The new temple (part 12)

The first command that God gave Abraham was, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1). Later, after Abraham began to dwell in the land of Canaan, The LORD said to him, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis 13:14-15). It’s possible that the spot of land Abraham was standing on at the time this promise was made to him was the location of the new temple described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 of his book.

The new temple was located in the center of a foursquare piece of land measuring 25,000 reeds (approx. 50 miles) by 25,000 reeds. Each of the tribes of Israel were given a portion of the land surrounding the new temple based on their birthright, rather than their birth order. Due to the fact that Jacob’s twelve sons were born by four different women; two sisters, Rachel and Leah; and two handmaids or servants; the sons’ inheritances were equal in size, but not equal in their location. The tribes descended from maidservants were placed farthest from the sanctuary (Note on Ezekiel 48:2) and the tribes of Judah (Leah’s son) and Benjamin (Rachel’s son) were placed closest to the sanctuary.

The reason the location of the tribes was important with regards to the sanctuary or temple of God was because it says in Ezekiel 48:35, “the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.” God’s physical presence in his temple was unique to the new temple described by Ezekiel. Previously, a cloud had filled the house of the LORD as a visible manifestation of the presence of the Lord (1 Kings 8:10 and note). I believe in the new temple, Jesus will be sitting on a throne and will be visible to all who enter the sanctuary. The only question is, will he remain there after the millennium is over?

The Hebrew term for ever or everlasting, olam (o – lawm´) is associated with time (5769). Olam is properly translated as “concealed, i.e. the vanishing point.” It is possible that what we are able to see now is a result of the earth spinning at a particular rate that makes somethings visible and others things invisible. Perhaps in the future, the earth will not rotate, but will merely stand still in a stationary position. Without movement, there may be an opportunity to see things that were once hidden from our view. Like when we are in a moving vehicle speeding along a highway, objects are missed because there is only so much we can take in. Eternity could be just a point in the future when movement stops.

The new temple (part 11)

Ezekiel’s prophecy, and in particular his vision of the new temple, included numerous references to “waters” (Ezekiel 47). The Hebrew word translated waters, mayim identifies water as one of the basic substances that existed on earth before creation (4325). In other words, water may have been perceived to be like God, an eternal substance that was indestructible. Water was also thought to be synonymous with life. The term living water was used by Jesus to refer to salvation or eternal life. Speaking to a woman who was drawing water from a well, Jesus said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).

In another instance, Jesus referred to himself as living water. He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). The practice of baptism that was established by John the Baptist prior to Jesus’ ministry was linked to purification from sin (Mark 1:4). Prior to that, no one was ever immersed into water (4325). It could be that Ezekiel’s vision of the river that flowed from the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12) was symbolic of purification or it may have been an essential source of life that was meant to sustain God’s people. One of the unique characteristics of the river that flowed from the temple was that it was a stream fed by no tributaries and yet it increased in size as it flowed outward (Ezekiel 47:5 and note).

Ezekiel’s angelic guide took him to a point in the river where it was no longer possible to cross over from one side of the stream of water to the other, about a mile from the temple structure (Ezekiel 47:5). Then he brought him to the brink of the river. Ezekiel  recorded, “Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezekiel 47:7-9).

The Hebrew word translated healed in Ezekiel 47:9, raphah (raw – faw´) means a restoring to normal, an act which God typically performs (7495). It is likely that the waters that flow from the temple will be necessary to restore the land to normal after the world is devastated during the tribulation. Revelation 7:1-17 pictures the resurrected saints standing before the throne of Jesus Christ. John, the recorder of the vision, was asked about the identity of those that were present. To which he replied, “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” He went on to say, “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:14, 17).

The new temple (part 10)

The new temple described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 of his book was clearly meant to be established on earth, but there were some aspects of the temple that appeared to be linked to eternal life. For instance, the prince who was identified as a leader of the congregation was recognized as the LORD’s servant, David and Ezekiel said, “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever (Ezekiel 37:25).

