The following is excerpted from The Way of Life Commentary Series, Ezekiel, www.wayoflife.org. -
Ezekiel concludes with a vision of the Millennial Temple and the environs of Jerusalem during Christ’s kingdom. He concludes with God on the throne of this world, ruling from His temple in His capital city of Jerusalem. This is the glorious event for which all of the saints are earnestly looking, when “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Re. 11:15).
Ezekiel begins with God’s glory departing from the temple (Eze. 10:18-19; 11:22-23) and ends with God’s glory returning (Eze. 43:2-5). This is yet future. We do not read of the glory of God filling Zerubbabel’s temple or Herod’s temple. The glory of God came to Israel in the form of the Son of God, but He was rejected (Joh. 1:11, 14).
That this is a literal temple is obvious from the detail of its description. There are 318 precise measurements and the use of 37 unique architectural terms (e.g., doorposts, windows, arches, stairs, pillars, settles).
This is the fourth Jewish temple. The first was Solomon’s. The second was Zerubbabel’s (Ezr. 3:8). It was enlarged by Herod, but Herod’s temple is not considered a separate temple, as the temple ceremonies continued during his construction project. The third temple will be built during the reign of the Antichrist and desecrated by him (Mt. 24:15; 2 Th. 2:4).
One purpose of the prophecy is to purify the believing remnant (Eze. 43:10). Bible prophecy is not for the purpose of entertainment or carnal speculation. It is for sanctification unto obedience and holiness. “Although these visions belong to a time still future, we see by the ministry of reproof and correction (Eze. 43:7-11; 44:6-13), relating to the people and their rulers, both civil and religious, that God always has a present object in view in the revelations He gives. He brings the past into contrast with the future, that in the present practical sanctification may be realized in ceasing to do evil and learning to do well” (Numerical Bible).
Other prophets describe the Millennial Temple. See Isa. 2:2-3; 56:6-7; 60:7, 13; Jer. 33:17-18; Eze. 37:26-28; 40-48; Joe. 3:18; Hag. 2:7-9; Zec. 1:16; 6:12-15; 14:20; Mal. 3:1-5.
1. Introduction to the vision (Eze. 40:1-4)
It was given in the 14th year after Jerusalem was destroyed (Eze. 40:1). This was 572 BC.
God carried Ezekiel to the land of Israel in the future (Eze. 40:2). God sees the future as easily as we see the present. “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10).
He was set down on a mountain (Eze. 40:2). This is the mountain on which the Millennial Temple will sit. The city of Jerusalem will be toward the south. There is no high mountain in Jerusalem presently, but the topography will be changed. Isaiah tells us that in that day “the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be stablished in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills” (Isa. 2:1). This describes the political reality of that day, when God’s government will rule all nations, but it also describes the topographical reality when the Millennial Temple will be high and lifted up.
To the south of the mountain “was as the frame of a city” (Eze. 40:2). The Millennial Temple sits in the midst of the priests’ allotment, which is north of the city of Jerusalem (Eze. 48:8-22). The priests’ allotment is in the north of the 47 mile square holy oblation between the tribal allotment of Judah and Benjamin. South of the priests’ allotment is the Levite’s allotment. South of that is the allotment for Jerusalem.
The vision pertains to “the house of Israel” (Eze. 40:4). “House of Israel” is repeated 11 times (Eze. 40:4; 43:7, 10; 44:6, 12, 22; 45:6, 8, 17), and “Israel” is repeated 32 times. It is essential to understand that this prophecy pertains to Israel, not to “the church.” Church-age saints will be in Christ’s kingdom, ruling and reigning with Him (Col. 3:4; Re. 1:5-6; 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10), but the Millennial Temple and its services are Israel’s. The sabbath is Israel’s. The Levitical sacrifices are Israel’s. Israel’s covenants pertain to an earthly land and city (De. 30:5-9), whereas the church is a heavenly people (Eph. 1:2; 2:6).
Ezekiel is told to look, hear, set his heart upon, and declare (Eze. 40:4). This is a perfect description of interaction with God’s Word.
- First, the believer must engage God’s Word with his full attention, with his eyes and his ears. Compare Eze. 44:5 - “mark well.” He must read the Bible carefully with great attention. He must hear preaching and teaching with full concentration. This is the first principle of learning God’s Word.
- Second, he must set his heart upon the Word of God. He must not be content to be a hearer only. He must try to understand it. He must use every tool at his disposal to rightly divide it (2 Ti. 2:15). He must define the words and learn and apply principles of interpretation. He must meditate upon the Word of God day and night (Ps. 1:2). He must test everything by it (1 Th. 5:21). He must cast down every wrong imagination with it (2 Co. 10:4-5).
- Third, he must engage with all of the Word of God (“set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee”). The Bible should be read and studied, preached and taught, as one book, not piecemeal. A verse or passage can only be rightly understood in the context of the whole book and whole Bible, the “whole tenor of Scripture.”
- Fourth, he must declare it. It is God’s will that every believer be an ambassador and a teacher (2 Co. 5:20; Heb. 5:12-14). What we learn, we are to declare to others. This fortifies what we learn and helps us to understand more. The best way to learn is to teach. The father is to teach his family (Eph. 6:4). The mother is to teach her children (1 Ti. 1:5; 3:15). The older women are to teach the younger (Tit. 2). Friends are to teach friends, relatives to teach relatives. Pastors are to teach the congregation.
2. The Temple described
(The standard Jewish cubit was 18 inches, being measured from the tip of the middle finger to the tip of the elbow, and a longer cubit was about 21 inches, being a standard cubit plus a handbreadth of about three inches. The cubit used to describe Ezekiel’s Temple is the long cubit that included the handbreadth, Ezekiel 40:5; 43:13. The reed was six long cubits or 126 inches or 10.5 feet.)
The temple will reside at the heart of a holy area 25,000 reeds (about 47 miles) square (Eze. 48:20). It will sit within a portion 25,000 by 10,000 reeds (47 x 19 miles) reserved for the priests (Eze. 45:3-4; 48:10-12). An area the same size will belong to the Levites (Eze. 45:5; 48:13). The rest of the 47 mile square, being 25,000 by 5,000 reeds (47 x 10 miles), will be for the city and its suburbs (Eze. 48:15). On the sides of this 47 x 47 mile square (to the east and to the west) is a portion for the prince (Eze. 45:7; 48:21-22).
