Will there be a third temple built?

Second Thessalonians describes a “man of lawlessness” who “sits in the Temple of God” (2 Thess 2:4). Since Jerusalem’s second Temple has been destroyed for nearly two thousand years and this mysterious man is yet to appear, many readers assume that a third Temple will be built in the future so that Paul’s prognostication can come to pass. However, based on the language in other Pauline literature, it is better to understand the “Temple of God” not as a physical building, but as a reference to the collective of those who follow Jesus.

The so-called “man of lawlessness” (ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας; anthropos tes anomías) will be someone who “exalts himself against all that are called a god or object of worship so that he sits in the Temple of God (ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ; naòn tou theou), proclaiming himself to be a god” (2 Thess 2:4). At first glance, this verse seems to imply the necessity for a third Temple in Jerusalem; after all, so the argument goes, if the yet-to-be-revealed man of lawlessness is to take a seat in the Temple, then there must be a structure in which he can sit. Yet, a closer look at the language can offer a way to understand Second Thessalonians that is more faithful to the broader context of the Pauline corpus.

The phrase “Temple of God” also appears in Second Corinthians: “What agreement is there between the Temple of God (ναῷ θεοῦ; nao theou) and idols? For we are the Temple of the living God, as God has said, ‘I will dwell among them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people’” (2 Cor 6:16). Based on this other use of “Temple of God” in Paul’s epistles, it is more likely that the apostle envisions the man of lawlessness exalting himself among the collective human assemblies that make up the “Temple of the living God.” Thus, a third Temple is not a prerequisite for the man of lawlessness or for Jesus’ subsequent Parousia. Instead of directing our attention to the thought of Temple construction at the end of days, Paul tells Jesus-followers to direct their “hearts into God’s love and Messiah’s perseverance” (2 Thess 3:5).

Jesus, a perfect sacrifice…

It is not uncommon to hear people say that Hebrews teaches that the Mosaic commandments are weak and useless, and that Jesus enacted a better covenant that replaced the old laws of Moses. But is this the true message of Hebrews? A closer look at the letter reveals that the author does not dismiss the entire Torah in light Yeshua; instead, Hebrews shows how Jesus stands in for the priestly sacrifices that could no longer be made after the destruction of the Second Temple.

It’s true that Hebrews mentions a “change” in the Law of Moses: “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also…. For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness. (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:12, 18–19 NASB)

These verses are often used to demonstrate that the Law was set aside as something obsolete. It’s simple, some say: Yeshua is a new priest who changes the Law! But we must clarify the context in which our author refers to the commandments. Here is a hint… Hebrews has some very specific priestly commandments in mind. If we miss or ignore this crucial context, we’re sure to misunderstand the writer’s meaning. The above passage of Hebrews does not discuss the validity or the usefulness of the Torah in general. These verses are only interested in the role of Messiah in relation to the levitical priesthood.

A look at the broader context is helpful. Hebrews 4 speaks of entering into God’s covenant-rest, God’s end-time Shabbat, the Lord’s presence. Chapter 5 asserts that Yeshua is a superior High Priest compared to the earthly priests, and chapter 6 compares Jesus with the royal priest Melchizedek. Finally, chapter 7 highlights how Melchizedek traditions relate to the teachings about the Messiah. Thus, Hebrews 4-7 does not deal with the entire Law of Moses, nor does it set up a dichotomy between Jesus and Torah. Rather, these chapters are focused on a discussion about priesthood, which constitutes only one part of Moses’ Law.

The rest of Hebrews also highlights concepts like priesthood and sacrifice. Chapter 8 explores the facets of Jesus’ priesthood and the New Covenant. Hebrews 9 and 10 proclaim the superiority of the New Covenant and outline the benefits of Yeshua’s sacrifice of his own body. All this priestly discussion does not question the Torah’s validity, but rather highlight Yeshua’s unique role as an eternal high priest.

