There will be a temple during the millennial reign of Christ. We read in Zechariah 6:12–13, “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he 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; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”
The temple mentioned in the above prophetical revelation is not yet built. It is clearly stated that the temple of this prophecy is to be built by none other than “The BRANCH”, who is Jesus Christ Himself. In several prophetical passages, Christ is referred to as “the Branch” who will sit on the throne of David to rule the world. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1). “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jer. 23:5; cf. Luke 1:32–33).
We know that the Branch, the Lord Jesus Christ, built none of the two temples of the past. Nor would he be implicated in the erecting of the tribulation temple. Therefore, we can expect a fourth temple to be built when Christ returns.
Ezekiel’s Prophecy of the Millennial Temple
The fourth temple that will be built – during the millennial rule of Christ – is also known as “Ezekiel’s Temple”, for the temple and its system of worship are described in great detail by Ezekiel the prophet (Ezek 40–46). Some interpreters reject the literal meaning of Ezekiel 40–48, and view the description as figurative of the New Testament Church. They go to great lengths to explain away the measurements and specifications of the temple building. Such a symbolic view seems forced. A natural reading of the text points to a literal physical temple. The golden rule of interpretation is: “When the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense.”
Some suggest that the plans were for a temple to replace the first temple which the Babylonians had destroyed. But the structure of the second temple did not match the one described in Ezekiel 40–46. The natural conclusion is that Ezekiel’s record of the temple is prophetic. Since this prophecy of the temple is set in the context of Israel’s national and spiritual restoration at the beginning of the millennium, we conclude that it is a millennial temple. Moreover, other prophetical books also reveal facts about the millennial temple and the offering of sacrifices.
Besides Ezekiel 40–46, other prophecies in the Bible talk about a millennial temple. Consider the following:
“Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him” (Isa 56:6–8).
“In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually” (Jer 33:15–18).
“For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things. I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen” (Ezek 20:40-41).
“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” (Zech 14:16).
What Will the Future Millennial Temple Be Like?
The final eight chapters of the Book prophesy the future millennial temple that will be built. Israel does not have a temple now. But when Christ returns to reign from Jerusalem, there shall be a glorious temple. Here are some of its major aspects:
It will be a temple like no other. No building has ever been built like the one described in Ezekiel 40:1–46:24. This fact proves that it still has to be in the future.
The temple will be filled with the LORD’s glory. Ezekiel describes a picture of the “glory of the LORD” entering into His temple, which he had previously seen as departing from the temple of his day (Ezek 43:1–5; cf. 11:23).
The temple will be the place of the LORD’s throne. Ezekiel also wrote about the voice of God that declared that this temple will be “the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever ...” (Ezek 43:7).
There will be feasts and sacrifices. In Ezekiel 40, burnt offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings are mentioned (40:39). The bullock, the he-goat, and the ram are to be offered (43:19–25). The blood is to be sprinkled on the altar (43:18). The meat offering is also incorporated (42:13). Morning sacrifices will be offered daily (46:13). The priests who are Levites are to officiate (43:19). Moreover, several feasts will also be instituted. The Passover feast will be observed again (45:21–25), and annually the feast of tabernacles will be commemorated (45:25). The year of Jubilee will be observed too (43:4–5).
The millennial sacrificial order appears very similar to the Aaronic sacrificial order. However, there are many significant differences between them. In the new millennial order, some of the significant features of the old sacrificial system will be changed or deleted. Not only has the temple’s measurements changed, but also the holy places have hardly anything like the furniture that had stood in the Tabernacle of Moses or the Temple of Solomon. We also observe that not all Levites will serve as priests, but only the sons of Zadok. (Zadok was a priest loyal to David and Solomon in times of rebellion against their rule. Zadok thus stands representative of the priesthood in association with the king of God’s choice and with the millennial kingdom as established by Him in David’s seed.) The Zadokian priesthood in the millennium thus differs significantly from the Aaronic priesthood.
It is also significant to note that many things that were part of the earlier temples are not mentioned as being part of the future. For example, there is no ark of the covenant, no pot of manna, no rod of Aaron, no tables of the Law, no cherubim, no mercy-seat, no golden candlestick, no shewbread, no veil, no unapproachable Holy of Holies where the high priest alone might enter, no high priest, no evening sacrifice, etc.
Although those things are absent, there are new things added to the millennial temple and its order. They are the glory of the Lord entering and abiding forever, the living waters that flow from beneath the altar, wonderful trees of healing, new distribution of land according to the 12 tribes, etc.
How can a sacrificial system exist when Christ has already died to atone for sins? There are those who object to a sacrificial system in the millennium. Their argument is that the idea of a sacrificial system in the millennium would mean that Christ’s atoning death was insufficient. It would be a reinstatement of a system that was abolished by Christ’s death. In answer to this, it must be made clear that animal sacrifices are not necessary for salvation. In the Old Testament, none was saved by trusting in animal sacrifices. The sacrifices served only as types and symbols. They point to Christ and His death. Similarly, in the millennium, none would be trusting in animal sacrifices for atonement. Scripture clearly teaches that it is only when the Jews repent and look to Jesus as the only Redeemer that they are delivered from all their sins and tribulations. The millennial sacrifices do not save. They function as reminders. They remind people of what Christ had already done on the cross.
Those who object to a millennial temple believe that the Old Testament sacrifices, which have been abrogated in the church age, would never be reinstated. But, as we noted earlier, it is incorrect to say that the millennial sacrificial system is exactly the same as that of the Old Testament. There are similarities and differences. The marked differences show us that the millennial sacrifices will be unique and distinct in their features (see Ezek 40:1–46:24; Isa 56:7; 66:20–23; Jer 33:18; Zech 14:16–21; Mal 3:3–4). However, the purpose is the same—not to offer a means of salvation, but to serve as a memorial of Christ’s death. Therefore, the millennial sacrifices will not minimise but maximise the importance and necessity of the cross-work of Christ.
There is another objection to a literal millennial temple in Jerusalem. The question is raised: Is it not impossible to build a temple of Ezekiel’s description at the ancient site? The temple area described by Ezekiel is larger than that of the ancient temple. However, Scripture records that the topography of Jerusalem will change when Christ returns. For instance, Mount Olives will split open, making a valley that runs through the land from east to west (Zech 14:4). Ezekiel’s description of the renewed city of the millennium portrays vast changes to it, including a river running out of it to the east and west (Ezek. 47:1–12). This surely would provide the space necessary for the millennial temple.
God’s Word shall be utterly fulfilled. The Lord told Ezekiel to pay attention to and declare all that was shown to him. “Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (Ezek. 40:4).
The prophecy was to encourage the Jewish people with the promise of Jerusalem’s restoration and glory under the Messiah’s reign. It also educates us about our Lord’s omniscience, omnipotence and faithfulness that will cause all His words to be fulfilled.