The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (32)
Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
- Some Preliminary Observations
- The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
- The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
- The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
- Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
- The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
- Prophecy and Idolatry
- Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
- The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
- God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
- The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
- Israel's Past and Future Experiences
- The Sword of Jehovah
- Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
- The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
- The Boiling Caldron
- Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
- The Oracle Concerning Tyre
- The Oracles Concerning Egypt
- The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
- The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
- The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
- The Judgment upon Edom
- The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
- Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
- The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
- The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
- The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
- The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
- The Millennial Jerusalem
- The Millennial Temple
- The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
- The Land of Israel in the Millennium
The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
Since it would be entirely too tedious and would involve much detail to present a verse-by-verse exposition of Ezekiel, chapters 40-48, I shall call attention only to the outstanding features of this portion of the Word. For those who are interested in a minute study of the plans and specifications, the ordinances and ceremonies of the millennial temple, I would suggest that they consult a reputable, sane, sound, and scholarly commentary on the Book of Ezekiel. In accordance, then, with this purpose, I shall in this study call attention only to the fact that Jehovah himself enters the temple through the east gate, that there is one who is called “the prince” who will reign in Israel, that the glory of the Lord will fill this great edifice, that sacrifices will be renewed during that great era of righteousness, and that certain ones of Israel's special feasts, or festivals — holy days — will be again observed.
Jehovah's Entering the Sanctuary through the East Gate
Then he brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. 2 And Jehovah said unto me, This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, neither shall any man enter in by it; for Jehovah, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it; therefore it shall be shut. 3 As for the prince, he shall sit therein as prince to eat bread before Jehovah; he shall enter by way of the porch of the gate, and shall go out by the way of the same.”
Those who have been following this exposition know that I have called attention to the fact that an angelic creature appeared to Ezekiel and escorted him in this vision throughout the temple and its sacred precincts, showing him what is yet to be a reality in the future. This one, according to 44:1, brought Ezekiel back “by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which looketh toward the east.” When they arrived there it was shut. This fact was such a significant one that it demanded an explanation which is given in verse 2. “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, neither shall any man enter in by it; for Jehovah, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it; therefore it shall be shut.”
When we consider the memorial name of God, Jehovah, we must remember that it has a fourfold signification: In some contexts it indicates the Holy Trinity; in others, it refers to God the Father; in still others, it unquestionably points to the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity; and in a few passages the context shows that it signifies the Holy Spirit. The question in connection with our passage is, What is its meaning here? To the one who understands the prophetic word, the answer suggested by all the facts would indicate that this one who is thus designated Jehovah is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ who entered the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth, and who laid down His life for the redemption of the human family — for all who will avail themselves of His redeeming grace, love, and power by accepting Him personally as their Saviour. The language in this passage is such that it immediately suggests that Jehovah enters in through this gate the same as any other individual might pass through a gate or door. We who believe that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the God-man, who thus miraculously entered the world, naturally think of Him, of His return in glory, and of His building the millennial temple — as Zechariah informed us — and that this passage refers to His entering it in an official capacity. When He thus enters in this manner, the ground and the floor are made holy; therefore no human being will ever be allowed to enter that sacred structure through that door.
In 45:7 we read of “the prince” whose shall be the land on the four sides of “the holy oblation,” that is, the mountain of Jehovah in Palestine during the Millennium. As we shall learn in the next installment of this series, this mountain of Jehovah will be fifty miles in length and fifty miles in breadth. All the territory on this high mountain will be occupied by different groups. But He who is called “the prince” shall own land at the base of this mountain on all four sides. Again, we read of this prince in Ezekiel 46:16-18. In this passage we see that he will have sons. The instructions are of such a specific nature that one cannot avoid the conclusion that this prince is some man who will occupy a high position in the government under King Messiah, who will have sons and daughters to whom he will allot a certain inheritance, and who will have servants. Obviously this prince is one and the same person. We are to suppose that, since he is a prince, he will have an official position in the government. But there is no clue, so far as I am able to find, as to his identity.
