Looking at any Biblical map of Jerusalem you will notice the Temple of God dominating the city. It was a magnificent structure which would truly have been the pride of the city and represented nothing less than God Himself dwelling among mankind.
Yet, looking more closely at the map, you will notice something rather puzzling – the Temple seems to be facing away from the city of Jerusalem. This was true for King Solomon’s Temple, which was built to the north of the ancient citadel and faced away to the east. It was also true for the Second Temple in Jesus’ day. By then, the City of Jerusalem had grown in size, yet it’s houses, streets and bustling markets were all located either to the west or the south of the Temple – with the Temple standing seemingly with its back facing away from the city and towards the east.
The Temple was built after divine instruction given to King David, yet I’m sure many would have questioned this rather odd design. Shouldn’t the Temple be facing the people of Jerusalem?
In Scripture, God often commanded His people to do something a certain way – and only later explained why. In the case of the Temple’s odd direction, it is not until we get to the prophecies of Ezekiel that we finally get some light on this unusual design.
Ezekiel chapters 8 to 11 foretell the departure of the glory of God from the Temple – detailing how it would leave the Temple and head east to the Mount of Olives and then ascend to the heavens. It is interesting to note that after His resurrection, Jesus also ascended from the very same site on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 43-44 portrays God’s glory returning the same way it left – from the Mount of Olives to enter Jerusalem and the Temple from the east. This prophecy seems to speak of Jesus’ return, as we know from other Scriptures that He will one day return to the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem from the East (Is. 63:1, Acts 1:11). Being aware of these messianic prophecies, Islamic leaders have sealed shut the Eastern Gate to the Temple Mount with a brick wall – but as you and I know, our Messiah has no problem going through brick walls!
Coming back to the direction of the Temple, it can be seen that it was not built facing eastward for the sake of the people, or for the sake of the many travelling pilgrims to the city. The Temple was built this way to fulfil its ultimate purpose– which is to welcome the King of Glory to His rightful place. This is the top priority for the Temple, and by this pattern it was built.
As this book explores the prospect of the Temple being rebuilt in our days, remember that while the Temple in itself is magnificent and fascinating, its primary purpose is to point us to the King of Glory who will one day return to dwell among His people in Jerusalem.
May the developments concerning the Temple’s rebuilding in our days inspire us all to be ready for that great day when our Lord will return!
Learn More: Special Book Rebuilding the Third Temple
Enoch Lavender was born in Australia, raised in Norway, spent time living in China and is now based in Melbourne, Australia. He has been studying Hebrew and the Jewish roots of our faith for the past decade, and has a keen interest in the Middle East from a Bible prophecy perspective.