The Temples in the Bible

four temples of the bible

What are the Temples of Israel we read about in the Bible? And why are they relevant to the End Times?

I’m so glad you asked, it’s a really cool story!  Actually, all of Isael’s survival-through-the-ages is a cool story. 

Both are stories of resolution, determination, and commitment. ‘When it gets beaten down you build it straight back up again’!  We could all learn a few lessons from Israel!

You hear a lot about the Three Temples of Israel in the Bible but, in reality, five temples are mentioned in the Bible, not three.

The Five Temples in the Bible

Three have come and gone and two are yet to be.

The Three Temples of Israel

Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple and Herod’s Temple have come and gone. They are mentioned in the Bible in detail. Their origin and histories make for some great reading, if you like that sort of thing.  The links will take you to more info, below.

The Two Temples yet to come

The Tribulation Temple and the Millennial Temple. The links will take you to more info, below.

Location of the Temples in the Bible

The most common theory is that David chose Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount, for his son, Solomon, to build the first temple.  This is the spot that is believed to be the location where God told Abraham to build an altar to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Historians are pretty certain that Zerubbabel’s-then-Herod’s Temple shared the foundations, so stood in the exact same spot where Solomon’s Temple stood.

Today, the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem covers about 45 acres. The South wall is 910 feet, the North wall is 1025 feet, East wall is 1520 feet and West wall is 1580 feet. The average height is 2,400 above sea level. Most of the buildings, flooring and finishing is Islamic. There is no trace of any of the former three temples left.

This is why the debate about the exact location of the temple continues.

temples in the bible

Where did the Temples Stand?

There are three theories, all backed up to some extent by archaeologists, historians and scientists. Much of the info I got for this section was from, a good read for more details.

Nobody will know for certain, the true site of the original temples until Israel is able to conduct an archaeological investigation beneath the Temple Mount itself. But that site is protected by the Waqf, the Supreme Muslim Council. The Temple Mount is a source of conflict between Israel and the Arab nations, and harming the Moslem structures is liable to ignite World War III.

The Muslim shrine known as the Dome of the Rock currently sits on this location. Apparently built by the Muslims to cover the original location.  Most rabbis in Israel consider this to be the original spot.  Dr Dan Bahat, Jerusalem’s former district archaeologist vehemently supports this location.

Dr Asher Kaufman’s research over around two decades has presented a site, 330 feet to the north of the Dome of the Rock, as the possible location of the original temple. That’s where The Dome of the Tablets (or Dome of the Spirits to the Arabs) stands and which Dr Kaufman proclaims as the temple site.

The theory of Tuvia Sagiv, a prominent Israeli architect, puts the location “between the El Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, approximately sixteen levels under the level the site’s square“. 

King Solomon's Temple

King Solomon’s Temple was actually his dad’s, King David’s, temple.  God gave the plans to David who gathered up most of the material to build it. But David was a man of war so was not allowed to be the builder, or put his name to it.  So the task was handed over to his son, Solomon.

Building began in 960 BC and was completed in 7½ years (1 Kings 6:1)

Solomon's Temple

David planned the temple to be a permanent house of the Lord in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 28:2 ). The temple was designed very similar to the tabernacle but, at 90′ long, 30′ wide and 45′ high, it was double the size, and very ornate.  The walls were built with stone and cedar-wood. The ceiling was made of cedar and the floor was made of cypress.

Remember I said it was ornate? The inside walls were lined with gold and covered with carvings.  The interior was divided into two rooms, just as the tabernacle is. The ‘Holy of Holies’ was a 20 cubit cube and this is where the infamous the Ark of the Covenant lived, together with the alter of incense, the golden candlestick and the Table of Shewbread. Two large cherubims presided over these treasures.

Romans destroy Solomon's templeInside the temple area were two courts. The inner court was for the priests and the outer, bigger, court was for Israel.  A low wall separated the two.

The court of the priests contained the brazen alter (it was overlaid with bronze), for sacrifice; the brazen sea for the priests to wash; and the brazen layers, which was where the utensils were washed.

Solomon’s Temple was ransacked and burned to the ground by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army in 587 BC when they besieged Jerusalem. They took the lot!

