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Hinn-diana Jones and the Temple to Come

When surfing the television channels, I inevitably must pass the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  I must admit that my attitude toward this is like, well, driving down the road and coming to the scene of a car wreck.  “Move on,” you say to yourself, but you just can’t help rubbernecking.

Such I was doing one day when, in passing TBN, I saw a pileup involving Benny Hinn standing at an outdoor platform with the city of Jerusalem in the background (the real Jerusalem, not just a backdrop).  With him was a rabbi; I didn’t catch his name, but he was connected with an organization called the Temple Institute. [1]

The rabbi was speaking about the Institute’s mission of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  I only caught about the last ten minutes of the program.  Benny was gushily asking for more information and some intriguing data came to light.

  •  There is a system of tunnels and chambers below the temple area.  This is true, but the rabbi’s comment on why they are there is interesting: Solomon, when he built the temple originally, prophetically knew that the temple would be destroyed, hence, he built these chambers to house the temple artifacts.
  •  The ark of the covenant is not lost as Steven Spielberg’s movie would lead us to believe.  Nor is it stored in a basement at the Pentagon.  It is actually stored in one of the aforementioned chambers waiting the day when the temple will be rebuilt.
  •  Only the descendants of Aaron could function as high priests.  True, according to the Bible, but how in the name of heaven could we know today who the sons of Aaron are?  Jewish males, the rabbi tells us, have a chromosome that is unique to Jewish men only (how this weeds out all but those of Aaronic descent we are not told and Mr. Hinn did not ask). [2]

Benny wraps up his program – “This Is Your Day” – by affirming a comradery with the rabbi.  He says something like, “There is more in this book (the Bible) that we agree on than we disagree.  Your book is our book.”  Then he calls all the audience to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to encourage the rebuilding of the temple.

Since coming to new understandings on grace, the New Covenant and end times, my fascination with the historical events surrounding the temple’s destruction in AD 70 has increased many times over.  In my current understanding of life under the New Covenant, the destruction of Herod’s temple was God’s statement sealing the end of the Old Covenant and the irreversible establishment of the New.  With the fullness of His glory revealed in Jesus Christ, He obliterated the lesser glory of the Old Covenant forms.

So, I’m sitting there watching Benny and the rabbi, seeking to understand the theological conundrum before me when a deep, doctrinal question is formed in my mind: “Benny, what are you thinking!”  Okay, so that’s not all that deep, but I still think it’s fitting.  Why would anyone who professes to be saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the very radiance of God’s glory,  be in support of rebuilding the lesser glory?

 A Little about The Temple Institute

Let me begin by giving a little background on The Temple Institute.  I found this information by visiting their website, www.templeinstitute.org.  There are some interesting articles there about the present-day Moslem destruction of temple archeology and complaints about the current Israeli government’s failure to stop it.  As to their mission, here is what they say about themselves:

“The Temple Institute (in Hebrew, Machon HaMikdash), founded in 1987, is a non-profit educational and religious organization located in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. We are dedicated to every aspect of the Biblical commandment to build the Holy Temple of G-d on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Our short-term goal is to rekindle the flame of the Holy Temple in the hearts of mankind. Our long-term goal is to do as much as possible to bring about the building of the Holy Temple in our time. Thus, the Institute’s efforts include raising public awareness about the Holy Temple, and the central role that it occupies in the spiritual life of mankind.”

Under the heading entitled “An Invitation to Actively Participate in Rebuilding The House of Prayer for All Nations,” we find that The Institute is not only seeking to rebuild the temple for Jewish interests, but that its reasons include a global benefit:

“On behalf of the Temple Institute, we turn to you from Jerusalem, the place G-d has chosen, with a request that you be numbered among the supporters of our holy work, and thus ensure that the vision of the Holy Temple, the center of mankind’s relationship with G-d, can become a reality in our time. The prophets of Israel all foresaw that the day will come when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt, and will once again be the spiritual focus of the entire world. As Isaiah states, ‘For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.’”

