I try not to comment too much on religions that are not my own, but some of the recent conflict involving the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has caught my attention, especially this article: “Has the Temple Mount Become A Hamas ‘City-State’?”. It made me ponder the question: who owns the Temple Mount?
First off, I’m not a pre/post/whatever-millennialist, so my view of the return of the Christ has nothing to do with the physical nation of Israel’s presence in the Holy Land, nor with the rebuilding of the Temple. I know there are many purported Christians who are bent on seeing a new physical temple being constructed to facilitate what they see as actions requisite for the return of the Christ. I think this explains considerably why the United States and Great Britain put so much effort into the modern nation of Israel. Zionist Jews and millennialists seek a restoration of the temple because they believe Jews is still the chosen people of God based on the land promise to Abraham:
In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaim, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Genesis 15:18-21, KJV)
Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. (Jeremiah 31:31-36, KJV)
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Galatians 3:16-18, KJV)
However, we know from Peter that:
“the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-12, KJV)
So with that in mind, that the return of the Christ is the beginning of a swift judgement and the end of this physical world as we know it, thus the emphasis on the Temple Mount changes from an imperative for standing up a new earthly kingdom to being a site of great historic and religious significance. Christ served as the final and perfect sacrifice. He is a high priest under the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-24, Hebrews 7:11-26). There is no need for a new temple.
Regardless, whoever controls the Temple Mount should respect the fact that the site is held in high esteem by all of the Abrahamic religions. Its a shared heritage. It is a place where the God of Heaven has been worshipped for thousands of years, whether it was by Jews in the time of Solomon, or by Jewish Christians during the early days of the church, who “daily in the temple, and in every house, …ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:42, ASV).
Though they could not enter the temple proper, there was a Court of the Gentiles on the Temple Mount. I suppose, the same argument could be made by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf as to why they limit access to in the vicinity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (and the Temple Mount). I can see the argument both ways, and though I don’t practice either religion, I can respect their stance on this holy and historical location.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the problem that both the Jews and the Muslims want each other off the Temple Mount. Were it not for the current Israel/ Palestine issue, one would wonder if the site might be more accessible? I don’t know if that conflict will ever reach a peaceful resolution, but one can hope that maybe someday in the future, the site where the Temple once stood will be open for reverent and retrospectful visitation.
So back to the original question. Who owns the Temple Mount? I am confident that it is not any group of men who’ve staked claims on it. The Temple Mount, like all of creation, belongs to God. It is only through His graciousness that we are allotted any of it. I am confident, through His Providence, that whoever He wants there, will be there. Does possession equal Godliness? No, possession just means that the occupier acting as an agent for a particular purpose of God. All belongs to God to be used as He purposes.