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 2)

Focusing on the floor plan of the temple described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 of his book, it is evident that the gates of the structure provided controlled access to three areas of the temple of God. First, there was the outer court, then the inner court, and finally, the temple itself. The temple complex was surrounded by a square shaped outer wall approximately 1/2 mile in length on each side. A total of seven gates limited access to the temple or house where God dwelt. Beginning with the east gate, Ezekiel portrayed the three gates that provided access to the inner court as being large enough to process as many as 1250 people at a time. The gates were similar to tunnels or long corridors in which stations were set up to perhaps check baggage or the identification of those who wished to pass through. Once inside, the inner court consisted of approximately 360,000 sq ft of standing space for people that wanted to participate in worship services.

Enclosed within the inner court was the temple structure which had to be accessed by three additional gates, one on the east, one on the north, and one on the south. This second set of gates was identical to the ones located in the outer court, except there were tables located along the sides of the gates where animals were killed before they were taken to the altar to be sacrificed. The temple court measured 100 cubits square or 175 ft by 175 ft, approximately 30,000 sq ft. The altar that was used for burnt offerings stood in the center of this court. One final gate or doorway had to be passed through to enter the temple. The size of the entryway was extremely small compared to the other gates. Ezekiel recorded “and he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured each post of the porch, five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that side: and the breadth of the gate was three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that side” (Ezekiel 40:48). Three cubits would have been enough room for only about three men to enter the gate simultaneously.

Jesus taught about entering into the kingdom of heaven through a straight or narrow gate in his Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus may have used the temple gates as an illustration of wide and narrow gates because he wanted his followers to understand that worshipping God was not enough to save them from going to hell. Jesus said of himself “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). The Greek word Jesus used for door, thura means a portal or entrance and is also translated as gate (2374).


The four gates

The gates of Jerusalem represent four aspects of the Israelites’ history that enabled them to enter the Promised Land, but had to be walled off or left behind in order for them to dwell securely in the Promised Land. Each of the gates faced a different direction, one eastward, one northward, one southward, and one westward.

The gate that faced eastward (1 Chronicles 26:14) represented the aspect of perfection that was lost in the garden of Eden. Although the Israelites were encouraged to strive toward perfection, they had to accept that they would never regain what was lost when sin entered the world. The sacrificial system that was practiced was intended to remind them that they needed a savior in order to dwell securely in the Promised Land.

The gate that faced northward (1 Chronicles 26:14) represented the aspect of slavery that the Israelites were delivered from when God took them out of Egypt. Although the Israelites thought about returning to Egypt because they thought life was easier there, they had to give up idolatry in order to have a relationship with God. The Israelites learned that God’s holiness would not be compromised so that they could be blessed by him. The way for the Israelites to dwell securely in the Promised Land was to cut themselves off from the temptation to sin.

The gate that faced southward (1 Chronicles 26:15) represented the aspect of the Israelites history that took place while they were wandering in the wilderness. During the time the Israelites lived in the desert, they were divinely protected. Although they were given manna to eat, many people died in the desert because it was not meant to be their permanent home. The conditions in the desert were harsh and life could not be sustained indefinitely. The Promised Land flowed with milk and honey as long as the Israelites obeyed God. In order for them to dwell securely in the Promised Land, they had to obey God’s commands consistently.

The gate that faced westward (1 Chronicles 26:16) represented the aspect of the Israelites history that was associated with miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea, water coming from a rock, and crossing the Jordan when it was at a flood stage. These miracles gave the Israelites the impression that God would do things to keep them alive, but once they entered the Promised Land, they had to live normal lives. The Israelites had to fight their enemies, plant crops for food, and raise families in order to dwell securely in the Promised Land.

A gate is a barrier through which people and things must pass. Thinking about barriers to our minds, a gate can represent a mindset that needs to be established in order for our minds to be protected from our enemy, the devil. From that perspective, the four gates of Jerusalem represent mindsets expressed in these scriptures. John 17:23, “…that they may be made perfect in one.” John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…bringing every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:58, “…your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”