Ezekiel’s Temple Vision and the Gospel
Three months ago, as I was reading through the book of 1 and 2 Samuel, I wrote an article on David, The Temple, and The Gospel. Today I return with an item on the temple based on my readings in the book of Ezekiel. To understand today’s article, kindly first read the article I wrote three months ago here. This article will be pivotal in your understanding of today’s piece.
A jog down the memory lane – Israel’s Sin history
The chosen people, the people of Israel, kept sinning against God. Most of their kings led them in rebellion and did what was wrong in God’s eyes. Right from Solomon, we see a half-heartedness in devotion towards God. Their insurgency was much, to the extent that Israel’s house split in two; the northern kingdom – Samaria, and the southern kingdom – Judah. The location of the temple of Jerusalem was Judah. Since the king of Samaria did not want his people to worship in Jerusalem, he built for them altars against God’s will and committed idolatry (1 Kings 12:25-33).
Throughout the reign of many kings, Israel sinned and continued to store up God’s wrath against themselves. God raised prophets like Hosea, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. They did not listen to the prophets. Instead, they gathered false prophets who gave them a wrong assurance of peace, yet all was not peaceful (Ezekiel 13:8-16). The Israelites dwelt on this false assurance instead of listening to God-sent prophets and repenting.
However, God was gracious to send faithful kings among them. Kings, especially in the southern kingdom, tried to be obedient. Among them are Hezekiah and Josiah. To learn more about King Josiah’s faithfulness, please read this article that I wrote recently.
God sent Israel to exile as punishment for their sin. The nation of Babylon had risen to power and held many countries captive, Israel among them. Israel would no longer depend on the strength of their armies or alliances with other nations, as was their norm. God had stripped them off all their glory. The Babylonian king burnt down the temple of Jerusalem and the king’s palace during this time (2 Kings 25:9).
The book of Ezekiel
Prophet Ezekiel was among the Jews who went to exile as punishment for their sins. Ezekiel includes proclamations of judgment towards Israel, other nations, and Israel’s future restoration. As one who was God-sent, prophet Ezekiel endured difficulty as God required him to demonstrate Israel’s rebellion and God’s anger towards them through his very life. He slept on his left side for three hundred and ninety days to bear the Sin of Samaria and on his left side for forty days to bear Judah’s Sin. His wife died, and God commanded him not to mourn, to show the Israelites that the temple, the object of their affections, would also be destroyed, and they weren’t to respond with mourning (Ezekiel 24:15-24).
The temple symbolized God’s presence in Israel. God’s presence, represented by the altar, dwelt in the temple. The priests sacrificed animals for the atonement of Israel’s Sin in the temple. The priests also mediated between God and His people in the temple. Therefore, the destruction of the temple meant that God’s presence was no longer with Israel. The worst curse to a human soul is God casting us away from His company.
The vision of the temple
Ezekiel 40-48 is a vivid description of Ezekiel’s vision for the temple. This vision detailed all the temple measurements, rules for Levitical priests, instructions on the sacrificial system, and the feasts and instructions on Israel’s land allotment.
According to Bible scholars, the temple described here was enormous, and not even the temple during Jesus’ time measured up to its size. In this temple, the priests would make perfect sacrifices (Ezekiel 43:13-27). The Levites who had gone far from God would bear the foreigners’ punishments in Israel, those who had profaned God’s altar through idolatry. Hence, the foreigners would now worship in the sanctuary since these Levites took their punishment (Ezekiel 44:9-14). The priests would make perfect judgments (Ezekiel 44:24), a Davidic prince would be the judge and ruler of the people (Ezekiel 44:3), and Gentiles would have a place in the restored kingdom (Ezekiel 47:22).
In Ezekiel 43, God’s glory filled the temple, and a voice spoke to Ezekiel, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The people of Israel will never again defile my holy name—neither they nor their kings—by their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings at their death. When they placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they defiled my holy name by their detestable practices. So I destroyed them in my anger. Now let them put away from me their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings, and I will live among them forever.”
God is both just and merciful. He punishes sin, but he also extends his mercy on sinners. All the pronunciations of judgment to Israel were accompanied with promises of future restoration and a change of their hearts so that they’d be able to obey God. Such were the proclamations of the prophet Ezekiel.
The Gospel foreshadowed
The vision of the temple has been interpreted differently according to various eschatological views. Since the temple described has never existed physically, some theologians believe that there will be a literal fulfillment of the prophecy in the millennium kingdom. In contrast, others think it symbolizes a future perfection of God’s presence among his people that will be actualized gradually in the church age, climaxing at Christ’s return. However, I will aim to show how the promises in this vision point us to the Gospel.
Christ, the Immanuel God with us, has come (Isaiah 7:14). Therefore, when we read about the promise of the restoration of the temple in Ezekiel, and the assurance of God’s presence with them forever, we are reminded of Christ’s daily existence in our midst, now and forever.
The king of Babylon held the Jews captive for many years. Similarly, before salvation, the devil had held us captive in our sin. Christ has come to set us free from the yoke of sin. “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6).
In the envisioned temple, the priests will make perfect sacrifices for God’s people’s sin. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was perfect and complete. He is the High Priest and the Lamb that was slain for the atonement of our sins (Hebrews 10:1-18).
According to the temple vision, foreigners living in Israel would receive an allotment of land in the restored kingdom. In the covenant of grace, Gentiles are welcome to receive God’s salvation and promise of an eternal inheritance through Christ. Christ has purchased us for himself through His blood. He is our portion and inheritance. We are also heirs with him (Romans 8:16-17).
For every believer, Christ’s presence lives within us. As Christ said, the hour has come where people neither worship on the mountain nor in Jerusalem. Instead, true worshippers now worship in the truth and Spirit (John 4:21-24). He has also given us His Holy Spirit that He may comfort and counsel us on how we ought to walk. He bore the punishment of the sin that stood between God and us and made it possible for us to come near God’s presence.
If this truth is not your reality, please turn away from your sin and trust Christ. As I mentioned earlier, the worst curse to any human soul is being cast away from God’s presence. If you insist on living in sin and rebellion towards God, this could happen to you. Hell, the place of eternal damnation, will be the ultimate destination away from God’s presence.