Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple

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Do we interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, or the New Testament in light of the Old? If Torah was only the shadow of things to come then the illumination would be that which followed — the B’rit Chadasha. To properly interpret the Bible, then, we must read the Old Covenant in light of the New.

Here is the problem. Dispensationalists do just the opposite. They read the Holy text as if it were written yesterday. We have to understand the Bible in the context of the time it was written, and to whom it was addressed — keeping in mind:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Ezekiel 40-48 is one of the most difficult sections of the Bible to understand. Ezekiel — יְחֶזְקֵאל (Yechezqel) meaning “Strengthened By God” — was a contemporary of Daniel and Jeremiah. All three were pre-exilic prophets sent by the LORD to warn the nation of coming judgement and restoration. Ezekiel was taken captive in 597 BC, eight years after Daniel was exiled during the first Babylonian invasion.

While living in Babylon, Ezekiel had a detailed vision of a grand temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple was left destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and the post-exilic temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was modest in comparison.

In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city (Ezekiel 40:2).

A man like bronze, holding a measuring rod, then gave the prophet detailed measurements of a holy temple. The relevance of the vision was to bring shame to the people, and present the shadow of what John would see in the Apocalypse.

As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws (Ezekiel 43: 10-11).

Dispensationalists call Ezekiel’s temple the Third Temple, or Fourth Temple if you include the Tabernacle of Moshe (Moses), Solomon’s temple, and the post-captivity temple of Ezra and Nehemiah (Zerubbabel’s temple) which was later expanded by King Herod; and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

Because the post-exilic temple did not measure up to the grand design of Ezekiel’s vision, Dispensationalists will conclude that it must be an unfulfilled prophesy. They foresee Ezekiel’s temple as being the earthly throne of Christ during the Millennial kingdom.

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Reformed theologians have a problem with these passages because Ezekiel sees not only the restoration of the temple, but all of its attendant ceremonial functions including animal sacrifices. The Rabbin have a problem with Ezekiel’s temple because of all that is missing — the Ark, the Golden Candlestick and the Table of Showbread.

Dispensationalists will say that the animal sacrifices are a ceremonial observance — like the Lord’s Supper — and not for atonement. However, Ezekiel is clearly instructed that the priests will offer bulls and goats to clean, purify and make atonement upon the altar (Ezekiel 43:22-27). Neither orthodox Jews nor reformed Christians interpret Ezekiel literally.

And to suggest a resumption of blood sacrifices in the Millennial age is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His shed blood upon the cross.

To overcome this objection, Dispensationalists — who adhere to a literalist interpretation — have to spiritualize the text, “Oh, it’s only ceremonial like taking Communion.” 

What, then, is the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision? Orthodox Jews interpret visions symbolically, and Christians should do likely. Whereas the Rabbin have difficulty with Ezekiel, Christians possess the covenant that illuminates the substance of shadows.

Messiah is our (Ark) covenant with YHWH (Hebrews 7:22).

Christ is the (show)bread of life (John 6:51).

No candlestick in the light of God’s glory (Rev 21:23).

Dr. John C. Whitcomb presents the Dispensational argument:

Just because animal sacrifices and priests have no place in Christianity does not mean that they will have no place in Israel after the rapture of the Church; for there is a clear distinction made throughout the Scriptures between Israel and the Church … It is obvious that the Book of Hebrews was written to Christians, and we have no right to insist that Israelites during the Millennium will also be Christians, without priests, without sacrifices, and without a Temple … [1]

Dr. Whitcomb is imposing premillennial assumptions that are nowhere found in Scripture. Pre-trib rapture? Jesus said the hour is coming when all will hear His voice and be resurrected to life or judgement (John 5:28-29). Paul said there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Romans 10:12), and not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Romans 9:6). To say that Hebrews was written to Christians is concealing the fact that the book was written to persecuted Jews who were thinking of returning to Judaism and its sacrificial system. If that was heresy then how much more apostate in a carnal kingdom still future?

