Harbinger of the Messiah
By Matt Ward
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me…” (Mal. 3:1).
There are three prerequisites before Jesus Christ can return to this earth. First, Israel needs to exist as a nation state. Second, the Jewish Temple needs to be rebuilt. Finally, an Altar needs to be placed and properly consecrated inside the Temple so that sacrifice can once again be offered in Jerusalem to the Lord God.
As in the First Coming of Christ, the Second Coming will also involve a personal return of the Messiah to the actual, physical land of Israel, making its existence and rebirth in the last days an absolute necessity.
Equally, before the Second Coming can happen, a Jewish Temple needs to be rebuilt in Jerusalem with a functioning Holy Altar inside it. This is so that – at some point in the near future – one man, the Antichrist, can come forth and “…confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27).
Today, in 2017, the nation of Israel already exists and has existed for close to one full, biblical generation (Psalm 90:10). At the same time, the world is suddenly awash with talk of rebuilding the Jewish Temple. The Jewish Temple is one of the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that yet needs to fall into place before the end can come.
The second Temple of Jesus’ time was constructed over a period of thirty to forty years. If the Temple were to be constructed today, it would be built in a mere fraction of that time. The Temple Institute in Israel has already made many of the sacred artifacts needed for use in the Temple, as well as prefabricated large sections of the Temple structure itself so that, when the time comes, these pre-made sections can be taken straight to the site and built into the larger superstructure of the Temple quickly and efficiently, with a minimum of fuss.
It is, however, not that simple. There are huge, seemingly overwhelming problems to overcome before a Temple can ever be rebuilt.
For political and safety reasons, rebuilding a Temple would seem almost an impossibility at present. Islam currently controls the Temple Mount, and for Jews to destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque so as to build the Jewish Temple, it would likely provoke an immediate world war. As insurmountable as this problem may seem at present, I sincerely believe that it will be resolved one way or another very soon, clearing the way for rebuilding work to begin.
Amazingly though, the current political impediments regarding Islam and the Temple Mount area are not even the most significant problems faced when considering rebuilding the Temple. There are greater issues to deal with before even a single brick can be laid.
The first insurmountable obstacle faced when considering re-establishing the sacrificial system with a Temple concerns the ashes and blood of a Red Heifer. Red Heifers are absolutely critical to the rededication process of the Temple in two ways: First, the ashes of a red heifer that has been sacrificed in a ritually clean place (Numbers 19:9), are pivotal to the process of rededicating the Temple itself, and especially the Holy Altar, where the heifer’s blood would be sprinkled. Without both the blood and the ashes, there is no rededication and no re-establishment of sacrifice.
This presents an insurmountable problem for Israel that is not often discussed, and it regards the actual sacrifice of the red heifer itself prior to any potential, future rededication of the Temple. Biblically-pure red heifers must be sacrificed in a certain way, in a certain place, and the place of sacrifice must be ritually clean and pure (Numbers19:9). There are no such ritually clean places that exist in Israel today— not even one. This means that no red heifer, even if one could be found, could be sacrificed; because it would be made immediately unclean by the place of sacrifice itself, and would therefore be unfit for use in the Temple.
The reason for this is because, in order to make a place ritually pure enough to sacrifice a red heifer according the exacting standards of Mosaic Law, the place of sacrifice itself needs to be scattered with the ashes of another previously sacrificed red heifer. It is a terrible catch-22 situation.
The solution within Judaism has traditionally been to keep safe the ashes from previous red heifer sacrifices, of which there have been between seven and nine throughout Jewish history, so that future acceptable and pure sacrifices can take place whenever needed.
During the first and second Temples, these ashes were divided into three parts: One portion was given to the Levites guarding the Temple itself; the second portion was stored on the Mount of Olives to be used in the purification of the priests; and the remaining third was placed in a wall which faced the Women’s Gallery of the Temple. According to Numbers 19:9, a portion was also to be kept outside the camp. None of these ashes have been seen since the Romans smashed Jerusalem in 70 AD. The assumption is that they have been, and remain to this day, hidden.
Another insurmountable problem, and the current focus of a raging debate within Judaism, is exactly who has the authority to begin the rebuilding process of the Temple itself? Is it God, the Messiah or someone else? Nobody really knows, and there is as yet no consensus within Judaism on this absolutely vital issue.