The topography of the area will be changed to accommodate these things. See Eze. 40:2; Zec. 14:4, 10; Re. 16:18-20. The prophecies also say that Israel will be enlarged (Isa. 49:18-21). Some commentators find difficulty with this, but redesigning Israel’s land is a light matter for the Creator. Zechariah says that Jerusalem itself “will be lifted up” and the land to the south will be turned into a vast plain from Geba to Rimmon (Zec. 14:10-11). Currently that area is a mountainous and dry desert. Geba was on Judah’s northern border (Jos. 21:17), about six miles northeast of Jerusalem. John Phillips observes: “Jerusalem will be elevated above the hills that have always encircled it and the surrounding countryside will be changed, ‘from Geba to Rimmon.’ Geba, a frontier garrison on the northern boundary of Benjamin, was once held by the Philistines and later fortified by King Asa (1 Sa. 14:4-5; 1 Ki. 15:22); the town commanded an important pass through which Jerusalem could be approached. Rimmon was one of the southern towns of Judah (Jos. 15:21-32). Thus Geba and Rimmon indicate the northern and southern boundaries of the kingdom of Judah. All the land in between will be made a plain.”
The temple will sit on the top of a high mountain and will thus be the prominent feature of the region (Eze. 40:2; 43:12). The glorious temple will be visible from long distances. The prophetic vision of the city of God being exalted as a mountain is both symbolic of the position it will hold as head of the world government and a literal reality in regard to its physical height. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isa. 2:2).
In that day, the beauty of Jerusalem with its Messianic Temple will be such that it will be the “joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:2) or the very wonder of the world.
Surrounding the temple will be an outer court and an inner court, with the temple itself lying within the inner court.
There are walls around both courts. The wall around the outer court is 500 reeds square (about one mile) (Eze. 42:15-20), and it is one reed (10.5 feet) high and one reed thick (Eze. 40:5). “We see at once that this wall is not for protection against enemies, it is too low. ... The fundamental idea here expressed is that of separation, the wall teaches that the enclosed space is sanctified, set apart, to Jehovah, and this according to the symbolism of the number six. It preaches the exclusion of all that defiles. This wall is as broad as it is high, being in fact foursquare, for perfect equality in every direction marks the holy requirements of God as to both the separation from and judgment of evil” (Numerical Bible).
There are three gates into the outer court on the north, south, and east, and three corresponding gates into the inner court.
“These chapters contain a description of the gates, courts, and buildings which make up what will be the most sacred and glorious place in all the world. From it the power and blessing of God will flow forth to the ends of the earth. Here we have, as it were, the very heart of that golden age, from which will go forth those streams of life which will remove the blight of the curse and make the desert blossom as the rose, and bear to every rank of creation the revivifying touch. A great paean of praise will rise from the delivered creation thus brought into the liberty of the children of God, when the First-begotten shall have been brought again into the world, to whom universal homage shall be paid, His enemies having been made the footstool of His feet” (Numerical Bible).
3. The Singers (Eze. 40:44)
The singers will probably be appointed from the Levites as under David (1 Ch. 15:16-24; 16:4-6; 23:1-5; 25:1-31). David made this arrangement by divine revelation (2 Ch. 29:25). This looks forward to the Millennial Temple when Christ will be seated on the throne of His glory and holy priests will sing and play to His glory and all nations will worship Him. The Psalms are filled with prophecies of this (e.g., Psalm 33:1-11; 149:1-3; 150:3-6). David himself will sing. He says in Psalm 144:9, “I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.” The context of this Psalm is the millennial kingdom. (See the Way of Life Advanced Bible Studies Series course Old Testament History & Geography for a study of sacred music and worship from 1 Chronicles.)
The Millennial Temple and the palaces of Zion will ring with holy singing and laughter by the happy inhabitants. “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10). They will be led by the One who is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Ps. 45:7).
In the Millennial Temple there are separate chambers for the singers (Eze. 40:44-45) and for the priests who make the offerings (Eze. 40:46). There will be abundance of workers and talent in Christ’s kingdom which will result in excellence in all aspects of service and ministry. This is in great contrast to the present world in which it is more typical that all of the work lies on the shoulders of a few people and great talent is rare.
4. The Temple (Eze. 40:48 - 41:26)
Within the inner court is the Millennial Temple itself (Eze. 41:1-4). It is 20 cubits wide by 40 cubits long (35 x 70 feet).
Like the Tabernacle and the former temples, the Millennial Temple will be divided into the holy place and the most holy place (holy of holies). The most holy place is 20 cubits (35 feet) square (Eze. 41:4).
There is a stairway of steps leading to the temple’s entrance (Eze. 40:49).
There is a porch in front of the temple that is 11 cubits wide and 20 cubits long (19 x 35 feet) (Eze. 40:48).
There is a double door leading into the temple’s holy place which is 10 cubits (17.5 feet) wide (Eze. 41:2, 23-24), and another door leading into the most holy place that is seven cubits (about 12 feet) wide (Eze. 41:3). The double doors have two hinged leaves.
In front of the holy of holies is a wooden altar (Eze. 41:22). Its function is not stated but since the bread and table are mentioned elsewhere, perhaps this is the table of shewbread (Ex. 25:23-30). The table of shewbread was the only item in the Tabernacle that is called a table. This is only speculation, though, since the function of the wooden table is not specifically stated.
On the temple walls are wooden panels with depictions of palm trees and cherubims (Eze. 41:18-20).
- The palms are associated with the Feast of Tabernacles (Le. 23:39-40). This Feast was Israel’s celebration of entering the Promised Land after the 400-year slavery in Egypt and the 40-year wandering in the wilderness. The palms, then, signify the eternal victory and security every believer has in Christ. In the Millennial Temple the very walls will shout the glorious truth that bondage and warfare are forever past!
- The cherubims are angelic creatures that dwell in the presence of God (Eze. 10:1-22). They are associated with the glory of God (Eze. 10:4). They have four wings that make a great sound when they fly (Eze. 10:5, 21). They have hands like a man’s (Eze. 10:8). They have many eyes showing their great intelligence and wisdom (Eze. 10:12). They have four faces: one like a cherub, one like a man, one like a lion, and one like an eagle (Eze. 10:14), but in the Millennial Temple only two of the faces are seen, the man’s and the lion’s (Eze. 41:19). “Its symbolical meaning is obvious. The Lord Jesus Christ has come again and visited the earth and the temple and appeared as the glorified Man and the Lion of the tribe of Judah. His is the victory and the glory” (The Annotated Bible). Perhaps the faces of the ox and eagle will not appear on the temple walls because Christ will no longer be a servant and His return will be in the past.
Psalm 48 describes the Millennial Temple as follows: “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”
How glorious the temple will be in that day, the crown jewel of a glorified Jerusalem, shining with God’s glory, permeated with righteousness and true holiness!
Isaiah describes the “king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17). He sees Jerusalem built with fair colors, her foundations with sapphires, her windows of agates, her gates of carbuncles, and her borders of pleasant stones (Isa. 54:11-12).
