We continue looking at the prophecies that make up the last section of The Book of Ezekiel. Through the prophecy of the temple, we see the beautiful truth that we can freely enter the presence of the creator of the universe. This dismantles legalism and makes living with God a great adventure. It also gives us a sense of hope and a source of courage.
Prophecy of the temple
Let’s go to the second thing that Ezekiel prophesies, and that is the temple.
Oh, by the way, there’s a big battle in chapter 38 and 39. And I think it’s just basically part of the battle at the end of the days. You’re used to hearing that there’s a battle at Armageddon. As best I can tell, there’s actually a gathering of armies in Armageddon.
Armageddon is a Har Megiddo, the mountain of Megiddo. It’s about 25 miles north of Jerusalem. There’s a big plane there.
As a matter of fact, if you stand up on Megiddo and you look down, what you see is a huge Israeli airbase. And if you’re there on the right day, you hear the planes taking off and everything. And everybody kind of goes, “Whoa. Armageddon.”
But, actually, as best I can tell, the armies gather in Armageddon. Then the actual march is on Jerusalem, as is usual.
So chapter 40 through the end of the book, we have this blueprint.
In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured—So this is after the capture— on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there.
In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city.
He took me there, and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze. He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand, and he stood in the gateway.
And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to the house of Israel everything you see.”
Now there was a wall all around the outside of the temple. In the man’s hand was a measuring rod six cubits long, each being a cubit and a handbreadth—
So, basically, this rod’s 10 feet long, roughly. A cubit is that distance between fingertip and elbow, so it’s 18 inches or so. Something like 10 feet.
Then he went to the gateway which faced east; and he went up its stairs and measured the threshold of the gateway—
And then the rest of this eight chapters is basically about this guy going and saying, “Look, this is this big.” “Look, this is this big.” “Look, this is this big.” “Look, this is this big.” It’s kind of a verbal measuring of this city.
Now why would God spend eight chapters talking about this city? Can you think of any other place where there’s a lot of really detailed measurements about a building? The tabernacle.
And, interestingly enough, Solomon’s Temple doesn’t really have any of this. David said, “Hey, you know, we’ve had this tabernacle since the time of Moses,” which at that point in time would be several hundred years. And David said, “You know, I’ve got a really nice house, and you just got a tent. And we’ve had it for several hundred years, you know. You’ve got a tent, and I want to build you a house.”
And the prophet says to David, “Good idea. Go do that.”
And then that night the prophet—I think it’s Nathan, if I remember right—gets a word from the Lord, and he says, I don’t want David to build me a house. I’m fine. I’m fine in a tent. I don’t need an edifice for people to know that I’m important. I made this universe, and you can look up in the sky and see, wow, God’s real big! So this is really not necessary for me.
But if you want to build something, it’s okay. However, David, you’re the war guy; and I want it to be built by the peace guy, Solomon, shalom. I want the peace guy to build a house for me.
You can get all the stuff ready if you want to. But I want the shalom guy to build the house for me.
And, Solomon does. He doesn’t make it the same size of the tabernacle. It has kind of the same proportions, but he makes it twice as big. Which seems to be fine with God.
But when he makes the tabernacle, everything’s really precise.
And here we’ve got another temple, and it’s really precise. Now what is this thing? We don’t, obviously, have time to read eight chapters; and, if we did, you would get totally lost in, what is he even talking about?
If you want to go online and look at the Ezekiel temple, you can find, like, computer graphics where they’ll show you how all this different stuff and where it is and the dining rooms for the priests to eat the sacrifices. And it’s a really elaborate complex.
But a particular note: The actual place where the temple is, the temple itself is not that much different sized from Solomon’s temple, best I can tell. But the Temple Mount area—like today’s Temple Mount, if you look at a picture, there are these two mosques on it, and it has this big platform that Herod built. It’s about 37 acres.
This platform is 600 acres. So it’s 20 times the size.
But more importantly, the actual area of the city is about 50 miles square, which actually doesn’t even fit in the topography of Israel today. It spills into the Mediterranean Sea.
Commentators basically say, well, this is impossible, so it must be figurative. Can’t happen, so it must be figurative. God spent five chapters detailing how to build the tabernacle, and they actually built it; but he did the same thing over here, but it’s just figurative. This is the common understanding.
Well, it’s the common understanding because theologians have historically been anti-Jewish and anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic.
It was very sad to go through the Holocaust Museum. It’s a human tragedy without doubt. But the saddest display for me was right at the very first when there’s this big quote from St. Augustine that says, “You shouldn’t really kill the Jews. You should just disperse them.”
St. Augustine, if you don’t know, is the dominant theologian in Catholicism. He’s the dominant theologian in Calvinism. John Calvin was just a young lawyer, and he translated the works of St. Augustine. That was the beginning of his Christian Institutes.
And then Arminianism as a spinoff of Calvinism. So all the dominant strains of Christianity came from Augustine, and Augustine was anti-Semitic.
