A group of senior rabbis in Israel are now operating the first Sanhedrin court since the rabbinical organization was dissolved almost 1600 years ago. The Sanhedrin was originally one of the principal forces in Israel, both in politics and in religion. Their members were involved with governing the people, functioning as a high court, and in controlling the worship of the Lord upon the Temple mount. Readers of the New Testament will recall that they were also a primary force in the trial, condemnation, and crucifixion of Jesus in 32 AD. However, the Sanhedrin lost its authority and function as a result of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and the subsequent scattering of the Jews throughout the world (see the sections on Israel for more information on Israel’s scattering).
Although the Sanhedrin tried to hold together for several centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, having no real purpose, they eventually disbanded in 425 AD. For many centuries thereafter, the Sanhedrin and the Temple were just memories to a people who were without a homeland or a central place of worship in Jerusalem.
However, now that Israel is once again back in their land and reestablished as a nation, their thoughts are now turning to reinstituting the full worship practices of Judaism as prescribed in the Old Testament. In 2004, this growing religious movement in Israel resulted in the reestablishment of a new Sanhedrin counsel. Their website states, “The Sanhedrin is the name given in the Mishna to the council of seventy-one Jewish sages who constituted the supreme court and legislative body in Judea during the Roman period.” They were the supreme religious governing body to the Jews in Israel, even when they were under foreign control and governorship by major empires.
The Sanhedrin’s reestablishment in our day is another sign that the prophecies of the End Times are being fulfilled. The organization actually calls itself the nascent Sanhedrin, because it is developing and awaiting official integration into the Israeli government as the highest level of authority, similar to the way it existed in New Testament times. The Sanhedrin envisions itself to be an upper house or Senate of the Knesset and also to function as the equivalent of the Supreme Court in Israel. As might be expected, the secular forces still in control in Israel reject this move toward a theocracy, but the Sanhedrin has broad appeal among the religious community, particularly the orthodox Gedolim and Rosh Yeshivas groups.
The current Sanhedrin is composed of over 70 rabbis, just as it was in first century times. They are focused on reestablishing the Jewish state as it functioned during the second Temple era. This will primarily relate to a transformation of Israel into more of a religious state instead of primarily being a secular one. Another important part of this focus is the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, which will be the true focal point for the worship and sacrifices as ordained in the Torah. The High Priest who presided over the Sanhedrin also was the chief minister in the Temple and was the overseer of all the Levites.
The events surrounding the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin and the movement to rebuild the Temple further prepare the nation of Israel for the fulfillment of End Times prophecy. A functioning Levitical priesthood and the rebuilding of the Temple are both required to fulfill many of the key events predicted for the Last Days.