When we shine the light of the New Covenant upon the Old it becomes evident that Ezekiel’s vision was a shadow of what was revealed to John. As Ezekiel saw his vision from atop a high mountain so, too, was John carried away in like manner. That both men saw a living river flowing from the throne of the LORD is evident that they had a shared vision.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:10).

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12).

As the scroll was sealed by Daniel (Daniel 12:4), but opened by the Lamb (Revelation 5:5) so we understand that Ezekiel and the Apocalypse (John’s vision) are bookends of typology and reality — shadow and fulfillment. Ezekiel and John saw not a carnal kingdom in a supposed Millennial age, but the New Jerusalem descending from heaven after this carnal world is burnt up. Peter wrote that this is the promise we look for — a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells  (2 Peter 2:13).

I have recently posted comments on another blog (thank you Selah) about misinterpreting Zechariah. Dispensationalists will read the book as if it were written yesterday, and apply it to Israel in the future. No, Zechariah was a post-exilic prophet writing to the remnant who returned from Babylonian captivity. He spoke of the coming Branch of David, and judgement (once again) upon the nation Israel.

To be a serious Bible student — one who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) — may require that we, like the Bereans, dig deeper into the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

Notes:

1. The Millennial Temple of Ezekiel 40-48 (An Exercise in Literal Interpretation), Dr. John C. Whitcomb.

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Rosh Hashanah

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As you read this understand that the LORD, blessed be His name, loves Israel. And I love Israel — enough to speak the truth and overturn some carts.

Three things struck me this day that have churned my soul, and I must write about them as the LORD has so inspired. (This will stub some people’s toes, but it must be shared.)

I was reading the Jewish Press — an article by Yoram Ettinger — about Rosh Hashanah (Hag Sameach). Though not mentioned in the Torah it is a celebration of the Jewish New Year (5776).

There were some interesting bites of information. For example: Why is the pomegranate — engraved on the Ark and sewn on the coat of the High Priest — a featured item at the Holiday meal?

There are 613 genetic seeds in a pomegranate reflecting the 613 statutes of the ceremonial Law, and a customary blessing is typically recited over the meal:

May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Comments are welcomed at the end of the JP article with the exception of those that promote foreign religions, gods or messiahs. More on that later.

Having read the article I then climbed aboard the Bible Bus for my daily study with J. Vernon McGee. He began the session by saying that the Abrahamic Covenant has not yet been fulfilled. McGee is at odds with many Dispensationalists who see, at least, a partial fulfillment in 1948 when Israel became a state.

Later, I was watching Greg Laurie, and he carried on with the theme that God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. What was the promise God made to Abram?

In Genesis 15 the LORD promised Abram an heir (Isaac), and that his seed will possess the land. Abram offered a sacrifice unto God, and while he slept the LORD passed between the carcasses thus affirming His covenant.

In ancient days, two men would validate a mutual agreement by walking between the halves of a slain animal. The LORD put Abram into a deep sleep, and He walked alone between the pieces thus suggesting that the covenant was unilateral, irrevocable and everlasting.

Dispensationalism teaches that the land promise will not be fulfilled until the Messiah returns to establish the Millennial kingdom and reign upon the earthly throne of David in Jerusalem — a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (Jeremiah 33:17). 

Okay, take a deep breath because what I am about to say will cause some to throw stones. Please hear me out because this is historic Christianity — not revisionist evangelicalism.

I believe the land covenant was fulfilled in the days of Joshua (3500 years ago), and that the Messiah is now reigning on the throne of David.

Jesus Christ said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). All of Jewish history pointed to a singular culmination — the coming of Mashiach. Like the Christians, Jews believe in two comings, but it gets complicated. Mashiach ben Yosef is a descendant of Joseph who will prepare the way for Mashiach ben David who will then reign eternally upon the throne of King David.

