The Status of the Temple Mount - December 2015 Yavoh

It is exciting to live in these days of prophecy being worked out and history being made! Israel and the Middle East remains a major world-wide focus, as what happens there affects everyone. For those of us looking for the signs of the end of the ages and the beginning of the Great Tribulation, we are watching for the construction of an altar on the Temple Mount. According to the prophecies, that altar is to be shut down, prohibiting the daily sacrifice of the morning and evening lambs. This is the sign that Yeshua told us to watch for (the prophecy of Daniel called the Abomination of Desolation in Matthew 24:15). Because there is no altar at the present time on the Temple Mount, the prophecy cannot be fulfilled. However, present day discussions about Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount do include the construction of an altar with priests presenting the daily sacrifice. This is why the controversy in Israel about the Temple Mount should be of great interest to us. This is also why the Palestinians are so hostile about the subject of the Temple Mount and any Jewish presence there.

Let me review for you the present status of the Temple Mount, including who is permitted to go there and what is permitted to happen there. Although Jerusalem has been under Israeli control since 1967, the Temple Mount itself is under the control of the Jordanian Waqf (an Islamic council). The controlling persons on the Temple Mount are the Palestinians and their religious leaders. Here is a short summary of the rules on the Mount itself.

1.      Only Muslim prayer is permitted on the Temple Mount. No other persons or religious groups, such as Christians or Jews, are permitted to conduct any type of worship. Muslims believe that praying by non-Muslims on the Mount is an effort to destroy their mosque.

2.      The Temple Mount cannot be displayed or be a part of any Israeli national observance in any manner. However, the Mount can display any other form of Arab identity, including hostile organizations such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, ISIS, or any other enemy of Israel calling for the death of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Furthermore, the Temple Mount has become the staging area for the Palestinians to riot in Jerusalem and attack Jews in the Old City.

3.      Christian and Jewish groups can visit the Temple Mount only during weekdays for approximately 4 ½ hours in the morning in single groups not larger than 20 persons. Those groups are then escorted by Jerusalem police and Palestinian police to ensure that no one bows their heads, moves their lips, uttering any form of prayer or quoting of Scripture. Furthermore, they cannot make any form of demonstration, such as displaying any message on their persons, waving a banner, or holding a sign with a message. They cannot drink water nor eat any food (for fear of issuing a blessing). Furthermore, neither Jews nor Christians are permitted to bring their holy books onto the Temple Mount. These same groups can only access the Mount from one gate, while Palestinians may gain access through any of eleven gates.

4.      The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that both Christians and Jews should be permitted access to the Temple Mount and be free to conduct religious services and to pray. However, this ruling has not been implemented for “security” reasons, and to keep the Palestinians from rioting.

This is what is called the “status quo” according to the government of Israel and in particular Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, even this status quo is no longer acceptable to the Palestinians, thus the hostile conflict in Israel we have seen in recent weeks and months.

The Palestinians want to keep Christians and Jews completely off of the Temple Mount forever. But it goes further—and this is the crux of the problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for all of these years—they also want all Jews to be shipped back to the various countries where they came from and the state of Israel to no longer exist. They argue that they—the Palestinians—have been in the land of Palestine for thousands of years, and that there never was a Jewish presence in the land, including any previous Jewish temple. The Mufti of Jerusalem recently stated that there never was a Jewish temple on the Mount because the mosque was built by angels and was present in the days of Adam. Simply put, the Palestinians and their leaders are willfully ignorant of world history of that region, including the history of the Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Christians. They refer all the way back to Abraham claiming that Ishmael—not Isaac—is the rightful heir to Abraham, and they try to present themselves as predating even Muhammad, the founder of Islam, who was born in 570 A.D. and died in 632 A.D.

Throughout the years there have been a multitude of official determinations made by Muslim scholars concerning the land of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, affirming the true historical facts. Past Muslim scholars have declared Jerusalem to be Jewish and the Temple Mount to be the seat of Jewish identity. Even the Koran (the Muslim bible) affirms this and does NOT speak directly of the city of Jerusalem being a Muslim city. It is only a theological conclusion that Muhammad made his famous alleged ride to heaven starting at Jerusalem.  However, in this generation, since the PLO came to be, the Palestinians have argued that Jerusalem and the temple are a sacred element of Islam. Yasser Arafat pressed this point to garner Arab support in his fight against Israel. Only the Palestinians argue that there never was a Jewish presence in the city and on the Mount.

