Arab-Israeli Conflict and Prophecies about the "Third Temple"

Will the construction of the "Third Temple" in Jerusalem be a sign of the approaching end of the world? Photo: UOJ

Another conflict between Palestinians and Jews involuntarily brings to mind prophecies about the restoration of the "Third Temple" and about the end times of this world.

Another military conflict between Jews and Palestinians continues in Israel. There are also clashes between representatives of the conflicting parties around the world, where supporters of the warring parties live. Each of them proves their case. But we are primarily interested in what consequences this conflict can have for Christians, and whether it has anything to do with prophecies about the end of the world.

Timeline of the present conflict

A new exacerbation of the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation began in early May 2021 amid the discussion by the Israeli Supreme Court of the case on the approval of the lower court's decision to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Old City in Jerusalem. Media report the case in a way that Palestinians are simply evicted from their homes, which are transferred to Jews, but this is not the case. The fact is that Jews agree to pay very, very big money to Palestinians for housing in the Old City and its environs. But among the Palestinians there is a ban on the sale of houses to Jews. Radical Islamists can even punish with death for violating this prohibition. However, the money is big, and not everyone can resist the temptation.

Moreover, Arab buyers often appear first, and then it turns out that the ultimate owners are still Jews. Then the Palestinians who sold the house deny the deal and refuse to vacate the houses. Litigation begins, which ends with a forced eviction. In the absence of evidence, it cannot be asserted that such a scheme took place in this case, but many signs point to it. Be that as it may, the Arabs staged protests on the Temple Mount against forced evictions, and on May 8, 2021, clashes with the police near the Al-Aqsa Mosque occurred, as a result of which more than 200 Palestinians were injured.

The Islamic movement Hamas issued an ultimatum to the Israeli authorities, demanding the withdrawal of the police from the Temple Mount and, without receiving a positive response to it, began shelling Israel with homemade rockets, most of which did not reach populated areas, but those that did were shot down by the Israeli air defense system "Iron Dome".
 

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Rocket attack over Ashkelon. Photo: REUTERS

The tactics of using such missiles is based on the following: firstly, their extremely low efficiency is compensated by the fact that the cost of such a projectile is tens, if not hundreds of times less than the cost of air defense missiles with which they are shot down. Accordingly, the Palestinians may have more such missiles than the Israelis. Secondly, the Iron Dome air defense system still cannot shoot down all 100% of the shells that reached Israeli cities. And when the number of missiles fired from the Palestinian territory already counts thousands, the damage to the Jewish cities turns out to be not that significant but unacceptable for the authorities and the people of Israel.

The inadmissibility of damage prompts a very harsh response from the Israelis. For example, if an Arab suicide bomber blows himself up in an Israeli city, Jewish soldiers come to the house where his family lives, drive everyone out into the street and bulldoze the house. In response to rocket attacks from Palestinian territory, Israeli planes are destroying multi-storey buildings where, according to intelligence, Hamas structures are located, not caring about possible death toll among civilians, including children. Considering all this, Hamas and other Palestinian organizations in most cases try not to cross the line and limit themselves to strikes that cannot significantly affect Israel. However, sometimes everything goes too far, and a real war begins, when the parties no longer reckon with possible losses and casualties. This is exactly the case at the moment.

Aftermath of an Israeli strike on Gaza City, May 12, 2021. Photo: REUTERS

In ten days of active hostilities from Gaza, about 4,000 rockets were fired at Israel. The Israeli side reported 11 dead and more than 500 injured from these strikes. In turn, the IDF's retaliatory measures have resulted in the deaths of more than 230 Palestinians (of whom about 40 are children), and many buildings used by the Hamas group have been destroyed. The IDF also reported on the destruction of several leaders of this group and on the destruction of more than 100 km of underground tunnels, used by Hamas in its military activities.

Leading world powers, as well as international organizations, called on the parties to a ceasefire. Egypt and Russia have offered their capitals as a negotiating place for Israel and Palestine.

At the same time, the opinion of the world community was divided. Despite the IDF's tough actions and the incomparable losses of the parties, some European countries declared Israel's right to self-defense. The United States did not make such statements, but approved the sale of high-precision weapons to Israel priced $ 735 million and called for an early completion of the operation in Gaza. In other words, they also sided with Israel. The opposite position was expressed by Turkish leader R. Erdogan, who called Israel's actions "terrorism", urged all mankind to unite against Israel and even cursed the Austrian government for hoisting Israel's flags over some of the country's state buildings there. China, in a much milder form, has also expressed its intention to support Palestine in the current conflict.