The zealots — even some of the disciples — thought that Jesus had come to restore the kingdom to Israel even though He said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

This is the stumbling block for Jews. Christ came the first time, but was rejected by His people. He will come again in great glory taking vengeance on those who know Him not (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Understand what I am saying. All has been fulfilled except the Second Coming of Christ which, according to Jesus, will be on the last day — not pre, mid or post but, as Peter wrote, the day of the Lord which will come like a thief in the night to destroy the heavens and earth with fire. All will be removed (you can call it raptured) — some to eternal life and the rest to eternal judgement. Then the new heavens and earth will descend and the saints will live forevermore in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Blessed be His name. (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54, and 2 Peter 3:10).

What about the land promise? Written between 1400 and 1370 B.C. we find the answer in the Old Testament book of Joshua:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it (Joshua 21:43).

You know the history. The Jews are in bondage in Egypt … Moses leads them through the wilderness for forty years … and Joshua provides the details of their conquest and possession of the Promised Land.

Dispensationalists will say that the Jews did not physically occupy all of the land therefore God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. When the LORD promised to return the captives of Babylonian exile only a remnant came home. Many were comfortable with their adapted lives and chose to remain in Babylon.

No. You can’t be a literalist and then deny a matter-of-fact declaration. Consider this scenario: A father promises his son that when he turns sixteen he will give him the family sedan. The son turns sixteen and his father transfers title, but the son — for whatever reason — doesn’t take possession of the vehicle. Has the father fulfilled the promise he made to his son? Certainly.

I will not split hairs over the meaning of take and possess, (Heb. lakad, yarash). Judah fared well in taking and possessing their inheritance while the northern tribes had difficulty with the Jebusites who were quite tenacious.

In any case, Jesus Christ has fulfilled both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Don’t believe me? Would you believe Luke and Peter?

Read Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke in Acts 2.

It is the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been poured out which Peter cites, by the way, as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16) — you know, the one about blood moons, a darkened sun, signs and wonders (Joel 2:28-32) — the prophecy that, according to Dispensationalists, has yet to be fulfilled. Hagee and Cahn are making lots of money selling books on this false teaching.

Joel was using symbolic imagery to convey a prophetic word from God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Revelation utilize the same customary style. For example, in describing the destruction of Babylon, Isaiah wrote:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:10).

The heavenly imagery depicts cataclysmic events, or prophetic fulfillment upon the earth, and is the literary style of ancient Hebrew text.

Peter then addresses the Jews who believed that King David would return to sit on his throne in Jerusalem. They glean this from Psalm 16:10 where David says that the LORD will not abandon his soul in Hades nor allow His Holy One to undergo decay — an unmistakable reference to Jesus Christ.

David died, was buried and his tomb, said Peter, is with us to this day (Acts 2:29). David isn’t coming back to reign for the prophesy was not about him but the resurrected Son of God.

When David speaks in Psalm 110:1 about the LORD saying to my Lord, sit at My right hand, he is speaking not of himself, said Peter, but of the Mashiach.

Peter was making the case that Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of David:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36). 

As Peter revealed that Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, Paul declared that the promise made by God to Abraham had been fulfilled in this same Jesus:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Galatians 3:16). 

Paul explains that God’s promise to Abram came 430 years before the Law was delivered to Moses. The Law does not nullify the promise which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Because Abram was deemed righteous through faith so are Jews and Gentiles counted righteous — not by the Law which came later — but by their faith in the One who fulfilled the Law, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Galatians 3).

Brethren, we have a problem. I have dared to speak so boldly of Christ at this time of holiday because Israel needs to hear the Gospel that would otherwise be censured.

Citing the aforementioned Jewish Press, understand that Israel (the Jewish people) have rejected Jesus Christ and His atonement. They are in rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The olive tree and grape-vine (symbolic of the nation of Israel) are presented afresh in the B’rit Chadasha:

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree ((Romans 11:17 — NLT).

With regards to Israel being the vine, Jesus said, I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). 

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it (Matthew 21:43). 

McGee and Laurie deride this as Replacement Theology — that the ‘church’ has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Reformers (such as myself) refer to it as Covenant Theology, that is, Old Testament promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ just as the LORD revealed through His prophet (Jeremiah 31:31). Conversely, some evangelicals teach a two-step plan of redemption — one for Gentiles, another for Israel. No, there is only one plan of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The problem is that Dispensationalism has embraced an almost idolatrous love affair with Israel. How did Paul define Israel?