The glorious light of God will shine through and be reflected by the precious stones that compose the city’s buildings and walls.
The Psalmist sees Christ coming out of ivory palaces, happy, with garments smelling of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, and the queen standing by his right hand clothed in the most precious gold (Ps. 45:8-9).
The glorification of Jerusalem is a major theme of Messianic prophecy. The Gentile nations will bring their wealth to Israel to beautify the city.
“The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts” (Ps. 72:10).
“And her [Tyre] merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing” (Isa. 23:18).
“Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God” (Isa. 45:14).
“And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isa. 49:23).
“And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness” (Isa. 60:10-17).
“And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves” (Isa. 61:5-6).
“Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee” (Ps. 68:29).
Imagine a time when the nations are devoted to the objective of glorifying God and lavishing their resources, skills, and their loving attention on beautifying the place of His feet!
Isaiah says that the glory of God will be upon every dwelling in Jerusalem, “a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night” (Isa. 4:5).
Even at night the city will be lit up with fiery splendor that will be visible from long distances in the unpolluted millennial air.
And the Millennial Temple will sit in the midst of a world transformed by God’s power. It will exceed Eden. The waste places will become paradise (Isa. 35). The glories of this present world, which are great, will seem as nothing.
5. Christ in His Glory (Eze. 43:1-12)
Christ in His glory will enter the temple through the east gates and His glory will fill the temple (Eze. 43:1-4; 44:2, 4).
- These east gates are the gates into the outer and inner courts of the Millennial Temple. They have nothing to do with the east gate of the Temple Mount that exists today.
- The glory of Christ is the glory of the God of Israel and the glory of Jehovah (Eze. 43:2, 4). This is the Son of Jehovah (Ps. 2:6-9). This is the One who can say, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Joh. 14:9). “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).
- The glory of God is a splendid divine light. “The earth shined with his glory” (Eze. 43:2). This is the same glory that filled the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple (Ex. 40:34-35; 1 Ki. 8:10-11). When Christ was glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration to pre-figure His kingdom glory, He shone “as the sun” (Mt. 17:2), “exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them” (Mr. 9:3).
- Ezekiel watched the glory of God depart from Solomon’s Temple before its destruction (Eze. 10:18; 11:23), and it has never returned. It did not appear in Ezra’s temple or in Herod’s reconstruction of that temple, and it will not appear when the Third Temple is built. As a nation, Israel has never repented and turned to God with her whole heart since the Babylonian captivity. When Christ came the first time, He laid aside His glory and came as a lowly servant to die for man’s sin, and He was rejected by His own people. When He comes the second time, He will come in power and great glory, and the glory of God will finally return to a converted Israel and to her Temple.
- Christ will enter the Temple on the cherubims (Eze. 43:1-5). From a distance, the coming of Christ toward His Temple will appear like this: “And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire” (Eze. 1:4). In the midst of this great cloud of fiery glory are Christ’s cherubims, with their wheels and rings as described in Ezekiel 1. Above the cherubims and the wheels is a firmament on which Christ sits on His throne of glory. The firmament is described as something that is “upon their heads” and “stretched forth over their heads,” and it is the color of crystal (Eze. 1:22, 26; 10:1).
- There is the loud noise of the cherubims’ wings, “like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host” (Eze. 1:24). It will be awe-inspiring, captivating!
- The throne transported by the cherubims is “like the appearance of a sapphire stone ... as it were the body of heaven in clearness” (Eze. 1:26; 24:10). Thus the throne is crystal clear with a deep bluish tint. A bright rainbow surrounds it (Eze. 1:28). Beneath the throne is a firmament or platform of some substance “the colour of the terrible crystal” (Eze. 1:22). It is perfectly dazzling in its appearance and brightness.
- The glory of God will illuminate the Temple, playing around the beautiful buildings and objects and reflecting from them. “... behold, the glory of Jehovah filled the house” (Eze. 43:2, 5).
The Lord will sit on a throne in the temple (Eze. 43:6-7).
- The Millennial Kingdom is a Theocracy. It is ruled directly by God in the form of His Son. The temple is the center of government. There is no “separation of church and state.”
- The one on the throne is the eternal Word (Joh. 1:1-3), Immanuel, God with us (Mt. 1:23), the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person (Heb. 1:3), by whom all things were made (Joh. 1:3; 1 Co. 8:6; Col. 1:16), heir of all things (Heb. 1:2), in whom the fulness of the godhead dwells bodily (Col. 2:9), the Head of all principality and power (Col. 2:10).
- This is the throne of the King who will rule the whole earth. He will be legislator, executor, and judge. All law and authority will flow from this throne. Christ will rule with a rod of iron, with unlimited authority. There will be no appeal of His decisions, no elections, no people’s rights. The day of man will be finished, and the day of the Lord will be realized, when God will rightfully rule over His creation through His Anointed, the Son of David.
- This is the throne of the Saviour. It is the place of the soles of His feet (Eze. 43:7), and those are nail-scarred feet. He is worthy to rule because He paid the redemption price to redeem fallen mankind and to reconcile the fallen creation to God (Re. 5:9-14).
- This is the throne of holiness (Eze. 43:7-8). The word “holy” appears 32 times in Eze. 40-48. In former times, both God’s house and the throne were polluted by sin and idolatry. The king’s sin polluted the temple, which was located near the palace (“their setting of their threshold by my thresholds”). See, for example, 2 Ki. 21:1-7. This will not be the case in Christ’s kingdom. The holiness of God is presented by the very layout of the Millennial Kingdom. “All is manifestly designed to impress the observer with the distinct sanctity of Jehovah and His dwelling-place. This is a needful lesson for all times, and in the days to which these visions of God refer it will be not only enforced by precept, but will have its continual display before the whole world in the plan and service of the Sanctuary, to which all nations shall come to worship. ... First, as moving toward the divine centre, we have Israel’s separation from the nations; then the oblation in the midst of the land; then the Sanctuary with its walls and courts; finally the Temple and its three graded apartments--porch, holy place, and most holy place. The whole plan is a most impressive portrayal of the Divine majesty and holiness in the power and truth of which the Millennial blessing will be maintained. It will give an ever present object lesson to the world such as it has never seen before” (Numerical Bible).
- This is the throne of God’s rest in the midst of the children of Israel (Exe. 43:7). “Thus we read in the book of Exodus, the book of redemption: ‘I will dwell among the children of Israel, and I will be their God, and they shall know that I am Jehovah their God that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt that I may dwell among them’ (Ex. 29:45, 46). And now after the long and sad history of Israel’s apostasy, blindness, judgment and dispersion is ended, He comes to make His dwelling place in their midst again and establishes in Jerusalem His throne. Here He will dwell and bless His people. Of this Psalm 132 speaks, ‘This is my rest forever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it.’ And other prophets announced that the Lord would dwell in Zion in the midst of His people and establish His throne there (Joe. 3:17, 21; Zec. 2:10, 11, 8:3, 8)” (Arno Gaebelein).
