A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
At the end of Ezekiel 39 we saw that the Lord will use the great battle He’s just had Ezekiel describe to reveal Himself to Israel and complete the return of His people to their land. He promised not to leave any behind. Some Christians have a hard time accepting the fact that when the Jews return to God as a nation, they’ll build a Temple and practice animal sacrifice again. But by saying that in the middle of the 70th week the anti-Christ will put an end to sacrifice and offering, Daniel confirmed just that. For 2000 years there’s been no Temple and for 2000 years there’s been no sacrifice, but Daniel 9:27 tells us that both will be part of the first half of the 70th week.
From Zechariah 12:10-14 we learn that just prior to the 2nd Coming the eyes of the nation will be opened as God pours out a spirit of grace and supplication and they finally come to understand that the Lord Jesus is their Messiah after all, The entire nation will go into a period of mourning at this realization, and at that time they’ll be cleansed from their sin and impurity, (Zech 13:1) finally holy again.
You remember that God’s major complaint against Israel was that through their idolatry they had defiled not only themselves as God’s Holy people, but also the Holy Temple, the Holy City, and the Holy Land. Only in retrospect can we even begin to see what a serious affront to God that was.
The Lord had to go back to His place in Heaven, the people had to go into captivity, the Temple and City had to be destroyed by fire, and the land itself had to lie fallow for 70 years. And although it’s often overlooked, even though the Lord made good on His promise to restore the people, the City, the Temple, and the Land, He Himself never returned. Even when Jesus came to visit, He stood and taught on the Temple Mount, but He never entered it. In 70 AD the Temple was destroyed and since then there hasn’t been another, so the Lord has been absent for 2600 years, since before the Babylonian captivity.
But just as the over riding promise to the Church is that we’ll live in Heaven with the Lord, (John 14:2) so the Promise to Israel is that God will one day return to dwell among His people, and in the Book of Ezekiel that promise comes true. Skipping right over the Rapture of the Church, Daniel’s 70th Week, the Great Tribulation and the 2nd Coming, Ezekiel now takes a journey through time to view the land of Israel as no man has even seen it. The people having been made holy again, his last 8 chapters will focus on the other three things, the Temple, the City and the Land. Let’s join him.
In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city—on that very day the hand of the LORD was upon me and he took me there. In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. The man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see.” (Ezekiel 40:1-4)
The date was April 28, 573 BC, early in the 25th year since Ezekiel had been carried off to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd siege of Jerusalem. In Ezekiel’s first view of the restored land, we can see hints of the topographical changes that will accompany the 2nd Coming. Again we’ll turn to Zechariah because although Ezekiel didn’t mention this happening, Zechariah did.
In Zechariah 14:4 we read, On that day (the Lord’s) feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.
Zechariah 14: 10-11 adds, The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place, from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses. It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.
Jerusalem will be split in half east to west by an earthquake that obliterates the current Temple mount, opening a great valley through the middle of the city. Everything south of Jerusalem will be lowered to the level of the Dead Sea valley while Jerusalem itself will be raised up to occupy the southern slopes of a tall mountain. Psalm 48:2 adds, Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
His guide takes Ezekiel directly to the Temple where they begin a detailed tour of the building, its courts, walls, and gates. Ezekiel’s descriptions and measurements are so specific that two things become readily apparent. One, no Temple like this has ever been built, and two, from his description alone one could be. This Temple will be like previous ones in some respects and different in others. Rather than labor through all the intricate measurements, we’ll just high light the similarities and differences.
In the portico of the gateway were two tables on each side, on which the burnt offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings were slaughtered. (Ezek. 40:39)
” Every day you are to provide a year-old lamb without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD; morning by morning you shall provide it.” (Ezekiel 46:13)
The first thing we’re told about Jewish life in the Millennial Kingdom it that animal sacrifices will again mark each and every day. As much trouble as some have knowing that the Jews will return to animal sacrifice during the 70th week, seeing them continue in the Kingdom Age after Israel acknowledges the Messiah is even more distressing to them. We’ll explore the other Holy Days and offerings next time, but before he describes anything else about the Temple, Ezekiel highlights this fact, so it deserves more of our attention.
The distaste with which many people view this subject helps to show the extent to which our acceptance of the so-called theory of evolution has contaminated our thinking. The ASPCA, PETA and other groups who advocate animal rights are all of the opinion that man is just another animal who shouldn’t use his elevated position in the animal kingdom to mistreat his less fortunate “relatives”. But these same groups have no problem with the millions of human lives that have been sacrificed, often for no higher motive than the convenience of their parents, on the altar of materialism. The old bumper sticker sums up our upside down thinking. “Be a hero, save a whale. Save a baby, go to jail.” God, who created man and animal alike, ordained the practice of animal sacrifice for man’s benefit and His Word contains no teaching on animal rights. Don’t get me wrong. I love my dog, and I don’t eat meat or animal products. But I don’t confuse those things with my religious beliefs.
