God told Israel not to make any images in case they became a cause of stumbling. Yet he gave Moses the design for an elaborate tabernacle in the wilderness and Ezekiel the plans for a highly decorated temple.
The tabernacle and temple had a greater meaning. God always expected Israel to see past the literal elaborate designs to the message beneath. David understood this when he said
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire– but my ears you have opened — burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” Psalm 40:6
Isaiah understood God’s greater message when he recorded
“Is not this the kind of fast I have chosen, to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your home?” Isaiah 58:6-7
GOD’S DISLIKE OF FANCY BUILDINGS
God has a dislike of fancy buildings – He said to Moses in Exodus 20:24
An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings… And if you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones; for if you wield your tool upon it you profane it.
So, God originally wanted an altar of earth, with no hewn stones. People are in fact an ‘altar of earth’.
SOLOMON’S TEMPLE WAS A CONCESSION
He said to David in 1 Chronicles 17:4-6
‘You shall not build me a house to dwell in. For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I led up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’
So the temple Solomon built was a concession, like letting them have a king was a concession – So why the need for Ezekiel’s temple? The New Testament reveals the temple God seeks is not made of hewn stones –
Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” 1 Cor. 6:19
“Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:19
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Rev. 21:22
LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC?
Was the temple God described to Ezekiel literal or symbolic? Was it something the Jews could have built but failed to? Is it a future building?
This research presents the case that Ezekiel’s temple has already begun. The Prince came by the eastern gate and the Jews missed Him. The water flowing from the temple is living water that flows from believers in Christ.
The Book of Ezekiel has much in common with Revelation, where we see the tabernacle symbols applied to Jesus and Christians who are spiritual ‘Israelites’. The lampstand that once stood in the Jewish tabernacle becomes the 7 lampstands in Asia with Jesus in their midst (see Rev. 2). The prayers of the saints go up as incense from the altar (see Rev. 8:4). Saints become the ‘souls under the altar’ – a life offered in sacrifice is a ‘burnt offering’. The 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel become a multitude without number from every nation and tongue on earth (see: Who are the 144,000 ?)
MAGIC LEAVES ?
Ezekiel 47:12 tells us about special leaves that grow on trees by water that flows from the temple.
“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
Is this the way God will really heal the nations? Let’s compare it to some other passages –
|That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Ps. 1:3
|They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:8|
This is a description of what people do, we bring forth fruit. We bring healing. We are the leaves that don’t wither, growing on trees whose roots are in living water.
Let’s read about living water in Ezekiel 47:1 & 9
‘I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple… where the river flows everything will live.’
Jesus interpreted this for us when he spoke to the woman at the well. He explained to her Ezekiel’s temple, but it was not a literal one in Jerusalem or on Mt Gerezim –
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ John 7:38
Jesus not only showed us how to interpret the Law of Moses in His ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (see: The Beatitudes in the Law of Moses), He also showed us how to interpret Ezekiel’s Temple.
THE EASTERN GATE
The Jews expect the Shekhinah gloryשכינה( Divine Presence) to appear through the eastern Gate, when the Messiah comes. They base this on Ezekiel 44:1-3
Then the man brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, the one facing east, and it was shut. The Lord said to me, “This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it. The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the Lord. He is to enter by way of the portico of the gateway and go out the same way.”
Notice that this prophecy is talking about a prince rather than high priest. He sits in the presence of God. This can only apply to Jesus the Messiah.
I believe the Jews missed the boat in their understanding of this prophecy. The Shekinah glory has already come and filled God’s temple. Ezekiel 43:4 tells us
‘The glory of the Lord entered the temple according to the way of the gate facing east. … and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.’
The writer of John tells us
“And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” John 1:14-18
The Eastern gate Jesus entered through was the sheep gate.
‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ John 1:29
THE MEASURE OF THE GATE
In the ‘I am’ Statements in John, Jesus said He is ‘the gate’.
‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.’ John 10:9
Ezekiel tells us that the fixtures in the temple are to be after the ‘measure of the gate’ – symbolic language of people who model themselves on Jesus –
And their windows (entrances), and their arches, and their palm trees, were after the measure of the gate that looks toward the east.” Ezek. 40:22
The exits of the city bear the names of the tribes of Israel
These will be the exits of the city… they will be named after the tribes of Israel – (12 gates) Ezek. 48:30
In Revelation, New Jerusalem (the Bride/Church) is a building that also has 12 gates named after the tribes of Israel –
On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Rev. 21:13
This is clearly not a literal building but an image of the Bride who has modelled herself according to the ‘measure of the gate’ – Jesus. The ‘Bride’ does not have to be Jewish according to birth, but by what is in their heart. God warned Israel that they had become like foreigners, yet foreigners with the right heart can become ‘Jews’ –
Jer. 9:26 “Like all these foreign nations, the people of Israel also have uncircumcised hearts.“
Jesus showed us how to interpret Ezekiel’s temple – a greater temple than people can build out of stone. He always encouraged us to see past the surface to the greater message.
THE WAY TO GOD
Ezekiel tells us the prince is the only one who can eat in the presence of the Lord –
‘The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the Lord.’ Ezek. 44:2
Jesus said that He was the way to the Father –
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
After His death, by his blood the way was opened for us to enter the most holy place, the veil was torn –
“We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” Heb. 10:19
Jesus Himself was the offerings in the temple. He was furniture in the temple – the bread of life, the manna from heaven and the entry.
Ezekiel’s temple is the dwelling place of God with many rooms. As spiritual Israelites we become a kingdom of priests and those rooms are prepared for us. Jesus tell us –
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. John 14:2
AND in the same chapter –
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.
So a future place turns into the present.
PILLARS & PALM TREES
Ezekiel’s temple is full of pillars and palm trees – Imagery that is applied to the righteous in other parts of scripture –
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it. Rev 3:12
This thy stature is like to a palm tree. Song 7:7 (Bride in Song of Sol. symbol of church)
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree. Psalm 92:12
FISHERS OF MEN
Ezekiel 47 tells us that wherever the river flows – that comes from under the throne of God and is the living water – life will flourish and there will be many kinds of fish – like the fish of the Mediterranean.
Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea (Mediterranean) Ezek. 47:9-12
Jerome, the translator of the ‘Vulgate’ version of the Bible (Latin), wrote an interesting commentary-
“Those who have written about animated nature say that there are 153 kinds of fish (in Mediterranean). One of each of these kinds was caught by the Apostle, and more remained uncaught. For noble and ignoble, rich and poor, all sorts and conditions of men, are drawn out of the sea of this world to salvation.” Jerome (345-420CE)
The writer of John tells us that story of a great catch of fish – 153 of them –
“Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of Great fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
So, if the author of the 4th gospel had Ezekiel 47 in mind and included 153 because it was the number of species believed to be in the Great Sea, and if that’s why God put that many in the net, then they were giving us a message – Ezekiel’s temple is already happening. The fishing for men of all nations was happening with Jesus and the disciples.