- This is a throne before which is no veil as there was in the Tabernacle and the former temples. The way into the holiest was opened by the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:19-20). Exactly who will come before the physical throne in the Millennial Temple is not stated, but every child of God has access to Christ’s throne of grace at all times (Heb. 4:16). It is not necessary to make an appointment or to wait in a queue.
Ezekiel was to show the pattern of the temple to Israel to call them to repentance (Eze. 43:8-11).
- This has not happened yet, but it will. The day of Israel’s repentance is coming! Repentance involves shame for one’s iniquities. This is repeated twice by way of emphasis.
- Even today, though Israel abides in spiritual blindness and does not understand how to interpret the Scripture properly, there is a fervor in Israel for the building of the temple. (See Jews in Fighter Jets: Israel Yesterday, Today, and Forever, available from Way of Life Literature.)
The law of the Millennial Temple is simple: “upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy” (Eze. 43:12). The law is holiness. It is the law of 1 Pe. 1:15-16, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” and the law of 1 Co. 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” In that day, Israel will finally be what God always intended for her to be. “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).
6. The Altar of Sacrifice (Eze. 43:13-17)
In front of the temple is the altar of sacrifice (Eze. 40:47; 43:13-17).
It is composed of four square layers, decreasing in size from bottom to top. “It is set on a square base 31.5 feet by 31.5 feet and 1.75 feet high. The altar extends upward in three sections, each slightly smaller than the one beneath it. The entire height of the altar is a bit over nineteen feet. Stairs lead to the top of the altar hearth from the east. The altar hearth has four horns, one on each corner. The altar is centrally located in the middle of the inner court, which also places it in the middle of the entire Temple area” (John Schmitt and J. Carl Laney, Messiah’s Coming Temple, p. 99).
Horns signify power (Ps. 75:4-5; 89:24; 92:10; 112:9). The blood-anointed altar signifies the power of the cross of Christ to take away sin. The horns of the altar picture Christ’s authority as the eternal Son of God. He has all power in heaven and in earth (Mt. 28:18). All things have been put under His feet (Eph. 1:22). The fact that this is the One who made the sacrifice teaches us that it was perfectly acceptable before God and perfectly efficacious. Those who believe they can lose their salvation don’t understand the power of the Blood! “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25).
The river of life emerges from the east side of the temple and flows along the south side of the altar and then out the right side of the east gate of the temple complex (Eze. 47:1). We will say more about this river.
Regular sacrifices will be offered on the altar daily as well as special sacrifices during the sabbaths and feasts (Eze. 43:18-27; 45:17; 46:13-15).
- There will be sin offerings, trespass offerings, meat offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings (Eze. 40:39; 45:15).
- There will be the sacrifice of lambs, rams, bullocks, and goats (Eze. 45:23; 46:4-7).
- There will be a daily morning burnt offering consisting of a lamb and a meat offering (Eze. 46:13).
- “We propose that the sacrifices in the kingdom are literal sacrifices that will serve as a continuous memorial that the Messiah has come, His blood has been shed, and atonement has been made for our sins. This all begins to make sense as we consider the altar described by Ezekiel. He calls the altar ariel, ‘lion of God’ [Eze. 43:15]. Who is the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah (cf. Ge. 49:9; Re. 5:5)? This is none other than Jesus Christ. The altar bears His designation because it represents His sacrifice. And why is the Temple altar in Ezekiel’s vision oriented to the east? The Millennial Temple will serve as the throne room of the Messiah. For this reason the altar is approached from the east side so that the priest will be facing Messiah’s throne when offering a sacrifice” (Schmitt and Laney, Messiah’s Coming Temple, p. 118).
- All of the sacrifices point to Christ and signify Him and His atonement in a myriad of ways. They also teach about the Triune God and the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit in redemption. (We have dealt with some of these lessons in the study of the Levitical offerings in the Advanced Bible Studies Series course “Old Testament History & Geography” and more so in A Portrait of Christ: The Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and the Offerings, available from Way of Life Literature.) In the Millennial Kingdom, the priests will teach the people the significance of the offerings and glorify God for His great love and wisdom.
Isaiah says that sheep will be brought from the surrounding nations to be offered on the altar. “The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory” (Isa. 60:6-7). Midian, Ephah, Sheba, Kedar, and Nebaioth are places in the Arabian Peninsula. Midian was located east and southeast of Canaan to the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba. Ephah was a branch of the Midianites (Ge. 25:4; 1 Ch. 1:33). Sheba was in southern Arabia. Kedar was in the northern part. Kedar refers to tent-dwelling Arabians (Song 1:5). Nebaioth was another Arabian tribe. He was Ishmael’s eldest son (Ge. 25:3). The territory once occupied by these nations is in modern-day Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. This region is populated today by Arab tribes that still raise camels and sheep. Today the descendants of the ancient tribes mentioned in Isaiah 60 are Muslims who hate Israel, but they will submit to Jesus Christ in that day and will bless Israel.
Those who interpret prophecy allegorically object to the reinstitution of the animal sacrifices, claiming that these have been done away in Christ, according to Heb. 10:8-10.
Answer: The sacrifices are emphasized in Ezekiel 40-48 by repetition and detail. “Offering” is mentioned 61 times, and “blood” is mentioned five times. Other prophets describe the reinstitution of the sacrifices (Ps. 51:18-19; 60:7; Isa. 56:7; 66:20-23; Jer. 33:17-18; Zec. 14:21; Hag. 2:9; Mal. 3:3-4). The sacrifices will be powerful visual lessons of Christ’s atonement. “Christians have the Lord’s Supper, and in it they show the Lord’s death with perfect acceptance. But we do not permit any sacrificial efficacy to be attached to that memorial ... Nor will the enlightened Israelite (and they will all be thus enlightened) in the future permit any atoning efficacy to be attached to those sacrifices; they will also be memorials, and only memorials, of that same all-sufficient offering of Christ crucified. ... The entire absence of the veil in that future Temple will be evidence enough of the sacrifices being memorials and not propitiations” (F.C. Jennings, Studies in Isaiah).
We must remember that Israel is not the Church. While the Church has no such sacrifices, having the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and baptism to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice, Israel has a different program. Her sacrifices will be reinstated, but the people will understand their true meaning. The sacrifices will be a powerful symbolic witness of the gospel to the nations during the Millennium. The Gentiles who will come to Jerusalem from throughout the earth (Isa. 2:2-3) will be instructed by the sacrifices accompanied by the teaching of the priests.