So here’s the questions readers need to ask: “Which law is being changed in Hebrews 7:12?” and “Which commandments are weak in Hebrews 8:18?” Certainly not all of them! Instead, the writer of Hebrews is concerned with how Jesus relates to the commandments for Israel’s priests. When Hebrew says that Jesus “set aside” (ἀθέτησις; atheteisis) a former commandment (7:18) the command pertains to the priestly service. Hebrews mentions the “weakness” or “lack of perfection” (ἀσθενής, astheneis) in these commandments because the human priests are human and, therefore, imperfect (see Heb 10:1).

Moreover, it’s likely that Hebrews was written after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, which made the sacrifices no longer possible. Therefore, our letter writer is offering readers a way to ensure a continued atonement after the earthly Temple: as exalted heavenly high priest, Jesus offered himself as a “once for all” sacrifice for sin (cf. Heb 7:27; 9:26; 10:10). In this way, Jesus actually upholds the commands about sacrifice and atonement given to the Levites; though the priesthood’s cessation after 70 manifested its weakness and frailty, Yeshua strengthens and extends the longevity of the sacrificial system. Hebrews does not dismiss the Torah as obsolete or useless, but it does address a world without customary sacrifices and shows how Jesus serves as an everlasting high priest in heaven who makes atonement for all time.

What represents the Jews.

Understanding Leviticus

In Leviticus, the Hebrew terms for the four plants are: 1) etz hadar, or citrus trees; 2) t’mārîm, date palm trees; 3) etz avot, thick, leafy trees; and 4) arvey nahal, willows of the brook. In the 1st century CE, commentaries began to identify the species from Leviticus as: citron, date palm, myrtle, and willow.  This is how we call them in Hebrew: Etrog, Lulav, Hadas, and Aravah.

What Represents the People of Israel?

In Jewish tradition, Four Species represent the people of Israel.  

  • Etrog (citron) has both taste and fragrance – it represents Jews who possess both learning and good deeds.
  • Lulav (date palm) has taste but no fragrance – it represents Jews who possess learning but not good deeds.
  • Hadas (myrtle) has fragrance but no taste – it represents Jews who possess good deeds but not learning.
  • Aravah (willow) has neither taste nor fragrance – it represents Jews who possess neither learning nor good deeds.

Understand Even the Obscure Words of Scripture

Biblical commentators said, “Let them all be tied together… and they will atone one for another”. From the times of the Bible until today, Jews tie together these four species and wave them before God during this joyful festival. Enroll in our Discovering the Hebrew Bible course, and even the obscure words of Hebrew Scriptures will become a meaningful reality for you! 


Beginnings (2): Genesis 1

By Julia BlumJanuary 8, 20202 comments

As we advance with the days of this year, we are also advancing with the days of Bereishit  and continuing to watch in awe God’s work of creation. Today, first of all let us consider different verbs that describe His work during these days.

VaYomer – and He said

And God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light.

Nine times, during six days of creation, we read: “And God said” –   וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים.  For me personally, these verses are the most wonderful evidence of that glorious beginning—that glorious order of things, when everything was so different from now.  In our fallen world we live by faith, by the evidence of the things not seen, and seldom in our lives do we experience this amazing turn of events: “God said” – and that is how it was, without any pause or delay in between. There are many things that we know God said – and we also know that these things will eventually come to be; but this glorious immediate embodiment of God’s word, this immediate visible fulfillment of what He said, is called and perceived as a miracle in our fallen world. Mostly, we see these things by faith, not by sight. But it was not a miracle then—it was the normal course of events in a world not distorted by evil.

Moreover, from this verb  VaYomer – and He said – we see absolutely clearly that not only is God the only one who has life-giving power, but the source of this life-giving power is His word—that He gives life by the authority of His Word only. According to the New Testament, Jesus is the Word of God, and therefore, we are not surprised to find almost the same description of the beginning of the creation in the New Testament—in the Gospel of John. The language of John clearly and purposely echoes the language of Genesis 1:1: both in the Genesis account and in John’s Gospel, it is the Word of God that brings forth life. This is one of the foundations of New Testament faith: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.[1]

For instance, we see a huge difference between how people restore life in the Tanach, and how Jesus restored life. Read, for example, the description of how the prophet Elisha raises a child from the dead. He prays, he stretches himself out on the child’s body to warm him, he prays again—then the Lord answers Elisha and the child is restored to life.[2] Jesus, on the other hand, restores life in exactly the same way God creates it, by the authority of His Word only: In every gospel story where Jesus raises the dead, He simply speaks: Talitha, kumi!” “Lazarus, come forth!” “Young man I say to you, arise!” This means that the gospel writers clearly saw His spoken word having the same life-giving, creative power as in Genesis: for the New Testament writers, the same Word creates life in Genesis, and restores life in the gospels.