The world and the world leaders who know world history have continued to play along with this Palestinian myth and have allowed them to rewrite history in an effort to placate them into some kind of agreement. Since Israel is the only nation that the other nations can relate to in terms of history and sanity, the nations have put the burden on Israel to make repeated concessions in an effort to find agreement. It is like two persons having an argument: one is completely out of control while the other is reasonable. Negotiations, therefore, center on the reasonable one to make concessions toward an agreement. There is nothing balanced about this, nor is it fair. At the very core of any agreement in the Middle East is what happens to Jerusalem and in particular the 3.5 acres called the “Temple Mount.” The Palestinians want it primarily because they know it is central to Jewish identity in the land – the place of the ancient Jewish temple for the God of Israel.

When President Clinton was deep in negotiations with Yasser Arafat (the then president of the PLO) and Ehud Barack (the then prime minister of Israel) at Camp David in 2000, the final element of the negotiations was the Temple Mount. President Clinton, himself, attempted to negotiate this item by asking why the Palestinians would not consider Israel having a small portion of the Mount since they had mutually agreed to split the land and the city of Jerusalem. The Palestinians negotiators argued that President Clinton had fallen prey to Jewish propaganda. They asserted that there never was an historical Jewish temple on the Mount and that the Jews were not entitled to any part of it based on history, that it was the exclusive territory of only Muslims. President Clinton then went to his bookshelf and pulled down a book explaining the historical temple of Solomon on the same Mount. The negotiator then said it was all Jewish propaganda. Bill Clinton retorted that it was not: it was Roman history explaining how they, the Romans, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in 70 A.D. He further explained that the land was called “Palestine” because it was given that name by the Romans. It was at that moment that the Camp David agreement, which was 95% complete, came to a screeching halt. The Palestinians claimed that they had been offended. Arafat packed his bags, returned to the West Bank, and called for the second Intifada (uprising).

If you have tracked the past Middle East Peace negotiations since 1993, you may have noticed that the subjects of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount have always been reserved as the last element for negotiation. But with the Middle East Peace Accord faltering, and now being annulled, the Temple Mount has risen to the top of the list of contentious subjects in the Middle East.

It is as the prophet Zechariah wrote: Jerusalem will become a burdensome stone, a poisonous cup for the nations to deal with.

Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.  Zechariah 12:2-3

While this is what has been on the table for the governments of the world to deal with, something else has been brewing recently and increasing on the Jewish side of things. A small group of religious Jews has been calling again for the Temple Mount to be shared with the Jews for prayer. They have asserted that the Temple Mount is at the very core of national sovereignty of Israel and the faith of the Jewish people. The leader of this small group is a member of the Likud party, the political party of Prime Minister Netanyahu. For a while Netanyahu was empathetic to the argument originating from his own political party. He has, however, been under tremendous pressure from the United States and Europe to concede to Palestinian demands.

Since the early days of this October, the Palestinians have attacked Jewish citizens, primarily in Jerusalem, with the stoning of cars, running over people with their cars, and vicious knife attacks. Some of these attacks have resulted in people being killed. Social media, primarily Facebook, has been used by the Palestinians to incite these random attacks, with the full approval of Palestinian leaders. Israelis have taken to arming themselves and shooting back. Some 20,000 Israelis have joined in a lawsuit against Facebook for violating its own policy of not permitting any Facebook site or post to advocate violence. Netanyahu has significantly increased security personnel, posting additional police, border guards, and even army units around Jerusalem. The attacks have not decreased, but the Palestinians carrying out the attacks are being shot dead in the process.

The world, of course, has blamed Israel for “excessive force.” Here in the United States we consider a knife attacker who attacks a person deserving of being shot. In Israel, however, the same the knife-wielding guy is called a “martyr” and the victim of Israeli excessive force.

In recent days, Secretary of State John Kerry has traveled to Israel and Jordan to discuss the on-going terrorist attacks in an effort to bring calm again. He has called for a clearly defined “status quo” for the Temple Mount to be agreed upon by all parties. Still further, he has called for the installation of 24-hour video surveillance equipment on the Temple Mount. This equipment will then be the evidence of any misdeed on the Temple Mount to sort out the facts regarding any future conflict. Israel has complained that the Palestinians have been lying about Israelis causing the present uprising.