7. The Prince (Eze. 44:1-3)
A prince is mentioned 18 times in Ezekiel’s prophecy of the Millennial temple (Eze. 44:3, 45:7, 16, 17, 22; 46:2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18; 48:21, 22).
This prince is not the Messiah. The prophet Daniel speaks of “Messiah the Prince” (Da. 9:25), but when it comes to the Millennial temple described by Ezekiel, there is a clear distinction made between the prince and the Messiah.
The prince eats bread before the LORD (Eze. 44:3), the LORD being the Messiah (Eze. 43:4). Jeremiah calls the Messiah THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jer. 23:6). The prince offers sacrifices “unto the LORD” (Eze. 46:4, 12, 13), again making a clear distinction between the Messiah and the prince.
The prince will offer a sin offering “for himself” (Eze. 45:22), which is not something that the sinless Messiah will do.
This prince is the resurrected David, the father of the Messiah.
Both David and his Son, the Messiah, are spoken of as kings in the Millennial kingdom. David himself will be the prince in the kingdom whereas his son will be King. Compare Ps. 89:18-37; Jer. 30:9; Hos. 3:5. David is a king, but his son is King of kings. David is a shepherd, but his son is the Chief Shepherd.
David will be there! He will be there in his resurrection glory, immortal, without sin. He will be there shining as the brightness of the firmament (Da. 12:2-3).
David is the builder of glorious palaces (2 Sa. 5:11), and the prophetic Psalms speak of the splendid palaces of the Millennial Zion, even ivory palaces (Ps. 45:8; 48:3, 13; 122:7).
In Psalm 108, David prophesies of the Millennial kingdom and says that he will worship God in the midst of the nations. “Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations” (Ps. 108:2-3). This Psalm refers to the time when God will restore Israel and triumph over Israel’s enemies (Ps. 108:7-11). So in this psalm we see David worshiping in Zion in the midst of the people who gather there from among the nations. This is what Ezekiel also describes.
We see the same thing in Psalm 138. David will sing praise to God “before the gods,” referring to the rulers. He will “worship toward God’s holy temple.” This is the Millennial temple. He will sing praise to God before “all the kings of the earth,” and “they shall sing in the ways of the LORD” (Ps. 138:1-5). This has never happened. David prophetically describes real scenes from the Millennial kingdom. The people of the earth will travel to Jerusalem to the Lord’s house and learn of God’s ways (Isa. 2:1-5; Zec. 8:20-23), and they will see David and hear his Psalms and worship God with him.
David, the prince, will enter the east gate of the inner court and will stand by the post of the gate during the worship, then he will retire by the same way (Eze. 46:1, 2, 8). The people will also worship at the door of the east gate during the sabbath and new moon (Eze. 46:3). We don’t know exactly who these worshippers are. The gate’s porch will not accommodate huge numbers of people. People from throughout the world will come to Jerusalem to worship the King (Isa. 2:3; Zec. 14:16). The crowds will probably be ordered and directed by the Levites. During the feasts, the people will move through the temple court in two streams according to predesignated routes, one entering by way of the north gate and exiting by way of the south gate, and the other entering by way of the south gate and exiting by way of the north gate (Eze. 46:9). Compare 1 Co. 14:33, 40.
David, the prince, will accompany the people. It appears that he will lead the worship (Eze. 46:10). He is the sweet Psalmist of Israel (2 Sa. 23:1), and if he wrote sweet psalms in his earthly life, how much more will he write sweet psalms in glory! He is an exuberant worshipper of God (2 Sa. 6:14-15). He is the maker of musical instruments for the worship of God (1 Ch. 23:5).
David, the prince, will offer sacrifices and worship at the east gate of the inner court on the sabbath and when he offers voluntary offerings (Eze. 46:1-15). David prophesied of these sacrifices in Ps. 51:18-19.
David, the prince, will have a portion of land on the east and west sides of Jerusalem (Eze. 45:7).
8. The Worshipers (Eze. 44:5-9)
Only the circumcised in heart will enter God’s temple and worship at His throne (Eze. 44:9). Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except ye be born again, ye will never see the kingdom of God” (Joh. 3:3).
God commands Ezekiel to “mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee” (Eze. 44:5). The first duty of man is to heed God’s Word with all of his faculties, to give it his full attention and devotion. This is certainly the first duty of the preacher. “The prophet is called to give whole-hearted attention to Jehovah’s Word. Apart from this he could not rightly perform his mission. Nor can we know how to rightly number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom apart from such attention to the Word of God. It alone provides a thorough furnishing of the man of God for every good work. Let us feed upon it, walk by it, preach it, serving others out of its treasuries, into which we daily enter with believing and worshiping hearts. Our hearts should stand in awe of that Word, while having joy in it as those who find great spoil (Ps. 119:161, 162)” (Numerical Bible).
God reproves Israel for polluting His house (Eze. 44:6-8).
- God emphasizes that it is “my house ... my covenant ... mine holy things ... my charge ... my sanctuary.” The same is true for the church. Jesus said, “I will build my church...” (Mt. 16:18). The church is “the house of God ... the church of the living God” (1 Ti. 3:15). The church was created by God. It is His plan, His institution, His business. It must be operated according to His laws. As Paul said to the Corinthian assembly, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Co. 11:2), and to Timothy, “That thou keep this commandment without spot” (1 Ti. 6:13-14). The church’s job is to teach the observance of all things that Christ has commanded (Mt. 28:19-20). Each church is to follow the example of the church at Jerusalem by continuing stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (Ac. 2:42).
- God’s house was polluted by those who were uncircumcised in heart and flesh (Eze. 44:7). God was never pleased with circumcision in the flesh only. An Israelite indeed is one who is circumcised in the flesh and in the heart (Ro. 2:28-29), as Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. David understood this (Ps. 51:16-17). This is also God’s rule for the New Testament church. The unsaved can attend services and hear the gospel (1 Co. 14:23-25), but only those who are born again and give evidence thereof are qualified to be baptized church members (Acts 2:41-42). When a church gets careless about this and receives nominal or unregenerate people as members, the church is soon destroyed. It might not cease to exist as “a church,” but it ceases to exist as Christ’s church.
- God’s house was polluted by the people’s abominations (Eze. 44:7). They were hypocrites who drew near God with the mouth and set up idols in their hearts (Isa. 29:13; Eze. 14:3, 7; 20:16). They attended the temple rituals on the Sabbath but they loved the world the rest of the week.