What can the exacerbation lead to?

To answer this question, it is necessary to look at what all the previous Arab-Israeli conflicts led to, or rather, the periodic exacerbations of one large conflict between Israel and the entire Muslim world since 1948, when the UN decision in Palestine was to recreate the Jewish state, which ended its existence almost 2000 years ago.

Shortly after the UN decision, the Muslim world declared war on Israel. This map shows the countries that took part in this war in one way or another. They are marked in green and light green, while the Gaza Strip – in red. And if you look very closely, you can see Israel, marked in blue.

Matching the forces of Israel and the Muslim world

It was impossible to win in such a confrontation, but Israel eventually won.

Historians count six exacerbations of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which are designated by the term "war" and several more – by the term "military operation". In all of them, Israel was opposed by opponents who were many times superior to the Jewish state in manpower and military equipment. But in all of them Israel emerged victorious, time after time expanding its territory of influence and strengthening its position both in the Middle East and in the world as a whole.

By and large, it is impossible to explain this by anything other than the providence of God despite repeated attempts to do it. But let's not forget that the providence of God can be manifested both in the will of God and in letting something bad happen.

The current aggravation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine is also not capable of leading the Palestinians to defend their interests. Most likely, the IDF will inflict such damage on Hamas and the Palestinians as a whole that will force them to abandon hostile actions against Israel for a while, and Israel, in turn, will secure the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the Old City of Jerusalem to continue its expansion.

"Third Temple"

The Arab-Israeli conflict would have been resolved a long time ago to the complete mutual satisfaction of all parties, if these parties had been guided only by political, economic, financial or other everyday interests. But the main interest of the parties to this conflict is religious. The Jews want to build the "Third Temple" on the spot where the First and the Second temoles were built, and of which only one Wailing Wall remained. But the Arabs cannot allow them to do this, since today the third biggest shrine of the Muslim world – the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the Masjid Qubbat al-Sahra (Dome of the Rock), stands on this site. The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim sanctuary built over the Foundation Stone – the site where the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple was located.

Jews want to build a "Third Temple" in the place where the First and Second Temples were built, and from which only one Wailing Wall remained.

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Schematic representation of the main shrines of Christianity, Judaism and Islam on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

It is for these shrines that the war between Jews and Muslims is going on, which cannot be stopped by any negotiations or any diplomatic efforts. It can only be completed by the final military victory of one of the parties.

While the Israeli state at the official level does not raise the issue of building the "Third Temple", this topic is actively promoted at the level of public organizations. They are, for example, "Naamaney har ha-bayt" (Zealots of the Temple Mount), or "Movement for the Construction of the Temple." There is also the Mahon HaMikdash (Temple Institute), whose staff are working to recreate the utensils and clothing of the priests needed for temple service. They are also looking for the descendants of the ancient Cohens (priests) and Levites, who could in the future serve in the Third Temple, if it is built.

A lot of rabbis (both ancient and modern) believe that nothing can free the Jewish people from the responsibility of building the Temple. Opinions are divided only in details: should the Jews build the Third Temple before the coming of the "Mashiach" (the Messiah expected by the Jews, the Antichrist for Christians), or will this Mashiach himself build the temple when he comes to earth? Supporters of the latter point of view claim that the construction of the temple by the Mashiach will be proof of his messiahship.

In any case, with each new exacerbation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, talks about the prospects for the construction of the Third Temple are resumed with renewed vigor. All sorts of analysts are into making assumptions about whether or not it will be built, and if so, when.

In 2000, the well-known Soviet and Russian diplomat, President of the Society for Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arab Countries Vyacheslav Matuzov said that at the talks between US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David, Arafat was asked to decide ultimately the Palestinian question in the most beneficial way for the Palestinians. In return, Arafat was only required to agree to the following actions: to bring a powerful reinforced concrete foundation under the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount and raise them to a certain height from the ground. This would make it possible to build the "Third Temple" without destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Arafat replied with a categorical refusal, after which the so-called "Second Palestinian Intifada" began. 

In which temple will the Antichrist reign?