Some students of the Word have identified him with the prince of whom we read in the following passages:
And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. 24 And I, Jehovah, will be their God, and my servant David prince among them; I, Jehovah, have spoken it.”
And my servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in mine ordinances and observe my statutes, and do them. 25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers dwelt: and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children's children, for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.”
Can it be that the prince mentioned in these two passages is the same one to whom reference is made in the two other passages just studied? Let us look more closely at the details.
In Ezekiel 34:11-16 we have this prediction:
For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture; and upon the mountains of the height of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie down in a good fold; and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord Jehovah. 16 I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but the fat and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice.”
From this quotation it is evident that Jehovah himself — and not some angelic being or some man — becomes the Shepherd of Israel who regathers His scattered flock into the land of their fathers. The language of Ezekiel, chapter 34, is of such a specific nature that the old rabbis could not avoid the conclusion that this is a prophecy concerning Jehovah's assuming the form of the shepherds of Israel, who were men, and performing in a personal manner the duties and functions of these shepherds. Thus they saw in this passage a prediction of the incarnation of Jehovah for the purpose of becoming the Shepherd of Israel. But to them such an idea was an impossibility. They therefore had great difficulty in understanding Ezekiel, chapter 34.
But to us who understand the prophetic word, this passage is quite clear. It assumes the miraculous conception and virgin birth of the Messiah, which is foretold in other passages, in order that He might thus become the Shepherd to gather the nation of Israel, scattered among the peoples of earth, into their own land eventually.
With this teaching in the preceding part of the chapter, verses 23 and 24 immediately fall in line and are to be understood as a reference to Jehovah who by incarnation becomes the Shepherd of Israel. Thus in 34:23 Jehovah the Father promises to “set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them.” This one is none other than His servant David. From what has preceded in this chapter, it is clear that this Shepherd, even David, is none other than Jehovah who assumes the human form and who will yet shepherd Israel. Thus there can be no controversy concerning the fact that the Shepherd of verse 23, “even David,” is none other than Jehovah who becomes the Shepherd to regather the scattered nation. According to verse 24 God again asserts that He will be “their God,” the God of Israel, and that His “servant David” shall be “prince among them.” This “servant of Jehovah” who is called David here is likewise to be the “prince” and the “shepherd.”
Does the word “David” here refer to King David, the head of the dynasty which bore his name, which reigned in Jerusalem during the Monarchial Period? My answer is a most emphatic no! David was simply a human being. This Shepherd is God, who assumes the form of man. Yet He is called David. But we who are acquainted with the language of Scripture should not be surprised at such a usage, when we remember such passages as I Kings 12:16. From the context of this verse it is clear that Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, is here called David. He literally was David's grandson, yet he is called by the name of his illustrious grandparent. Why was this? Because he was a descendant of the great king and was seated upon the throne of David. From this we can see that a descendant of David could be and was called by the name of the illustrious king who was the founder of the dynasty. Since “the shepherd,” “the prince,” “my servant David,” of Ezekiel 34:23,24 is clearly Jehovah the Son in human form, and since He is called David, it is obvious that the word David is used in the secondary sense as seen in I Kings 12:16.
In the light of all these facts, then, we conclude that the “prince,” even “my servant David,” of Ezekiel, chapters 34 and 37, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah and King of Israel, and the Saviour of the world. But the prince of whom we read in Ezekiel 45:7 and 46:16-18 is another prince, who of course will occupy a subordinate position in relation to King Messiah. He will be some man, a Jewish prince, who will be living at the time of our Lord's return. Since no definite clues are given as to his identity, we shall have to be satisfied in our ignorance on this point and await the coming day when it will become clear to all.
