Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes


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Michael left this comment on Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple:

But because Revelation 21:1 says, “there was no longer any sea,” Ezekiel’s mention of two seas becomes a bit of a chin scratcher.

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More puzzling is that John, in the very next chapter, writes:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1). 

If there are no seas what is the source of this river seen by Ezekiel and John? In both the Old and New Testaments, the LORD pours out (as a river) the Holy Spirit (Joel  2:28).

It is significant that the prophet and apostle were taken on high to see this vision of a tree-lined river as interpreted by Isaiah:

… till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest (Isaiah 32:15).

Jesus said:

The one believing in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)

It seems that the most basic rule of hermeneutics is to not interpret figurative text literally. Water is clearly a symbol of God’s spirit. The river that flows from the temple is the Spirit of God. Into the sea it goes bringing life and restoration even unto the Dead Sea. Fish are plentiful and the fishermen will fill their nets. Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

I wanted to discuss the two seas and river of life, but the original post was already too lengthy. So, today, I would like to follow-up with my notes. (It might be useful to read the original article.) This study has been a blessing to me and I pray that it edifies you, my readers.

The literal meaning of there was no longer any sea is the sea was no more denoting some greater truth. Ancient tradition is to interpret sea(s) prophetically. The Rabbin interpreted the sea as a symbol of tumult and separation (as it raged like a storm, dividing the nations). In the new earth there will be no turmoil and separation — from the LORD distinctly. 

Ellicott comments:

Among the more detailed features of the new earth, this obliteration of the sea stands first. It is strange that so many commentators should vacillate between literal and figurative interpretations of the chapter; the ornaments and decorations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-21) are treated as symbolical; the annihilation of the sea is considered as literal. 

The sea has played an important part in the symbolism of the book: out of the sea rose the wild beast (Revelation 13:1); the purple-clad Babylon enthroned upon many waters (Revelation 17:1); the restless, tumultuous ocean is no more to be found on the face of that earth, or near that city whose peace is as a river, and whose inhabitants are delivered from “the waves of this troublesome world.” [1]

The Treasury of Scripture (Bible Hub):

A fountain producing abundance of water was not in (Ezekiel’s) temple, and could not be there on the top of such a hill; and consequently these waters, as well as those spoken of by Joel and Zechariah, must be understood figuratively and typically. These waters doubtless were an emblem of the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and their gradual rise beautifully represents its progress, from small beginnings to an immensely large increase; and the latter part of the representation may relate to the times when it shall fill the earth … [2]

Dean Davis, Author: 

This is a vision of the Restoration of All Things. Very importantly, it pictures not only the final result of God’s redemptive work — the everlasting wholeness of the Land — but also the historical process by which that result is to be achieved.

The NT richly illumines all the symbols involved. The waters are the life-giving Spirit of God, long promised by his OT prophets. They flow forth from the Temple of God, which typifies both the Person of Christ, and the Body of Christ, his Church.

When at last Christ returns to raise the dead and renew the creation, the River of Life will entirely transform the Promised Land, even to the extent of healing the Dead Sea itself. Only the swamps and marshes — situated upon the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so typifying hell — will be left in salt; that is, under the judgment of God. [3]

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Pastor/Author:

Dispensationalists believe that this vision is a prophesy of an earthly temple to be built within Israel during the millennial age. (They) base this interpretation upon their literal hermeneutic.

Advocates of the other main interpretations all agree that the context demands a figurative interpretation. I believe Ezekiel is giving us a picture of the new earth in the prophetic terms with which his readers were familiar. This is a picture of the new earth as the dwelling of God. Ezekiel prophesies it in earthly terms (complete with all the temple utensils), while John describes its fulfilled version (in eschatological terms).

The prophecy cannot be interpreted literally and still make any sense. This is confirmed in Revelation 21:10, where John is carried away “in the Spirit” to a high mountain from which he sees the Holy City coming down out of heaven. Obviously, the visions are related to each other as type — anti-type (earthly language, eschatological fulfillment). What Ezekiel promised, John sees as a reality, and yet the reality seen by John far exceeds anything in Ezekiel’s vision. 

It is obvious that Revelation 21 presents Ezekiel’s vision in its consummated fulfillment. In other words, John is given a vision of the same temple, but now from the vantage point of Christ’s death and resurrection and the dawn of the new creation — something which would have made no sense whatsoever to Ezekiel or his hearers. The new heavens and earth are now the holy of holies, as well as the new Jerusalem, and the new Eden. On the last day, all creation becomes the temple of God. [4]

Notes:

1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott, 3 vols. (London: Cassell, 1884).

2. Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages.

3. Dean Davis, author and Founder/Director, Come Let Us ReasonExcerpt:  The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time DebateRedemption Press, 2014.

4. Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church and co-host of the White Horse Inn radio program, writes extensively on the subject of historic Christianity from an Amillennial, reformed perspectice. In this short essay he credits G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)INTERVARSITY PRESS, 2004 and Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and Future, WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO., 1994.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

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One thought on “Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes

  1. Your references to commentaries that address the issue of the proper symbolic interpretation of prophetic Scripture reflects the level of scholarship required for properly dividing the word. I confess I have not put that kind of effort into understanding “apocalypse” events, something I imagine is common among Christians. For that reason, I can be distracted by details, forgetting the symbolic meanings, and getting caught up in specifics, such as the measurements of the river in Ezekiel 47:3-5, forgetting that this is simply a continuation of the “measuring” done of the temple, which began in chapter 40.

    I appreciate your clear thinking!

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