The next panel is Martin Luther. And Martin Luther was more along lines of it’s okay to kill them, and was used by Hitler as a justification for the Holocaust.
And this came about because of a theology called replacement theology, which says God always keeps his word; but he can substitute things.
Say Mark here is going to go to heaven; but we’ll just substitute Roger instead, and you’ll go to hell. That would be the natural outcome of that. Which means, really, God’s not dependable. Sad. It’s really a sad position to take.
Well God doesn’t break his promises. I mean, we’re watching Israel come back to life right in front of our own eyes. And he intends to build this temple.
Well when is he going to build this temple? And why even have a temple? And, furthermore, there’s a temple that’s coming in the future, and it’s going to have sacrifices in it. In fact, he changes the Levitical priesthood stuff around—even the Jews don’t like this.
We went to the Temple Institute. The Temple Institute is a place where they’re actually making stuff for a replacement temple. Their plan is to get rid of the Dome of the Rock and build another temple, and they want to be ready to institute priestly sacrifices and priestly services when that happens.
So we saw the high priest’s uniform. It wasn’t just a model. I mean, this is what the guy’s going to wear.
And we saw real silver trumpets and gold headbands and an ephod with the gems in it and all that stuff. They’re building all this stuff. But they’re not building this one. They want to rebuild the Herod one.
And one of the reasons they don’t like this is because it messed up the Levitical services from what they’re used to.
The river that begins at the temple
One of the other features of this temple is that there is a river that comes out of it. So let’s see. Let’s look where that is. 47: 1. Let’s look at Ezekiel 47:1.
How many buildings do you know where under the front steps, the headwaters of a river comes?
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east—
Now God always has—he had the tabernacle face east. He had the temple face east. He’s got this temple facing east. And there’s only one gate on the east.
If you go to Jerusalem today, there’s just one gate on the wall, and it’s plugged up with a Muslim cemetery in front of it. The Muslims think they can thwart God by putting a cemetery there.
And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles.
A thousand cubits, 1,500 feet.
Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist.
So here’s this water flowing out, and as you get away from the headwaters, it’s getting deeper and deeper. It’s good water. Yeah, this is a good well, alright.
Verse 5. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed.
He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river.
Verse 7. When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other.
Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea.
Do you know what sea is east of Jerusalem? The Dead Sea. And there’s one river that goes into the Dead Sea; it’s the Jordan River. And it’s dead because that sea is 1,300 feet below sea level. There’s no place for it to flow out.
—its waters are healed.
And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish,
You know what lives in the Dead Sea today? Nothing. They found maybe one kind of bacteria that can live in there.
—everything will live wherever the river goes.
It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim—
En Gedi is barren, a waste land. I mean, there’s nothing there at En Gedi. There’s a spring with a little amount of water.
But, yeah, this is a whole different topography here. And here’s what I think is happening:
Let’s look at Zechariah 14. I think what we’re seeing here is the millennial temple. We’ll talk in a minute about, why does God want a temple?
Then the Lord will go forth
And fight against those nations that come against Jerusalem,
As He fights in the day of battle.
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives—
The Mount of Olives is about maybe a good drive and a 5-iron from the edge of the city of Jerusalem, and it’s maybe 500-feet elevation or something like that. And it’s a ridge that goes north and south.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south.
Then you shall flee through My mountain valley,
For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal.
Yes, you shall flee
As you fled from the earthquake
In the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
What happens is Jesus comes down, and this thing splits, and there’s actually water that flows both ways, it tells us. There’ll be water that goes to the east.
And in that day it shall be
That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem,
Half of them toward the eastern sea—that’s the Dead Sea—
And half of them toward the western sea;
In both summer and winter it shall occur.
You know they have the rainy season in the winter. So what he’s saying is irrespective of whether it’s raining or not, this is going to be happening every day.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
Well, we haven’t had any time in history where the Lord has been king over all the earth, physically.
So what we see here is a time where Jesus is going to come back physically, and he’s going to restore Jerusalem; and, furthermore, we have in Isaiah, a prophecy that says every valley will be exalted and every hill made low. And we have another prophecy that says that the whole area of Jerusalem is going to become a great plain.
The reason that you can have this 50-square-mile city and this new geography is because the topography changes dramatically. And this is part of what the restoration is in the millennial kingdom.
Why will we need a temple in the millennial kingdom?
Why does God in the millennial kingdom want to restore a temple? As we all know, Jesus was the final sacrifice.
In fact, let’s look at Hebrews 9, and we can see that in Hebrews 9—
Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.
For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail right now.
Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.
But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.
It was symbolic for the present time—
He goes on to say that this is a copy of the real thing in heaven and that we—let’s just skip over to Hebrews 10:19.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
There’s this tabernacle that priests would go in once a year, and that was a sign for us; and we can actually do this every day. We’re invited to do this every day, to go as a high priest ourselves, after the order of Melchizedek, through the Spirit of Christ, go into this holy place and not just sprinkle blood on a symbol of God, but actually say, “God, sprinkle me with your blood, and make my heart cleansed so I can serve you.” We’re supposed to do this every day.