The Glory of the Lord
To all Bible students it is quite evident that both the Tabernacle and the Temple were patterns of the spiritual temple of God in the heavens of the heavens. In other words, the Tabernacle and the Temple were simply replicas, or models, of the temple of God in heaven, of which we read in such passages as Psalm 29 and Revelation 11:19. Each of these structures consisted of a holy place and of a most holy place. Of course all Bible students know that the Tabernacle was the temporary model of the eternal heavenly realities and was superseded by the Temple which Solomon constructed in Jerusalem as the permanent model of the same.
Since God dwells in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, it was natural that this fact should be represented in the earthly model. Hence, when the Tabernacle was set up, as we learn in Exodus, chapter 40, the glory of the Lord filled the place (Exodus 40:34). Then this glory assumed the form of what is known as the Shekinah, which abode above the mercy seat, the covering of the ark of the covenant. When Solomon built the Temple, and it was dedicated by the proper ceremonies, the glory of the Lord also filled this earthly sanctuary — as we see in II Chronicles 7:2 and parallel passages. This glory again assumed the form of the Shekinah, the symbol of God's presence, and abode above the mercy seat and dwelt there in the midst of Israel, the people of Jehovah.
When, however, the nation had apostatized from God to such an extent that He could no longer abide in the midst of a sinful and gainsaying people, this Shekinah of glory arose from its place above the mercy seat, reluctantly — as it were — arose and hovered over the threshold of the sacred structure, then departed to the eastern gate, and finally left the sacred enclosure for the Mount of Olives — on the east of Jerusalem. At last it departed, vanishing into oblivion. This was foreshadowed by the prophet, (chapter 9). Ezekiel, being given the vision of the Jerusalem of the Millennial Age and the restoration of the temple, naturally spoke of the glory of God and of its filling the house of Jehovah (44:4). When the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, enters that sacred structure officially, as we have already seen He will do, then that house of prayer for all the nations will be filled with the glory of God as foretold by Ezekiel.
Renewal of the Animal Sacrifices
In Eden animal sacrifices were first inaugurated. During the Patriarchal Age they were observed by the command and the instruction of God. When He gave the law to Israel through Moses, He incorporated these animal sacrifices in His revelation and in the requirements for Israel. They were all typical of the one supreme sacrifice of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
When our Lord came and offered Himself as the all-sufficient atonement for mankind, the animal sacrifices, which were simply typical, were abolished:
And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; 14 having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross ...” (Colossians 2:13,14)
Thus those animal sacrifices served their purpose in typifying the all-sufficient atonement of our Lord. When He made His sacrifice, there was therefore no further need — so far as the present Christian Age is concerned — for any further sacrifices.
But according to Ezekiel's prophecy, when this temple of Jehovah is built in Jerusalem and becomes a house of prayer for all the nations, there will be offerings and sacrifices made daily. The question immediately arises, For what purpose will they serve? At first it may seem strange to us that they should again be brought into service — especially since they have been discontinued for two thousand years.
In approaching this problem, let us remember this one fact: That when the sacrifices were discontinued, our Lord instituted what is called the Supper, which is a memorial observance to celebrate His laying down His life for us and shedding His blood for the remission of our sins. Believers are urged to observe this constantly “till he come.” By observing this ceremony, we are reminded of the fact that our Lord purchased redemption for us. It is most essential that we remember that fact and keep His atonement ever before our eyes — for we are too prone to forget.
When our Lord returns in glory, lifts the curse, and establishes a reign of righteousness and peace upon the earth, ideal conditions will exist. People will not know from experience the ravages and wreckage that have been caused by sin. They naturally will take for granted that such an ideal world is their rightful inheritance. It will be rather hard for them to recognize the necessity of Calvary, of the Lamb of God, and of the sacrifice which He made for them. By the Lord's re-inaugurating those bloody, animal sacrifices, there will be constantly kept before the people of the world, who will go up to Jerusalem from year to year to worship Jehovah, the thought that their redemption was very costly and precious. I can therefore see why it is that the Lord will re-inaugurate those sacrifices to keep ever before the people of that era the price of their redemption.
