Difficult Passages

Ezekiel – Grace and Glory


Difficult Passages

OUTLINE

I. INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL 40-48

  1. THE STRUCTURE OF THE TEMPLE (Ezek 40-43)
  2. WORSHIP IN THE TEMPLE (Ezek 44-46)
  3. DIVISION OF THE LAND (Ezek 45:1-8. 47:1- 48:35)

II. DIFFICULT ISSUES IN EZEKIEL 40-48

  1. LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC INTERPRETATION OF EZEKIEL 40-48
  2. IDENTITY OF THE “PRINCE”
  3. SACRIFICES AND FEASTS IN THE MILLENNIUM

I. INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL 40-48

In a vision, Ezekiel met a man with a measuring rod (Ezek 40:1-4) on a very high mountain, which appears to be Mount Zion. He is told to concentrate on what he is shown and report it in full to the house of Israel.

a. THE STRUCTURE OF THE TEMPLE COMPLEX (Ezek 40-43)

1. THE OUTER COURT

•  The East gate (40:5-16)

•  The North and South Gates (40:20-27)

•  Rooms in Outer Court (Ezek 40:17-19)

•  Rooms for Cooking the Sacrificial meals (46:19-24)

•  Rooms for the Priests in the Temple Yard (42:1-14)

•  Rooms for Preparing Sacrifices (Ezek 40:38-43)

The outer courtyard (Ezek 40:17-19) had a pavement strip the width of the east gate’s length; fifty cubits. The pavement formed a border all around the outside edges of the outer court.

There are 3 gates in the outer court. The east gate (Ezek 40:5-16), the north gate and the south gate (Ezek 40: 20-27):

•  The east gate (40:5-16) – Ezekiel saw a wall completely surrounding the temple area. The angel’s measuring rod would be the thickness and the height of the solid wall, which surrounded the temple area, effectively marking off the sacred from the solid world outside.

The gate was composed of seven steps that led up to the gate from the outside. The entrance steps measured ten cubits wide and thirteen cubits long. The north and south outer gates have the identical dimensions of the east gate.

The gate’s outer threshold, T (Outer) measured ten cubits wide and six cubits deep. The entire gate system resembled the multiple entry gates of Solomon’s period. There were several alcoves, or guardrooms on either side of the inner part of the Solomonic gate. In this gate, there were three alcoves (A), on either side of the inside of the gate, each six cubits square with a wall (FW) one cubit high in front of each. The dimension of the walls (S) separating the three inner alcoves was five cubits. The gate’s inner threshold (IT) was one rod deep like the outer threshold.

A portico (P) on the inside of the gate faced the outer courtyard. It was eight cubits wide with a two-cubit doorjamb facing the temple. There were windows, or parapet openings (W) in each alcove and in the portico, but the number and the exact location of each of these openings are not certain (v16).

The overall dimensions of the gate system were twenty-five cubits wide by fifty cubits long.

•  The North and South Gates (40:20-27) – The outer northern gate and the outer southern gate systems were exactly identical with the eastern gate. “Seven steps led up to it”(40:22,26). This indicates that the temple area is thought of as a huge raised area, built above the level of the surrounding land.

•  Rooms in Outer Court (Ezek 40:17-19) – Thirty rooms were on this pavement around the outer court. They were probably arranged in three groups of ten against the north, east and south walls. Their use would most certainly have been either for worshippers or for the Levites who were on duty in the temple.

•  Rooms for Cooking the Sacrificial meals (46:19-24) – Ezekiel was led to the entrance of the holy building that contained the rooms where the priests ate the most holy offerings and changed their garments. At the end of these sacred rooms was where the priests would cook guilt offerings and sin offerings. Here, they also baked grain offerings and ate all the offerings. This way, the priests would not have to take these offerings into the outer court and cook them and thereby consecrate the people.

There were four kitchens in the four corners of the outer court (Ezek 46:21-24). There was a stone ledge around the inside of each room under which fireplaces were built. These ample kitchen facilities enabled the priests to cook people’s sacrificial meals.

•  Rooms for the Priests in the Temple Yard (42:1-14) – There were two buildings in the outer court just outside the inner court on the north and the south. The northern building was three-storied with many rooms and galleries on each floor. The two lower stories had pillars as structural supports. All rooms appeared to have doors on the north side. The building’s lower floor also had an eastern entrance. In front of this eastern entrance was a wall parallel to the east end of the building. This wall might provide a separation from the rest of the activity of the outer court, giving privacy.

