End-times prophecy watchers are marveling over a news report out of Jerusalem this week that the Altar of the Lord has been reconstructed by the Temple Institute.
The Institute, based in the Old City of Jerusalem, announced it has finished building an altar that is essentially “ready for use” in sacrificial services.
The altar is the most ambitious project to date toward the goal of rebuilding the Jewish Temple. The massive outdoor altar, which took several years to build, can be operational at little more than a moment’s notice, reported the Israeli magazine Matzav Haruach.
The altar is the last major component needed for the long-obstructed sacrifices to resume in a future Jewish temple.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray daily for its reconstruction atop the holy hill known as Mount Moriah or the Temple Mount.
Bible scholars say the rebuilding of the ancient temple is predicted throughout scripture, starting with Daniel’s vision in Daniel 9:27. Jesus echoed Daniel’s warning about an abomination standing in “the holy place” in the last days in Matthew 24:15, followed by the Apostle John’s vision of the Temple in Revelation 11:1-2. Paul mentioned it in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.
Most people don’t realize the temple had two altars — the altar of burnt offering and the altar of incense. The largest was the altar of burnt offering, placed in the outer court of the priests. Designing and building it to exact biblical specifications required quite an undertaking.
It was approximately 5 meters (16 feet) tall and 16 meters (52.5 feet) wide, with four “horns” or raised corners, and a ramp.
The altar is the central focus of the sacrificial services that were halted with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D.
The Temple Institute has prepared all the priestly garments and sacred vessels for the rebuilt temple, which can be viewed on its website. It even trains members of the priestly family to be ready to serve as soon as the Temple is constructed.
Carl Gallups, a Baptist pastor in Florida, Bible prophecy expert and author of “Final Warning: Understanding the Trumpet Days of Revelation,” told WND the announcement about the altar will be seen by many Christians as a huge step toward fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
“This announcement will surely excite prophecy watchers around the world,” he said. “Regardless of one’s eschatological leanings, every sincere student of the Word of God knows there are at least hints, if not clear declarations, of something happening just before the return of the Lord that involves altar sacrifices and the distinct possibility of a rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount.”
Jonathan Cahn, author of “The Harbinger” and “The Mystery of the Shemitah” also sees the announcement as significant.
“We know that end-time prophecy cannot be fulfilled without the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem,” Cahn, a Messianic Jewish rabbi in New Jersey, told WND. “The abomination desolation prophesied in Daniel and in the Gospels, must take place within the Temple precincts. So, too, the apostle Paul speaks of the ‘man of sin,’ or the Antichrist, sitting in the Temple of God. What many people don’t realize is that along with the Holy of Holies, the altar of the Temple is the most central and critical part of the Temple.”
Cahn said it is the altar that is the center of the abomination causing desolation.
“It was specifically the altar of the Temple that was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes in the days of the Maccabees that comprised the first abomination desolation and the foreshadowing of what will take place in the end-times,” he said. “So any progress made toward the rebuilding of the altar is worthy of our attention.”
Mark Biltz, author of “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs” and pastor of El Shaddai Ministries, says prophecy watchers should not forget, however, that the Temple Mount is under the control of the Muslims for a reason.
“Religiously, you have the Temple Institute and they are ready to rebuilt it,” he said.
In previous years, there have been attempts to sacrifice a goat on the Temple Mount at Passover, something that enrages Muslims who consider the hilltop the third most sacred spot in Islam.
“They could actually do sacrifices without a temple, some sacrifices. And Passover is one of them. There’s always been a drive to sacrifice a lamb on the Temple Mount,” Biltz said. “They would do it in a heartbeat. But it’s just like here in America where the ACLU wants nothing to do with religion or religious groups. So it’s the same there. The Israeli government doesn’t want to cause any uproar among the various religious factions, especially with elections coming up.”
The Temple Institute represents the views of the Ultra-Orthodox community, which makes up a small percentage of Israel’s population, about 4 percent.
“They would love a temple but the broader population wants to keep church and state separate, and there is a lot of animosity toward the Ultra Orthodox,” Biltz said. “But they don’t need some big elaborate temple, they could start to do the sacrifices with a tent or some sort of makeshift tabernacle. It’s all very interesting and it’s all coming to a head. I believe you’re going to see a major war first, which would redraw alignments and allegiances.”
