THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE
Concerning the rebuilding of the temple, first we need to see the two halves of the last week. The last week will be cut into two halves by Antichrist’s abolishing of the seven-year covenant he will make with Israel. In the first three and a half years, Antichrist will support the children of Israel, permitting them to freely worship God; in the latter three and a half years, Antichrist will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease (Dan. 12:7; 9:27) and replace them with an idol of himself. In Matthew 24:15, the holy place in which Antichrist’s image will stand refers to the sanctuary within the temple (Psa. 68:35; Ezek. 7:24; 21:2) and the abomination refers to the image of Antichrist as an idol. In other words, the idol will remain in the temple for three and a half years until Christ will destroy Antichrist by the manifestation of His coming. Therefore, first the temple will have to be rebuilt; then the children of Israel will be able to worship God and offer sacrifices to Him, and Antichrist will be able to set up his image.
Since A.D. 70, when Titus destroyed the temple, the temple has never been rebuilt. Israel has regained Jerusalem and is actively making preparations for the rebuilding of the temple. All the materials that will be needed for the rebuilding of the temple and all the utensils needed for the sacrifices have been prepared according to what is recorded in the Bible. Now they are waiting for the suitable time to come, and the rebuilding of the temple will be completed.
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
The second half of the last week, the last three and a half years of this age, is the period of the great tribulation, such as has not occurred from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be (Matt. 24:21). This period will begin with the supernatural calamities in the sixth seal of the seven seals (Rev. 6:12-17) and will end at the seventh bowl of the seven bowls (Rev. 16:1-21). It will be "the hour of trial which is about to come on the whole inhabited earth, to try them who dwell on the earth" (Rev. 3:10). This great tribulation will come from three directions—from God, from Antichrist, and from Satan—upon all those dwelling on the face of all the earth (Luke 21:35). At that time God will judge the entire universe with supernatural calamities, so that the earth will not be suitable for man’s existence. It seems that God will say to the men on earth, "I created all things for your existence, and My purpose is that you would fear Me, serve Me, love Me, and pursue after Me; yet you cooperate with Satan to oppose Me and reject Me. Now I am shaking the earth and the heavens; see if you will still be able to live peacefully." Furthermore, Satan will be cast out of heaven to the earth by the overcomers, and knowing that he has a short time, he will collaborate with Antichrist, and the two will do their best to destroy and injure the human race, and they will severely persecute the Jews and the Christians (Rev. 12:7-13, 17). However, for the preservation of His people, God will limit the time of the great tribulation to only three and a half years; otherwise, no flesh would be saved.
THE RAPTURE OF THE SAINTS
Before the great tribulation, the overcomers will be raptured, leaving the majority of the believers, those who are not yet mature, on the earth to pass through the great tribulation. Matthew 24:40-41 says, "Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left." This indicates that while the worldly people are befuddled by material things, with no sense of the coming judgment, some of the sober and watchful believers will be taken away. To the befuddled and senseless people, this should be a sign of Christ’s coming. Therefore, we should take heed to ourselves, lest at some time our hearts be weighed down with debauchery and drunkenness and the anxieties of life (Luke 21:34), and we miss the rapture and become like Lot’s wife.
At that time, the earth will become a place that is terribly unsuitable for man’s living. The supernatural calamities and Antichrist’s persecution will cause the believers on earth to suffer great afflictions; but God will keep and nourish them (Rev. 12:14). At the end of the great tribulation, the majority of the believers, including the resurrected ones and the remaining ones, will be raptured to the air (1 Thes. 4:16-17) at the Lord’s coming (parousia). Then, Christ will suddenly appear in an open way to the earth, like the flashing of lightning (Matt. 24:27).
These are the signs of Christ’s coming and of the consummation of the age. Although concerning that day and hour no one knows (Matt. 24:36), the year can be figured out. Before the consummation of this age, Antichrist will come out to be the Caesar of the revived Roman Empire. He will make a seven-year covenant with the children of Israel, and that will be the beginning of the last week. Thus, if anyone should say, "Behold, here is the Christ!" or, "There is the Christ!" we will not be deceived (Matt. 24:23). However, neither should we become slothful, thinking that, since the Lord is delaying His coming, we can eat and drink and become drunken (Matt. 24:48-49). We need to be watchful and ready that we may prevail to escape all these things which are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).
GIVING HEED TO THE PROPHETIC WORD
After we have seen and are clear about all these prophecies, we need to be watchful and to give heed to the prophetic word as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts (2 Pet. 1:19). Prior to His open appearing as the sun, the Lord will appear as the morning star in the darkest hour of the night to those who are longing for His appearing. The prophetic word of the Scripture, as the shining lamp to the believers, conveys spiritual light to shine in their darkness, guiding them to enter into a bright day until the day of the Lord’s appearing.
The time is short. By studying the prophecies in the Bible and checking with the world situation today, we know that the day of the Lord’s coming is very near and that the last week is approaching. The crucial question today is this: Do we want to bury ourselves in the world or put ourselves in the Lord’s hand? We should know that once we bury ourselves in the world and become rooted in it, it will not be easy to be uprooted. In the few remaining days, we should get ourselves ready. Let us be those who love and serve the Lord, who are revived and are overcoming every day, and who let the world go and are waiting with all our heart for the Lord’s coming.
(A message given by Brother Witness Lee in Kuching, Malaysia on October 30, 1990)
(The Up-to-Date Presentation of the God-Ordained Way and the Signs Concerning the Coming of Christ, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)