A wonderful foreshadowing of Christ’s return to Jerusalem in triumph at His second advent
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them,” Matthew 21:12-14.
I read this chapter yesterday as part of my scheduled Bible reading on that day. When I came to the verses 12 – 14, I noted the words, “the temple of God”. I was made to think of that term used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2, where he writes of the Antichrist.“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”2 Thessalonians 2:3-5. Those who take literally what the Bible says of Christ’s second advent in both the Old and New Testament prophecies and do not try to spiritualise the setting forth of the wonderful events that will accompany that great occasion, take Paul’s reference to “the temple of God” as a reference to a temple as real and literal as the one to which Matthew is referring in our text.
Yes, the temple of Matthew chapter 21 is long gone, destroyed by the Roman armies in AD 70. Yet the clear implication of Paul’s reference to “the temple of God” is that in the latter days the Jews will rebuild a temple, even though they will still be in rejection of the New Testament revelation of the Lord Jesus being their true Messiah.
The Bible reveals a return by Israel, scattered back in the first century AD, in unbelief. Here is a sample of that event set forth in Holy Scripture.
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,” Ezekiel 36:24-27.
There is no imposing of any notions of ours to say that it is here plainly stated that:
* The Lord purposed to restore His people Israel to their own land from which they had been scattered amongst the Gentile countries.
* After their return the Lord will, by His grace, bring about their regeneration. That is stated in language both figurative and literal. It will take place AFTER their return, so it clearly implied that they will return in a state of unregeneracy and unbelief.
That is the state of Israel at present, except for the small remnant there who have been converted. “The ‘Orthodox’ Jews in Israel today make no secret of their plans to rebuild the temple on the Mount of God, presently occupied by a Muslim mosque.
The Temple Institute, the self-proclaimed ‘Temple Mount Administration’ and the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement each state that its goal is to build the Third Temple on the Temple Mount (Mount Moriah). The Temple Institute has made several items to be used in the Third Temple. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, religious Jews have expressed their desire to see the building of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount. Prayer for this is a formal part of the Jewish tradition of thrice daily Amidah prayer. Although it remains unbuilt, the notion of and desire for a Third Temple is sacred in Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, and anticipated as a soon-to-be-built place of worship.”
The outworking of that long-held desire will be the ‘Temple of God’ to which Paul refers in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The temple referred to in Matthew 21:12, pictures for us the darkness that will fill that third temple, yet to be built.
I. THE SAVIOUR CAME TO A TEMPLE POLLUTED BY MAN’S PERVERTED NOTIONS!
1. The Saviour said of the temple He came to that the rulers of the temple had “made it a den of thieves,” verse 13. The word ‘thieves’ is the term used of the character of those who came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26:55; of the two crucified with the Saviour at Calvary, Matthew 27:38; those who set upon the man rescued by the ‘good Samaritan’, Luke 10:30; all who ever came before him, seeking to usurp His role as Shepherd, John 10:1, 8; of Barabbas, the one chosen by the Jewish leaders in the place of the Saviour, John 18:40; and the character of some of those who ‘imperilled’ the apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:26.
2. Such will be the character of the temple which is yet to be built when it becomes Antichrist’s place of exaltation. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that in the temple of God in Jerusalem he “opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
This will be the highest point of human rebellion against God. The Antichrist will be the zenith of that rebellion which has been simmering since the days of Adam and which has on occasions attempted to break forth in outright defiance. There are many examples of this ‘volcano of rebellion’ exploding into the open. Pharaoh, Goliath, Rabshakeh and of course, Judas Iscariot.
There is no clearer picture of the spirit of rebellion given us than that set down in Psalm 2.
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us,” verses 1-3.
3. Antichristianity is the ultimate act of robbery. It would rob God of His deity, His throne, His very existence. It would rob men of the message of salvation, the only means by which sinners may be saved!
The ‘spirit of antichristianity’ is at work today. There is played out before our eyes the work of that supreme thief, the devil, for as the Saviour taught in the parable, such robbery has taken place in our land. “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side,” Matthew 13:19.
Right here in Ulster, the gospel has been stolen away and replaced by the devil’s lie. The deceitful voice of antichristianity may be heard in many pulpits, as it will one day be ultimately heard in its fulness in ‘the temple of God’ in Jerusalem.
The Temple of God
I might state that the latter-day temple, yet to be built in Jerusalem, will no more be truly ‘the temple of God’ than are the ‘houses of God’ here in our land truly places which ‘house’ God’s presence, power, blessing and truth. The liberal, modernistic movement has taken over those places where once the gospel was indeed preached. The ’theology’ of men like James Ernest Davey (1890–1960), who led the Presbyterian Church in Ireland into the wilderness of Christ-rejection and those of his ilk in the Church of Ireland and Methodist denominations, have closed church doors to Christ and His Word and opened them wide to al the inventions of man’s perverted depravity. Sodomy, that peak of man’s rejection of God’s righteous order for mankind, is now honoured and embraced by these denominations to one degree or another. The exponents and defenders of such a wicked lifestyle are found openly and blatantly championing this evil.
