My Virtual Reality Tour Through Jerusalem’s Second Temple

And a danger of living in a virtual reality mindset.

Have you ever experienced virtual reality? I hadn’t. But a Tweet from my friend, Carl Rasmussen, changed that. He made me aware of a new exhibit in Jerusalem. I checked it out recently.

My Virtual Reality Tour Through Jerusalem's Second Temple

(Image: Screenshot from the promotional video below)

On our free day in Jerusalem on our recent tour, my wife and some friends and I decided to experience a virtual tour through the Second Temple. This exhibit is sponsored by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (the same organization that hosts underground tours of the Western Wall).

After entering a small room and receiving some instruction on using the virtual reality equipment, the guide ushered us to a room with a dozen swivel seats, each outfitted with virtual reality glasses and headphones. I put the gear on.

Suddenly, I was all alone.

Through the virtual reality viewer, I saw that my wife and friends had disappeared from the room I sat in! (I actually peeked out from behind my gear to make sure my wife and friends were still there.)

Exploring the Second Temple in Virtual Reality

After the program began, the room in which I sat disappeared and I found myself walking among the ruins of the Second Temple street where I have walked dozens of times. Robinson’s Arch appeared above me. It looked more massive than I had imagine it. The first-century shops had merchants, customers, and animals.

As I entered the Temple itself, I experienced:

  • Levites singing and pilgrims worshipping
  • Sacrifices and incense burning
  • The gigantic stones of the Second Temple all around me

The foundation describes the experience this way: “In this ground-breaking project which combines the talents of artists, researchers, animation experts and programmers, a computerized, 3D model of the Temple has been created with exceptional attention to every detail. Participants in the experience wear unique, headset-glasses that create a 360 degree field of vision, creating for them the sense that they are actually standing in the Temple itself, and seeing it as it looked 2,000 years ago.”

I could look up, down, or in any direction and it all looked real. (For the most part.) The 15-minute presentation offered a very unique way to experience the Temple of Jesus’ day. Definitely worth trying at least once. I think the tickets cost less than $10 each.

Me in virtual reality

(Photo: Our group—that’s me in the middle—experiencing the Second Temple in virtual reality.)

Virtual Reality from Another Perspective

The whole experience got me thinking. The benefits of virtual reality in an experience like I had offer education and, perhaps, even some inspiration. But virtual reality is a place to visit.

After all, it’s not reality. The Second Temple was destroyed for a reason—the same reason the Tabernacle at Shiloh was destroyed as well as Solomon’s Temple. God’s people refused to repent and follow His Word, His will, and ultimately, His Messiah. In fact, the true Temple will not be rebuilt until the Messiah is accepted by Israel.

Virtual reality also has its dangers. I don’t mean the dangers of gaming or of other uses for technology (though these exist).

I’m talking about the virtual reality in your mind.

renewal of the mind through truth

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Leaving the Virtual for Reality

When expectations about what life “ought to be” go unmet for extended periods of time, our hearts will want to drift into fantasy. Wouldn’t it be great if my life were . . . (fill in the blank with a virtual reality of your choice).

But think about it. Even if we were in other circumstances, we’re still just us. That’s the problem. When we chase our fantasy about life somewhere over the rainbow, we discover the yellow brick road only takes us to another dead end in the labyrinth. We find ourselves still trapped by our real problem—a discontented heart.

The problem isn’t our meager circumstance as much as it is our hearts’ refusal to trust in God’s sovereignty. Two steps can help:

  1. Remember the truth about virtual reality. Fantasy is a longing to be out of the will of God. When we imagine another reality for ourselves, we set our minds on our interests and not on God’s. (As if we could ever imagine a reality that’s better for us than God can.)
  2. Rediscover the reality of God’s will. When we find ourselves feeling marooned on Fantasy Island with no way off, we need to do all we can to discover the way of obedience. Then we take it, regardless of the cost, and wait there for God.

Let’s leave virtual reality for tours to Israel. Instead, let’s trust God in the midst of His will—however challenging reality may be.

The renewal of our minds comes from dwelling on truth.

Tell me what you think: What other dangers of virtual reality do you see? To leave a comment, just click here.

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