Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Ezekiel Temple

The Ezekiel Temple
by Jan Willem van der Hoeven,
Director International Christian Zionist Center

Fully eight chapters in the book of Ezekiel have been dedicated to this beautiful structure, a temple which has yet to be built in Jerusalem. Surely this is a measure of the tremendous importance the Scriptures attach to it.

Apart from these final chapters in Ezekiel, we find the temple mentioned elsewhere in Scripture - in Zechariah, in The Revelation, and in 2 Thessalonians, to name a few.

Despite the importance, which the Bible thus attaches to this matter, there remains among believers a tremendous lack of interest in, or understanding of, the importance of this new temple that will one day, in the not too distant future, be raised up on the Temple Mount.

There are different reasons for this lack of understanding:

Many believers see the next temple only as the Jewish temple in which the Antichrist will be seated for a while, and therefore view it in a rather negative light.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2: 3,4)

And there is the belief, which is of course correct in itself, that today's temple of God is not made by human hands, but is formed out of those who truly believe - living stones put together for a habitation unto God in these days.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Furthermore, we know that not only the body of believers, but the body of the Lord Himself is seen in Scripture as the temple of God, as Jesus thus referred to His own body when He said:

"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19)

Then the Jews said, "It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" BUT HE WAS SPEAKING OF THE TEMPLE OF HIS BODY. (John 2:20,21)

It is for these reasons, among others, that despite the eight chapters Ezekiel dedicates to the subject of the future temple, many Christian believers have shown little regard for, or comprehension of, this temple. The fact that Ezekiel's narrative includes the revival of the sacrificial rites makes it all the more complicated for many believers, holding to the belief, as they rightly do, that after Jesus' sacrifice there is no longer a need for other sacrifices. And this is something the author of the epistle to the Hebrews clearly points out.

What, then, should our attitude be towards this beautiful description of the temple contained in Ezekiel's book?

We certainly do not get the impression that something negative is being presented here - like the temple of the Anti-Christ, or 'poor Jews' going back to the sacrificial rites, when we know that there is no longer any need for such offerings: Jesus having died on the cross as the final sacrifice for our sins.

And as it is quite clearly not something negative that the prophet is presenting us with here, we do well to give full credit to God's clearly written Word, and to ponder on what the purpose and meaning of all this is supposed to be.

If we see that the tabernacle of Moses is a forerunner to the temple later built by David's son Solomon, it becomes clear just how large and important a place this subject fills in the Scriptures. For just as there are eight chapters in Ezekiel describing in the minutest detail the structure of the temple, so too are there many chapters in the Bible describing, in similar, painstaking detail, the building and erection of the tabernacle. Later, numerous chapters deal with the preparation for, and building and dedication of, Solomon's temple. And again, equally as many chapters in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai describe the events leading up to the building of the second temple by Zerubbabel.

This great weight of Scripture surely indicates the tremendous importance which the tabernacle and later the temple, have in the Scriptures, and also in the writings of the prophets who clearly indicate the time that is coming when the temple, the third temple this time, assuredly will be built again.

Therefore it is important for us to discover, even in this study, what is the significance and importance of the Ezekiel temple, if Jesus Himself, and the body of His believers, is the temple of God; and if His sacrifice on the cross is the final sacrifice for all time.

In order for us to fathom this, we need to go back to the days of the New Testament, and especially to Jesus' relation to "His Father's house", as He called the temple that Herod had worked for 46 years to beautify and restore. This, by the way, was also the temple that had been defiled some years in advance of Jesus' coming by Antiochus Epiphanes - the man often seen as a type, or forerunner, of the Antichrist.

"Antiochus commanded an altar to be built on the Temple Mount and then ordered pigs to be sacrificed on it," writes Hoddenbagh in his book The Divine Plan (pages 201 and 202).
Thus it was this temple, that Herod had beautified and Antiochus greatly defiled, that Jesus called "My Father's house". And He did so even though He, Himself, was the temple, and was far more holy than any temple built by human hands.

This is an extremely important point, especially in regard to the temple or House of God that yet must be built in Jerusalem on God's holy hill.

For if Jesus can still call the temple beautified by Herod and desecrated by Antiochus the house of His Father, then the third temple, even if it is seized upon by the Antichrist for a short period, still will be called the house of God. This can be seen in the second epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, when he writes:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God IN THE TEMPLE OF GOD (note, not the temple of the Beast), showing himself that he is God.
(2 Thessalonians 2: 3,4)

Therefore, just as the second temple, beautified by Herod and defiled by Antioch remained, to Jesus' mind, the temple of God, so too will the third temple, even though desecrated by the man of sin, remain and be called the temple of God!