The southern building was similar to the northern building in every aspect, providing perfect symmetry of the temple.

These two buildings was a place to store portions of sacrifices and also, provided a holy place where the Zadokian priests could eat the holy offerings and change from their holy ministering garments to their everyday clothes. The priests would leave their priestly garments in these buildings and in doing so, they would continue to distinguish between the holy and the profane.

•  Rooms for Preparing Sacrifices (Ezek 40:38-43) – Here, the rooms and tables that are to be used for the preparation of sacrifices are described. There was a room located beside the door jamb outside each inner court gate, indicating that each room was in the outer courtyard beside the stairs leading up to the portico of the inner gate. This is the place where the burnt offerings were to be washed for ceremonial cleansing. There would be two tables on either side of each inner gate portico for the slaughter of offerings.

The northern inner gate had some unique feature. There were two additional tables for slaughter of sacrifices placed on either side of the stairs outside the north inner gate of the outer courtyard. This made a total of eight tables both outside and inside the north inner gate.

2. THE INNER COURT

•  Gates of Inner Court (Ezek 40:28-37)

•  Rooms for the Priests (PS) (40:44-47)

•  The Altar (A) (43:13-27)

It is assumed that another wall surrounded the inner court (Ezekiel 40:28-37). This was pierced by three further gateways.

•  Gates of Inner Court (Ezek 40:28-37) – Each of these gates (south gate, east gate and north gate) was identical in its dimensions and basic design with the three gates of the outer court. The inner court was also raised above the level of the outer court and eight steps led up to the inner gateways. As Stalker puts it, it may seem that “each successive elevation represents an increasing degree of holiness”

•  Rooms for the Priests (PS) (40:44-47) – On the north and the south sides of the inner court, adjacent to the gateways, were chambers for priests of the sons of Zadok. They were the only ones of the Levitical priesthood permitted to minister directly to the Lord. The north side were for the priests who were responsible for the daily running of the temple. Those on the south were for the priests who sacrificed on at the altar.

•  The Altar (A) (43:13-27) – The altar was to be situated in front of the sanctuary in the inner court. The altar was described from bottom to the top. The bottom portion of the altar was made up of a base with a gutter around the altar. On top of this base were three sections. The first, a two-cubit high section, with a one-cubit ledge around it. This ledge formed a gutter with a rim. The second section, the middle section had a one-cubit ledge around it. The top portion of the altar was a hearth, which was the shape of a square. Horns were projected out from each of the four corners of the square.

Steps led to the top of the east side of the altar. This millennial altar was very large.

After the construction of the altar, it would be necessary to cleanse and dedicate it. Cleansing was necessary because everything associated with man partook of sin and therefore, needed to be cleansed, especially if it were to be used in the house of the Lord.

The ritual cleansing and atonement for the altar took seven days. A sin offering of a young bull was to be made by the Zodakian priests on the first day. On the second and succeeding five days, the priests would need to offer a sin offering of a male goat without defect, in order to continue to purify the altar. After this ceremonial cleansing with the sin offering, the priests would symbolise the altar’s consecration by offering a young bull and a ram, both without defect and sprinkled with salt, as a burnt offering before the Lord. When this is done, the altar would be atoned and cleaned in dedication.

After the seven-day cleansing of the altar, the priests would begin to present burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar for the people.

3. THE TEMPLE (Ezek 40:48-41:26)

Here, the angel has brought Ezekiel up a flight of stairs to the entranceway of the temple (Ezekiel 40:48-41:26). Pillars are found one on either side beside the doorjambs and these pillars, were probably similar to Joachin and Boaz of the Solomonic and Herodian temples. Ezekiel is then brought into the inner sanctuary. It is noted that the breath of each entrance way narrows from 14 cubits to 10 cubits to 6 cubits for the way in to the most holy place. The increased narrowness may be a symbol for increasing sanctity.

The side chambers, or side rooms, were situated along three sides of the temple, north, south and west, and consisted of thirty rooms in each of three storeys. The thirty rooms on each level became wider as one moved higher up through each storey. These chambers or rooms were probably storerooms for the Temple equipment and furnishings, and for the tithes and offerings that were paid to the temple servants.

Surrounding the temple was a raised platform, 6 cubits above the level of the inner court. To the west side, there was a large building, which was presumably also used for storage purposes.