It has been suggested that the reference to “my servant David” (Ezekiel 34:23 and note) was not an indication that king David himself would be the prince, but that it would be a ruler like David, probably someone from his line of descendants. It seems unlikely that after the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ there would be a reinstatement of David’s birth line. It can only be assumed that the prince Ezekiel was referring to would actually be the resurrected king David or merely a human form of Jesus. What is certain about the prince is that he will have “sons” (Ezekiel 46:16) that receive an inheritance from him.

John’s gospel opens with a detailed description of how Jesus, the son of God, became human. John said, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John also prescribed a method whereby all humans could become sons of God. He said of Jesus, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

The process the apostle John referred to in John 1:13 was later referred to by Jesus as being born again (John 3:7). Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). It seems reasonable to assume that the prince associated with the new temple will be a human form of Jesus because after all, Jesus was a man that walked on the earth and his flesh was not destroyed when he was crucified. There is no other explanation in the Bible as to what happened to the human part of Jesus or why he became a man in the first place, other than, so that he could reign as a man over the kingdom of God on earth during the millennium.

The new temple (part 9)

The sacrificial system established for the new temple described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 of his book had many variations from the ones that were established in the Mosaic Law (note on Ezekiel 45:18-46:24). A key difference in the systems was the role of the prince in providing the offerings that were to be sacrificed to God. It says in Ezekiel 45:17, “And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the Sabbaths in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.” The Hebrew word translated prepare, kuwn (koon) can also be translated as provide (3559). The idea being that the prince was expected to take from his own resources whatever was necessary for the sacrifices to be made.

Reconciliation for the house of Israel was also known as atonement. The day of atonement was associated with the priest’s entrance into the holy place in the temple where the ark of the covenant was kept. In the ceremony, It says in Leviticus 16:7-10, two goats were to be presented before the LORD “and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” In this scenario, atonement was made through the release of the scapegoat. In other words, the live goat was ransomed or pardoned from death.

The suggestion in Ezekiel 45:17 that the prince’s offerings would make reconciliation for the house of Israel implies that atonement for sin was not accomplished through the death of Jesus on the cross. What may be true about reconciliation is that a person cannot be redeemed by the death of Jesus Christ after the period of God’s grace comes to a conclusion. Once the reign of Christ begins, and the law is reinstated, it appears that atonement will have to be accomplished through the sacrifices of the prince. Perhaps the best way to look at the new sacrificial system is as one in which the sacrifice for sin is meant to encourage a person to change his behavior. The effects of shame and humiliation could be the real reason why God instituted a sacrificial system of punishment, rather than capital punishment, in the first place.

The new temple (part 8)

Within his description of the new temple, Ezekiel envisioned a new acquisition and redistribution of land to the Israelites (Ezekiel 45:1). The entire block of land was to be a perfect square, approximately 50 miles long and 50 miles wide. A square area in the center of the land was to be set aside for the Lord and owned by no tribe (Note on Ezekiel 45:1).  The Lord’s portion included about 500 square miles of land, which is equivalent to the size of the city of Los Angeles. According to the National Geographic magazine, the current world’s population (7 billion) could fit into 500 square miles of land standing shoulder to shoulder.

There is no indication as to why the Lord’s portion was the particular size it was or why the size was so large. In the first distribution of land, there was no portion given to the Lord. It can be assumed that the Lord was given a portion of land in the second distribution because he would be dwelling among his people and that the temple was the house in which he would live, but the excessive amount of land suggests there might be more people than just the Lord living there. For instance, the 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel that survive the tribulation (Revelation 7:3-4) or perhaps all the believers that are killed during the tribulation (Revelation 20:4).



The new temple (part 7)

The gates of the new temple described by Ezekiel in Chapters 40 – 48 of his book were designed to limit access to the area where God dwelt. Ezekiel recorded, “And the glory of the LORD came into the house by way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east” (Ezekiel 43:4). After the glory of the LORD entered the temple, Ezekiel recorded, “Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut” (Ezekiel 44:1-2).

After announcing that the east gate would be shut, the LORD told Ezekiel that a prince would enter the temple and eat bread with him, and added, ” he shall enter by way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same” (Ezekiel 44:3). The prince that would enter and eat bread with the LORD was most likely king David or one of his descendants. The prince was first mentioned in Ezekiel 21:25-27 where it says, “And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn and it shall be no more until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.”

