Temple Rebuilt and Damascus destroyed before “the End”?

This is simply a response to this this forum post:

“Isaiah 17 prophecizes the destruction of Damascus, an event which hasn’t happened yet. I muse a major Arab war is something that could shift the paradigm enough in Israel for the current political/power struggles to shift, and the temple to be rebuilt. On the temple, refer to: Daniel 9:27 and Daniel 12:11. Daniel here says that the Antichrist puts a stop to sacrifices (and sets up the abomination of desolation on a wing of the temple) in the middle of the 70th week, or last seven years before Christ returns (1290 days before Christ returns, to be exact). This obviously means that sacrifices commenced sometime before this and implies that there is a Temple already constructed to go along with the altar. Jesus confirms this is Matthew 24:15-16. Revelation 11:1-3 also mentions a “temple of God” in place through the end times. And 2 Thessalonians 2:4 speaks of the Antichrist taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

The fall of Damascus and the temple being rebuilt are the next events that must be fulfilled in Bible prophecy before the end times can begin. But after they are fulfilled, how long it actually takes until the end times begin I don’t believe is stated. My guess is quickly, but I could be wrong.”

Since many might feel this way I wanted to publicly speak to each point mentioned. I highly recommend reading my previous post about Israel in the Last Days. Indeed, I wrote that as part of my response to this and other comments. If you’ve read the previous essay then you can perhaps infer what this rebuilt Temple really is. Like Israel it is not a literal thing in the last days, but rather a spiritual reality. If you aren’t fully convinced of this fact or unwilling to accept that there is strong reason for us to think in this way, it may be hard to move on with what else I have to bring out.

There is plenty of evidence in that previous essay, but I will remark on the scriptures brought up above. However, those familiar with the bible may have noted that in my discussion of Physical Israel I limited myself to citing only the Hebrew part of the scriptures. Since the post I’m responding to here references some Greek scriptures I want to open with some important words from Paul that support my previous essay and will help us continue to unlock these prophecies:

For not all who descend from Israel are really “Israel”. – Romans 9:6b

Do you see what I mean? When we consider the primary fulfillment of prophecies of the last days we must keep this in mind. “Israel” is a placeholder for the new covenant group who have God’s favor. Whatever group that is in the last days, this is who these prophecies must refer to.

Daniel 9:27– If we go back to verse 24 we can get a feel for this context of what is being prophesied. 24 gives us a time period of 70 weeks in which, among other things, something will occur to “bring in everlasting righteousness”. The word “everlasting” may remind you of the later covenant to be brought about by the “prophet like Moses”. The covenant that “will not be like” the one made with Jewish bloodlines.

The next verse, 25, confirms this thinking by bringing up the Messiah, who is certainly the greater Moses, who will establish the everlasting covenant that won’t be broken.

Now, this part of Daniel happened later in his life, see 24:1 “first year of Darius”. Jerusalem has been gutted for decades. But Daniel knew from Jeremiah’s prophecy that after 70 years Jerusalem would be restored. So when we read about “from the issuing of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem” we know we are talking events to take place in relation to that reconstruction. This event is covered in another bible book, see Nehemiah 2:5,9. Daniel 9:25 is prophesying about when to expect to see the Messiah relative to that event.

Then in v26 we are also given some information about things that occur after the Messiah is “cut off”. This event is linked to allowing a “leader who is coming” to “destroy the holy place”. Who is deciding upon these “desolations”? Since this is ‘God’s Word the Bible’ it makes sense to first assume it’s his decision. OK, so why “desolations” for the city and the holy place? What would motivate such a decision? Perhaps this is to be part of the judgement upon literal Israel for rejecting their Messiah. That connects with what’s being described, so let’s assume that’s what is meant for now.

The first part of Daniel 9:27 mentions the final week for ‘keeping the covenant in force’ would seem to refer the time given to natural Israel for having the first opportunity to come into the Christian congregation, Matt 10:6, Acts 2:14; 13:46. This coincides with what we see in Daniel, namely that after 69 weeks from the “issuing of the word” Messiah would appear, v25, and then sometime after that he would be “cut off”. Verse 27 says halfway through the final week “sacrifice and offering” will cease. This is most likely when Jesus was executed.