The complex and precise measurements of the temple (41:13-15a) indicate that the temple was a perfect fit and that nothing was out of place.

The decorations of the temple structure consisted of windows all around the portico, the outer sanctuary, and the inner sanctuary. All the inside walls of the temple structure were covered with wood wainscoating. The interior of the temple was thus intricately panelled and surrounded by a design of alternate palm trees and two-headed cherubs, one each facing the palm tree on either side of it. The heads were those of a man and a lion.

The only furniture in the temple was a wooden altar. This altar was much smaller than the altar of sacrifice.

Both the entrance to the outer sanctuary and the entrance to the inner sanctuary had rectangular doors. Each door consisted of two leaves, which could fold back completely on themselves. The doors to the outer sanctuary were caved with cherubim interspersed with palm trees as well.

In short, the entire temple complex was of great beauty and symmetry.

GLORY OF GOD RETURNS TO THE TEMPLE

Ezekiel would see God’s return (Ezekiel 43:1-12), to occupy and to consecrate this new building to be His holy sanctuary. Since Jerusalem ‘s destruction, God’s glory had not been present in Jerusalem or among his people. Israel had thus been under the discipline in Babylonia and would remain under discipline until the end times. After which, she would be cleansed and restored to her promised land by the Messiah.

The temple was to be God’s throne and residence amongst Israel forever. The promises on chapters 33-37 would be fulfilled when God’s glory returned. God’s holiness will fill the entire temple complex. When this happens, Israel would never again defile the Lord’s holy name through her religious prostitution in the temple precinct and the burial of the corpses of kings in their high places. (The assumption is that these burial high places of Ezekiel’s day might have been within the temple area) The temple is simply God’s earthly habitation. The kings had also placed their palaces right next to the temple on the south and thereby defiled God’s name with their detestable practices. Israel had thus religiously defiled the Lord’s name. Therefore, the Lord might have used this vision to exhort Israel ‘s day to put away these practices of defilement.

As such, millennial Israel would be ashamed for all her past sins as she reflected on the holiness of God’s glory and the perfection of the new temple design in contrast to Israel ‘s past unfaithfulness and defilement.

There was only one basic rule for the temple complex: all the area on the temple mountain would be holy. Holiness would be the emphasis in the Millennium.

b. WORSHIP IN THE TEMPLE (Ezek 44-46)

•  Restrictions on Use of Outer East Gate (Ezek 44:1-3)

•  General Regulations (46:9-15)

•  No entry for foreigners (44:4-9)

•  The Responsibilities of the Levites (44:10-14)

•  The Responsibilities of the Zadokite Priests (44:15-27)

•  The Inheritance of the Priests (44:28-31)

•  Offerings (45:13-17)

•  The Festive Regulations (45:18-25, 46:1-8):

1. First day of the month

2. Passover & Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ezek 45:21-24)

3. Feast of Tabernacles (Ezek 45:25)

4. Sabbath and New Moons (46:1-8)

•  Restrictions on Use of Outer East Gate (Ezek 44:1-3) – The outer east gate was to remain closed permanently. This was because the glory of the Lord had entered by this way and thus; no human being could use it without the same degree of profanation. Only the “prince” was permitted to enter this gate, to eat his sacrificial meal there.

•  General Regulations (46:9-15) – A detail is inserted here to ensure an orderly flow of worshippers through the limited area. Those who enter by the north gate leave by the south gate and vice versa. By entering one gate and leaving by the opposite, the flow of the festive crowd was regulated and confusion eliminated.

There were also regulations concerning other offerings, which the prince makes on behalf of the people. On major festivals and fixed occasions like the Sabbaths and new moons, the amount of the cereal offering is to be an ephah of flour with a bullock or a ram. If the prince desired to make a freewill offering of a burnt offering of consecration or a fellowship offering of thanksgiving, the east gate was to be opened specially for this act of worship and then closed when he finished. A daily offering shall also be made each morning, consisting of a lamb and fixed quantities of flour and oil.

•  No entry for foreigners (44:4-9) – Ezekiel once again, comes face to face with the glory of the Lord in His temple. Here, God speaks to him about who may and may not be admitted into His temple complex.

Foreigners, who were uncircumcised in heart and flesh, were not members of the covenant and therefore, would profane the sanctuary with their presence. Perhaps, originally some of these foreigners had been circumcised both in the flesh and in the heart so they could enter the temple area lawfully and make an offering. However, Israel would have had broken the mosaic covenant with they detestable practice of having foreign temple-servants, not only entering the sanctuary, but also taking charge of temple duties. By handling priestly functions related to holy things, they would have had desecrated the temple. Israelites who allowed this to happen were breaking the covenant and rendering their own offerings to God as null and void.