It would be good to relate here from different New Testament passages the respect that Jesus bore towards this house of His father. We see one account in the lovely story related by Luke of Jesus as a boy:

And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast (of Passover). When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; … Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, … So when they saw Him, they were amazed; … And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT I MUST BE ABOUT MY FATHER'S BUSINESS?" (Luke 2: 42, 43, 46, 48, 49 NKJ)

This is an amazing passage about the importance Jesus still attached to His Father's house, even though it had been defiled. And what a wonderful illustration of biblical balance, that although He could have belittled the importance of this temple because of the rightful claim He could make to being the temple Himself, He did not do so. Instead, as we shall see from the next example, He honoured His Father's house.

It was during another Passover Feast, John tells us, that Jesus again went up to the temple in Jerusalem:

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple … And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up." (John 2: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)

If some of us are honest in this respect we would not have expected the Lord to call a building made from stone His Father's house. And yet, this is what we find in the Scriptures.

Some may retort that all this took place before He brought the final sacrifice in His body on the cross - when, as the Gospels relate, the curtain of the temple was torn asunder from top to bottom. Now we live in the time after those events, these people may say - after the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection. And, after all, isn't the fact that this temple was then destroyed by Titus in AD 70 proof that it was no longer important to believers in the Lord Messiah, who Himself became the temple, the High Priest, and the sacrifice, thus fulfilling it all? And isn't this exactly what Jesus said in His conversation with the Samaritan woman, when He prophesied about the time to come?

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him…Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father." (John 4: 23,24)

This verse is often used to explain away any need for another temple in which God will be worshipped, even at a later stage. But the fact is that in the Greek this oft-quoted passage of Scripture leaves this interpretation wide open.

When Jesus says "neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem" the Greek word does not signify a total negation. Rather, it means "the hour is coming that not only on this mountain nor only in Jerusalem", so that the possibility exists that God will one day again being worshipped - also in spirit and truth - on Jerusalem's Temple Mount!

And that this is apparently the case is seen in the passage in The Revelation to John, where worship is definitely again associated with the future temple in Jerusalem:

And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, AND THOSE WHO WORSHIP THERE. (Revelation 11:1)

Then the point is often raised about the re-introduction of sacrifices, which seems to stand in conflict with the New Testament teaching of the finality of the sacrifice that our Lord became for us -- and for the sins of the whole world. What, then, do we do with the sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel's prophecy concerning the temple? (See Hebrews 9: 24-28)

No one is denying the finality of our Lord's sacrifice on the cross – not those who fail to see a great need for rebuilding the temple, nor those who see the need. Here, all true believers unite in the realisation of the truth of the words of the author to the Hebrews:

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another-He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. (Hebrews 9: 24-28)

But does it follow that there can thus never be a time when the sacrifices will again be part and parcel of the service of worship to God in the new temple? This is the question we need to ask ourselves. And on this point the Bible does give a clear and unequivocal answer:

There will come a time, during the new temple period, when sacrifices will be offered again. It says so in Ezekiel, and it is also mentioned by Daniel, when he speaks of the evil ruler - "the little horn" - to come, by whom the daily sacrifices will be taken away, and the place of His sanctuary will be cast down (Daniel 8:11). This surely implies not only a rebuilt temple towards the end of time, but also a reinstitution of the daily sacrifices!

This fact of the reinstitution of the sacrifices, even sin sacrifices - albeit for awhile - does not mean a cancellation of the finality of Jesus' sacrifice for sins, just as the continuation of those sacrifices in the temple until AD 70 never pointed to a cancellation of the finality of that sacrifice. These were sacrifices that even the Apostle Paul participated in, as is seen from the account in Acts 21:23-26!

If God could live with this fact of continued sacrifices and sin offerings in the as yet un-destroyed second temple after the sacrificial death of His Son, can we not live with such renewed sacrifices during the period of the third temple?

And just as the sacrifices in the days of Moses' tabernacle and the two temples were a mere fore-shadowing of the sacrifice God would make of His Son - can the sacrifices that will be held in Ezekiel's temple not equally be pointers back to that wonderful gift that He gave?

In the same way: If Jesus was not loathe to come to His Father's house in the days of His flesh - even though it had been defiled by a forerunner of the man of sin - why should He not come suddenly to the temple that is to be built on His holy hill?

God came in His shekinah glory and visitation to Solomon's temple after it was built. Through Christ He came to the second temple built by Zerubbabel. Why, then, should He not come to the third temple once it has been built, as stated in Ezekiel 43?

"…And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like launderer's soap. … He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the LORD, AS IN THE DAYS OF OLD, AS IN FORMER YEARS." (Malachi 3: 1-4)

What an amazing Scripture! And in Ezekiel we read a nearly identical passage:

And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. … And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple. …
And He said to me, "Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. …
"Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. …Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them.
"This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple."
(Ezekiel 43: 2, 4-5, 7, 10, 11, 12)

With these beautiful and forceful words the words of the Psalms agree:

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed … "Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion." (Psalm 2:1,2,6)


Let us go into His tabernacle; let us worship at His footstool. Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, you and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy.

For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for His dwelling place: "This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it."
(Psalm 132: 7,8,13,14)

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