God’s plan to replace the evil kings of Israel with one that would obey him, specifically, king David was identified in Ezekiel 34:23-24 where it says, “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.” According to this passage, The new temple Ezekiel was shown was one that would not only exist in the future, but one that would include both living and resurrected members of God’s kingdom. It says in Ezekiel 37: 25, “they shall dwell in the land…even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.

The title “prince” was a reference to a human that would rule over God’s kingdom. Although it seems obvious that the mention of David’s name was meant to be taken literally, it is possible the use of the title prince was actually a reference to the Messiah, a man who was expected to establish God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus was expected to do that before he was crucified. Shortly before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus told a parable about a certain nobleman that went into a far country to receive a kingdom for himself (Luke 19:12). It says in Luke 19:11 that Jesus told the parable because his disciples “thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.”

A clue to the true identity of the prince may be found in Ezekiel 44:5. Ezekiel was told to “mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.” The Hebrew phrase “mark well” means to put it in your heart (7760/3820). In other words, Ezekiel was to pay close attention to or remember which of the gates the prince went into and came out of. The Hebrew word translated entering in, mabo means sunset or the west (3996) and going forth or matso means the rising of the sun or the east (4161). Since there was no gate on the west side of the temple and the east gate was permanently shut, if Ezekiel saw someone entering in from the west and going out through the east gate, that person would have to be able to walk through walls as Jesus did after his resurrection (John 20:26).

The new temple (part 6)

According to Ezekiel’s vision, in the center of the temple courtyard there stood an altar on which sacrifices were to be made. Since the period of grace began, after Jesus’s death and resurrection took place, it has seemed as if sacrifices are no longer necessary. What we can assume from the appearance of an altar in the new temple is that there will come a time when salvation by grace will no longer be available to mankind. In other words, God’s law will once again be the standard by which all men will be judged (Ezekiel 43:27). Although Jesus’ death paid the penalty for every sin that ever had or would be committed, our ability to claim that payment and apply it to our spiritual account has an expiration date, the day he establishes his kingdom on earth.

During Christ’s millennial reign on earth, a new world order will exist that requires submission to God’s will. Obedience to God’s laws will no longer be optional. If you can image a kingdom in which there will be no sins committed against God, you will understand that God’s sovereignty has never been forced upon man up to this time. Free will represents the ability man has to rebel against God. There will come a time when man’s free will is exempted and God’s grace will cease to exist in the sense that it can no longer be claimed in lieu of obedience to the law. Therefore, sacrifices will be made to God just as they were when the first temple was built by king Solomon. At that time, the celebration of feasts signified a right relationship between God and his people. In the future, that relationship will be restored and it will cause the people to do what was never possible before, live according to God’s commandments.

A glimpse into this future new world order is given in Hebrews 13:10-21. It says:

We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burnt without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you sooner. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The new temple (part 5)

Before Jerusalem and the temple of God were destroyed, Ezekiel recorded the departure of the glory of the LORD (Ezekiel 10:18). The glory of the LORD first entered Solomon’s temple at the time of it’s dedication (1 Kings 8:11). The departure of the glory signified a separation from God that meant he would no longer dwell among his people, but would watch from a distance as he controlled the circumstances surrounding their captivity and deportation to Babylon. The exact amount of time that transpired between the departure of the glory of the LORD (Ezekiel 10:18) and his return (Ezekiel 43:4) is unknown because as far as can be seen in scripture, the return of God’s glory has not actually happened yet.

Ezekiel said of the LORD’s return, “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory” (Ezekiel 43:2). The LORD’s return to his temple was significant in that there was no expectation that once the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians it would ever be rebuilt. Although the temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the Israelites’ captivity was completed, the temple did not conform to Ezekiel’s specifications (Ezekiel’s Temple). God referred to the temple specifications as “the law of the house” and he told his people to follow them exactly. He said, “And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, show them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them” (Ezekiel 43:11).