Well, if God has given a reality of a tabernacle as a place to go into his presence, that’s a symbol of us who can now actually go into his presence because we have the Holy Spirit, and the sacrifice that was sacrificed once for all has been has been made, why would you need another physical temple?
Well let’s just talk about temple for just a minute before we answer that question.
The temple was a place to go into the presence of God. And the way the temple worked, all five senses were engaged.
You go there, and your sight was engaged. I mean, it’s beautiful, overlaid with gold and tall and spacious. I mean your eyes were engaged.
Your touch was engaged. I mean you took an animal in there, and you went to baptize—they’ve now found over a hundred baptismals under the Temple Mount. There’s probably a thousand of them. You’d go and get baptized to purify yourself before you went in.
Your ears are engaged. There are Levites singing, and there are trumpets playing and harps playing. And there’s, just like at Disneyland, background music all the time.
And your nose is engaged. They’ve got incense burning.
Now I hate incense. If I go into somebody’s house, and they’ve got incense, I just start trying to figure out how I can get my head out the window. I’m allergic to it. It just kills me. It gives me a splitting headache.
But in this Temple Institute, they had us smell this stuff they’ve recreated from the temple. It smelled awesome! It didn’t have that awful smell that candles these days have. It smelled great.
And it’s a place to go and meet God and then take that presence with you the rest of the week. And it’s been this way all along.
But Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, what? What does he tell us about the temple? What is the temple according to Paul? It’s our body.
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 3. This is right after he says we’ll all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. And everyone’s work is going to be judged. It may be wood, hay, stubble and burn up; or gold, silver, precious stones and endure. But whatever it is, the day will declare it.
1 Corinthians 3:13. —because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Then he says this. Verse 16. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.
What happened to Solomon’s Temple? It was destroyed. Why? What did we learn? They didn’t do the Sabbatical years. They didn’t trust God. What else? They didn’t keep their treaty. They broke their word. What else? They worship idols. He showed them a vision of them in the temple facing the east. Now why does the door face the west? Well, all the sun worship— they’re turning their back to the sun worship. And here they are facing the east, worshipping the sun in the temple.
And he said, “You’ve set up idols in your hearts.” Remember that?
And not only that, they’re being unjust. They’re not bringing justice to people in Israel.
If you’re going to not do your job of being my people, I’m just going to knock this thing down.
Well, guess what for us? We have gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay, and stubble at the judgment seat; but we also have accountability right now because we’re keepers of the temple, because we have the Holy Spirit in us.
In Ezekiel, he sees, in the early part, the shekinah glory leave the temple. It didn’t come back in Zerubbabel’s temple. There was no ark. It comes back in the millennial temple.
And then, in the new earth, what’s the temple? It’s God himself. It’s God himself.
Why a millennial temple? I think for the same reason we have communion. Does Jesus need to die again? He doesn’t need to die again. Why do we have communion? Are we killing Jesus again? Why do we have it? And it’s just a remembrance. It’s just a place to come and meet God.
And the physical places are important, right? Because we’re physical people.
I think this church is important. It’s important to have a place to come and meet God.
And, in fact, Paul tells us that we, collectively, are the temple. The body is the temple as well, the body of Christ. We, individually, are the temple; we’re collectively the temple. And to have a place to come and meet God is good.
But, you know, probably one of the more poignant things that happened on our trip—I’ll close with this.
I had a friend with me that is fairly new to studying the scripture but has tremendous insight. And we went to this Temple Institute. He’s Jewish by heritage. And he saw it all, and he kind of came out and said, “This just doesn’t suit well to me.”
It’s just kind of legalistic and formalistic; and, you know, they’re trying to figure out how the rules all work.
He said, “You know, that day when we were up on this tell, you know, where we were at an archaeological site, and we diverted off.” There were a bunch of families up there. They were having a kite festival.
He said, “I want to go up there.” So we went up there and spent an hour at this kite festival.
The kids were laughing, and the families were interacting. And he came out and said, “There are 300 million people surrounding these guys that want to kill them.”
Now, they’re in their morning schools in a lot of these countries, they start with a chant: “Death to Israel! Death to America!”
You know, there are suicide bombers that want to come over and kill them. And they just want to enjoy life with their family and fly kites.
And after we went to the Temple Institute, he said, “Isn’t the real temple the people flying kites up on the hill?”
And I said, “Yes. Actually, that’s exactly it.” In fact, the kites kind of show the wind, right? The spirit. That’s the real spirit of the temple.
So while God is showing us here something to look forward to in the millennial kingdom with great detail, like he did the tabernacle, the message is not really the blueprint. The message is what the purpose of the thing is in the first place.
And I just want to challenge us that when you go to your devotional or we come together in church, are we doing something formalistic and legalistic? Are we checking off the box today? You know, “I did my thing today.”
Or are we coming into the presence of God and having all of our senses engaged because we have an opportunity to interact with the creator of the universe? And as a result of that, be his people and do his work.