Ezekiel’s vision is one not of an earthly temple (although the prophet uses earthly language his readers could readily understand), but of an eschatological temple, depicted in its consummated form and unspeakable glory by John in Revelation 21-22.
In light of periodic calls to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple (Time to Rebuild the Temple?), the matter of whether or not this will come to pass is part and parcel of the on-going debate about events associated with the end times and the return of Jesus Christ. The very possibility of rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple raises a number of serious theological questions which ought to be addressed, especially in light of the dispensational expectation of a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem at the dawn of the supposed seven-year tribulation period, which then functions as a center of worship during the millennial age.
As for the possibility of the temple actually being rebuilt, I am one who says “never say never” about future world events. I have no idea what will happen over the long run in Jerusalem and Israel. That said, I do not think such a thing is even remotely likely, given the current tensions in Jerusalem over control and access to the Temple Mount, much less the long-term political circumstances of doing so. Should Israel develop the religious and political will to occupy the Temple Mount (something unforeseeable at this point in time) and eventually take the steps necessary to demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque (which is the third holiest site in Islam), the Jewish state would face the wrath of the entire Islamic world as well as that of much of the secular West. Since dispensationalists often connect the rebuilding of the temple to the geo-political tensions necessary to foster the appearance of the Antichrist, who, they claim, will make a peace treaty with Israel before betraying the nation leading to a final end-times catastrophe, such upheaval is not beyond the realm of possibility. Dispensationalists expect the Jerusalem Temple to be rebuilt and fervently hope for it.
As far the possibility of a rebuilt temple is concerned, the most important question is not geo-political, but theological. “What does a rebuilt temple mean to the larger drama of redemptive history?” “Why is it such a serious theological mistake to believe such a thing?”
Essential to a proper understanding of any future temple in Jerusalem is the prophecy found in Ezekiel 40-48, wherein we find the prophet’s vision of a new and still future temple. G. K. Beale’s important and stellar book on this topic should be read by anyone who has questions about Ezekiel’s vision (Beale — The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God).
As Beale points out, there are four main interpretations of Ezekiel’s prophecy and how it is fulfilled in the New Testament. Dispensationalists believe that this vision is a prophecy of an earthly temple to be built within Israel during the millennial age . They base this interpretation upon their literal hermeneutic, which they say demands that a prophecy such as this one be interpreted literally, unless there is good reason to believe the prophecy should be interpreted figuratively. They reach this conclusion only by skipping over the profound echoes from Ezekiel’s prophecy found in Revelation 21. According to dispensationalists, what the New Testament seems to say about this temple cannot be applied in this case because such would mean that the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy would not be “literal.” Furthermore, this expectation for the temple also seems to require a return to memorial animal sacrifices, an act occuring after Jesus’ completion of the work of redemption which approaches blasphemy.