- God’s house was polluted because they did not keep the charge of God’s holy things (Eze. 44:8). They did not worship God according to His laws. Isaiah said, “Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isa. 29:13). Human tradition and philosophy replaced the right understanding of God’s Word. The rise of the Pharisees during the “Silent Years” between Malachi and Matthew continued this trend. By the time Christ came, there were only a few in Israel who understood the true meaning of the Scripture. Jesus quoted Isa. 29:13 in His indictment of Israel (Mt. 15:7-9). The vast majority of the people were under the spell of Pharisaical tradition. The Pharisees judged Jesus by their tradition rather than by the Scripture and rejected Him because He did not measure up to their vain religion. The same great sin has happened in the churches. The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox “churches” are filled with human tradition that contradicts the pure Word of God. The Protestants came out of Rome but they brought many unscriptural traditions with them, including infant baptism, for which there is not a scintilla of biblical authority. A great many Baptist churches, too, are filled with traditions that have been raised to authority alongside the Bible.
9. The Priests (Eze. 44:10-31)
The priests are mentioned 30 times in connection with the Millennial Temple (Eze. 40:45, 46; 42:13, 14, 19; 43:19, 24, 27; 44:10, 13, 15, 21, 22, 30, 31; 45:4-5, 19; 46:2, 19, 20; 48:10, 11, 12, 13, 22).
In that day, the Levites in general will be downgraded in their ministry because of their apostasy in former times (Eze. 44:10-14).
- The consequences of disobedience in this present life can continue into the next life, even for the saved. The sons of Levi will “bear their shame” even in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus taught this in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30) and the parable of the pounds (Lu. 19:10-27). This principle operates at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Co. 3:11-15; 2 Co. 5:10). “God requires that which is past; and in His ways of holy government such departure from His revealed and known will must be remembered in judgment, though those subject to it are personally safe. The day of loss and reward is certain, and this God’s grace does not set aside. The future will bring out results which flow from the past, for as we sow we reap. If our work is good we shall receive reward, if bad we shall suffer loss, though we ourselves are saved. This solemn lesson is seen in the case of the Levites. The past and its lessons would thus be kept before them as they fulfilled their service, and be a constant reminder to all the people of the nation’s past sin, in which the Levites had joined, ministering to them before their idols. The same principle of righteous government finds illustration in the priests of Zadok’s line. They had remained faithful when Israel departed from Jehovah, and now in the day of Messiah’s kingdom they fill the nearest place. Past faithfulness meets its reward” (Numerical Bible).
- The priests were responsible for causing God’s people to sin (Eze. 44:12). They were the spiritual leaders. They should have taught the people the truth and called them to repentance. Instead, they followed the people and “ministered unto them before their idols” (Eze. 44:12).
- In Christ’s kingdom, the Levites will not offer sacrifices but will perform the simple services of the temple such as having the charge of the gates and performing the labor of slaying the sacrifices.
- This is in contrast to the extensive work of all of the Levites in Solomon’s temple. There they offered the sacrifices (Le. 1:5; 2:2; 3:2), baked the shewbread and the meal offerings (1 Ch. 23:26-29, 31) and were the singers and musicians (1 Ch. 15:16; 16:4; 23:30).
The sons of Zadok will serve God in the most holy place (Eze. 44:15-22).
- God had said through Jeremiah, “Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually” (Jer. 33:18). This will be fulfilled through the Levite family of Zadok. He was a priest during the days of David, and he did not follow Absalom or Adonijah in the rebellions against God’s anointed kings, David and Solomon (2 Sa. 15:24-29; 1 Ki. 1:8, 32-35). We see God’s great reward for not participating in rebellion against duly ordained authority.
- They will minister to God in the sanctuary (Eze. 44:16). They alone of the Levites will enter into the holy place (the inner court and temple) to offer sacrifices before God.
- They will be clothed in linen garments when ministering in the inner court (Eze. 44:17-19). Compare Ex. 28:29-31. The inner court is where the sacrificial altar is located and the stone tables for the sacrifices (Eze. 40:40:38-43). Linen is lighter than wool and the wearer is less likely to perspire (Eze. 44:18). This signifies that salvation is not man’s work (Eph. 2:8-10). It also signifies that Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mt. 11:28-30). White linen signifies righteousness (Re. 19:8). True righteousness is imputed to the believer on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice (Ro. 4:5-6; 5:17; 1 Co. 1:30; 2 Co. 5:21; Php. 3:9), and it is to be lived out in every part of daily life (Ro. 6:13; Eph. 4:24; Php. 3:6). “Whether we think of it in reference to our standing before God, what we are made in Christ, or the practical life of the believer, it is that which alone suits the holy presence of God. ... This alone rightly manifests His character, and on our part alone marks us as truly representing Him. Righteousness is the first feature of the kingdom of God (Ro. 14:17). He who loves us and has washed us from our sins in His blood, has made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father (Re. 1:5-6); and hence we are to follow righteousness (2 Ti. 2:22). We are to avoid evil, do good, seek and pursue peace, ‘because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears toward their supplications; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil’ (1 Pe. 3:12). ‘The righteous Lord loveth righteousness’ (Ps. 11:7)” (Numerical Bible).
- They shall cut their hair (Eze. 44:20). They will cut their hair but not make themselves bald or grow their hair long. Paul taught that man’s short hair signifies his headship under Christ (1 Co. 11:3-4). The avoidance of balding, on the one hand, and long hair, on the other hand, shows balance and modesty in appearance and fashion, avoiding extremes, not drawing unnecessary attention to oneself. Compare 1 Ti. 2:9.
- They shall not drink wine in the inner court (Eze. 44:21). This prohibition began with the sin of Nadab and Abihu (Le. 10:1-11). The purpose is so that the priests will be soberminded to “put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Le. 10:9-10). Alcohol impairs judgment (Pr. 31:4-5). The minister of God is to be soberminded, temperate, spiritually wise. “We are to be controlled by that sober judgment which is formed in the Sanctuary. The psalmist might envy the ease, prosperity and power of the wicked when not in the current of God’s thoughts, but when he went into the Sanctuary then understood he their end (Ps. 73). It is to such sobriety that the apostle exhorts--a sobriety of a spiritually sound mind, fleshly desires and passions held in restraint, the habits of life well regulated with discretion and moderation. Compare 1 Ti. 3:2; Tit. 1:8; 2:2, 4, 5, 6, 12; Ro. 12:3; 1 Pe. 4:7” (Numerical Bible).
- They shall not marry a widow or a divorcee (Eze. 44:22). Compare Le. 21:7. Every child of God must be very careful to marry in God’s will, but the minister, in particular, is to be very strict in this matter in order to be an example of God’s will to those to whom he ministers. It was not wrong by God’s law for an Israelite to marry a widow or a divorcee (De. 24:1-2), but in the case of the priest it is forbidden. The same high standard in the marital relationship is required of the pastor (1 Ti. 3:2; Tit. 1:5). Note that “celibacy” is not a requirement for a priest or pastor. In fact, marriage is required. The Roman Catholic doctrine of required celibacy is unscriptural and has resulted in awful immorality. Forbidding marriage is a doctrine of devils (1 Ti. 4:1-3). Though the priest cannot marry a widow in general, he can marry a widow who was married to a priest.
