The second question that I often pose to dispensationalists after challenging them to give me a verse that teaches a pre-tribulational rapture relates to the rebuilding of the temple. Tommy Ice references it in his article “Answers and Clarifications for Gary DeMar.” You can reference the other five posts here, here, here, here, and here:
2. Can you point out one verse from the New Testament that teaches that the temple will be rebuilt?
In a book that Tommy Ice wrote with Randall Price, he acknowledged the following: “There are no Bible verses that say, ‘There is going to be a third temple.’” ((Thomas Ice and Randall Price, Ready to Rebuild: The Imminent Plan to Rebuild the Last Days Temple (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1992), 197–198.)) So I call Tommy Ice as a witness against himself and in support of what I’ve maintained about the silence of the New Testament regarding a rebuilt temple.
Tommy admits that there is no verse that states that there’s going to be a rebuilt temple. Having made this revealing concession, he and Price go on to claim “that there will be a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem at least by the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation period.” ((Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild, 198.)) Dispensationalists must prove that there’s going to be a future seven-year tribulation period before they can prove that there will be a rebuilt temple. Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament teaches that the 70th week of Daniel’s 490-year prophecy (Dan. 9:24–27) has not been fulfilled and awaits fulfillment after the “rapture” of the church. I’ll discuss this topic when we get to the third question: “Where in Revelation is the seven-year tribulation found?"
Randall Price’s updated 700-page book on The Temple and Bible Prophecy does not produce a verse from the New Testament that actually states that another temple is prophetically required to be rebuilt. ((Randall Price, The Temple and Bible Prophecy: A Definitive Look at Its Past, Present, and Future (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2006). Price has three chapters dealing with predictions in the New Testament on the temple, but he does not reference one verse that says anything about rebuilding the temple (255–324).)) Considering that there are two books (Ezra and Nehemiah) from the Old Testament devoted to the details of rebuilding the temple when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, one would think there would be at least one verse in the New Testament that says something about the rebuilding of a distant post-rapture temple since it is so crucial to the dispensational system.
Price and Ice are not alone in making their unsupported claim for another rebuilt temple. Merrill F. Unger, writing in 1955, made a similar assertion: “The temple will be rebuilt, for the ‘abomination of desolation’ (Matt. 24:15) ‘shall stand in the Holy Place,’ in the ‘Temple of God’ (Jewish Temple) rebuilt (II Thess. 2:4), with an ‘altar’ and ‘worshippers’ (Rev. 11:1), and an ‘outer court’ in the ‘Holy City’ (Jerusalem, cf. Rev. 11:2).” ((Merrill F. Unger, Great Neglected Bible Prophecies (Chicago: Scripture Press Books, 1955), 23.))The problem with Unger’s end-time scenario is that the temple built by Herod was still standing when these prophecies were given. Unger assumes that the mere mention of a temple in a prophetic passage must be a reference to a rebuilt temple that will be constructed during a seven-year tribulation period that follows a pretribulational rapture in what has become a nearly 2000-year delay. Unger disputes Carl Friedrich Keil’s contention that “the New Testament says nothing whatever concerning the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple and the restoration of the Levitical worship.” ((Carl Friedrich Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Ezekiel, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1950), 2:122. Quoted in Unger, Great Neglected Bible Prophecies, 23. Unger accuses Keil of following a spiritualizing methodology (23). The New Testament does use spiritual designations for the temple and its sacrifices under the new covenant: “spiritual house” and “spiritual sacrifices” (1 Pet. 2:15).)) If the temple is such a crucial piece of the end-time puzzle, why doesn’t the New Testament say something about it? The silence is deafening.
Ice claims to have incontrovertible biblical evidence for a rebuilt temple in three passages:
Not one of these verses states that the temple being mentioned is a rebuilt temple. Regarding the temple mentioned in Matthew 24:15, Stewart and Missler write: “Jesus spoke of this prophecy being still future to His time (Matthew 24:15).” ((Stewart and Missler, The Coming Temple, 194.)) This is true, since the prophecy was given around A.D. 30 when the temple rebuilt by Herod was still standing. It was of this temple that Jesus said, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15). When who sees it? When “you see it,” that is, when those in Jesus’ audience see it. Ice and Price never explain the audience reference “you.” Audience context is critical when interpreting the meaning of a text.
If Jesus had a distant future audience in view, He would have said “when they see the abomination of desolation.” We know that the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, forty years in the future from when Jesus made the prediction (Matt. 24:1–2). “‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down’” (24:2). Jesus was discussing the existing temple; the one that was “here,” right before their eyes, the temple that they asked about (24:1).
Ice and Price argue that “the apostle Paul gives us perhaps the clearest passage relating to the third Temple in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4.” ((Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild, 199.)) Since Paul wrote his letter before the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, what is it in these verses that would tell the reader that the temple in which the “man of lawlessness” takes his seat is “the third temple”? ((Solomon’s temple is the first temple with the post-exile temple and its renovation under Herod (John 2:20) being the second temple.))Paul does not say, “when the man of lawlessness takes his seat in the rebuilt temple.” What would have led his audience to conclude that he was referring to, using Ice and Price’s words, “the future third Temple,” when the temple was still standing in Jerusalem when Paul wrote his letter? The “man of lawlessness,” Paul wrote, was being restrained “now,” in their day (2:6, 7), and the Christians at Thessalonica knew the identity of the restrainer (2:6). ((For a verse-by-verse exposition of 2 Thessalonians 2, see DeMar, Last Days Madness, chaps. 22 and 23.)) This hardly requires the need for another rebuilt temple.