These restrictions, with the renewed emphases the covenant and circumcision, reflected the importance of holiness in the temple complex.

•  The Responsibilities of the Levites (44:10-14) – There were limitations placed upon Levites. They would not be allowed to serve the Lord as priests, nor would they be allowed to come near any of the Lord’s holy things. They would serve neither in the inner court nor in the temple itself, a downgrading of their position, brought about because of their idolatrous behaviour in the years before Josiah’s reforms.

The Levites are to act as temple ministers and gatekeepers. They are to oversee the temple gates, as part janitor and part policeman to control the crowds. Their service in the temple only involves the slaying of the animals brought in for the sacrifice and assisting in the kitchens. The Levites therefore stand before the people, while the priests stand before the Lord.

•  The Responsibilities of the Zadokite Priests (44:15-27) – Zadok was the son of Ahitub of Eleazer’s line, a descendant of Aaron (1 Chron 6:50-53). He was a priest alongside Abiathar during David’s reign, (2 Sam 8:17), showing loyalty to David during Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam 9:11-13, 15:24-29). When the house of Abiathar was deposed by Solomon (1 Sam 2:27-36, 1 Kings 2:27), the Zadokite priesthood remained, thus only the sons of Zadok were allowed to minister in the sanctuary as priests. This was because only they alone had remained faithful to their duties in the Lord’s temple when all the rest of Israel had turned away from the Lord. Because of their faithfulness then, the Lord would give to them that singularly unique ministry before Him in the millennial sanctuary. They alone would stand before the Lord to offer sacrifices. They would be the only ones allowed to enter the temple and come near the Lord’s table to perform their service of worship.

Their priestly vestments were to be made of linen. The linen not only depicted purity through its whiteness, but its coolness kept the priests from perspiring and thereby, causing ritual uncleanness. In addition to the outer linen garment, the priests wore linen undergarments and a linen turban. Woollen clothes, or those made of material that would tend to make the priests hot and thereby perspire, were not permitted.

The priests’ garments were to be removed, before they went into the outer court and mingled with the people.

A series of other regulations governing the behaviour of priests were laid out. The Zadokian priests were not allowed to shave their heads nor were they allowed to keep their hair long. It was to be trimmed properly. No priest was to drink wine while ministering. He was to make sure that he had full control of himself when performing the Lord’s service. This indicated holiness. A Zadokian priest was permitted to marry an Israelite virgin or the widow of a priest. This would thus maintain the holiness of marriage.

These regulations would enable the priests to teach the Israelites the difference between something holy and something common through the visual lessons of their priestly lives. The above regulations would show the people how to distinguish between clean and unclean acts and objects.

•  The Inheritance of the Priests (44:28-31) – Because the Lord provides for the priests through His people, they need not have any land of their own or any possession in Israel because He would be their inheritance and possession. The priests’ food would be provided by the Lord through the people’s offerings. They would partake of everything devoted to the Lord by the Israelites. As a result, the Israelites were promised blessing from the Lord for their faithful giving to the priests in this way.

•  Offerings (45:13-17) – Israel ‘s prince in the Millennium would be faithful to the Lord’s righteous requirements. Specific dues are to be paid over by the people of the land to the prince, and he, will have the responsibility of providing the offerings and sacrifices at all festivals.

The Israelites had made a special contribution of materials for the tabernacle’s construction. Similarly, Israel in the messianic kingdom would make a special contribution of grain, oil, and sheep to the prince from which he would, in turn make an atonement for them. From the Israelites’ contribution, the prince would provide grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings for the people’s atonement. These offerings would be brought to make atonement for Israel at each of her festivals, he new moon celebrations, and he Sabbaths. These rituals would commemorate the complete and finished work of Christ for sin through the sacrifice of himself.

•  The Festive Regulations (45:18-25, 46:1-8):

1. First day of the month (Ezek 45:18-20) – On the first day of the first month, the prince would bring a sin offering of a young bull without defect in order to purify the temple sanctuary. This was necessary because of mankind’s sin that would defile the temple’s holiness. As such, the temple sanctuary had to be cleansed annually through this atoning sacrifice as a reminder to all of the holiness of God and his sanctuary. In the ceremony, the prince would take blood from the sacrificial bull and place it on the temple’s doorposts, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar of sacrifice, and on the gateposts of the inner court. This would be repeated on the seventh day of the month.