The Various Festivals
In Ezekiel's foretelling the reconstruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and the worship and service that will be rendered in that house of prayer for all of the nations, it was natural that he should speak of certain festivals. Thus he tells us that the new moon will be observed, that is, the first day of every month will have a service and ceremony that will give it special significance, bringing before the peoples of earth the great fundamental truths of God's being the beginning or source of all things. The people will need to realize that it is in God that they live, and move, and have their continual being.
The weekly sabbath likewise will be strictly observed. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth — perfect. But sin marred this marvelous handiwork of the Lord. When this catastrophe struck the earth, in six days God repaired the damage done and completed His task of reconstruction on the seventh day. Then He rested on that day. He therefore gave the command to primitive man that he should work six days and rest on the sabbath. This sabbath regulation was incorporated into the Mosaic legal system. In fact, the sabbatic system was worked out in its various ramifications in the legislation of Moses. In the future, when Israel is thus restored, and our Lord is on the throne, the sabbath will be observed. That is seen not only in Ezekiel's prophecy, but in Isaiah, chapter 66:22-24.
The passover supper will again be observed. On the last night of our Lord's earthly pilgrimage before He was arrested, He observed the passover supper as we see in the records of the Four Gospels. Luke, however, is very explicit in giving us the events that occurred on that occasion. In Luke 22:14-18 we have a record of His observing with His disciples the passover supper. When He did that, He said to them that He would never more partake of passover until He should do it anew in the kingdom of God — in the time when the kingdom of God is established on the earth, and the will of God is done on earth as it is done in heaven. Then in Luke 22:19,20, we find a record of the institution of the Lord's Supper after the passover was observed. From this scripture therefore we learn that the passover will be observed in the great Millennial Age.
Ezekiel likewise informs us that the passover will be observed in this future time. Doubtless this feast will be observed in order to emphasize the necessity of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in order to impress upon the people born in the Millennium the tremendous cost of their redemption. People will have to be saved in the same way during the Millennium as now — by the grace of God through faith.
From Zechariah 14:16 we learn that the feast of tabernacles, the occasion of the ingatherings and great joy in Israel, will likewise be observed. Not only will it be kept by Israel as a people, but also by the nations of the world. For we are told by Zechariah that, if there should be any nation that refuses to go up to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah of hosts, the great King, God, will withhold the rain from that country and thus deprive it of the physical blessing upon which the nation will have to depend. Thus we see that certain feasts, or festivals, will be observed during the Millennium.
But nothing is said concerning the observance or ritualism of the Day of Atonement. There are various speculations that have been put forth, explaining why nothing is said about it. We know from the 16th chapter of Leviticus that the ritualism of the Day of Atonement was primarily to set forth the time when Israel will accept the full atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, her Redeemer and Messiah. Since Israel will have at this time — the time here foreseen in the prophecy — repudiated the national sin and accepted unqualifiedly the atonement of the Messiah, there will be no necessity for setting that truth before the nations. This may be the true explanation why the ritualism of Yom Kippur will not be observed then. But there may be other fundamental reasons of which we have no knowledge, and concerning which we cannot afford to speculate.
According to the prophetic word, there are great and marvelous times and seasons awaiting the world. The troubles of the present time will never cease until King Messiah is invited back by repentant Israel. When she acknowledges the guilt of her national sin, repudiates it, and pleads with Him to return, He will do so and stop all wars. Never again, then, shall nation lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But peace and joy will reign supremely throughout the earth for one thousand years, during which our Lord will reign in righteousness and in justice. May that day speedily come, is our earnest, sincere prayer!
Lamb of God! thou soon in glory
Wilt to this sad earth return;
All thy foes shall quake before thee,
All that now despise thee mourn:
Then thy saints too shall attend thee,
With thee in thy kingdom reign;
Thine the praise, and thine the glory,
Lamb of God, for sinners slain!”