Without resolution of this pivotal problem regarding exactly who has the authority to rebuild, there can be no Temple; and these are the reasons why:
First, the problem of who has the authority to begin the rebuilding process exists because nobody today really knows exactly where the Holy of Holies from the Second Temple is located on the Temple Mount. This is the reason why Jews are forbidden from entering the precise area where the second Temple was built, in case they inadvertently stand on the sacred and consecrated area which housed the Holy of Holies. To do so, even inadvertently, is punishable by death under Mosaic Law.
The second major stumbling block is that all Jews are currently ritually impure, which also prevents any Jews from entering the precise area where the Temple used to stand. In order to become ritually pure, Jews would need the ashes of a red heifer, which would need to be administered by a priest who could trace his family and ancestral lineage back far enough to validate his claim to the priesthood. No such red heifer ashes exist and no priest currently exists who can trace his lineage to such an exacting standard, as is required. The reason is that when Israel and Judah were dispersed to the four corners of the world and thrust into the Diaspora, all such lineage records were lost.
This means that, under Mosaic Law, there are no priests eligible to ever administer the ashes of a red heifer and, therefore, be able to make Jews ritually pure enough to ever enter the Temple complex area. It is another terrible catch-22 situation, but it is not the last.
The next major problem concerns the Altar of the Temple itself, specifically the location of the Altar. The Law of Moses is very precise about exactly where the Altar must be located. It cannot simply go anywhere; it needs to go in exactly the right place. To put the Altar anywhere else is expressly forbidden. When they built the Second Temple, the Jews used reliable witnesses who could testify as to the correct spot. In fact, the prophets Haggai, Zephaniah and Malachi are believed within Judaism to have been the three witnesses used to verify the Altar’s correct location.
No such witnesses exist today. Even if a Temple could be built, they could never offer sacrifice in it as they simply do not know where to locate the Altar. They have absolutely no idea where it should go, no idea whatsoever.
Assuming that they were able to rebuild the Temple in exactly the right spot and then locate the Altar allowing for sacrifice also in exactly the right spot, the Temple would still need priests whose genealogy can be absolutely determined and verified. No such verification exists anymore. It would be a Temple with no priests.
Yet another major issue is that, in order to have a Temple, there needs to be a High Priest. There can be no functioning Temple without a functioning High Priest. To appoint a High Priest there needs to be a Sanhedrin, 70 to 71 ordained rabbis acting as the Supreme Council of all Israel. There can currently be no legitimate Sanhedrin that satisfies Mosaic Law because each rabbi must satisfy Mosaic Ordination, which was transmitted from rabbi to rabbi since the time of Moses. Mosaic Ordination ceased in 358 AD because of persecution; therefore, there can be no legitimate Sanhedrin and no legitimate High Priest.
These problems are insurmountable. There is no human solution to them.
Jewish tradition, though, does provide an answer, as does scripture. In scripture, the person who may well supply the necessary authority to begin the rebuilding process of the Third Temple is the Prophet Elijah himself. Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, revealed that at the end Elijah, “will restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).
According to Jewish tradition, it will be Elijah who will reveal himself to the Jews before the advent of Messiah. In revealing himself, he will also answer all questions and resolve all doubts. In the Tanakh we are told of Elijah: “…at the appointed time, it is written, you are destined to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob” (Sirach 48:10).
In the Wisdom of Joshua ben Sira, Elijah’s end-time mandate is described as being fourfold in nature. He will herald the Messiah, calm God’s fury against an Israel that is initially in unbelief, restore familial peace, and restore the 12 tribes of Israel.
In Talmudic literature it was not uncommon to believe that Elijah would visit rabbis to help solve particularly difficult legal problems. Thus, when confronted with reconciling impossibly conflicting laws or rituals, the rabbis would set aside any decision “until Elijah comes.” This is one of them.
Jesus Christ, in his First Coming, said that “Elijah truly shall come first and will restore all things” (Matthew 17:11). The prophetic reference by Jesus to the “restoration of all things” is a reference to the restoration of God’s worship system. We should expect Elijah, therefore, when he returns, to restore a proper understanding of how the worship system that God instituted at Mount Sinai and the worship system that Jesus Christ instituted at Jerusalem work together in the salvation of any in the last days who will believe and worship God the Father, especially for the Jewish people.