2. Passover & Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ezek 45:21-24) – The prince led in the observance of the Passover. He would provide a sin offering for himself and the people in the commemoration of Christ’s work. The Feast of Unleavened Bread would then continue for seven days. During these seven days, no one was to eat unleavened bread. Each day the prince would make a daily sacrifice of seven bulls and seven rams, all without defect, as a burnt offering to the Lord. The prince would also offer daily a male goat as a sin offering for the whole nation. A grain offering would accompany each burnt offering.

3. Feast of Tabernacles (Ezek 45:25) – The Feast of Tabernacles would last for seven days. The same daily sacrifices made for the Passover would be made also for the Feast of Tabernacles by the prince. This observance provided a continual reminder of God’s gracious fulfilment of His promise to bring Israel securely and permanently into the Promised Land.

4. Sabbath and New Moons (46:1-8) – The prince had the obligation of producing the offerings, not only for major festivals, but also for Sabbaths and new moons.

On the Sabbath, the prince would lead his people in worship again. He would enter the inner court’s east gate and stand by the gatepost, enjoying a position not possessed by the people. At the portico, the prince would bring his burnt offerings and fellowship offerings that would be sacrificed by the priests, since he could not enter into the inner court. The burnt offering would consist of six male lambs and a ram, all without defect, and each accompanied by a grain offering. The prince would worship at the gate’s inner threshold and then return in the same way that he entered. The people would worship at the east gate in the Lord’s presence as the prince performed these sacrifices and worshiped within the gate.

c. DIVISION OF THE LAND (Ezek 45:1-8. 47:1- 48:35)

•  Boundaries of the Land (Ezek 47:13-23)

•  Inheritance of Israel (Ezek 48:1-29)

•  The Inheritance of the Priests & Levites & the Temple (45:1-5; 48:8-20 )

•  Inheritance of the Prince (45:7-12; 46:16-18)

•  The Common Area of the Land (Ezek 48:15-20)

•  River From the Temple (Ezek 47:1-12)

Inheritance was extremely important to the Israelites. Laws were established to ensure that an Israelite retained family property.

•  Boundaries of the Land (Ezek 47:13-23) – God promised Abraham (cf. Gen. 13:14-17; 15:17-21) and his descendants the land of Palestine, and that promise has never been rescinded. Israel ‘s borders during the Millennium will be similar to those promised her during the time of Moses (cf. Num. 34:1-12).

The northern boundary of the land will run east from the Great Sea, the Mediterranean, starting somewhere north of Tyre and Sidon (more precisely, “Mount Hor,” Num. 34:7) (Ezek 47:15-17).

The eastern border will extend between Hauran and Damascus (Ezek 47:18). The eastern border will be the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Gilead and the Transjordan area to the east of the Jordan will not be included in Israel ‘s future inheritance

The southern border of Israel ‘s millennial kingdom will extend southwestward from Tamar to Kadesh Barnea. From there it will go to the “Wadi of Egypt” (Ezek 47:19).

The western border of the Promised Land will be the Great Sea, the Mediterranean (Ezek 47:20).

The land will be distributed according to the tribes of Israel (Ezek 47:21-23). Ezekiel also included regulations for allotting land to resident aliens who will want to associate with Israel.

•  Inheritance of Israel (Ezek 48:1-29) – In dividing the millennial land among the people, God will give seven tribes portions in the northern part of the land. Proceeding from the north these tribes will be Dan (v. 1), Asher (v. 2), Naphtali (v. 3), Manasseh (v. 4), Ephraim (v. 5), Reuben (v. 6), and Judah (v. 7).

The lower part of the land will be allotted to the five remaining tribes. Proceeding southward these will be Benjamin (v. 23), Simeon (v. 24), Issachar (v. 25), Zebulun (v. 26), and Gad (v. 27). The locations of all 12 tribes will differ from their locations during Joshua’s time (Josh. 13-19).

•  The Inheritance of the Priests & Levites & the Temple (45:1-5; 48:8-20 ) – The central band of land was allotted to the priests and the Levites (Ezek 48:8-14). This twenty-five thousand rods by twenty-thousand rods area was subdivided into two equal areas. One was a sacred portion for the Zadokian priests who were to minister to the Lord in the temple. Here, they would place their houses. In the middle would be the five-hundred rod square area for the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. The other area would belong to the Levites who would assist the Zadokian priests in the temple. The entire area would run parallel to the portion for the Zadokian priests.