… they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants … (Romans 9:6-7).

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Law); and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

If you, who are Gentile, have been grafted in then you are a Jew, a descendant of Abraham — a High Priest and a Holy nation, God’s very own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

True Israel — the vine being Jesus Christ — consists of believing Jews and Gentiles who have been declared righteous by their faith in Yeshua HaMashiach …

… and in this way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

Stop watching the fig tree and blood moons for your salvation, and keep your eyes on the Lord.

Okay, you can breathe now.

Suggested Reading:

Want to know more about Dispensational Theology? Read our series beginning with the 70 Weeks of Daniel.

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To’aiva: A Rabbi Speaks

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From the writings of Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel (with comments following):

The Torah clearly states its views about the act of homosexuality. The act of homosexuality, i.e. two men having sexual relations, is prohibited (Leviticus 18:22). The act is twice called a To’aiva — an abomination …

If not for the fact that homosexuality is prevalent in Western Society today, there would be little controversy about this Torah sin. It is clearly forbidden and never condoned anywhere in the Torah.

Usually, the Rabbis do not explain the meaning of Torah words. And the meaning of abomination seems reasonably clear — it is abhorrent to God. But in this case, the Talmud does offer a specific explanation. Based on a play on the Hebrew words, the Talmud says that in the act of homosexuality, the person is straying.

The commentaries on the Talmud say that by abandoning heterosexual sexual relations, the person is straying from one of his prime goals in life — to procreate and populate the earth (Genesis 1:28). (See also  Romans 1:26). We will amplify this theme below, but this explanation does not seem to be the abhorrence that the word TO’AIVA implies in the simple meaning. The classic explanation of why homosexuality is prohibited in the Torah is because of straying, i.e. failure to populate the earth. The Chinuch explains that any ‘wasting of seed’ on homosexual relations is preventing procreation and inhabiting the earth, the prime directive of man. This prime directive is echoed by Isaiah 45:18 in describing the purpose of Creation — to be inhabited. This explanation does not point to the unholiness of the homosexual relationship, but, rather, the violation of man’s purpose on earth.

CHINUCH, MITZVAH 209

At the root of the precept lies the reason that the Eternal Lord blessed is He, desires the settlement of the world He created. Therefore, He commanded us that human seed should not be destroyed by carnal relations with males. For this is indeed destruction, since there can be no fruitful benefit of offspring from it, nor the fulfillment of the religious duty of conjugal rights (due one’s wife).

Messiah Gate Says:

To’aiva is not exclusive to the homosexual act. G-d took the life of Onan when he did not fulfill his conjugal obligations towards his deceased brother’s wife:

Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also (Genesis 38:8-10). 

G-d created sex between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and bonding. The most natural form of birth control is the fear of pregnancy. The Pill radically altered — even overturned — the fundamental precepts of Biblical morality. Abortion and gay marriage have further eroded what G-d intended.

I have engaged in a lengthy debate at a gay Christian website regarding arsenokoitais (ἀρσενοκοίταις) as it is referenced in Paul’s epistles, e.g. 1 Timothy 1:10.

Arsen (men, man, male) and koitas (beds, from which we get the word coitus) is understood by gay Christians to be a condemnation of prostitution, pedophilia (pederasty) and idolatry — not homosexuality.

The moderator refutes all of the relevant Biblical text (both Torah and B’rit Chadasha) by reinterpreting Scripture contrary to the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition.

Following is a summary of my rebuttals:

… men with men (arsenes en arsesin) committing indecent acts (Romans 1:27) … 

Paul is quite clear in this passage. Subterfuge is not good hermeneutics. Otherwise I could use 1 Timothy 5:23 to justify getting drunk every night.

(Moderator called me anti-gay.)

With regards to Romans, I have read all of the contrarian viewpoints and they are not dissimilar from the faulty exegesis that asserts G-d destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality.