VeYavdel  –and He separated

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

We have to understand that during the first days of creation, God’s main action is lehavdil, “to separate”. We find this verb “separate” used several times in these verses. It occurs in Gen. 1:2, 6,7,14,18. On the first three days of creation, God separates 1) light from darkness, 2) the waters above from the waters below, 3) dry ground from the waters. The very first fruits of the land come only on the third day, after the work of havdala, separation, is complete. Like everything else in the Tanach, it definitely has profound spiritual meaning: God always wants to separate darkness from light, and in order to do the work of God, we must choose light and separate ourselves from darkness. One can bring forth fruits in one’s life only if the work of separation comes first—only if one separates oneself  from the darkness.

VaYikra –and He called (gave names)

As we have already seen, God’s word is the main part of the whole creative process – and this verb, VaYikra, also reflects this.

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night[3].

And God called the firmament Heaven[4].

And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas[5].

God gives names to elements of His creation, and this becomes an essential part of their existence. In this light, it is extremely significant that the very first thing we see Adam doing is giving names – VaYikra – to all the animals (Gen. 2:19, 20). We will address this subject at length in my next posts, when we will talk about Adam.

The Creation of Man

The First, Second and Third days of creation prepare us for days Four through Six. On these days, He creates by 4) by providing lights in the firmament; 5) filling the sky and sea with winged life and sea creatures; and 6) finally creating animals and man to fill the dry land. Undoubtedly, there is a deep structure to this chapter: a careful reader gets a clear sense that there is a plan, and we are going somewhere with this. The first chapter of the Torah presents the ascent of the cosmic drama culminating in the creation of man. As we read the description of each day of creation, we feel the story building up, then in Genesis 1:26-27 we come to the crescendo: “So God created man in His own image…“[6] Everything that has been created so far, has to be seen now in the light of this verse—according to Jewish understanding, it is only when a man was created that the whole of creation became meaningful.

That is why, by the way, the day Jewish people celebrate as Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) – the first of Tishrei – is not perceived as the anniversary of Creation, it is the anniversary of the sixth day of Creation, when Adam and Eve were created. The anniversary of the first day of Creation would be five days before, on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. Why? – Because once again, in rabbinic tradition it is the birth of humanity that made the whole creation meaningful by adding to the universe the possibility for God to be proclaimed King. Next time, will speak more about this fascinating Sixth Day, and discuss in detail the creation of a man, and his relationship with his Creator.

[1] Heb. 11:3

[2] see 2 Kings 4:32-36

[3] Gen.1:5

[4] Gen.1:8

[5] Gen.1:10

[6] Gen.1:27

Mercy in Hebrew

“Mercy” in Hebrew Thought

Hebrew רחמים (pronounced rakhamim) is usually translated as “mercy.” However, it is actually plural in form, like many common Hebrew words including “face” (פנים, panim), “water” (מים, mayim), and even God (אלהים, elohim). What is very interesting is that the singular form רחם (rakham) looks identical to the word for “womb” (רחם, rekhem), which is in fact closely related.

Hebrew is a very physical language, and concepts that may seem unconnected to us often share the same root. What is the deep connection here? In ancient times in particular, if a woman was able to get pregnant and give birth it meant that God had bestowed mercy on her and opened her womb (Luke 1:57-58).

This is one obvious connection between rekhem (“womb”) and rakhamim (“mercy”). Another connection may be understood from the “compassion” typically felt by a mother for her own offspring, the “fruit of her womb” (Isaiah 49:15).