So, what are these weeks? Some translations say “seventy sets of seven” or “seventy sevens”so this is a lot of time. 70 x 7 = 490 days, now that’s just a year and half and it clearly took a lot longer than that for Jesus to appear. What if these days were considered years? Why suggest that? Well, Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34 both contain this phrase “a day for a year” giving this logical jump a scriptural basis. Now let’s see how it shakes down: A widely accepted year for the death of Jesus is 33 ce. If this is halfway through the final week of years then this places Cornelius’ baptism in late 36ce. Also, it is widely accepted that Jesus’ ministry was 3 1/2 years long. Hey, that’s half a week of years! So if he started his ministry in late 29ce, when was the city rebuilding completed and when was this “issuing of the word to restore” it? We only have to count backwards and see if the dates make sense. Doing so puts Jerusalem rebuilt at 406 BCE and the issuing at 455 BCE. Nehemiah 2:1 mentions who sent him and gave him with official letters to finish building the city- King Artaxerxes, who ruled from 465-424 BCE. So that lines up well enough for my purposes here.

So, this final week of years starts with Jesus’ ministry, includes the first few years of the early Christian congregation, ending three and half years after Jesus’ death. For this week Jesus keeps “the covenant in force for the many”, why? Well the many seem to be Abraham’s offspring, which the Samaritans also are, Acts 8:14-17. This week must end at the baptism of Cornelius, an event that showed that the new covenant was open to all people, Acts 10:45. Unlike the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8, this ‘foreigner’ was given the same holy spirit bestowed to the apostles. Demonstrating that the new covenant had fully opened to people of all nations.

.

There’s a lot more to say about this, but I think this is enough for now. This part of Daniel chapter 9 gives a timeline for the Messiah’s coming and going. Thus, Daniel 9:27 isn’t about an “antichrist”. But this is sufficient to lead us to see that. The Temple sacrifices stop because with the death of the Messiah at the behest of the Jewish Leaders the covenant is done and the Temple sacrifices are no longer acceptable form of worship. It is the time of the new covenant.

Matthew 24:15-16 – Jesus refers to this part of Daniel here, in his long answer to the question of “signs of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things”. To understand his answer we must understand what is meant by these terms.

First, “his presence”. Later in Matthew 24 he specifically compares his presence to a lightning brightening the entire sky, v27. So it will be discernible worldwide. Then he compares his presence to the days of Noah, v37. Interesting that Christ’s presence marks the period of time before the large destructive act, comparable to the Flood, (Luke 17:26, 27) we’ll see more of that later. This description of his presence is also paralleled at Daniel 12:1, where Michael (Jesus) stands up or arises to his position of power, but then the earth will have great distress, which is described at Matthew 24:5-12.

This sequence of events is also paralleled at Revelation 6, this is the chapter that describes the four horsemen. The first rider, is on a white horse, representing purity or holiness. He is ‘given a crown’, representing authority bestowed upon him by a greater source, (Daniel 7:13,14). So this is Jesus, and his presence begins when he first exercises his authority to act as God’s judge, starting in heaven. The rest of the riders are symbols for the distress coming to the earth. A later portion of Revelation explains the conquest of Jesus and why his presence brings such distress to the earth.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. – Revelation 12:7-9

Jesus’ conquest at first is a heavenly one. And given one that of the first things he does is push the Resister and Opposer out of heaven, it makes sense that his presence brings such distress to the earth:

On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing that he has a short period of time. – Revelation 12:12

Now we know more of what is meant by Christ’s presence and why it brings the earth so many problems. But of course this distress will not go on indefinitely. It is compared to the time before the Flood, so it will end with righteous ones delivered through some act of divine intervention. This brings us to the “conclusion of the system of things”. Sometimes translated “the end of the world”, or “the consummation of the age”.

So what marks the “age” or era that is to come to an end? Arguably it’s this age of man being alienated from God. His plan is to set up a system which will unify humans under “the tent of God”, Revelation 21:3, in which “he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them”. Certainly current society cannot be described this way. At the moment our world is filled with competing governments/rulerships, which do not even work to serve their general public. Perhaps this sounds like Daniel 2:43 to you? It does to me! How is the modern world like iron and clay? Well, the rulers aren’t even truthful about anything they do – how much more divided could we get? Daniel 2:44 describes the earth’s governments replaced by God’s Kingdom. (I could also mention that our time is marked by Satan’s control, 1 John 5:19, John 12:31; 16:11. Which may be more important ultimately, but I’m trying to be brief.)

