The Second Coming, brought to you by — who else? Donald Trump
There are a few details to be worked out, of course. One is exactly where to locate the temple, which must be on the site of the original Temple of Solomon, dating from around the 10th century B.C. Inconveniently, the predominant view is that this is exactly where the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest of Muslim shrines, now stands. The area, known as the Temple Mount, is so sensitive that Israel prohibits Jews and other non-Muslims from praying there; just by setting foot there in 2000 the hard-line Israeli politician Ariel Sharon touched off an escalating series of riots, the second intifada, that went on for years.
And although the Old Testament goes into mind-numbing detail about the specifications of the temple and its furnishings, it gives the dimensions in cubits, the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, a somewhat ambiguous unit of measure for a project that must be built precisely to God’s own blueprint. And there are some ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe that the whole enterprise has to be put off until the arrival of the Messiah, which would make moving the American Embassy theologically pointless. Nevertheless, there is a growing, if still small, movement in Israel that believes it’s time to move ahead on the temple project now, and Trump’s announcement was a shot in the arm to them too.
“The prophets’ words of prophecy are coming forth from the Bible and becoming facts right before our eyes,” said the American-born rabbi Yehuda Glick, a member of Israel’s Parliament from the ruling Likud party who is active in the movement to restore the temple. An organization called the Temple Institute is meticulously reconstructing ritual artifacts for use there and has a project underway to breed a perfect red calf, to be killed and burned and its ashes mixed with pure spring water to perform a ritual purification that is a necessary precondition to occupying the temple.
And then what? Well, here there is a polite divergence between the Jewish Third Temple movement and its allies among evangelical Christians. To Jews, rebuilding the temple is a sacred commandment and an end in itself, allowing the resumption of biblical forms of worship that have been on hold for nearly 2,000 years. Jews will resume animal sacrifice under the direction of the cohanim — a priestly caste among Jews, to which I just so happen to belong. Cohanim are directly descended along the male line (no females need apply) from the original high priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses, or, as I think of him, “Uncle Moses.” A “Cohanim Training Academy” has been established to school the prospective priests in the correct ritual. It’s a bloody job, but someone has to do it, because God wants it that way.
But if evangelical Christians are correct, history will take a very different course, as Bass explains: The Antichrist will arise to desecrate the rebuilt temple, which will cause the Jews to finally realize that Jesus was the real Messiah, triggering a mass conversion. There will be seven years of tribulation, the Ten Plagues times 10,000, the worst thing that the Jews have ever gone through. (“When I explained this to my husband, he said, ‘Worse than the Holocaust?’ And I said, Yes! Worse than that!” Bass says.) And at the end of those seven years, there will be Armageddon, and in the middle of that battle, Jesus will return with all of the righteous from heaven and defeat the forces of evil and institute the millennial kingdom, the thousand-year reign of Christ. That’s probably not quite what Rabbi Glick has in mind to happen, but for now they are working together to get the process underway.
And it was all set in motion by Donald Trump. In the current climate in Washington, with talk of impeachment swirling, it is fashionable among progressives to say that the stakes have never been higher. They have no idea how high. As Bass put it in a tweet: “Regular Christians — Orthodox, Catholic, mainline — can raise a fit about how [Trump’s] action will undermine world peace. But that doesn’t matter. Because peace in this world doesn’t matter.”
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