On Tuesday (September 15) in the White House a peace treaty of a kind was signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates with President Trump, representing the US, as broker of the treaty. This so-called ‘Abrahamic Accord’ was announced on August 13, and since then it has set off an ‘end-time’ frenzy in certain denominational circles about this accord as a biblical Antichrist treaty signalling an imminent 7-year ‘great tribulation’ period climaxing in our Lord’s return.
Despite the popularity of such views they have no support in Scripture.
An allied belief to date-setting, that is all too popular amongst Evangelicals, is the unbiblical view that before our Lord’s return a third Jewish temple must be built and the sacrificial system restored. Respected researcher and specialist on prophecy, Grant R. Jeffrey argues this position in his 2007 book The New Temple and the Second Coming.
On p. 88 Jeffrey says, “Daniel prophesied that the rebuilt Temple would serve as the center of Israel’s worship—complete with the resumption of the ancient animal-sacrifice system.”
Jeffrey’s logic was suspect in far too many places and his abuse or misreading of Scripture was very disappointing. On p.9 Jeffrey draws attention to Mt. 24:32-34, Jesus’ fig-tree parable, and then says, “The fig tree was well known as a symbol of Israel…” This is incorrect. The parable does not refer to Israel becoming a nation once again because Israel is not usually described, in the Bible, as fig tree but as olive tree. Note as well that Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse says “and all the trees” (21.29).
Jeffrey is at his worst in logic and reading of Scripture on p.100 under the subheading Israel’s Rebirth and the Third Temple.
Jeffrey argues “Isaiah foretold that the Temple of God would stand again in the latter days.” He immediately quotes Is. 2:2 thus “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”.
This text is not about the Lord’s house per se but about the mountain of the Lord’s house, i.e. Mt. Zion. ‘The mountain’ is the subject controlling the verb ‘shall be established’, ‘of the Lord’s house’ is simply a modifying phrase.
Barry Webb in The Bible Speaks Today commentary series on Isaiah informs at Is. 2.2 “Mountains played an important part in the religions of Israel’s neighbours. They were…highly favoured as sites for altars and temples…Isaiah here foresees the day when one holy mountain will stand supreme, reducing all others to utter insignificance…” (p. 45)
Otto Kaiser in the Old Testament Library commentary series on Isaiah at 2.2 concurs with Webb when he says: “Mount Zion, on the peak of which the temple stands, will tower over all mountains and hills.” (p. 26).
Jeffrey has misunderstood the meaning and essence of Isaiah’s text. Jeffrey’s poor reading and interpretation of Scripture continues on p. 100 when he writes “The prophetic clock started ticking in the countdown to the Messiah’s return. Israel, the ‘fig tree’ of Christ’s prophecy, was reborn in 1948. And according to Jesus’ prophecy, the generation living when Israel was reborn can hope to live to see the return of Christ (see Matthew 24:32-34). Some readers may naturally
ask how we can be certain that the fig tree putting forth leaves is God’s prophetic symbol of Israel’s rebirth. In both the Old and New Testaments, the symbol of the fig tree is used exclusively for Israel (see Judges 9:10; 1 Kings 4:25; Luke 13:7; John 1:50).”
Here is a shocker, not one of these passages mentioned by Jeffrey supports his point about Israel being described as ‘fig tree’. Check for yourself!
Jeffrey is hooked on a theory and so sees evidence for the theory even where it is absent. Very sad but all too popular a malady within Evangelical circles. We need to learn to read the Bible responsibly and meaningfully.
I have offered a thorough expository reading of Matthew 24 at Keswick Conventions in Barbados and Jamaica (Mandeville and Kingston’s noon Bible Reading) It is available via Zoom if needed.
Israel as an end time marker has been too dominant in the theology of Evangelicals. As Barry Webb rightly says: “Jesus gave no political predictions whatsoever for Israel. Therefore the physical return of Israel (or a fraction of Israel; there are more Jews in New York than in the State of Israel!) is theologically irrelevant… We are not to politicize the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament. The promise to Abraham that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed finds its fulfillment through Christ in his Church, not in Israel’s return to Palestine in 1948, fascinating though that is.”
We would do well to remember that in the Olivet Discourse in Mt. 24, Mk. 13 and Lk. 21 after Jesus prophesied that the Temple would be destroyed the disciples asked him not only or primarily about the 2nd coming but they asked and got answers to 3 questions.
Primary question, “When will these things be?” = When will the buildings of the Temple be destroyed? (Mt. 24.3; Mk. 13.4; Lk. 21.7)
Secondary question, “What will be the sign that these things are about to be fulfilled?”= What will be the sign that the buildings of the Temple are about to be destroyed? (Mk. 13.4; Lk. 21.7)
Tertiary question in Matthew alone, “What will be the sign of your coming, and/even of the end of the age? (Mt. 24.3)
Even if a third Jewish Temple is built and the sacrificial system resumed neither would have any validity before God because Scripture nowhere promises or prophesies anything about a third temple or a resumption of the sacrificial system.
The finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross brought an end to the sacrificial system and the Mosaic covenant and it must not be forgotten that our Lord repeatedly prophesied doom on Jerusalem and on the Temple.