Much of what Jesus says at Matthew 24, and in the parallel accounts, is pertinent when we look for signs that tell us “our deliverance is near”(Luke 21:28). However, when Jesus first said this he was speaking to the apostles and the Mosaic law was still in force. Remember the Jewish bloodlines were still being given first opportunity to respond to him, Matthew 10:5, 6. So those alive during this time were about to experience the end of that Jewish “system of things”, the older covenant marked by the divinely approved temple worship, using the Levitcal priesthood, and Jerusalem being a place of special divine favor. So Jesus’ answer likely included some useful specific instruction for them in their immediate lives. This is how I understand Matthew 24:15, 16.

The fact that he mentioned Daniel 9:27 here supports this since, as we’ve seen, the part of Daniel he mentions is specifically about the Messiah’s ending the covenant by means of his being ‘cut off’. Jesus is providing a few more details to help his faithful disciples escape the coming judgement and destruction of Jerusalem – which occurred at 70ce. The one causing desolation is the Roman army, as often happens God used a world power to carry out his judgments (we’ll see more of this below). The specific instructions to flee to the mountains “of Judea” also support this reading of Matthew 24:15-20.

As Jesus was speaking we can see that he wraps this back around to the later greater fulfillment when he mentions “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again”, v21. Which of course has more to do with the great time of distress marked by his presence, but that is the main idea of this whole section so that makes sense. It is a common thing to see prophecy written this way. Greater fulfillment mixed with initial.

Daniel 12:11 – This is a prophecy focused on the Last Days. Daniel 11:40 sets up the remaining part of the book to take place “In the time of the end”. But if that is the case then this is describing the activity of the participants of the new covenant. Daniel didn’t have those specific details, so he describes a vision in a way that he can understand, using the shadows of things to come (Col. 2:17). In relation to this it’s worth quoting Hebrew 10:1:

“For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make those who approach perfect.”

So what is the constant feature or continual sacrifice mentioned in Daniel 12:11? What aspect of the new covenant is also meant to be continual? Christians are encouraged to “pray unceasingly” (1 Thess. 5:17), but that isn’t particularly public, in fact it’s private enough to do silently in your head, so this isn’t really something that can be stopped on the whole, but what activity is public enough to put a stop for a time?

The last thing Jesus commanded is followers to was to “Go…make disciples of people of all nations” (Mat 28:19). How are disciples made? Romans 10:14 makes it clear: preaching. This is the primary outward activity of the Christian congregation. Then, Hebrews 13:15 takes us all the way: “let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that make public declaration to his name.”

The last thing to note is that this a temporary cessation of the preaching work. Daniel 12:11 ends with giving us the time limit of “1,290 days”. This has nothing to do with the 70 weeks from Daniel 9. I think I explained those weeks well enough above. It is of course easier to look back on history and see how a prophecy was carried out, but it is another matter to explain or interpret one that may have happened much more recently, is happening or is soon to occur. I think it is enough for now to note that this number merely shows that the continual sacrifice would most certainly pick back up. If that feels like a push, let’s compare this to Revelation 11, but first let’s set the stage since that’s another cited scripture:

Revelation 11:1-3 – Here is another vision with a temple, “the holy city” is also mentioned. But certainly this is a vision of the end times, so this must not be read literally. Rather, than consider this in terms of physical Israel and a literal Temple we know this is about the greater covenant which doesn’t have those features. We are working under the premise of “not all who descend from Israel are really ‘Israel'”, from Romans 9:6. Another time Paul called it “the Israel of God”, see Galatians 6:16.

I’m not going to try to explain Revelation 11 or Daniel 11&12 in full here, my goal is mainly refute the idea that this refers to a physical Israel or Temple, as that notion merely makes it harder to understand what is really being expressed.

If you continue reading Revelation 11:1-12, you will see that these two witnesses in sackcloth are “killed”, v7, but later they are brought back to life, v11. This is what I compare Daniel 12:11, 12 to. Early into the last days, the preaching stops but resumes after some time.