Most disturbing in watching these events is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made a governmental declaration that is a “show-stopper” for us in anticipating the start of the Great Tribulation in 2016. He has stated that it is the Government of Israel’s position that only Muslims will pray on the temple and that Jews and Christians may only visit it. Yehuda Glick, the rabbi advocating Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, who survived an assassination attempt by a Palestinian, has countered that the Prime Minister’s position is contrary to the Jewish Supreme Court and International law.

The Prime Minister has taken this position for “security” reasons, which in Israel seems to trump all other rules.

How long will this new status quo remain in place? No one knows. Something dramatic will probably have to happen to see the day when Israel will be on the Temple Mount with prayer and an operational altar.

In fact, it looks like it will take God’s divine intervention to change this status quo. This status quo, however, does explain a couple of things we have seen in the prophecy about the Temple Mount and the altar being shut down.

The very idea of the Temple Mount altar service being shut down is emphatically stated in the prophecy. In fact, it is the first event known as the Abomination of Desolation. The cessation of the altar service is referred to as abominable to God. Those who force the altar to be shut down will have world opinion on their side. But consider this scenario for a moment.

Let’s say that by some strange set of events Jews who want to pray on the Temple Mount suddenly have an opportunity to erect an altar there. The actual construction of the altar will only take one to two days. Once the eight-day dedication is complete, the prerequisite for the altar shutdown prophecy is complete. It does not require a great amount of time. But then, just as suddenly as the protests against the Jews began, the altar is shut down.

I don’t know what will bring this about the altar being set up, but the prophecy declares that the resulting shutdown will initiate the Great Tribulation. The prophecy in Revelation chapter 11 goes on to say that there will be a portion of the Temple Mount for the Jews and another part for the nations. The area for the Jews will also be the place where the two witnesses will prophesy. It also says that despite the conflict we see today, these two witnesses cannot be physically removed for 1,260 days. Let’s say that the altar is dedicated in seven days and on the eighth day the daily sacrifice is started.

Hypothetically, there is no question that pressure from the entire world will be brought to bear on the government of Israel to shut down that altar. The two witnesses then appear on either side of the cold altar, prophesying to the world as Palestinians on the Mount will attempt to kill them almost on a daily basis.

Read these prophecies about the future Temple Mount.

There was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread underfoot the holy city for forty-two months.” Revelation 11:1-2

According to this prophecy, we know that there will be a division of the Temple Mount. One part will be for the Jews, who will set a cornerstone to measure the court of Israel and will construct an earthen altar in that court. The prophecy calls for the measurement of these things and describes the people who will worship the God of Israel—the God of that altar. The prophecy describes what will happen after the altar is shut down and the Great Tribulation begins.

And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.  Revelation 11:3-5

This prophecy was given earlier by Zechariah, and is a powerful prophecy of olive branches on either side of a temple menorah. The imagery from this prophecy makes up the very crest of the State of Israel today.

He said to me, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.”  Zechariah 4:2-3

Given the hostility that exists today generated by the Palestinians for anything Jewish being on the Temple Mount, we can only imagine the hostility that will be shown to the two witnesses on the Mount. Apparently, the whole world will hear their prophesying and see the attempts to remove them, since the authorities are installing video equipment on the Mount today. For 1,260 days—the days of their ministry—they will neither be harmed nor removed. The prophecy says that many will die trying to remove them from the Mount (whatever “fire proceeding out of their mouths devouring their enemies” means).

The prophecy further states that the two witnesses will have a measure of power from God to judge the earth. These powers will be similar to what Moses and Elijah had. This is part of the reason why some believe that the two witnesses will be Moses and Elijah or men with the same spirit that they had.

These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. Revelation 11:6

The Book of Revelation details a series of judgments on the earth in the days of the Great Tribulation, including what are called seals, trumpets, and plagues. In the same manner that Moses and Aaron pronounced ten judgments on Pharaoh and Egypt, these witnesses will pronounce the Revelation judgments on the earth.

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.  Revelation 11:7-8

Once the days of the Great Tribulation are complete, the ministry of the two witnesses will be complete as well. Someone will assassinate them and no one will remove their bodies for burial. The period of time that follows their death will last only 45 days and is called the “days immediately after the tribulation” by the Messiah; however, the first 3 ½ days into that period will have the bodies of the two witnesses lying dead in the streets of Jerusalem (not on the Temple Mount). In Israel, this will be extreme, because a dead person is usually immediately removed from the place of death. Why won’t they touch or remove their bodies?