The Institute radiates great hope for the faithful: “For the first time since the Holy Temple was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago, the people of Israel are within reach of Temple service.”

Rabbi Chiam Richman himself appeals for support:

“If Israel is looking for creative ways of achieving peace, perhaps she should take her leap of faith, and consider that the time has come to rebuild the Holy Temple. The Divine promise still beckons to us . . . ‘The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former . . . and in this place I will give peace, says the L-rd of Hosts.’”

It should be noted that, as best I could tell, The Temple Institute makes no claims to be Christian or evangelical.  There is no mention of Jesus/Yeshua on the site that I could find and no mention of what the temple would mean to Christians.  The Institute in no way claims a connection between the rebuilding of the temple and the coming of the Messiah.

Some Observations

In listening to the rabbi on Mr. Hinn’s program and in perusing the Temple Institute’s web site, I am struck by a few things.  First, the Institute is zealously committed to “every aspect of the Biblical commandment to build the Holy Temple of G-d on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.”  Please mark that by “Biblical,” they mean the Old Covenant Scriptures.  Christians take note: They make no appeal whatsoever to the teachings of Jesus or the New Covenant Scriptures for their mission.  They do not understand the Old Testament in light of the New, as Christians should.

Second, their mission is to raise “public awareness about the Holy Temple, and the central role that it occupies in the spiritual life of mankind.”  They call the temple “the center of mankind’s relationship with G-d.”  Again, this is a noble effort when viewed from an Old Covenant perspective.  But again, Christians take note: Their spiritual world view is diametrically opposed to the Christian view which sees Jesus, Yahweh’s Messiah, as holding the central role in the spiritual life of mankind.

In a culture of political correctness (a strain of which has crept into the church), I must make a disclaimer: In saying these things, I pray that I am not going to be accused of anti-Semitism.  My goal here is not to stir up any animosity toward the Jews in general or the Temple Institute and its staff.  I believe that they are sincere people devoted to their world view.

However, followers of Jesus should be committed to their world view which is Christ-centered.  Christians must acknowledge that the Institute’s world view that sees a sanctified stone structure (geographically located in the modern city of Jerusalem) as the center of the spiritual life of mankind is in conflict with the Christian world view that sees Jesus the Messiah (currently reigning in heaven) as the center of the spiritual life of mankind.  These two views cannot occupy the same theological mountain.

The questions I raise here are not primarily to the members of the Temple Institute.  The key questions are directed at Benny Hinn and the evangelical supporters of the Institute’s objectives: Does support of the Temple Institute and its mission further the cause of the biblical gospel or not?  Would the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem be a help to the gospel or would it diminish its glory?  Is your support for the Institute’s world view sanctioned by the whole counsel of God’s word, both Old and New Covenant scriptures?

The Temple and Early Christianity

A careful reading of apostolic preaching in the book of Acts would reveal the thinking of the apostles and the early Christians about the temple structure.  Jesus taught His disciples concerning the temple that a time would come in their generation that “not one stone would be left upon another” (Matthew 24:2).  History tells us that this came to pass forty years later in AD 70.

Did this teaching on the destruction of the temple stick with the Spirit-baptized apostles as they spread the gospel prior to the temple’s decimation?  I believe that an examination of the ministry of the apostles from Pentecost to the destruction of the temple would say, “Yes.”

Let’s look first at Stephen’s trial and address before the council narrated in Acts 6:8-7:60.  On Stephen’s defense, F.F. Bruce says, “Stephen expounded the implications of (Jesus’) Messiahship more radically than his fellow-believers had hitherto expounded it.” [3] How?  The accusations against Stephen as brought forth by “false witnesses” is telling.  It indicates that Stephen was proclaiming an end to the system of worship centered around the temple.