- They shall not defile themselves with the dead (Eze. 44:25-27). Compare Le. 21:1-4. The priest’s entire life is to be a witness for holiness and separation. We see that people will die in the Millennium, though longevity will be the rule (Isa. 65:20).
- They will not inherit a tribal allotment (Eze. 44:28). Compare De. 18:1-5. God Himself is the Levite’s portion. This reminds us of the New Testament saint, who is a joint-heir with Christ (Ro. 8:17), the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:31-32).
- They will eat the sacrifices and offerings (Eze. 44:29). Compare Nu. 18:9-11.
- They will receive tithes (Eze. 44:30). The priests are supported by the tithes. Compare Ex. 13:2; 22:29; Nu. 18:12-18, 21; De. 18:4; 2 Ch. 31:4-10; Ne. 10:35-37; 1 Co. 9:13.
- They will not eat anything that dies of itself (Eze. 44:31). Compare Ex. 22:31; Le. 7:24. To abstain from eating things that died of themselves signified strict holiness unto the Lord (De. 14:21). See Eph. 5:11.
- In all of these things, the priests will be holy ministers before the Lord as God intended them to be from the beginning. This is in contrast to the sons of Aaron (Le. 10:1-9) and the sons of Eli (1 Sa. 2:12-17) and multitudes of priests (and preachers) after them who polluted the office of the priesthood and therefore dishonored God.
The sons of Zadok will teach God’s Word (Eze. 44:23).
- This will be the ultimate fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy in De. 33:10. We see a glimpse of it in the ministry of Ezra to the remnant that returned from the Babylonian Captivity (Ezr. 7:10; 8:1-13).
- They will teach the people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. This is a major part of Bible teaching. It is done by reproving and rebuking sin (2 Ti. 4:2). It is done by calling God’s people to pilgrim separation (Ro. 12:2; 2 Co. 6:17; Eph. 5:11). The disobedient priests of Ezekiel’s day had left off this ministry (Eze. 22:26). The same is true for most preachers today. It is the tendency of preachers to get softer and less separatistic from generation to generation.
- The great and glorious ministry of teaching God’s Word exists today in the churches (“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” Mt. 28:20). The New Testament believer is a priest to show forth the praises of God (1 Pe. 2:9). In Christ’s kingdom, the ministry of teaching God’s Word will also be taken up by Israel, who will finally be what God intended her to be from the beginning, which is a light to the nations (Isa. 61:6). We don’t know exactly what part glorified New Testament believers will have in the teaching ministry in the kingdom, but we know that they will rule and reign with Christ as kings and priests (Re. 1:5-6; 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10).
- The nations will come to Jerusalem to hear the Word of God (Isa. 2:2-3). We see a - glimpse of this in Solomon’s kingdom (1 Ki. 10:24).
- Teachers will go to the nations to instruct the people (Isa. 66:19). We see a glimpse of this in 2 Chronicles where teachers were sent across Israel to teach God’s Word during Jehoshaphat’s reign (2 Ch. 17:7-10). Instead of ignoring, resisting, and persecuting God’s ambassadors, as the nations have done for thousands of years, in that day the nations will welcome them and listen eagerly to their teaching. In Christ’s kingdom, they “that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine” (Isa. 29:24). Some will listen from the heart and be converted, and some will only conform externally to avoid punishment, but all will listen. (Those who only conform externally and survive to the end of the Millennium will join Satan’s final, short-lived rebellion as described in Revelation 20:7-10.)
- The “royal law” will be the foundation of the law of the world in Christ’s kingdom (Ja. 2:8). It will be taught to children from their earliest years and will permeate every level of society.
- There will doubtless be great light thrown upon the Bible. The hymn writer Isaac Watts (“I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Joy to the World”) observed that at the conversion of the Jews, “Divine light shall be spread over all the ancient dispensations, and a brighter glory diffused over all the rites and forms of religion which God ever instituted among the race of Adam” (Watts, “Apparent Folly Real Wisdom,” cited from Paxton Hood, Isaac Watts: His Life and Hymns). God’s people have insight into the Scriptures by the indwelling Spirit even in this present age, but the spiritual wisdom that will be imparted in the next age will greatly exceed that which we have today. Many things that cannot be understood or even told today will be understand then. We will no longer be “dull of hearing.” There will no longer be words “not lawful for a man to utter.” See 2 Co. 12:3-4 and Heb. 5:10-11.
As Solomon studied God’s creation and had knowledge of everything from the largest trees to the smallest herb, and of animals, birds, insects, and fish, and the people and kings of the nations came to Israel in that day to hear Solomon’s amazing teaching (1 Ki. 4:33-34), in Christ’s kingdom a “greater than Solomon” and His appointed teachers will expound on God’s Word and bring lessons from the created world. The saints will study the creation and delight in learning about God’s wisdom and ways from the works of His hands. Man will be restored to his God-given place as head of the creation in Christ (Heb. 2:5-9). All things will be put under his feet. Satan’s reign will be finished. Man will “subdue” the creation in the sense that he will use it for God’s glory and his pleasure in God’s will (Ge. 1:28). In Christ’s kingdom, the saints will investigate the creation by the key of knowledge, which is the fear of God (Ps. 111:10; Pr. 9:10). And they will do this for the glory of God and not the glory of man. The “science falsely so called” of this age will give way to true science. The fathers of modern science, for the large part, believed in the God of the Bible and understood that they were investigating His handiwork. Men of science in the Millennium will be like Johannes Kepler, one of the fathers of modern astronomy and the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion: He said, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.” Kepler considered himself a priest of God who did everything to the glory of God, including his science, and that is how men will live in the Millennium and beyond. Even the most common and “mundane” thing will be done for God’s glory. The very bells on the horses will be devoted to God’s holiness and glory (Zec. 14:20).
The sons of Zadok will judge the people (Eze. 44:24).
- Compare De. 17:9-13.
- The judges in Christ’s kingdom will be like Samuel, who could stand before the people and challenge them, “Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?” (1 Sa. 12:3). The judges will be like Daniel, of whom it was said, “... they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Da. 6:4). The judges will be like Moses who was both zealous toward God’s law and compassionate toward the people. When the people made the golden calf, Moses punished the ringleaders with great zeal (Ex. 32:25-28), but he also interceded with God for the people and was unselfish in his pursuit of their blessing (Ex. 32:31-34).