•  Inheritance of the Prince (45:7-12; 46:16-18) – The central band of land was also allotted to the prince (v. 21; cf. 34:24). His portion was the land that ran immediately to the east and west of the entire sacred area composed of the Levites’ portion, the Zadokian priests’ portion and the city area.

There were also regulations governing the inheritance of the prince (Ezek 46:16-18). Any inheritance given to one of the prince’s sons would remain with that son’s descendents. Anything given to his servants would revert to the prince in the jubilee year, or the year of freedom. The emphasis was that the prince’s inheritance belonged solely to his sons. In addition, the prince was not permitted to take other people’s property and make it part of his inheritance as Israel ‘s past leaders had so often done.

The prince will not be allowed to claim any land outside his allotted inheritance. In contrast with evil princes in Ezekiel’s day (Ezek. 45:8-9), the prince during the Millennium will not oppress the people or take their property.

•  The Common Area of the Land (Ezek 48:15-20) – That central portion will also include the city of Jerusalem and its suburbs. The city area would belong to the entire house of Israel. The city will be laid out as a square 7,875 feet (4,500 cubits) on each side and will cover approximately 2.2 square miles (48:16). Jerusalem will be surrounded by a band of land 4371½ feet (250 cubits) wide, which will serve as pastureland for flocks and herds belonging to people living in the city (v. 17). On either side of the city proper will be two portions of land 3.3 miles (10,000 cubits) long (v. 18) and 1.65 miles (5,000 cubits) wide (cf. v. 15). This farmland will be cultivated to supply food for the workers of the city.

•  River From the Temple (Ezek 47:1-12) – Ezekiel saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east. The water flowed out of the temple on the south side of the east gate into the Kidron Valley (v.1-6). There were also many trees on each side of the river. These waters will produce beautiful vegetation along their banks.

The millennial river will flow toward the eastern region and will go down into the Arabah, where it will enter the Sea. The “Arabah” is the Jordan Valley running south from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea and ultimately to the Gulf of Aqabah. The millennial river will merge with the Jordan River at the northern mouth of the Dead Sea.As this new river enters the Dead Sea, the water there will become fresh. Fishermen will crowd the shores to catch many kinds of fish there.

Moreover there are trees on the riverbanks that will bear fruit year-round. The fruit will provide food and their leaves will provide healing. How healing will come from the leaves is not clear, but sickness will be virtually eliminated. God will use these trees to meet people’s physical needs.

II. DIFFICULT ISSUES IN EZEKIEL 40-48

a. LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC INTERPRETATION OF EZEKIEL 40-48

The chief problem in these chapters is that of interpretation.

•  Objections to a Literal Interpretation – The chief objection to a literal interpretation of the passage is that no historical fulfilments fit the details of the passage:

  1. The worship procedure set forth in chapters 43-46, though Mosaic in nature, has not been followed in history in exactly the manner described in these chapters.
  2. The literal sacrifices seem to oppose Heb 9:10; 10:14,18, which state that Christ’s death on the cross has made the need for sacrifices for sins obsolete.
  3. The river that flows forth from the temple in 47:1-12 has never flowed from any of the three historical temples (Solomon’s temple, the temple of Zerubabbel and Herod’s temple).
  4. The geographical dimensions and tribal allotments of the land are certainly not feasible today, nor have they been followed in the past. The square of the temple area is three miles and a half, i.e. larger than all the former Jerusalem. The city is three or four thousand square miles, including the holy portion for the prince, priests, and Levites, i.e., nearly as large as all Judaea W. of Jordan. Again, the half of the holy portion extends 30 miles S. of Jerusalem, i.e., covering nearly the whole southern territory. Without great physical changes (and the boundaries are given the same as under Moses) no adequate room is left for the five tribes whose inheritance is beyond the holy portion (Ezek 47:19; 48:23-35).