I think the answer lies in the fact that the world will relish their deaths after enduring the judgmental prophesying for the 1,260 days.

Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Revelation 11:9-10

The world will begin to rejoice over the death of these two, but it will be short lived, because they don’t remain dead. The eyes of the world will see God resurrect their bodies.

But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Revelation 11:11-13

Let’s move back from my possible scenario and see what the Scriptures have to say about for the future of the Temple Mount…

It should be clear to all of us that all this focus on the Temple Mount means that this is exactly where God plans to start the Great Tribulation. The beginning of the Great Tribulation will not be a hidden or a quiet event. In fact, it will be covered by the 24-hour video surveillance and will be the concern of every nation on the earth.

For us, we wait. We must wait on the Lord for His perfect timing to start the Great Tribulation that leads to His return and His kingdom. At this year’s Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) I shared with my brethren that I viewed the probability of the Great Tribulation beginning this winter at 70%. I won’t repeat all of the rationale for that judgment, but some of that probability was based on the months of November through January leading to an altar being erected on the Temple Mount. But with Netanyahu defining the “status quo” as limiting Jewish participation on Temple Mount to visits only with no chance of negotiating a split of the Mount, his policy blocks any chance to build an altar there. If no altar is built, there is no chance that the Tribulation begins this winter. My probability for this year has dropped appreciably to the single digits.

Could this change in the winter months? Well, anything is possible, but we are trying to see if it is probable. Therefore, we must be honest in our assessment and conclude that the present path does not lend itself to the Great Tribulation beginning this winter. We shall look out further in time.

In the meantime, the Lord has given us more time to prepare and to bring others into the fellowship we all enjoy. The Lord Himself has said that He is “long suffering” not wishing any to be lost. So, this gives us also a chance to check our own walks with the Lord, preparing ourselves for His kingdom.

At the same time, we need to be alert to what the world is doing and the growing hostility toward us as believers. We need to be sensitive to those around us to ensure that they do not succumb to the prophecy of the great falling away.

I am reminded of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah with Lot and his family fleeing the destruction that came. Lot’s wife really didn’t want to leave, and she had just enough time to look back. It cost her her life.

I am also reminded of the story of Noah and the great flood. Did you know that, after receiving God’s warning, Noah waited 100 years (building the ark) before the flood came? For that matter, did you know that Abraham waited 25 years before he received the fulfillment of the promise of his son Isaac?

I have come to understand that the Lord’s timetable is not always the same as that of men. God’s character is not impulsive, nor is He overtly spontaneous. He plans things and then follows His plan. That is particularly true at the end of the ages concerning His return. He has planned His return, and He will follow that plan.

Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. ISA 46:11

Therefore, it behooves us to understand His plan and to order ourselves in parallel with that plan, not to be contrary to His plan. When the day finally comes that God carries out His plan, we will experience something unique and special in our faith. It will be similar to what happened when Yeshua taught at His hometown synagogue in Nazareth.

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. Luke 4:16-20

The passage Yeshua read from is Isaiah chapter 61. He started with verse one and only read halfway through verse two. He only read a very short portion of Isaiah. It was expected that He would have read more and would have offered some kind of commentary on the passage for teaching. Instead, He waited for everyone’s attention and then …

And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:21

The passage He read is clearly about one person, the Messiah, and what He will do. It is the Messiah who announces the “good news” for the scattered of Israel to return, to establish the kingdom, to bring relief to those who are hurting and healing to the wounded. Yeshua had already been healing and teaching, but to hear Him proclaim that the prophecy was being fulfilled in their day and in their midst must have been stunning.

As we consider what it would have been like in that day and how we might have reacted, we need to know that our day is coming just like it. When that altar is set up and then shut down, we will be speak something similar to what Yeshua said after reading what Isaiah wrote concerning Him.

Read what Isaiah concerning us in last days:

…and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:2-3

The day the altar is shut down, we and others will be proclaiming the Day of the Lord is coming and that the Great Tribulation has begun. We will be proclaiming that our God is going to pour out judgments and bring vengeance upon His enemies. We will also be ministering to each other, encouraging one another to escape, survive, and endure until the Lord returns. We will be, just as Isaiah 61:2-3 above, comforting, granting, and giving encouragement to the tribulation saints in a host of ways.

But before that, we will see the altar get built and then get shut down. On that day, just as Yeshua said, we will say together, “The Word of the Lord has been fulfilled today!”