It is widely believed in Christianity that the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple is one of the signs of the coming of the Antichrist, since it is in this temple that he must reign. Supporters of this opinion believe that this is indicated by the words of the Apostle Paul: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2, 3-4).

Do these words imply the Jerusalem temple or something else?

Many holy fathers believe that the holy Apostle Paul had in mind precisely the Jerusalem temple.

"In the church of God – not ours, but the ancient one, the Jewish" (St. John of Damascus).

"’He is destined to sit in the church of God’. What church? In the ruined temple of the Jews, rather than the one we are now in. Why do we say this? Let no one think of us that we are flattering ourselves. If he comes to the Jews under the name of Christ and wants the Jews to worship him; then, in order to deceive them more, he will take special care of the temple, showing them that he, being from the dynasty of David, wants to create the temple built by Solomon” (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem).

It is widely believed in Christianity that the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple is one of the signs of the coming of the Antichrist, since he must reign in this temple exactly.

But this is not the only point of view. For example, the Monk Ephraim the Syrian says that here is meant the Church of Christ, i.e. Orthodox Church: “In this way he will appear and ascend into the temple of God to sit inside and in the Church of God. He will contempt and reject all cults (false) in order to captivate the Church. That is why he will ascend into the very temple of God in order to sit down and show himself as if he were God. How will he show that he is a true God? In addition to the glory and honor he will be vested with, he will show this even more through the enmity against heretical sects. Since he will not incline to any heresy, then, thanks to his (feigned) love for the children of the Church, he will make them think that he loves them as true (children of the Church), and he will come to their temple and sit down, as in the temple of truth, to show that he is God."

Blessed Augustine generally admitted that there is no way to determine which temple will be the seat of the Antichrist: “But it is not known in which temple of God he will sit: on the ruins of the temple that was built by King Solomon (see: 1 Kings 6: 1-38) or in a church. For the apostle would not call the temple of some idol or demon a temple of God."

Most of the holy fathers admitted that the Antichrist could sit both in the Jerusalem temple and in Christian churches.

“He will not lead to idolatry, but will be an antagonist, reject all gods and command everyone to worship himself instead of God. And he will sit in the temple of God – not only in Jerusalem, but everywhere in churches” (St. John Chrysostom).

“It is not said: in the temple of Jerusalem proper, but simply: in the temple, in every temple of God” (Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria).

Saint Theophan the Recluse, summing up the opinions of the holy fathers, wrote: “There will be somewhere the central place of the Antichrist's activity, and of course there will be a certain moment at which he will manifest himself as such. The Apostle refers to the main temple of that Place. In this temple he will sit like a god; and then he will sit in such a status and in any other temple that he meets in person. Or, perhaps, he will personally sit in one church, while in others he will attest to his sitting in some other way."

In view of the current exacerbation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Greek news agency Vimaorthodoxias posted on its website a quote from the recently canonized Venerable Paisius the Holy Mountain: “The destruction of the Omar Mosque in Jerusalem will be a sign that the fulfillment of the prophecies is approaching. It will be destroyed to rebuild the temple of Solomon, which is said to have been in its place. In the rebuilt temple, the Zionists will eventually proclaim the Antichrist as the Messiah. I heard that the Jews were already preparing for the construction of the Temple of Solomon."

Everything is slowly but surely moving towards the fact that the "Third Temple" will nevertheless be built despite the resistance of the entire Muslim world.

These words are confirmed by the entire course of developments in the Middle East, starting with the restoration of Israel as a state in 1948. Indeed, everything is slowly but surely moving towards the fact that the "Third Temple" will nevertheless be built despite the resistance of the entire Muslim world. However, given that the holy fathers do not have full agreement on this issue, one cannot totally rely on the point of view of the Monk Paisios and other fathers who expressed a similar opinion, since this may lurk a serious danger. It consists in the fact that while we wait for the restoration of the Jerusalem temple and believe that without this the Antichrist will not come to earth, he may well come and sit in a completely different place. In other words, we can simply "miss" it.

Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention not only to the temple in which the Antichrist will sit, but also to the whole complex of prophecies associated with the coming of the end times. And most importantly, it should be remembered that the Apostle Paul, who wrote to the Thessalonians that the Antichrist “will sit in the temple of God like God,” also wrote that every Christian is the temple of God: “Or doo you not know that your body is the temple the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (1 Cor. 6: 19). And whether or not to let the Antichrist into this temple depends only on each of us.

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