•  Reasons For Literal Interpretation:

  1. The fullness of details as to the temple and its offerings favours the view of a literal (in the main) interpretation rather than a purely symbolical one. The prophecy has certainly not yet been fulfilled; the fulfilment will make all dear.
  2. There is no indication in the context that the passage is symbolic, unlike that of the apocalyptic visions in Daniel 7 in which the 4 beasts were clearly representations of 4 empires.
  3. Geographical changes will occur during the great earthquake that precludes the second coming of Christ (Zech 14:3-5). This results in great topographical changes that will make the fulfilment of Ezek 45, 47 & 48 possible.
  4. The sacrifices serve as a commemoration of Christ’s atonement on the cross. It must be remembered that the Jews as a nation stand to God in a peculiar relation, distinct from that of Christians of the present elect church gathered out of Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. Besides Israel’s spiritual relation to Christ as her Saviour, she will perform a perfect outward service of sacrifice, (retrospectively referring to Christ’s one propitiatory offering, lest this should be lost sight of in the glory of His kingdom), prayer, and praise as a nation to her then manifested King reigning in the midst of her; and all nations shall join in that service, recognizing His divine kingship over themselves also. Christ’s word shall be fulfilled, “till heaven and earth pass one jot or title shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled” (Matt 5:18). The antitypical perfection of the old temple service, which seemed a cumbrous yoke unintelligible to the worshippers, shall then be understood fully and become a delightful service of love.

b. IDENTITY OF THE “PRINCE”

The identity of the “prince” has been a puzzle to many. The person of the prince was first introduced by Ezekiel in Ezek 34:23-24: –

“I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them– My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David prince among them.”

From this verse, it is clear that the prince is related in some way to David. Thus the possible identities of the prince are:-

•  The Messiah

•  Resurrected King David

•  Future descendant from the line of David

1. The Messiah – The messiah (meaning ‘anointed one’) is a term that could be applied to any person ‘anointed’ and sent by God. In the Old Testament literature, it commonly referred to an anointed King who would come to continue the Davidic dynasty (Pss. 18:50; 89:20, 38, 51; 132:10, 17) in fulfillment to God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 12:3), Jacob (Gen 49:10) and David (2 Sam 7:11-16).

In the New Testament, the person of Jesus was identified with the Messiah on the basis of his genealogy (Matt 1: 1-17) and His crucifixion on the cross (1 Cor 15:3 cf. Isa 53:4-5). Acts 2:36 speaks of God having made Jesus ‘both Lord and Christ’ at his resurrection/exaltation into heaven. In such a context ‘messiah’ denotes Jesus’ vindication and exaltation by God.

It is predicted in the book of Revelation that Jesus Christ will come again to establish a kingdom on earth for a thousand years (Rev 20:4 cf. 2 Thess 1:7-10). This kingdom, which is known as the Millennial Kingdom, is also a fulfillment of Davidic covenant (Luke 1:33 cf. 2 Sam 7:11-16)

As Ezek 40-48 is believed to be fulfilled in the period of the Millennial Kingdom, and the prince is clearly a prominent leader in the nation of Israel (Ezek 37:24-25; 44:3), some have concluded that the Messiah, who is the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, must be the prince.

Objections against this view:-

A closer examination of the scriptures, however, shows that this view is erroneous for the following reasons:-

• The prince made a sin offering for himself (Ezek 45:22). If the “prince” were Jesus Christ, then it would mean that he, the Messiah, would need cleansing from sin. Such was not possible.

• The prince had natural children (Ezek 46:16) while the Messiah had no descendants (Isa 53:8).

2. Resurrected King David – The resurrection of the righteous saints, who will reign with Christ, takes place at the beginning of the Millennium (Rev 20:4). King David will also be one of them (Dan 12:2). As the name David is mentioned many times in conjunction with the prince (Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25), it is thought that the prince must be resurrected King David himself.

Objections against this view:-

• The prince had natural children (Ezek 46:16)

• Resurrected people do not marry (Luke 20:25-26)

3. A Future Descendant from the Line of David – It is most likely that this prince will be one of David’s descendant (Ezek 34:23-24).

Privileges and Responsibilities of the Prince – Only the prince was permitted to enter the East gate. He must enter and leave by way of the portico from the outer court only. His only function within the East gate was to eat bread in the presence of the Lord (Ezekiel 44:3). He, as an administrator of the kingdom under Christ will have his own territory in two areas (Ezekiel 45:7). One to the West and another to the East of the temple.

The prince functions as the people’s leader in their millennial worship (Ezek 46:2-18). He had the obligation of setting the example of worship for the people and producing the offerings. He is also instructed not to confiscate other’s property to enlarge his own possessions, just as how the rulers in Israel’s history did (Ezek 46:18).