As for why the Bible says that the sacrifice of animals was only intended to look forward to the Lord’s ultimate sacrifice, and once He had died there was neither need nor justification for animals to die, I can only say that these things were written to and for the Church. Life on Earth in the Kingdom Age will be different from life in the New Jerusalem, and Earth’s one-world religion will be a lot more like Old Testament Judaism than New Testament Christianity. Where the cross is concerned, the suggestion that animal sacrifice will be a necessary reminder of what happened there in the future just as it was a necessary prophecy of what would happen there in the past is good enough for me. And as Isaiah said, us questioning the Lord is a lot like the pot questioning the potter.
He also measured the outer sanctuary (Holy Place); it was forty cubits long and twenty cubits wide. (Ezek. 41:2)
And he measured the length of the inner sanctuary; it was twenty cubits, and its width was twenty cubits across the end of the outer sanctuary (Holy of Holies) (Ezek 41:4)
The dimensions of the temple proper are the same as in previous ones. But that’s where the similarity ends.
The outer sanctuary, the inner sanctuary and the portico facing the court, as well as the thresholds and the narrow windows and galleries around the three of them—everything beyond and including the threshold was covered with wood. The floor, the wall up to the windows, and the windows were covered. In the space above the outside of the entrance to the inner sanctuary and on the walls at regular intervals all around the inner and outer sanctuary were carved cherubim and palm trees. Palm trees alternated with cherubim. Each cherub had two faces: the face of a man toward the palm tree on one side and the face of a lion toward the palm tree on the other. They were carved all around the whole temple. From the floor to the area above the entrance, cherubim and palm trees were carved on the wall of the outer sanctuary.
The outer sanctuary had a rectangular door frame, and the one at the front of the Most Holy Place was similar. There was a wooden altar three cubits high and two cubits square; its corners, its base and its sides were of wood. The man said to me, “This is the table that is before the LORD.” Both the outer sanctuary and the Most Holy Place had double doors. Each door had two leaves—two hinged leaves for each door. And on the doors of the outer sanctuary were carved cherubim and palm trees like those carved on the walls, and there was a wooden overhang on the front of the portico. (Ezek 41:15-25)
Whereas in Solomon’s temple the interior was overlaid with gold, and in Herod’s the walls were polished limestone supporting a ceiling of wood wrapped in gold, the interior of this temple will be finished in wood alone. The representations of cherubim carved into the wood will have only the faces of a man and a lion. The four faces described in views of the cherubim (Ezek 1:10 and Rev. 4:7) symbolize four characteristics of the Messiah. The face of a man stand for His humanity, the lion speaks of His kingship, the ox, being a beast of burden, describes His Servitude, and the eagle proclaims His deity. Only His humanity and kingship will be emphasized in the Kingdom Age. He is the Son of Man and King of the Whole Earth. Together with the cherubim, the palm trees carved into the wooden walls are meant to bring the Garden of Eden to mind.
The ark of the covenant with its atonement cover, the golden altar of incense, the table of show bread and the menorah, all of which were either made totally of gold or of wood covered by thin sheets of gold, will not be found in this temple. The only piece of furniture is a wooden altar called the Lord’s table. And rather than the thick tapestry veil that separated the two rooms of former Temples and kept everyone out of the Holy of Holies except on Yom Kippur , this Temple has double doors, each one hinged in the middle so they fold back against the walls. By this we know that the way into the Holy of Holies is open. Having been reconciled to His Creation by the cross, (Col. 1:19-20) God has made Himself accessible to all His children.
The Shekinah Glory Returns
Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. He said: “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 house of Israel will never again defile my holy name—neither they nor their kings—by their prostitution and the lifeless idols of their kings at their high places. (Ezek. 43:1-7)
And so after a 2600 year absence, the Shekinah Glory returns to the Temple. This signifies that the People, the Land, the City, and the Temple have finally been made Holy once again. This is the fulfillment of Hosea 6:2, “After two days he will revive us and on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His Presence.”
Next time we’ll hear the Lord’s first words after returning to live among His people and get a glimpse of the officials who will govern the nation and how they’ll do it. Like most other things, it’s different from before. We’ll also see significant differences in the offerings they’ll present and the Holy Days they’ll celebrate. Stay tuned, we’re just getting started. (02-16-08)