(Moderator asked me to provide Scriptural support that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for homosexuality and not inhospitality.)

Look, we can’t interpret the Bible from the bias of contemporary mores thousand of years removed from the original text. You can’t defend any type of behavior by asserting that the Bible doesn’t say what it clearly meant to the ancient people to whom it was written.

This is evident in the Halacha (Oral and Written Law) which has preserved the Rabbinic interpretation of Torah that this particular act is to’aiva — an abomination.

It is not difficult to find arguments within Reformed Judaism to support your position. However, orthodox Rabbin hold to ancient tradition. 

Ben Witherington wrote:

The word [arsenokoites] literally and graphically refers to a male copulator (cf. Sib. Or. 2:73; Greek Anthology 9.686), a man who has intercourse with another man. It is true that this term can refer to a pederast (an older man who has sex with a younger man or a youth), but the term is not a technical term for a pederast; rather, it includes consenting adult males who have sexual relationships in this manner, as well as any other form of male-to-male intercourse.

Andreas Kostenberger wrote:

In light of the discussion of teaching in the Old Testament and the book of Romans above, it appears very unlikely that what is universally condemned in the Hebrew scriptures might, in New Testament times as well as ours, be acceptable. Arsenokoitas most likely refers to the general practice of homosexuality.

It appears like that the term arsenokoitas, which does not seem to appear in the extant literature prior to the present reference, was coined by Paul or someone else in Hellenistic Judaism from the Levitical prohibition against males “lying or sleeping with males” (Lev. 18:22). This suggests that the term is broad and general in nature and encompasses homosexuality as a whole rather than merely specific aberrant subsets of homosexual behavior. This is important since some want to make arsenokoitas refer specifically to pederasty.

The argument that Paul’s use of arsenokoitas refers to pederasty falls short on six counts:

a) There was a clear and unambiguous word for pederasty (which Paul did not use), the term paiderastes.

b) The attempt to limit Paul’s condemnation to pederasty is contradicted by Paul’s reference to the male partners’ mutual desire for one another in Romans 1:27.

c) In the same passage in Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian sex, which did not involve children, so that an appeal to pederasty does not adequately account for the prohibition of same-sex relations in this passage.

d) Even if (for argument’s sake) Paul were to censure only pederasty in the passages under consideration, this would still not mean that, as a Scripture-abiding Jew, he would have approved of homosexuality as such. Quite the contrary. In contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world (which generally accepted homosexual acts), Hellenistic (Greco)-Jewish texts universally condemn homosexuality and treat it (together with idolatry) as the most egregious example of Gentile moral depravity.

e) Not only is Paul’s view of homosexuality as contrary to nature in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, but it is also illumined by prevailing views of homosexuality in contemporary Greco-Roman culture.

f) Ancient sources do not support the idea that homosexuality was defined exclusively in terms of homosexual acts but not orientation. Paul refers to both. Some scholars erect a false dichotomy between the two, and then use the false dichotomy to reason that the concept of  ‘homosexuality’ has changed.

Final Word

Arsenokoitais is not a reference to prostitution, idolatry nor pederasty, but (as the Talmud concurs) male-to-male sexual intercourse. How curious that the teachings of Augustine, Luther and the Rabbin are irrelevant in this age of enlightenment — or deception?

Christians who have preserved (in their hearts) the original context of the eternal Word of G-d are a minority in this fallen world. Those in-name-only need to stop imitating an ostrich and prepare for the persecution. The UMC minister who chastised me for predicting a dystopian future because of his gay advocacy should read the headlines. The future is now.

The Master’s Seminary posted an article about the Bible and homosexuality on its website, and within hours received a cease and desist order to take down the post. A lamenting judge told his pastor that, by law, he now has to marry homosexual couples. Said the judge, “I cannot.” Maybe there’s room for him in the jail cell of the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The world will be given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28), but G-d is unchanging and He will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).

Credits:

Homosexuality in Orthodox Judaism, article by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel.

“Arsenokoitais” (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.), article by John Piippo.

Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 198).

Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (with David Jones)..

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