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. We eat this bread: “Thank You, Jesus.” It’s a Eucharistic service, eucharisteō; it’s a thanksgiving service. That’s what it is, “Thank You, Jesus, for dying for me” [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And when we drink that cup, “Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus, for pouring out the crimson of Your life for me” [Matthew 26:28].
And the Jews are going to do that in their millennial temple. They’re going to eat together. They’re going to make a sacrifice; they’re going to eat this sacrifice with bread, and it’s going to be a meal, just as they do now with a Passover [Exodus 12:1-28]. They’re going to eat, and they’re going to eat it in thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus and in love and admiration for the wonderful Savior.
All right, there’s one other thing that bothers me. Oh dear, when I read it! Dear Savior, what is this? The millennial temple is in another world. The millennial temple is on a high mountain, and the city of Jerusalem is to the south. And in those nine chapters [Ezekiel 40-48], the twelve tribes have strips from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, this way: they start at the north, go clear down to the south [Ezekiel 48:1-27]. And in the middle of those twelve allotments of Israel, in the middle is a large, large allotment that Ezekiel calls an oblation; an oblation [Ezekiel 48:9-12, 18, 20-21]. And in the middle of that oblation, there is a large area dedicated to the Levites [Ezekiel 48:9-20]. And in the middle there is a large area dedicated to the priests and the sanctuary, the millennial temple [Ezekiel 48:8, 11-12]. And then the third, a large oblation dedicated to the prince who rules over the people [Ezekiel 48:21]. Then is the city of Jerusalem, down there in that third part [Ezekiel 48:15-17].
Well, out of the threshold of that temple on a high mountain up there, there is a river that flows from the threshold of the temple, the river of life, and it flows east [Ezekiel 47:1-9]. But when you look at the country now—the configuration, the topography of the land now—the watershed is west. The watershed is west up there, but the river flows east, and it’s located on a high mountain up there. There’s no such thing as that possibility without a miraculous reconfiguration of that land. “All right, pastor. What do you think about that?”
All right, this is what I think about that. Our Lord God is a God of infinite miracles. And when that millennium comes, now you listen to these miracles. I’m reading from Zechariah 14, “His feet,” our Lord’s feet, when He comes to establish the millennium, verse 4:
His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount 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 great, great valley between them;
and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south . . .
And the Lord will be King over all the earth.
[Zechariah 14:4, 9)
Now, when we come to the days of the millennium, it’s going to be different from what it is now. The Lord God is going to do something here in this earth, and that’s one of them! That’s just one of them. He is going to split that Mount of Olives wide open, from east to west, and there’s going to be a great valley, and the people are going to go through that valley to the Lord [Zechariah 14:4]. That’s just one of the things. And when I turn over here to other passages in the Bible, it says, “When He opened the sixth seal there was an earthquake, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places [Revelation 6:12-13]. Things are going to be catastrophic when Jesus comes again. It isn’t going to be just something you read incidentally on the thirtieth page of the morning newspaper. My brother, when Jesus comes, this whole world is going into convolution of one kind or another [Joel 2:30-31; Matthew 24:29-30].
We live in a world like that as it is. I have followed the Great Rift thousands of miles and looked at it. Orville [Rogers], I just wonder, have you done that? The Great Rift starts between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains, and it goes down—now remember where I am up there in Lebanon now—and it goes down, it goes down to the Lake of Galilee. Then it goes down to the Jordan River. Then it goes down to the Dead Sea. Then it goes down to the Red Sea. Then it goes down through East Africa. I have flown over that thing; I’ve been in it and walked in it. It’ll be sometimes, oh, say, ten miles wide and about a mile deep; a rift! And in that rift you’ll find Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa. And when it gets down to the bottom of Africa—Mozambique, down in the Mozambique we’re separated from the continent.
Now God did that with His finger back yonder. That’s where all that comes from. That’s where Galilee comes from. That’s where Jordan comes from. That’s where the Dead Sea comes from. God did that with His finger back there in these days past [Psalm 8:3]. God is going to do something again when He comes a second time. He is going to do some marvelous things, some miraculous things!
And we live in a world of miracle. My soul, look at the world around you, where did it come from? It’s a miracle of God [Genesis 1:1-31]. Look at the things that happen in your home. Doug Brady told me back there, he says, “Pastor, guess what? We’re going to have a baby at our house. We’re going to have a baby at our house. Think of that. We’re going to have a baby at our house.” That’s the most miraculous thing I ever looked at in my life, is when they bring me a baby? God’s hand creates that. That’s omnipotence!
Now I’ll tell you another thing. For a man to be born again is as great a miracle [John 3:3, 7, 14-17]. I remember one time down here—you ought to do it again, Scotty. At Christmas time we had all of those missions here, and those people gave their testimonies. I sat there for three solid hours and never ceased crying. I never heard such things! A man stands up there, and says, “I was a drunkard, and this godly mission pastor sought me out and found me. And now I’ve got a good job and got a beautiful home and my darling children.” Another man stands up and says, “I used to come in every Saturday night and beat up my wife and beat up my children, and they were afraid of me. Now I’ve been wonderfully saved. They’ve got a beautiful home.”
I live in a world of miracles! And for a man to deny it is to be blind to the presence of an omnipotent God; both around us on the outside and the Spirit of God on the inside.
Sweet people, we’ve got to quit. We’ve got to sing our song. And to give your heart to that wonderful Lord, or to put your life in this precious church, or to take Jesus as your Savior, or to answer a call of God, on this first note of the first stanza, you come. Do it now. God will bless you forever. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-25-85I. The heart of the Hebrew faith
A. The tabernacle
B. The temple of Solomon
C. The tribulation temple
D. The Jews and that holy place
1. Dome of the Rock
2. Temple mountII. Ezekiel’s millennial temple
1. Changes in all creation before millennial period
2. Miracles of the millennium