We must consider that Revelation 11:3 brings up the 1290 days again. This time death is not mentioned but rather the two witnesses “prophesy…dressed in sackcloth”. Sackcloth garments are often worn in bible times as a sign of grieving or mourning, (Ge 37:24; 1 Sam 3:31) which is the usual response to death, so it relates on that level. It was also associated with times of crisis, 2 Kings 19:1, Isaiah 15:3; 22:12). If Christian activities are put on hold, certainly that is a crisis for them, relative to their fervent preaching work they are now dead. Both passages bring out that it is temporary.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 – This scripture also mentions the temple of god, but in what context? Is this about the end times? Seeing as how Christ’s presence is mentioned perhaps it is… But notice how it is mentioned, many translations use the word ‘concerning’ with an expression of this sort: “However, brothers, concerning  the presence of our Lord Jesus and our being gathered…”. This notes a change of topic, from whatever he had been talking about shifting to something new, specifically something that they had likely been asking about. Something they want (to know more about) so much so that some are taking advantage of this and thus correction was needed: “we ask you not to be quickly shaken from your reason…” and “Let no one lead you astray: (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

Verse 3 goes on to say that it, Christ’s Presence, will not occur until after “the apostasy comes first”. As well as after the revealing of someone referred to as “the man of lawlessness” and “son of destruction”. Is he referring to a specific individual? I don’t think so. Verse 7 says the “mystery of this lawlessness is already at work” then verse 9 mentions that “the lawless one’s presence is by the operation of Satan”. So this seems to be a figurative term to describe those under Satan’s influence. 

It is important that this ‘son of destruction’ is ‘exalting himself’ to God’s place is mentioned as already occurring even at the time of this being written, (2 Thess. 2:7). Even as the first century Christians preached empowered with miracles the new Christian congregation it is was being attacked by Satan, so in this passage Paul is helping his readers not to be shaken by anyone saying that Christ is back or his presence has begun. Again, he says it will happen only after “the apostasy comes first”. This is in line with Jesus’ illustration of the wheat and the weeds.

Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-40. Notice that Jesus is the sower of the fine seed and Satan is the sower of the weeds. They aren’t separated until the “conclusion of a system of things” so that’s likely during Christ’s Presence. But the timing of the sowing is shortly after Jesus sows his fine seed, some night before any of the seed has sprouted Satan comes to sow his, this pictures what is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Namely that Satan was already at work to undermine the new covenant group. This coincides with Paul saying that “God lets a deluding influence mislead many” (v11) – which is a logic occurrence if one allows the ‘weeds’ to grow with the ‘wheat’.

That brings to an end the discussion the scriptures cites as evidence of the temple restored in the times of the end. Even if you disagree, I hope you can agree that there is solid reason for viewing these and the rest of the prophecies concerning the end times as involving a spiritual “Israel” and not the literal bloodlines or locations.

~

The original comment also asserts that Damascus must be destroyed before the end comes. Citing Isaiah 17, so these must be the words he is referring to.

A pronouncement against Damascus:
“Look! Damascus will cease to be a city,
And it will become a heap of ruins.
The cities of A·roʹer will be abandoned;
They will become places for flocks to lie down
With no one to make them afraid.
Fortified cities will disappear from Eʹphra·im,
And the kingdom from Damascus;
And those remaining of Syria
Will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares Jehovah of armies. -Isaiah 17:1-3

However, if you examine the context of these words there is no reference to the last days. In fact the context here is a series of pronouncements against Babylon (Is 13, 14), Moab (Is 15, 16), and Egypt (Is 19). Why aren’t we expecting these pronouncements to be fulfilled? Because they already have been carried out. Isaiah wrote this about 730 BCE. What happened after that? Well, in 539 BCE Babylon was conquered by Darius the Mede, Cyrus, (Daniel 5:30-6:1) after that it was never was a power. Moab faced much of its judgment in 582 BCE when Babylon conquered them and sometime after ceased to be a nation or people. Egypt, in fulfillment of these words, was invaded by Assyria 671 BCE, then in 525 BCE the Persia Empire took control, after this a series of rebellions fulfills Isaiah 19:2. 333 BCE Alexander the Great places a garrison there. Jump to 30 BCE and it’s made a Roman province. So we can see the Egypt was no longer the world power it was once was in the ancient world. (I just grabbed these dates from Wikipedia.)  Given that all this happened so long ago, isn’t it logical that given the Damascus pronouncement’s placement in the middle of this that we expect a similar fulfillment from history?

Damascus was the capitol of Syria. Syria’s fall is mentioned in the Bible, at the hands of a Assyrian army, 2 Kings 16:9. This fits in with the pattern above. Many of of these pronouncements involved God’s judgement being carried by Assyrians, Babylonians and the Medo-Persian powers (Isaiah 10:5, 6; 13:17; 44:28, Ezekiel 30:24, Proverbs 21:1). After this invasion, Damascus and Syria were no longer the source of opposition they once were to Israel (1 Chronicles 18:5, 6; 1 Kings 11:25).