Thus, as Malachi describes, “he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” When these two aspects of the Father’s worship system are restored and understood in the light of his plan for the salvation of humanity, and are believed by those Jews he calls to salvation, it will be said that the hearts of the fathers are turned to the sons and the sons to the fathers. There will be perfect harmony between the fathers who taught righteousness like the Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron and the Apostles, and all the sons who are taught righteousness and have come to believe through faith.
Elijah will also be the necessary authority to reveal the exact location of the Holy of Holies and the precise location of the Altar, as well as where the previously sacrificed red heifer ashes currently lie. It will be Elijah who will restore the 12 Tribes of Israel, revealing to the priesthood their exact genealogies, reinstituting Mosaic ordination for Rabbis; therefore, finally allowing for the reestablishment of a legitimate Sanhedrin and High Priest.
And to further satisfy Mosaic Law, which prescribes the presence of Two Witnesses as being necessary for legal satisfaction (Deuteronomy 19:15), Elijah will also likely return with another great prophet of old, a second “Witness,” who will serve to validate his judgments. Many speculate, and it can only be speculation, that this second witness could possibly be the man through whom the Law was initially delivered—Moses himself.
The picture we see revealed in Revelation, during the first half of the Tribulation period, reflects this.
“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner” (Revelation 11: 4-5).
In the book of Jude, we come across what seems to be a strange passage detailing Michael the Archangel contesting with Satan over the body of Moses:
“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘the Lord rebuke you’” (Jude 1:9).
In its original form, this word ‘dispute’ or ‘contest’ can denote extreme violence. The Archangel Michael and Satan weren’t merely having a heated debate over the body of Moses; they were engaged in combat. And the text insinuates it was extremely violent combat at that. They were involved in a brutal fight over the body of the Servant of the Lord, Moses.
It is highly likely that the reason for this was that God had not yet finished with Moses, or his body. The body of Moses would be needed again, first during the ministry of Jesus, where he would appear alongside Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration:
“Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matt. 17:3). But he could potentially be needed a second time, at the end of this age, accompanying Elijah once more to give a testimony to mankind from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
This testimony of the “Two Witnesses” will be during the first 42 months of the Tribulation Period, and it will be a testimony of Jesus Christ against Antichrist to a world largely without testimony, due to the removal of the Church.
It will be at the midpoint of this Tribulation, after one thousand two hundred and sixty days, that the Beast will rise up and slay these Two Witnesses, but only when they have finished their testimony.
“When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them…and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves…” (Revelation 11:7-9).
It cannot be merely incidental that 1,260 days is also 42 months exactly, the amount of time God gives for the first half of the Tribulation period. It cannot also be merely coincidence that the amount of time the Jewish priesthood would need to perform all the necessary purification rights and rituals prescribed in the Torah, to purify and inaugurate the new Temple, would also last exactly 42 months, from the initial ritual of purification to the final one.
42 months of testimony, 42 months to compete purification, 42 months designated for the first half of the Tribulation.
Scripture tells us that at the midpoint of the Tribulation, after 42 months, the Temple will be desecrated by the Antichrist. We know from scripture that, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will set up the Abomination that causes Desolation in the Holy of Holies of this new Temple (Dan. 9:27), and then declare himself to be God.
This is the starting point for the last 42-month period known as the Great Tribulation, a time of distress unequaled since man has been on the earth.
Jewish tradition teaches, and scripture seems to strongly suggest, that Elijah will soon return to the Jewish people, I believe after the increasingly imminent Rapture of the church. He will then, in the words of Jesus Christ, “restore all things” (Matthew 17:11). In essence, this would mean reappointing the building work for the Temple; reinstituting the rabbinical priesthood according to the Law of Moses; defining who is eligible for the priesthood and who is not; reforming the Sanhedrin, which would then oversee the appointment of a new High Priest; and it would almost certainly involve protecting the Temple Mount, as many will come against them with “fire that comes out from their mouths.”
Elijah is the Harbinger of the Messiah. According to scripture he will return very soon, and he will turn the hearts of many in Israel back to their God and begin the process of preparing them individually and corporately to once again meet their God.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zechariah 12:10).
Their Mashiach Nagid, their Messiah and King, will come to them, “and in this way all Israel will be saved.” As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).
That day of national salvation for Israel fast approaches, but before that day is the Rapture of the Church!