“They put forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” (6:13-14, emphasis added)

This could be countered by saying that Stephen really didn’t say this because the witnesses were “false.”  But we must note that Stephen never denies this charge.  In fact, we see him underscoring it by saying, “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; what kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord, ‘Or what place is there for My repose?  Was it not My hand which made all these things?’”(Acts 7:4850)

Bruce again comments: “The apostles and many of the rank and file of the Jerusalem church might continue to attend the temple services and be looked upon as devout and observant Jews; Stephen saw that the work of Christ logically involved the abrogation of the whole temple order and its supersession by a new edifice not made with hands, and yet within the main stream of OT revelation.” [4]

The period of time from Pentecost to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 has been seen for too long as static.  True appreciation has not been given to the incredible trauma of transition that the culture under Christ was encountering.  The devout Jews such as Peter were not passive in their acceptance of the new life in Christ.  For them, it was a gut-wrenching blow to have their long-cherished traditions and practices (shadows of the Old Covenant) slipping away to be replaced by the reality: Christ Himself.

This is why the temple-loving Jews reacted so violently to Stephen and the apostles.  In the proclamation of Jesus in His fulness, they also heard preached the soon-to-come annihilation of their long-established way of life.

“Jesus Himself had said, ‘one greater than the temple is here’ (Matt. 12:6); these and other sayings of His about the temple were apparently preserved by the early church in Jerusalem, but it was Stephen who appreciated their full force.  The gospel meant the end of the sacrificial cultus and all the ceremonial law.  These were the outward and visible signs of Jewish particularism, and could not be reconciled with the universal scope of the Christian message of salvation accomplished.” [5]

The Jerusalem Council

Let’s look at Acts 15 and the debate that took place in Jerusalem over the newly converted Gentiles.  In a nutshell, the question on the table could be summed up thusly: “Just how Jewish did the Gentiles have to be in order to be saved?”

For our purposes here, I just want to point out the judgement that James made and his use of the Old Testament scriptures that prophesy the rebuilding of “the tabernacle of David which has fallen.”

 “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things  I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord, ‘Who makes these things known from long ago.’” (Acts 15:14-18).

It is always interesting to note the interpretations that the New Covenant apostles give to Old Covenant prophecies.  James cites this passage from Amos 9:11, 12 and gives its New Covenant interpretation which has nothing to do with a physical temple.  He cites this prophecy as being fulfilled in the salvation of the Gentiles that was going on in that day!  The conclusion was that the Gentiles could be saved without participation in the Mosaic customs.

Randall Price, stumping for a future, rebuilt temple, will not let this passage go without a severe mangling in the dispensational grinder.  In a parenthetical statement commenting on James’s decision, he says, “James’s argument apparently was adapted from the Septuagint text of Amos 9:11-12, which contains variants from the Masoretic Hebrew Text that may have influenced James’s selection of this prophecy concerning the Gentiles’ eschatological worship in a restored sanctuary.” [6]

Price sees no progression in early Christian thought that would indicate that the temple was a mere shadow of Christ and His church that was about to pass away.  In his world, the physical temple remains superior in the redemptive plan over a spiritual body of believers bound together in Christ.  He comments on the apostolic use of temple imagery, explaining that the temple imagery would faultlessly point to the temple and not to some spiritual application.

“Paul consulted with Peter and James about the Christian movement centered in the Holy City.  Since Peter later used similar Temple-motifs in his epistle (1 Peter 2:4-10), Paul may have learned from these apostles about the positive respect the Jewish-Christian community showed the Temple.  Paul would have undoubtedly learned from these apostles of the respect Jesus paid to the Temple (for example, Jesus’ reference to the Temple as ‘My Father’s house, John 2:13-17).” [7]

In Price’s thinking, the temple of the apostle’s day was meant to be a permanent fixture in God’s plan of redemption.  It could be used to picture a symbol of unity to the Christians of that day [8], but it could never be considered as a fading institution meant to be replaced by a living, spiritually redeemed people from every nation.  I believe this to be in contradiction to what James and the Jerusalem council concluded.