Read it in 2 Kings 25, the account is quite detailed. It’s not a prophesy, though. 2 Kings was written by Jeremiah who was alive at the time.

Temple #1 stood for around 450 years.

Zerubbabel's Temple

Zerubbabel was the leader of the tribe of Judah. He was part of the first wave of Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1-2).

Cyrus the Great, King of Persia from 539-520 BC, appointed Zerubbabel governor of Yehud province, or Judah.  Cyrus is mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible and is important because it was he who first allowed the Jews to return to Israel after 70 years of captivity. 

Zerubbabel's Temple

Immediately after his appointment, in 536 BC Zerubbabel began to build the temple, starting with the alter so that sacrifices could be made.

It took two years to build the foundation, the construction was delayed by Samaritan settlers who pretended to be friendly, but weren’t! They were sneaky and bothersome and delayed the building. Ezra 4:1-5. They were not happy about the exiles building a temple to the Lord.

Because of the opposition to the building, Persia withdrew support and funding and the temple stood, unfinished for seventeen years. Ezra 4:21.

Enter God to the rescue! He sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah along for support and encouragement. Ezra 5:1-2 and in 516 BC, four years later, it was finished and handed over at a great party. 

The Jews, especially the older Jews, were disappointed.  After Solomon’s grand temple, this one, measuring 90 feet high and wide, was a budget edition. (That is all the info the Bible record holds so it is presumed to be the measurement of the porch; the length of the building is not mentioned).

Zerubbabel temple destroyed

It had fewer resources, did not have the Ark of the Covenent, which had been stolen, and its alter had not been “lit by fire from heaven” at the dedication, nor had it been filled with the Shekinah glory, as Solomon’s temple had been.


Zerubbabel’s Temple had its own special blessing. As Haggai had prophesied 500 years earlier, the second temple would have a magnificence to outshine the first. Haggai 2:3-9. Which it did when Jesus Christ arrived. Zerubbabel’s temple may not have been so grand on the outside, but Jesus himself walked through the temple that Zerubbabel built. 

Temple #2 stood for around 500 years before being refurbished. 

King Herod's Temple

Herod’s temple was not a new build, it was a rework of Zerubbabel’s temple, but on a massive, grand scale. It was very ornate and was surrounded by courts.

Building began in 20 BC.

Herod's Temple

Herod’s temple had an outer court, which welcomed Gentiles and unclean persons; a women’s court; and an inner court, which housed the entrance to the priest’s court and the chambers for storing the utensils.

But not the Arc of the Covenant which, despite the sterling efforts of Harrison Ford, has not been seen for 2,600 years. A fabulous object of movies and rumours, its location has never been confirmed.  One of the more famous claims is that it currently resides in the St Mary of Zion cathedral in Ethiopia, in the town of Aksum. But who really knows?

The main temple stood higher than the courts and a flight of 12 steps led up to it. Inside it were the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place. 

Herod the Great ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC, he was also known as a master builder, this temple was his most famous project. He extended the temple, making the area 2,500′ from north to south and 1,000′ from east to west.

In 63BC Jerusalem was attacked and conquered by Roman general Pompey and made a subject to Rome. The historian, Tacitus, wrote that Pompey entered the Holy of Holies and was surprised to find it empty.

Construction began in 20 BC and was only finished 46 years later in AD 64, two years after the Jewish revolt. It was completely and utterly destroyed in AD 70 in the Siege of Jerusalem, the first Jewish-Roman war. The army, led by Titus destroyed Jerusalem and obliterated the Temple.

Jesus predicted the destruction of Herod’s Temple nearly 40 years earlier: “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.Luke 21:5-6.

King Herod temple destroyedThe Jews were dispersed over the world for centuries, until the 1940’s when the Jews began to return to Israel.

  • Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father) had his vision in this temple. Luke 1:5-23.
  • The infant Jesus was presented at this temple. Luke 2:22-38.
  • Jesus spoke with the teachers of the law in this temple when he was 12 years old. Luke 2:4.
  • The pinnacle was 164′ (15 stories) high and it was here that Satan tempted Jesus to ‘cast himself down’. Matthew 4:5-7.
  • Jesus ‘cleansed’ this temple, by throwing out the money-lenders and vendors, twice! John 2:13-22; Matthew 21:12-17.