This explains the reaction of former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan as he observed rabbis rushing to pray at the Temple Mount following the Israeli Army’s reclaiming of the landmark in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“What is this?” Dayan, a secular Jew, reportedly mused. “The Vatican?”
“One of the first things he did was give it back to the Muslims,” Biltz said. “They didn’t want the religious right telling the government what to do. They would rather have the Muslims have it. So there is a bigger fight among the Jews, an even bigger fight over whether to build a temple, than the fight with the Muslims. There are two huge fights going on. ”
There is an interesting foreshadowing of this end-time rebuilding event in the book of Ezra, who gave an account of the Jewish exiles returning from captivity in Persia.
“In rebuilding the temple destroyed under the Babylonian occupation, the first act of those returnees was to rebuild an altar and offer sacrifices upon it to the Lord,” Gallups said.
They did this at the site of the ruined temple. The altar was constructed under the leadership of a high priest named, of all things, Yehoshua (Joshua, or Jesus in the New Testament Greek).
The returning Jews, according to Ezra, rebuilt this holy altar despite fears of attack from surrounding enemies. After the altar was rebuilt, and regular sacrifices reinstated, the returnees celebrated their first festival — the Feast of Tabernacles.
That feast occurs in autumn. This year it will occur during the season of the rare tetrad of four blood moons and the seven-year Shemitah cycle described in Cahn’s book.
Ezra, chapter three, says that after the altar was rebuilt and sacrifices resumed, and when the temple had been rebuilt – the people shouted with joy, praised the Lord and wept aloud. “And the sound (of the celebration) was heard far away.”
“Now, in 2015, we have the news that once again the altar of sacrifice has been rebuilt and is ready for use,” Gallups said. “We also know of a very serious plan to rebuild the ancient temple of God upon the Temple Mount. The days of Ezra and Yehoshua appear to be upon us again. In the midst of the celebration of these facts, the sound of that celebration is once again ‘being heard far away.’ And through the modern technology of the Internet the sound is being heard around the world. These are certainly prophetic times in which we are living.”
Biltz sees the timing of the altar announcement as prophetic.
“Tomorrow, (Saturday) every Jew in synagogues around the world is reading the Torah portion from Exodus about the construction of the tabernacle,” he said. “It’s the last chapter of Exodus about the glory falling, Moses coming out and blessing the people and the glory falling on the tabernacle.
“Not only that but this next week, historically, is the very day the dedication of the tabernacle happened, on Nisan 1, that is read in the Torah portion. This year, being Saturday, March 21. It actually begins at sundown on Friday, March 20.”
As an expert in the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith, Biltz is always looking at current events in light of the times and the seasons according to the Hebrew calendar. And there is something else special this year about Nisan 1, which arrives at sundown March 20.
“Amazingly, there is also a total solar eclipse occurring at the beginning of the religious calendar on March 20. A total solar eclipse speaks of judgment coming on the nations. This is followed two weeks later by a total lunar eclipse or blood moon on Passover.”
So the fact that a remnant of Jews has prepared an altar and the sacred vessels for temple services, even if the politics are still such that constructing the temple is currently impossible, is exciting, Biltz said.
Most of the sacred vessels needed for the temple sacrificial system have been recreated by Israeli artisans – the cups, the chalices, the incense altar and incense shovel, the table of showbread, the high-priest’s crown, the golden menorah, the three-pronged fork and so on. All of these items are being planned now by the Temple Institute, even though the political obstacles to rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem remain huge.
“They even have the high priest’s crown. They have everything ready to go,” Biltz said. “They’ve even had the Levites come in and be fitted for the priestly garments, everything is ready.”
The purpose of the Temple was to make atonement for Israel and atonement for the nations of the world before the Creator, whom all mankind should desire to draw near, Biltz said.
“If the nations had only understood this back then, they would have never destroyed the temple but placed their armies around it to protect it,” he said. “If the nations understood that today, they would realize rather than dividing Jerusalem it should be united with a Temple to Hashem bringing His presence back into our world. This is the only true path to world peace.”