The End Times Connection

I’m sure that I’ve sounded a bit naive up to this point in barely mentioning the implications of the temple as it applies to the end-times views of premillennial dispensationalism.  Before Jesus comes, there has to be a temple for Him to come to.  There has to be a temple for the Antichrist to defile.  I know, I know.

But this makes me think that this strain of eschatology — particularly in its Israel-centeredness — has designed the tail to be wagging the dog.  For them, eschatology has come to govern the gospel instead of the gospel defining eschatology.  Let’s take their views on the modern Jews, for instance.  In the dispensational scheme, the modern state of Israel and the modern Jews are God’s chosen people and have a special place in prophetic events.

In some instances, this borders on a sacramental veneration of the Jews.  More than one evangelical leader has prophesied woes upon the foolish nation that would not support the modern state of Israel.  “She is that apple of God’s eye,” they say.  To withhold support or — God forbid — to oppose Israel would effectually put one under divine wrath.

A good example of the idolization of the modern Jew is found in John Hagee’s book “Final Dawn Over Jerusalem.”  He cites a list of ethnic Jews that have been a “blessing” to the world that includes a host of celebrities known mostly today for their involvement in left-wing political causes.  On Hagee’s Zionistic planet, we are blessed not because of their accomplishments, but because they are Jews.  (If their contributions to the world is the criteria for “blessing,” then a throng of goyim(Gentiles) could have also been listed.)

So how do those of Hagee’s theological bent deal with the salvation of the modern Jew?  Should we not be taking the gospel of Jesus, God’s Messiah to them that they may share in the blessings of Abraham?  Ought we not pray for their coming to faith in Christ and support the Good News going to them?

The Houston Chronicle interviewed Hagee.  Here is one sample of his sentiments: “. . . trying to convert Jews is a ‘waste of time,’ he said. ‘The Jewish person who has his roots in Judaism is not going to convert to Christianity. There is no form of Christian evangelism that has failed so miserably as evangelizing the Jewish people. They (already) have a faith structure.’ Everyone else, whether Buddhist or Baha’i, needs to believe in Jesus, he says. But not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced by Christianity, he says.”

Hagee told enquirers from the Personal Freedom Outreach that the Chronicle had distorted his views, but PFO continued digging and found that there was, in reality, little misrepresentation.  For a fuller treatment of Hagee’s views, see G. Richard Fisher’s article The Other Gospel of John Hagee: Christian Zionism and Ethnic Salvation.  Hagee espouses a dual covenant position that in effect says that there is a way of salvation for the Jews that does not require faith in Jesus Christ.  Can anything be more in contradiction to the gospel?!

Dispensational eschatology is meaningless if there is no future purpose for the Jews.  Randall Price’s aforementioned tome is 732 pages — almost 140 of which are notes, appendices, etc. — in which he gives a detailed biblical exegesis and history (a la the Darby/Scofield tilt) showing the need for a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.  Included are information on the recent efforts by modern Jewish organizations to facilitate this mission.

In a section entitled “The Present Need for the Temple in Judaism,” Price says, “Today, Jewish leaders around the world — and especially those in the temple movement in Israel — believe that the Jewish people, and all humanity, are not living on the spiritual level God intended.  This, they argue, is because of the absence of the Shekinah (divine presence) from the world.  Rabbi Chiam Richman draws the connection between the need for a new level of spiritual attainment and the rebuilding of the temple: ‘The Shekinah is brought about only through the temple . . . in terms of our mission as a people, we cannot in any way reach our spiritual status without the temple.’” [9]

As best I can tell (sorry, I did not read the whole book) Price says nothing of expounding on Jesus being the needed presence/Shekinah of God for both Jew and Gentile.  He does not try to correct Rabbi Richman that the highest of spiritual attainments is to come to faith in Jesus as God’s Messiah rather than a rebuilt temple.  After all, isn’t the gospel — rather than the temple — the power of God for salvation for both Jew and Greek (Romans 1:16)?