Third-temple advocates try to muster support for their position by referencing Revelation 11:1–2. They begin by assuming that Revelation was written nearly three decades after the temple was destroyed. ((For a defense of a pre-A.D. 70 date of composition for Revelation, see Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation, 2nd ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999); The Beast of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision); Gary DeMar and Francis X. Gumerlock, The Early Church and the End of the World (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2000).)) From this unproven assumption, they conclude that John must be measuring a rebuilt temple. The passage says nothing about a rebuilt temple. The words “shortly” and “near” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10) are used to describe the time when the events outlined in Revelation were to take place. The fact that John is told to “rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who are worshipping in it” (11:1), is prima facie evidence that the temple was still standing when John received the revelation. “Worshipping” is in the present tense; it’s what the people were doing as John measured the temple.
Here’s how Ice tries to explain away what Revelation 11:1–2 clearly states about the temple:
[I]t must be remembered that in the Book of Revelation John is receiving a vision about future things. He is transported in some way to that future time in order to view events as they will unfold. The word “saw” is used 49 times in 46 verses in Revelation because John is witnessing future events through a vision. It does not matter at all whether the Temple is thought to be standing in Jerusalem at the time that John sees the vision since that would not have any bearing upon a vision. John is told by an angel to “measure the temple” (Rev. 11:1). Measure what Temple? He is to measure the Temple in the vision. Even if there were a temple still standing in Jerusalem, John was on the Island of Patmos and would not have been allowed to go and measure that Temple. Ezekiel, during a similar vision of a Temple (Ezek. 40–43) was told to measure that Temple. When Ezekiel saw and was told to measure a Temple there was not one standing in Jerusalem (Preterists agree). Thus, there is no compulsion whatsoever to conclude that just because a temple is referenced in Revelation 11 that it implies that there had to be a physical Temple standing in Jerusalem at the same time. ((Thomas Ice, “The Date of the Book of Revelation”: www.raptureready.com/featured/DateBookRevelation.html.))
Let’s deal with the obvious mistake in Ice’s analysis. Ezekiel was not told to measure the temple. Ezekiel saw “a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze . . . who measured the thickness of the wall” (Ezek. 40:3, 5). Ezekiel sees this man doing the measuring. Ezekiel is a bystander. Being a visionary temple, Ezekiel did not have access to it because it existed only in a vision, and there is no indication that it was ever designed to be built. ((Ezekiel is told that the altar will be built: “These are the statutes for the altar on the day it is built, to offer burnt offerings on it and to sprinkle blood on it” (Ezek. 43:18). We know that a new temple and altar were built, animals sacrificed, and Levitical priests attended to their priestly duties after the exile (Neh. 11:11).))
Mark Hitchcock, who has written several books with Tommy Ice, makes the same mistake when he writes, “Ezekiel, like John, is told to measure the Temple he sees in his vision. The words ‘measure’ and ‘measured’ occur 44 times in Ezekiel 40–48. Ezekiel is measuring a temple that must be future to his day because no temple is standing on earth in Jerusalem for him to measure.” ((Mark Hitchcock, “The Stake in the Heart — The A.D. 95 Date of Revelation,” The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, eds. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 140.))
Like Ice, Hitchcock fails to note who is doing the measuring. So then, since John is doing the measuring in Revelation 11, unlike Ezekiel who was with a man who measured the temple “in the visions of God” (Ezek. 40:2), we can only conclude that the temple was still standing in Jerusalem when John was given the Revelation by Jesus. The temple John is told to measure is a functioning temple with worshippers and an altar (Rev. 11:1). John saw the temple in a vision, but it was a vision of the temple that was still standing in Jerusalem in his day. The historical circumstances fit a pre-A.D. 70 Jerusalem that still would have been described as “the great city” (11:8), the place where “their Lord was crucified” (11:8), and was occupied by a foreign power (Rome) at the time (11:2). Henry Cowles (1803–1881), in his commentary on Revelation, offers the following argument:
[H]ere is one of the landmarks of our prophetic interpretation. We know that the temple, altar and holy city were standing at the time of this vision; we know they were on the very eve of their desolation; we know therefore that this desolation — so “shortly” after these visions were seen and recorded — cannot possibly be any other than that effected by the Roman armies in A. D. 70. ((Henry Cowles, The Revelation of John (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1887).))
E. Earle Ellis writes that “the present existence of the Jerusalem temple (11:1) and its future desolation (11:2) are fairly strong indicators of a pre-AD 70 date for Revelation.” ((E. Earle Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents (Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., 2002), 214.)) In order for a post-A.D. 70 composition and futurist interpretation of Revelation to work, a rebuilt temple must be assumed, but it cannot be proved by anyone who claims to interpret the Bible in a literal fashion.
If John can be taken to the future to measure a temple that did not exis, as Ice argues, then John could have been taken to Jerusalem in a vision to measure the temple that was still standing. The burden of proof is on Ice, Price, and Hitchcock to demonstrate from Scripture that a distant future rebuilt temple is in view in the three passages used by Tommy in support of his claim that the New Testament teaches that Scripture predicts and requires that another temple be built during a post-rapture tribulation period. As was noted above, Ice and Price admit there is no mention of a rebuilt temple in the New Testament. On this point, they are correct.
After measuring the physical temple in Jerusalem, which would be destroyed a few years later in A.D. 70, the locale of the temple changes from earth to heaven (Rev. 11:19; 14:15, 17; 15:5, 6; etc.), from a temple of stone to the temple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Dispensationalists are always trying to rebuild the past with old wine skins. Jesus told His religious critics that he is the replacement for the temple:
The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:18–22).
Once again, Tommy Ice is wrong in his analysis. There are no verses in the New Testament that say anything about a rebuilt temple.