The Jerusalem Temple (Hebrew: beit ha-mikdash) was the center of Israelite and Jewish worship, primarily for the offering of sacrifices known as the korbanot. It was located on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
According to the Bible, the First Temple was built by Solomon. It replaced the Tabernacle of Moses. Solomon's Temple was destroyed centuries later by the Babylonians. The Second Temple was rebuilt decades later at the same location. It too was eventually destroyed, this time by the Romans.
The dual destruction of the two temples, five hundred years apart, marks two central eras in Jewish history: the first marks the beginning of the Babylonian Exile; the second marks the beginning of the Jewish diaspora.
The word Temple is derived not from the Hebrew but from the Latin word for place of worship, templum. The name given in Scripture for the building was Beit Adonai or "House of Adonai" (although this name was also often used for other temples, or metaphorically). Because of the prohibition against pronouncing the holy name, the common Hebrew name for the Temple is Beit ha-Mikdash or "The Holy House", and only the Temple in Jerusalem is referred to by this name.
First and Second Temples
Two distinct temples stood in succession on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:
Drawing of Herod's Second Temple in Jerusalem
Julian's Third Temple
There was an aborted project by the Roman emperor Julian (331-363) to allow the Jews to build a Third Temple. There is reason to believe that Julian wanted the rebuilt Third Temple to be for the purpose of his own apotheosis, rather than the worship of the Jewish God. Rabbi Hilkiyah, one of the leading Rabbis of the time, spurned Julian's money, arguing that Gentiles should play no part in the rebuilding of the temple.  (http://www.gibsoncondo.com/~david/convert/history.html).
Rebuilding the Temple today
Standing today in the historical location of the Temple is the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, is located just to its south.
To attempt to tear down and replace these Muslim shrines with a Jewish Temple is impossible in today's political and religious climate. The very idea of doing so at any point in the future constitutes a seemingly unresolvable problem. Nonetheless, the idea of rebuilding the Temple somewhere else is difficult for Jews to accept.
For the last 1900 years, Jews have prayed that God would allow for the rebuilding of the Temple. This prayer is a formal part of the thrice daily Jewish prayer services.
However, not all rabbis agree on what would happen in a rebuilt Temple. It has traditionally been assumed that some sort of animal sacrifices would be reinstituted, in accord with the rules in Leviticus and the Talmud. However there is another opinion, beginning with Maimonides, that God deliberately has moved Jews away from sacrifices towards prayer, as prayer is a higher form of worship. Thus, some rabbis hold that sacrifices would not take place in a rebuilt Temple. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of the Jewish community in pre-state Israel, holds that sacrifices will not be reinstituted.
A few, very small, Jewish groups support constructing a Third Temple today, but most Jews oppose this, for a variety of reasons. Most religious Jews feel that the Temple should only be rebuilt in the messianic era, and that it would be presumptuous of people to force God's hand, as it were. Furthermore, there are many ritual impurity constrictions that are difficult to resolve, making the building's construction a practical impossibility.
Additionally, many Jews are against rebuilding the Temple due to the enormously hostile reaction from Muslims that would likely result— even were the building to be complementary to those holy to Islam, there would be high suspicion that such a building project would ultimately end with the destruction of these and the rebuilding of the Temple on its original spot.
Rebuilding the Temple in Jewish prayerbooks
- Conservative Judaism has modified the prayers; their prayerbooks call for the restoration of Temple, but do not ask for resumption of animal sacrifices. Most of the passages relating to sacrifices are replaced with the Talmudic teaching that deeds of loving-kindness now atone for sin. In the central prayer, the Amidah, the Hebrew phrase na'ase ve'nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) is modified to read to asu ve'hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed), implying that animal sacrifices are a thing of the past. The petition to accept the "fire offerings of Israel" is removed.
- Reform Judaism calls neither for the resumption of sacrifices or the rebuilding of the Temple, although some new Reform prayerbooks are moving towards calling for the latter as an option.
Many fundamentalist and evangelical Christian groups, especially those who follow a dispensationalist theology, believe that the Jewish people will build the Third Temple shortly before, or perhaps after, "true" Christians have been raptured, and just before the introduction of a popularly accepted messiah-figure. However, according to this view, this messiah-figure would not be a true messiah but rather what Christians call the Antichrist.
However, in contrast to this dominant view, many evangelicals believe that in addition to this Third Temple, the Millennial Temple prophesied by Ezekiel will also be built. According to that view, while the so-called Antichrist will put an end to the sacrificial system during the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27, 11:31, 12:11), the arrival of the true Messiah will inaugurate the building of Ezekiel's Temple (see Ezekiel 40-44). This view holds that the Prince of Israel (the human descendant of David who will rule in the Kingdom) will provide the regular sacrifices (Ezek. 45:17), including sin offerings for himself and the people (Ezek. 45:22). In this view the Prince of Israel is parallel in many ways to the hoped-for messiah of traditional Judaism. Also, this view (like Orthodox Judaism) looks for and encourages both the rebuilding of the Third Temple and the resumption of animal sacrifices.
The dominant view within Protestant Christianity, however, rejects these views of the value of any future temples. It holds that since Jesus died as the final sacrifice for sin, all such prophecies about a future temple and restored sacrificial system have been annulled and transformed into an illustration of spiritual realities. So in terms of a rebuilt temple and restored sacrificial system, their view has much in common with Conservative and Reform Judaism, though for very different reasons. The evangelicals who do believe in Ezekiel's Temple respond that God's prophecies cannot be negated or annulled (for that would turn them into a lie); that the sacrificial system does not compete with Jesus' atonement for sin, but is a ceremonial object lesson for confession and forgiveness (somewhat like water baptism and Communion are today); and that such animal sacrifices would still be appropriate for ritual cleansing and for acts of celebration and thanksgiving toward God.
On Monday, December 27, 2004 it was reported in the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper that the Israel Museum in Jerusalem discovered that the ivory pomegranate that everyone believed had once adorned a sceptre used by the high priest in Solomon's Temple is a fake. This artifact was the most important item of biblical antiquities in its collection. It had been part of a travelling exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 2003. Experts fear that this discovery is part of an international fraud in antiquities. The report described the thumb-sized pomegranate which is a mere 44 millimetres in height as being inscribed "... with ancient Hebrew letters said to spell out the words "Sacred donation for the priests in the House of Jehovah."
Western Wall -- Al-Aqsa Mosque -- Dome of the Rock