In Ezekiel 40-48, God gives the prophet a vision of the future. This vision takes place in the 25th year of exile, 14 years after the fall of Jerusalem (which was 586 BC), so this would have been 572 BC. Today I read chapters 40-43, which includes minute details of the physical structure of a new temple which is to be built in Jerusalem.
There are several views on how these scriptures are to be interpreted. Is this a pattern for the people to follow when they are returned to the land after the 70 years of captivity are complete? If so, they did not follow it, for that temple turns out to be much smaller and less grand than the one Ezekiel describes. One supporting scripture for this view is 43:10-11, where God says, “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider its perfection, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple—its arrangement, its exits and entrances—the whole design and all its regulation and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations.” We will learn later that only a small remnant of Israel was willing to return to the land with Ezra and Nehemiah, so perhaps the people were not ashamed of their sins, and so the temple Ezekiel describes never comes to exist – only a smaller, less beautiful replacement.
Some people believe this describes the temple which Israel wants to rebuild today, the 3rd temple. We know that Israel will be allowed to reinstitute the sacrificial system during the Tribulation, but the antichrist will put a stop to it after 3 ½ years and break his covenant and defile the temple by setting himself up as “god.” Others believe this will be a “Millennial” temple and God will allow sacrifices for the Jews who will enter the Millennium still in their unredeemed bodies, as well as the children who will be born. We know that Jesus’ death on the cross did away for the need for daily sacrifices, but some believe sacrifices will be offered in remembrance of His death, pointing back, just as the Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to what was to come.
I honestly don’t know. Today’s read was all about physical measurements and layout, but something special happens in 43:1-5. Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord coming. His voice is “like the roar of rushing waters.” The land was “radiant with His glory;” this glory entered the temple and filled it, and God declares, “This is where I will live among the Israelites forever.” Just after this, we read the “if” passage, that they must be ashamed of their sins if the temple is to be rebuilt.
That’s the takeaway for me. As a New Testament believer, God’s glory rests in us and on us through His indwelling Spirit. We are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:10-17). Paul reminds us of this in context of a lesson about the “works” of our lives being judged; if they are wood, hay or straw (things done in our own flesh), they will be burned up, but if they are gold, silver or precious stones (things done in the Spirit, by the power of the Spirit and according to the will of God), they will remain and we will be rewarded. Perhaps Ezekiel’s vision is a lesson of possibilities. If we turn away from sin and surrender our lives completely to God, He can make something amazing and beautiful out of them, a life in which His glory can dwell and be seen. But if we refuse, focusing more on this world, playing religion and dabbling in the sin our flesh craves, we will end up with a poor imitation of what could have been.
Which temple will you be? My prayer for myself and you is that we will surrender fully so that God can be seen in all His beauty, radiant throughout the land, and that our hearts will be a place where His glory truly dwells.