In Ezek 45:8, the Lord promises a kingdom free of the corruption of leaders selfishly seizing civilian’s land. His leaders/princes here most probably are the leaders of each tribe. The Lord will not deprive anyone of his or her possession under His rule. Everyone will be given his or her due.

c. SACRIFICES AND FEASTS IN THE MILLENNIUM

Ezekiel was a priest; thus he frequently looked on issues in his prophecy from a priestly perspective. He would be expected to view the new worship principles from his vantage point with a temple, sacrifices and priests involved.

The basic emphasis throughout Ezekiel 40-48 is on God’s holiness. The holiness of God’s temple and the worship of Him are contrasted with the profaning of His name and His temple in Israel’s past worship. Israel would have a final opportunity to worship God correctly – in the purity of holiness.

It is observed that almost all aspects of Ezekiel’s sacrificial system are identical with the Mosaic procedure. It is primarily the omissions, with some modifications in keeping with the purpose of Ezekiel’s worship, that composes the differences.

Notice that only three festivals are explicitly being mentioned in these chapters. The Passover, the Feast of the Unleavened Bread and the Feast of the Tabernacles.

The Passover began on the fourteenth day of the first month and the people were to eat unleavened bread for seven days. The leader offered a sin offering each day along with a grain offering for himself and for the people of the land. Daily, the leader would also offer a burnt offering with its grain offering. These items parallel those in the Levitical system. Likewise, Ezekiel declared that the same offerings as those made for the Passover be made for the Feast of the Tabernacles as well, for a similar length of time. In addition to the offerings of the various festivals, the Israelites would be required to offer daily to God burnt offerings with their accompanying grain offerings in the morning. Ezekiel also declared that the priests were to sacrifice for the leader a burnt offering and a fellowship offering on both the Sabbath and the new moon. The leader may also offer a freewill burnt offering and fellowship offerings on the Sabbath.

Ezekiel’s temple is purified on the first and seventh days of the first month. When the altar of burnt sacrifice is built, it would be cleansed, consecrated and dedicated for seven days with both burnt offerings and sin offerings.

Therefore, the most stated aspects of the worship in Ezekiel are like those of the Mosaic system. The Major distinctions include the absence of a Day of Atonement, an ark of covenant and the Feast of Weeks, a high priest, and a full, ministering Levitical priesthood. This lack of a high priest may point to the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, who will be ruling in the Millennium.

Problematic Issues Associated with Sacrifices – A difficulty raised is the relationship between Ezekiel’s sacrificial system and the New Testament teaching of Christ’s death as a finished and complete work for sin.

“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb 10:14).

“And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. ” (Heb 10:18).

However, it must be remembered that Israel is a special nation chosen by God, distinct from the church. Obedience to the Law (which include sacrifices and feasts) was part of her covenant relationship with God. When a sacrifice for atonement was brought in the Mosaic system, it was brought because God required it, not because of the initiative of the offender. It was God alone who gave forgiveness and cleansing, not the act of sacrifice. The basis for forgiveness and cleansing was the ultimate work of the Messiah’s innocent blood that was the ransom for the penalty of death owed by the sinner. The sacrificial animal could not offer an efficacious ransom, rather, the atonement sacrifice was only a picture lesson of Christ’s finished work.

The sin and guilt offerings were reminders of one’s personal inherent sin and the need for cleansing from that sinfulness by shedding of innocent blood. These offerings were observed much in the sense in which a believer today confesses his sin in light of the finished work of Christ for sin. Confession reminds the believer that he has sinned and that the sin has been forgiven by Christ’s blood. The sin and guilt offerings, therefore, remind the Israelite that he was sinful and that he needed the Messiah’s innocent blood, typified in the animal, to cleanse him of his sin and bring about forgiveness from God.

The burnt offering pictured the offers’ commitment to the Lord. It was voluntary, even as commitment is today. The burnt offerings required daily and at other festivals were constant reminders that the Israelites needed to be totally committed to the Lord.

The fellowship offerings reflected the offers’ thanksgiving to God and the peace that existed between them and God. Certainly, believers today are to express their thankfulness to God for the various blessings bestowed on them because of their relationship with the Lord.

The millennial sacrifices will be picture lessons both to believers and unbelievers born in the Millennium that mankind is by nature sinful and in need of cleansing from sin. Thus these sacrifices serve only as memorials of Christ’s finished work of redemption on the cross and not as atonement for sins.

An Artist Scale Model of the Millennial Temple