I must then assume that the motivation behind expecting this prophecy at Isaiah 17:1-3 to see further fulfillment comes solely from the strong language used to describe the fate of Damascus as ‘ceasing to be a city’ and to ‘become a heap of ruins’. The use of figurative language or hyperbole is not uncommon in biblical prophecy, for example Isaiah 13:8, 12; 14:7, 8; 18:6; 19:5-7. So expecting a completely literal fulfillment doesn’t necessarily follow.

However, we know similar words were used to describe the fate of Babylon and indeed that ancient city is a ruin to this day. So what’s the difference? Quite simply, the frequency and severity of the words against Babylon are much more severe. Compare just those first three verses of Isaiah 17 with all this:

A pronouncement against Babylon that Isaiah the son of Aʹmoz saw in vision:

I will make mortal man scarcer than refined gold, And humans scarcer than the gold of Oʹphir.

And Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms,
The beauty and the pride of the Chal·deʹans,
Will be like Sodʹom and Go·morʹrah when God overthrew them.
She will never be inhabited,
Nor will she be a place to reside in throughout all generations.
No Arab will pitch his tent there,
And no shepherds will rest their flocks there.
The desert creatures will lie down there;
Their houses will be filled with eagle owls.
The ostriches will reside there,
And wild goats will skip about there.
Howling creatures will cry out in her towers,
And jackals in her luxurious palaces.
Her time is near, and her days will not be prolonged.”

-Isaiah 13:1, 12, 19-22

and

In the day when Jehovah gives you [Israel] rest from your pain and from your turmoil and from the hard slavery imposed on you, you will recite this proverb against the king of Babylon:

“I will rise up against them,” declares Jehovah of armies.
“And I will wipe out from Babylon name and remnant and descendants and posterity,” declares Jehovah.
“And I will make her a possession of porcupines and a region of marshes, and I will sweep her with the broom of annihilation,” declares Jehovah of armies.
Jehovah of armies has sworn:
“Just as I have intended, so it will occur,
And just as I have decided, that is what will come true.

-Isaiah 14:3, 4, 22-24.

And Jeremiah was inspired to say something similar:

The word that Jehovah spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chal·deʹans, through Jeremiah the prophet:

Your mother has been put to shame.
She who gave birth to you has been disappointed.
Look! She is the least of the nations,
A waterless wilderness and a desert.
Because of the indignation of Jehovah she will not be inhabited;
She will become utterly desolate.
Anyone passing by Babylon will stare in horror
And whistle because of all her plagues.

How the forge hammer of all the earth has been cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations!

Come against her from distant places.
Open up her granaries.
Pile her up like heaps of grain.
Destroy her completely.
May she have no one left.

Therefore, the desert creatures will dwell with the howling animals,
And in her the ostriches will dwell.
She will never again be inhabited,
Nor will she be a place of residence throughout all generations.”

Jeremiah 50:1, 12, 13, 23, 26, 39

After reading all this it is easy to see why ancient Babylon was made and remains a ruin. Above it was said of Babylon that it would “never again be inhabited” and “Nor will she be a place to reside in throughout all generations.” Her’s was a much more permanent judgment. Whereas the judgment of Damascus is much less pronounced. Based on the city’s tumultuous history I don’t find it a stretch to say that Damascus received her promised judgment in full already.

~

This is all to say that if we want to look for “signs of the times” we must be careful how we apply scriptures. First, when the end times and Israel are mentioned together we probably are on the right track when consider an application concerning a spiritual Israel and its role in modern history. Secondly, Jesus gave a nice long list of things to look for that mark his presence, (which precedes the establishing God’s kingdom on earth Daniel 2:44; 12:1), see Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Paul gave a list of attitudes that dominate during last days at 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3, 4. These seem like the best places to start one’s understanding of what to look for to determine our place in the timeline described by the Bible.

Author: davidbehlman

Studied Math and Physics at University of Minnesota Morris. Studied 'hands-on' Film-making in 2007-08. Been an avid reader of many subjects for a while now. I feel very strongly that far too many writings wind-up ignoring their definitions and thereby forsake real content and logic. I hope to add to the sensible discourse.

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