I was discussing the issue of the relationship of the Jew to the gospel with one brother who was extolling the dedication of the modern, orthodox Jews.  He spoke of them in glowing terms that led me to believe that (he thought) these were actually saved and sanctified in the sight of God.  I pressed the issue with him: “Are you saying that these men could be justified in the sight of God without accepting Jesus as God’s Messiah?”  His reaction was interesting in that he had to pause for some time and think.  The wheels turned for a moment and he admitted, “No.”

My point is that it is astounding that this evangelical brother even had to think about it.  John Hagee has, I believe, merely come to the logical end of his dispensationalism.  The dispensational perspective has, on an almost subliminal level, postulated two ways of salvation: one for the Jew and a different one for the Gentile.  The Gentiles are saved through faith in Christ while the Jews are saved by their Jewishness — a belief that received an biting rebuke from John the Baptizer (Matt. 3:9).

 Why, Benny?

I am going to speculate here again and if anyone has evidence proving my assumptions wrong, then please find the proof and let me know.  I will publicly correct my error.  But I am guessing that Rabbi Richman and the folks at the Temple Institute do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was Yahweh’s Messiah.

So, I believe that when Benny said to the rabbi, “There is more in this book (the Bible) that we agree on than we disagree,” I am going to guess that their disagreement was over the person of Yeshua.  That is, Mr. Hinn would affirm that Yeshua is Yahweh’s Messiah, the rabbi would not.

I have always had difficulties with Mr. Hinn and those of his doctrinal persuasion.  I have until now been able to maintain a peace with his followers, though it is an uneasy one.  But Mr. Hinn’s interview with the rabbi has pushed me closer to seeing him as a blasphemer against the gospel of Christ.

What I saw displayed on “This Is Your Day” was that Benny Hinn is endorsing a doctrine that a revived temple structure with its services can do for mankind what Jesus proclaimed that only He could do.  Support of the Temple Institute cannot further the gospel, it can only cloak its glory.  Why would Mr. Hinn or any evangelical support that?

But have Benny Hinn and the evangelical church considered what the temple really means to them?  Have they considered the implications of the temple’s destruction by the Romans in AD 70?  I would like for every Christian to do so (irregardless of whether they’re a preterist or futurist).  I would encourage every follower of Jesus to examine the Scriptures from a New Covenant perspective and then try to support the mission of the Temple Institute.  It cannot be done.

As for the Temple Institute and their followers, it ought not be our goal to chide them for their efforts.  If they are to see any error in their labors, it will be only because Christians can present loving, gentle proof to them that Jesus as revealed in the New Testament is truly the Messiah that Yahweh promised to them in the Old Covenant scriptures.  By seeing Him as the substance of Yahweh’s redemptive plan will they be willing to abandon reconstruction of the shadow.

Unfortunately, it seems that we will be unable to rely on Benny Hinn to convey such a message.

_____________________________________________________

Endnotes

1.  The program was “This Is Your Day.”  It aired at 12:30 p.m., November 18, 2003 in the Grand Junction, Colorado area (Mountain Time).  As I came in at the last ten minutes, I am sketchy on details, but I believe that Benny’s guest was Rabbi Chiam Richman, director of all English language and international projects for the Temple Institute.

2.  This phenomenon is explained in more detail by Randall Price in The Coming Last Days Temple, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1999, pp. 384-386.

3.  F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1983, p. 133.

4. Bruce, pp. 135, 136.

5.  Bruce, p. 136.

6.  Randall Price, The Coming Last Days Temple, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1999, p. 290 (emphasis mine).

7.  Price, p. 290 (emphasis mine).

8.  Price, p. 296; here he expounds that this was Peter’s intent in 1 Peter 2:4-8.  According to Price, Peter did not intend to say that the Christians were the new temple in the kingdom of God, only that they were to look to the temple in Jerusalem as a symbol of how they were to remain in unity.

9.  Price, pp. 118, 119.

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