- The judges will administer in the wisdom of God (Isa. 28:5-6). Christ possesses “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge” (Isa. 11:2). He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), and this wisdom will be imparted by the Spirit of God throughout society, unhindered by the present veil of spiritual darkness that covers the earth (2 Co. 4:4). They will have the wisdom of Solomon to make right decisions. They will have the wisdom to discern truth from lies, to identify the real culprit in every situation, to know when to be patient and when to act, when to exercise mercy and when to exercise judgment, to know the suitable punishment for the crime. They will not be tricked by human deception or fooled by clever lawyers or led astray by wrong philosophy or confused by mere human sentimentality. They will not judge by human opinion or whim or consideration of person. They will not be ignorant or unreasonable or incapable men who lack the wisdom necessary for the task. They will be “such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Ex. 18:21).
- The judges will judge in equity (Le. 19:15; De. 1:17). Each individual in Christ’s kingdom will be treated equally and judged without consideration of person or position. You won’t have to be “somebody” to be treated properly. You won’t have to be wealthy or part of an elite group within society to get justice.
- The judges will judge with honesty (Eze. 45:10-12). Cheating, stealing, bribing, and other forms of corruption won’t be allowed. Such things will be punished wherever they lift their ugly heads. There will be no “hidden fees” and abuse of legal “fine print.” The economy will be ordered by Christ, and He will require honesty, equity, and justice in all dealings. If you are cheated, slandered, robbed, or injured, you will be able to call upon the authorities and they will care about your case and deal with the problem! They will not turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice. They will not seek a bribe for themselves or in any way try to pervert justice. They will not look at your social status to see if you warrant justice or deserve their attention. They will not put off your case until later.
- A foretaste of Christ’s kingdom can be seen in Jehoshaphat’s reign. He appointed judges who were instructed to rule justly and equitably in the fear of God without respect of person (2 Ch. 19:5-10). They were under the oversight of the high priest (2 Ch. 19:11). This is how it will be in Christ’s kingdom. Rulers will be appointed by Christ and His representatives, and they will be under the oversight of the Temple, which will be the center of government.
10. The River of Life (Eze. 47:1-11)
From Christ’s beautiful temple will issue a crystal clear river of water that will flow east and south through the land and heal the desolate places and the Dead Sea.
“Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. 2 Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. 3 And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. 5 Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. 6 And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river. 7 Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 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. 9 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. 10 And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. 11 But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Eze. 47:1-11).
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joe. 3:18).
“And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be” (Zec. 14:8).
“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high” (Ps. 46:4).
The water emerges from the south side of the temple and flows along the south side of the altar and then out the right side of the east gate of the temple complex (Eze. 47:1).
- “They flow from the House on the right side, that is, the south, because the prophet stands facing east, or looking toward the altar, so that the south is on his right hand. On the south of the altar he sees the stream flowing eastward. The two east gates being closed he is brought out of the north gate, and led around outside the wall of the outer court to the east gate, and there the water was flowing out on the right side” (Numerical Bible).
- The water flows from the place of sacrifice, signifying Christ’s atonement. It is a real river that will bring real physical healing, but it also signifies the spiritual healing that flows from Christ’s cross.
- The water flows from the presence of God, the source of all blessing. He is the God who made man for blessing, who placed man in Eden, and who has never bode any ill-will toward man except a holy hatred of sin. As the doxology says, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow ... Praise God the Father who’s the source; Praise God the Son who is the course; Praise God the Spirit who’s the flow; Praise God, our portion here below.”
- Streams from the river will flow through Jerusalem “to make glad the city of God” (Ps. 46:4). Jerusalem will not be all stone and concrete and pavement as today. It will be a glorious park with trees and gardens and crystal clear streams.
- The water flows toward the east (Eze. 47:2-5). After 500 yards (1,000 cubits, 0.28 mile), the water is ankle deep; after 1,000 yards (0.56 mile) it is to the knees; after 1,500 yards (0.85 mile), it is to the loin; by 2,000 yards (1.13 miles) it is deeper than a man (Eze. 47:3-5).
On both sides of the river are trees (Eze. 47:6-7, 12).
- There are very many trees on both sides of the river. It will be a delightful park with the crystal clear water, the magnificent trees, the fragrant flowers, and the delicious fruit.
- The trees will bear fruit continually, year round. The fruit will be for food. We aren’t told what type of fruit this is, but there can be no doubt that it will be delicious and will be packed with health-giving properties.
- The trees are evergreen in that their leaves do not fade.
- The leaves will be for medicine (Eze. 47:12). Sickness will largely be done away in Christ’s kingdom, except that people will still grow old and die, though at a greater age than today. Even in this present world under judgment, God, in His great mercy and kindness, has provided a bounty of resources for healing and He has given man wisdom to search out these treasures.
- This is not said to be the tree of life, though the description of it is similar to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem (Re. 22:1-2).
The waters flow toward the desert to the east (Eze. 47:8-11).
- The waters will heal the land as well as the Salt Sea. The word “desert” in Eze. 47:8 is “arabah,” referring to the Jordan Valley where it enters the Dead Sea and also from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.
- The valley of Shittim (Joe. 3:18) is east of Jericho beyond the Jordan River. It is called Abelshittim in Nu. 33:49. From here, Joshua sent the men to spy on Jericho (Josh. 2:1). Thus the healing extends east beyond Jordan.
- There will be a bounty of wildlife in the region. “And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live” (Eze. 47:9). There will not only be a bounty of fish in the river and the sea, but there will be all sorts of wildlife. Even today, though that region is a terrible desert, there is a lot of fascinating wildlife, including ibex, oryx, gazelle, tortoise, hyrax (coney), fox, agama (lizard), jerboa, and hedgehog. In that day, there will be no danger to man from wildlife. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD” (Isa. 65:25).
- The waters will be filled with a variety of great many fish and fishermen will spread their nets on the sea (Eze. 47:10). Engedi is on the west side of the Dead Sea and Eneglaim was probably farther down the coast. Some have theorized that Eneglaim could be on the east side of the sea, but that doesn’t seem to fit the description of “from Engedi even unto Eneglaim.”
- The marshes will be left for salt (Eze. 47:11). Some places near the Dead Sea will be left as a source for salt, which is essential for life. Today there are large salt deposits on the shores of the sea.
- The waters from the temple will also flow west toward the Mediterranean, which is called “the hinder sea” (Zec. 14:8).
- The waters flowing from the altar are real waters, but they also signify Christ, the living water, who will refresh the whole creation with spiritual life and blessing. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (Joh. 7:38). The properties of water are manifold and even secular scientists refer to it as a “miraculous element.” Water is life-giving; it is refreshing; it is cheerful; it is cleansing; it is light-reflecting and light-refracting; it is beneficial to every part of man’s existence.
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