We are witnessing a rehearsal of that final apostasy which will take place in Jerusalem, and which will move Christ to come in judgment, right here in our land. Of course the like trends may be witnessed throughout ‘Christendom’!
II. THE SAVIOUR CAME TO THE TEMPLE ON A MISSION OF JUDICIAL PURGING
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,” verse 12.
1. This is a scene of substantial force and violence! The words ‘cast out’ are frequently linked to the Saviour’s removing of devils from those they have possessed and tormented. Such was a confrontation between the power of darkness and the power of God. Such a clash was most intense indeed! Paul says of hell’s opposition to the work of the gospel that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand,” Ephesians 6:12-13.
That was the nature of the Saviour’s confrontation in the temple some 2000 years ago.
2. It pictures that final confrontation of sinful man’s rebellion in this age. We are left in no doubt as to the mind and heart and intentions of Christ when he returns. Consider these words in Revelation 19.
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh,” verses 11-21.
The same but very different
The angels assured the heart-stricken apostles gazing up as the Saviour disappeared from their sight, on His ascension to His Father, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,” Acts 1:11.
Yes, the “same Jesus” Who went away will return one day but He will come with a very different purpose in mind regarding sinful rebels. On His first visit to this world the Saviour had said: “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them,” Luke 9:56.
But on His next visit, His purpose is not MERCY but JUDGMENT.
Nothing declares this more clearly that the words of Revelation 19:11-21 where is set before us the determined intentions of the Lord Jesus. They are set forth in His titles, His appearance, His garments, His deportment and the host He leads.
It is wrathful judgment to the uttermost. Wicked men will pathetically exclaim on that day to the very mountains: “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Revelation 6:16-17.
This is the day of reaping by God! “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs,” Revelation 14:18-20.
3. On His return, Christ will come to Jerusalem. The ‘city’ referred to in the verses just quoted is Jerusalem. The blood is that of His enemies who had gathered to seek to destroy the city and all the Jews within. But the Lord Jesus, in a far, far greater display of judgmental wrath than that displayed in Matthew 21, will come to purge away the wickedness of men and the corruptions they have introduced into His city and kingdom.
“And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke. According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence. So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD,” Isaiah 59:14-20.
III. THE SAVIOUR WILL COME TO THE TEMPLE WITH A MERCIFUL PURPOSE
Please note what the Saviour did after His cleansing of the temple in Matthew 21. “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.”
1. In an even more glorious fashion, the temple which I believe the Saviour will build after His return, replacing the third temple that the unbelieving Jews built and in which the Antichrist installed himself, will become the centre of great millennial blessings.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD,” Isaiah 2:2-5.
The word ‘established’ in the opening verse of the above passage, may be translated ‘prepared’ and I believe this refers to the temple described in in Ezekiel 40-43.
2. The millennial temple will be a centre of blessing, not just for the converted Jew but for the multitudes of Gentiles which will be brought to a saving knowledge of Christ in that glorious time. As Isaiah 2:2 says: “The LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” The news of the Saviour’s return and the mercy that may be found in Jerusalem will spread throughout the world and like as the ‘blind and the lame’ of Matthew 21:14, came to Christ for His mercy and healing power, so the Gentiles will be gathered to Jerusalem in the days of the Saviour’s reign.
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you,” Zechariah 8:20-23.
“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts,” Zechariah 14:16-21.
“And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD,” Isaiah 66:23.
Let men put whatever ‘interpretation’ they wish upon these words, it is clear that:
(1) there will be remnants of the nations that combined to come against Jerusalem left upon the earth after the wrath of Christ has fallen upon the armies of Antichrist at His return.
(2) Amongst those survivors there will be wrought great mercy.
(3) There will be a reinstitution of the religious ceremonies which men so corrupted and largely failed to benefit from in the Old Testament era.
3. It is to be noted that the Jew will become the messenger of the Lord in that future time. As we have seen in the prophecy of Zechariah 8:20-23, the Jew is looked upon by Gentiles as a guide to the Lord. The Jew will become a beacon, a lighthouse to guide men to Christ. The Gentiles will hold a view of the Jewish people then, quite unlike the ‘anti-semitism’ of today!
“Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me,” Isaiah 49:22-23.
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee,” Isaiah 60:1-5.
I urge upon you, reader, to study the whole of the chapter 60 and see what it is the Lord will do with and for redeemed Israel during His reign on earth. It will be just what He would have desired to do in the Old Testament era but for their rebellious disposition.
Paul speaks of the day of Israel’s redemption and the benefits which the nations of the earth will accrue as a result.
“Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: . . . . For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? . . . “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy,” Romans 11:12-13, 15, 23-31.
Again we have seen how that the Lord permeates His Word will wonderful pictures as well as precise prophecies of God’s judgment on man’s rebellion and also of the glorious future times of the displays of God’s mercies amongst the nations.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
Monday 22nd January 2024