Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes

treeoflife1

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.

*** ***

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

Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple

ezekielbook

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.

temple

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.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Replacement Theology

covenantchart

Those of you who receive the email version of Messiah Gate were, I pray, blessed by the article, Yom Kippur — An Untold Story, which posted at Joel C. Rosenberg’s WordPress blog.

The top line on the chart above depicts the false accusation against Reformed (Replacement) Theology while the second line depicts the accurate representation of what is also known as Covenant (or Supersessionist) Theology. The ‘church’ has not replaced Israel (as in the first line), but has become a new body (in Christ) of believing Jews and Gentiles whose hearts are turned towards God and not, metaphorically speaking, Sodom.

On the evening of Yom Kippur I was watching Pastor Jack Hibbs on His Channel Live. Pastor Hibbs hosted an Israeli author, and the discussion centered on the Dispensational role of Israel in these end times. “Pastor Jack” began the conversation by deriding Replacement Theology as demonic. — that God has not fulfilled His promises [Abrahamic and Davidic covenants] to Israel.

Then I read a piece by Issac W. Oliver (Assistant Professor in Religious Studies, Bradley University) that raised my eyebrows:

Draining Jesus of his Jewishness reached its unfortunate peak with the rise of Nazism when Jesus was even cast by some as an Aryan! However, ever since the end of World War II, the Jewishness of Jesus has been gradually resurfacing. “Blame” for the Christian distancing from Jewish practice has shifted instead to Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Traditionally, Paul has been viewed as an “apostate” from Judaism who founded a new religion, Christianity. [1]

Earlier, I read an author who cited quotations from Hitler that the Nazi solution (Holocaust) was imagined from the writings of Martin Luther. What all of these similarly themed articles espouse is that the Pauline epistles were the seed of anti-Semitism. Frankly, that is not the case. Haman, 2400 years before Hitler, tried to exterminate all of the Jewish people living in Persia. No, anti-Semitism has existed since the Book of Genesis.

Aspersions are cast upon Paul from many quarters. A ‘Christian’ woman called a radio program (The Narrow Path) and irately denigrated Paul whom she believed was homophobic. “Why don’t Christians leave gay people alone?,” she asked. When the host (Steve Gregg) quoted Paul’s list of those (including homosexuals) who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), the woman hemmed and hawed before exclaiming. “Well, I don’t believe that!” 

The impugning of Paul has disturbed me for some time, but after many hours of study it has become all so clear to me. There are essentially three groups of people who seek to disparage Paul: Judaizers who want to restore legalism, liberals who don’t want to repent or be judged, and atheists who seek to discredit the authority and validity of Scripture.

Dispensationalists fall into a subset of Judaizers who foresee the restoration of the earthly kingdom with all of its inclusive trappings: legalism, temple worship and blood sacrifices. The evangelical ‘church’ has been bedazzled by this false doctrine for the past 175 years.

Steve Gregg has just posted a YouTube video on Replacement Theology countering the false assertions of Jack Hibbs and Mark Hitchcock. To call one side demonic because it upholds historic Christianity is unnecessarily divisive and void of brotherly love.

Reminder: Videos do not appear on the email version of this post. Click on video link, or visit Messiah Gate to view. The video is rather long (2 hours), but this particular issue causes the greatest eschatological divide in the ‘church’ today. It stands Catholics and orthodox Protestants in rancorous disagreement with fundamental evangelicals. Hopefully, this video will help you to understand the issue with more clarity, and might be useful in a group Bible study. 

Be blessed. Jesus Christ is Lord! 

Notes:

His Channel is a production of Calvary Chapel, founded by Chuck Smith. The network teaches a Dispensational brand of Christianty. Messiah Gate links to the website with a caution to watch with discernment. Calvary Chapel faithfully teaches the essentials of Christian doctrine for which they are to be commended.

1. Do Christians Have to Keep the Torah?, Isaac W. Oliver, article, May 2015.

Video credit: Biblegate

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

video follows —