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Solomon’s temple and the one described by Ezekiel was its purpose. After the LORD’s return, the temple became his throne room. Isaiah was the first to describe this throne room and said, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). Isaiah’s vision was supposed to be of a heavenly throne room, but it may have been the same one that Ezekiel described. Ezekiel said, “So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house. And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood beside me. And he said unto me, Son of man, this is the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever” (Ezekiel 43:5-7).

The new temple (part 4)

Certain areas of the new temple structure described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 were cut off from the public. In particular, what was known as the “separate place” (Ezekiel 41:12) could only be accessed from inside the temple court. It is unclear exactly what the separate place represented, but it is likely it was a designated spiritual zone that only holy persons could enter into. Ezekiel was told, “The north chambers and the south chambers, which are before the separate place, they be holy chambers, where the priests that approach unto the LORD shall eat the most holy things: there shall they lay the most holy things, and the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; for the place is holy” (Ezekiel 42:13).

It could be said that the place Ezekiel described as the new temple was an intersection between physical and spiritual realms. The temple existed within a physical space on earth and was visible to the human eye, but may have had dimensions in the spiritual realm that were disconnected or walled off from human perception. Ezekiel’s statement “for the place is holy” (Ezekiel 42:13) could be interpreted, this spot is separated or set apart from the rest of the structure. What he may have meant was that the holy place was connected to or considered a part of heaven. An indication that the separate place had unique spiritual characteristics that could not be translated into the physical realm was the clothing worn by the priests. Ezekiel was told, “When the priests enter therein, then shall they not go out of the holy place into the utter court, but there they shall lay their garments wherein they minister: for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people” (Ezekiel 42:14).

Each of the four outer walls that surrounded the temple structure measured five hundred reeds or approximately one mile in length. Ezekiel said, “He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place” (Ezekiel 42:20). There are several ways the profane place can be looked at, one of which is as a place where death occurs. A difference between profane and holy is that holy things are considered to be eternal or as the Bible sometimes refers to them, ever lasting. God is an eternal being and can only be related to from an eternal perspective. When the Israelites defiled God’s temple, one of the things they did was treat it as if it was just a building, a structure in which things were stored and anyone could live. When the new temple comes into existence, it will be seen as the eternal dwelling place of God, a place where only those that have received eternal life may enter in (Ezekiel 37:25)

The new temple (part 3)

Within Ezekiel’s description of the new temple and its walls was the mention of a building that appeared to be empty. Ezekiel said, “Now the building that was before the  separate place at the end toward the west was seventy cubits broad; and the wall of the building was five cubits thick round about, and the length thereof ninety cubits” (Ezekiel 41:12). Ezekiel’s measurement of the cubit was about 21 inches. Translated into inches, the dimensions of the building were 1470 inches (122.5 ft) wide by 1890 inches (157.5 ft) long, and the walls were 105 inches (8.75 ft) thick. In total, there would have been about 19,000 sq ft of space in the building, about as much space as 10 average-sized houses today.

The west building was located behind the main temple structure, in between the temple and the western wall. This building was situated in such a way that it would have blocked the entrance to the west gate unless the gate actually led into the building and would have to be passed through in order to reach the temple. I can only speculate as to the purpose of the west building because Ezekiel didn’t record any details about its furnishings or relationship to temple activities. It is possible the empty building was intended to be a conference room of sorts where the leaders of God’s kingdom could meet and discuss their plans for the day, week, or month ahead.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the west building to understand was its location directly in front of the west gate. It doesn’t make sense to have a building blocking the western entrance. Perhaps the west building wasn’t actually intended to be a building, but an enclosure similar to a backyard. With that in mind, it could be that it was used as a place to meet and greet or have private fellowship with a select portion of the population. My guess is that it was intended to be a private fellowship hall for those that were invited guests of the prince mentioned in Ezekiel chapter 44.

During the last supper, Jesus said to his disciples, “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Luke 22:29-30). The Greek word Jesus used for kingdom, basileia (bas – il – i´ ah) is properly translated as royalty. What Jesus was saying was that when he became king, his disciples would be treated as royalty. In other words, they would have special privileges and access to him that others did not.