Temple #3 stood for around 6 years.

The Tribulation Temple

Nowhere in the Bible is the building of a fourth temple mentioned.

Right through the prophetic parts of the Bible, we are told to look out for a man referred to as the antichrist who will rise to power following, likely following the Rapture of the Church. 

Halfway through the seven years of Tribulation, the antichrist will stand in the temple and “proclaim himself to be God“.

Tribulation Temple being built

It is this act that ignites the Great Tribulation and which God warns “those in Judea” to “flee to the hills” when they see it.  The building of this temple, however, can begin at any time. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 speaks of the temple rebuild.

We can also guess it will be a controversial temple because the Levitical system of animal sacrifice will be permitted, and you can imagine how that is going to go down!  It is the antichrist who will put a stop to them.  I bet that will earn him a few brownie points!

antichrist will defile the temple
The Bible tells us that there will be a period of peace, after the antichrist signs the peace treaty with Israel (it’s this act that starts the timer for the seven years of Tribulation) but halfway through the seven years, the antichrist demands to be worshipped as God.  

The Jewish people did not accept Jesus as God and they aren’t going to accept the antichrist as God either.  The seven-year covenant will be broken after 3½ years, setting off “the time of Jacob’s trouble“. Jeremiah 30:7

Also called The Great Tribulation, the second 3½ years is horrible!

The Millennial Temple

This temple is the grandest of all!  The splendor of Solomon’s temple will be no comparison! 

The Lord said it will be “the place of my throne, and the place of the shoes of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defileEzekial 43:7

However, it may not be a physical temple at all! One school of thought is that it is metaphorical.  The exact details given by Ezekial are pretty convincing as a physical temple.

outside picture of the millennial temple

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At the end of the Tribulation, He will establish His Kingdom and throne in Jerusalem, build a glorious Millennial Temple, and begin His thousand-year reign on earth.

Golden in colour and towering above the skyline, it will be the focal point of Jerusalem. The size and structure will be magnificent. Ezekial 42:15-20 gives us the actual measurements. I kid you not, go read it for yourself!

Ezekial gives us the dimensions of the porches, gates and rooms, as well as the thickness of the walls; and he tells us how it will all fit together!

The temple area will measure 500 reeds on each of the four sides (a reed is around ten feet), meaning the temple will be approximately one square mile.  It will be the most magnificent structure ever built.

the millennial temple

Geological Changes

There is one problem with this scenario.  This temple, including all the outbuildings, will be bigger than Jerusalem currently is!

Ezekial 20:40  has this little gem: “For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them.

Isaiah 2:1-3  has something equally revealing: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.”

And then there is Micah 4: 1-2  “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.” And Micah 4:7 “The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever.”

Jerusalem, today, is 2,500 feet above sea level and isn’t big enough to fit the magnificent Millennial Temple.   So, what geological changes will be necessary?  The details in the Bible are fabulous, it’s all there for the reading!

For Zechariah’s prophecy to come true, three major changes to the geographic area will be needed.

You need to read Zechariah 14. Really!

  • The Mount of Olives will be split in two from the east to the west, forming a great valley through which the inhabitants will flee.
  • Living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea. For this to be possible, Jerusalem will be lifted up.  “The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up high from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses and will remain in its place. It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.”


Ezekiel 14:1 gives us precise measurements, of the fully restored Israel, in cubits (44.5 cm/17.5 inches)! I’ll make it easy for you – the area is 50 x 50 miles (about 2,500 square miles).

  • The northern section will be 50 x 20 miles and the Temple – which will cover one square mile – will stand in the middle of this part. Some of the priests will live in the rest of the area.
  • The central section will be the same size, 50 x 20 miles, and that’s reserved for the Levites.
  • The southern sectionwill be a tad smaller, at 50 x 10 miles, and will be reserved for growing food and for building Millennial Jerusalem, which will be 10 x 10 miles.


Ezekiel gives an exciting account of the glory of God arriving at the temple. He even includes that He will return through the Eastern Gate and dwell in the inner court!  The presence of the Lord will return to a Jewish Temple, in Jerusalem, and that is where He will remain.

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