As we look at Biblical Prophecy, we need some understanding of The Temple and how it relates to the end times. In the early years of the Israelite kingdom, the Ark of the Covenant was periodically moved about among several sanctuaries, especially those of Shechem and Shiloh. After King David’s capture of Jerusalem, however, the Ark was moved to that city. This action joined Israel’s major religious object with the monarchy and the city itself into a central symbol of union of the Israelite tribes. As the site for a future temple, David chose Mount Moriah, or the Temple Mount, where it was believed Abraham had built the altar on which to sacrifice his son Isaac. The First Temple was constructed during the reign of David’s son, Solomon, and completed in 957 BCE. Other sanctuaries retained their religious functions, however, until Josiah (reigned c. 640–609 BCE) abolished them and established the Temple of Jerusalem as the only place of sacrifice in the Kingdom of Judah.
The First Temple was built as a home for the Ark and as a place of assembly for the entire people. The building itself, therefore, was not large, but the courtyard was extensive. The Temple building faced eastward. It was oblong and consisted of three rooms of equal width: the porch, or vestibule (ʾulam); the main room of religious service, or Holy Place (hekhal); and the Holy of Holies (devir), the sacred room in which the Ark rested. A storehouse (yaẓiʿa) surrounded the Temple except on its front (east) side.
The Temple suffered at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia, who removed the Temple treasures in 604 BCE and 597 BCE and totally destroyed the building in 587 BCE/586 BCE. This destruction and the deportations of Jews to Babylonia in 586 BCE and 582 BCE were seen as fulfillments of prophecy and, therefore, strengthened Judaic religious beliefs and awakened the hope for the reestablishment of the independent Jewish state.
Cyrus II, founder of the Achaemenian dynasty of Persia and conqueror of Babylonia, in 538 BCE issued an order allowing exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Work was completed in 515 BCE. There is no known detailed plan of the Second Temple, which was constructed as a modest version of the original building. It was surrounded by two courtyards with chambers, gates, and a public square. It did not include the ritual objects of the First Temple; of special significance was the loss of the Ark itself. Ritual, however, was elaborate and was conducted by well-organized families of priests and Levites. The Temple is continued in next Bible Study.