The Prophet of Captivity

Posted: July 30, 2015 in Ezekiel, Route 66

Route 66: Ezekiel, “The Prophet of Captivity”

“Don’t make me do it!”  Every parent has said that to his/her child at some point.  The child has thrown a fit, and despite repeated attempts at discipline, things keep escalating.  Warnings are given, but eventually a line is crossed & the final punishment comes.  Have you ever stopped to think that God has had to do the same thing?  Here we are, continuing in our sin, even arguing with God over whether or not it IS sin.  God gives His warnings, and even some initial consequences – but we come to a point where He has to bring His foot down.  He surely didn’t want to discipline us in that way, but we forced His hand.

It surely is no surprise that God had to do the same thing with the Jews.  God repeatedly sent prophets to His people, calling them to repentance.  He demonstrated what would happen to the Jews, by first showing them the example of how the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel.  Finally, things escalated to a point that God had to bring the Babylonians to the southern kingdom of Judah – but even this captivity didn’t take place overnight.  There were several waves of captivity, with each time God giving His people the opportunity to humble themselves and repent.  It was as if He was saying, “Don’t make Me do this!” and yet they forced His hand.

Most of the Old Testament prophets deal with this in some form or fashion, so some of the things that we see in Ezekiel (and other prophets) will not be new.  But what is unique to Ezekiel (as opposed to Isaiah or Jeremiah thus far) is that the bulk of Ezekiel’s prophecies of judgment take place in the middle of the judgment being poured out.  They run concurrently.  In other words, while God is in the middle of disciplining His people, He is still appealing with them to repent, trying to help them avoid even worse consequences yet to come.  Ezekiel prophesies after at least one wave of captivity has taken place, but before the final siege of Jerusalem had come.  He seems to be a prophet of the captivity himself, appealing to the people to repent before things get immeasurably worse.

Sadly the Jews were like the rest of us: stubborn.  They were more willing to go down with the ship than believe that God would actually allow the destruction of His beloved city.  They were wrong.  God is willing to do whatever it takes for His name to be glorified and His word to be honored.  God had made certain promises (of both judgment AND mercy), and He was going to keep them.

Although we’ve been speaking of judgment, keep in mind that there is much more to Ezekiel than only the judgment of God.  Quite a large portion of Ezekiel’s prophecies spoke of the hope God held out for Israel in the future – and considering that those prophecies were given after the final fall of Jerusalem, those would have been comforting words indeed!  God was upset with His people – God knew the flagrant sin of His people – God would discipline His people – but God was by no means done with His people.  He had (and has) a plan for them, and that plan brings God as much glory to Himself as does His judgment.  He will restore His people, and they will one day live in the kingdom as it was always meant to be.

SIGNIFICANCE
In the meantime, what do the prophecies of Ezekiel say to the New Testament Christian today?  Many things! 
(1) They speak to the faithfulness of God.  When God says He’s going to do something, He’s going to do it.  His word can be trusted in every way, including the areas that we might hope God would change His mind.  We serve the unchangeable God, and that ought to give us a lot of hope in an ever-changing and unstable world. 

(2) Ezekiel speaks to the mercy of God.  A constant theme throughout the book is that one day people would know He is the Lord.  When God acted in judgment, the Jews would know He is God.  When God acted against the Gentiles, they too would know He is God.  (In a sense, the judgment of God is evangelistic!)  God openly desired that people would know Him, and repent.  It is in Ezekiel that God so famously says that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that He would far prefer the wicked would repent and live (33:11).  God will judge, but His desire is to save.  He is a wonderfully merciful & loving God!

(3) Ezekiel teaches of the future days, something that is of interest to both Jew and Gentile believer in Christ.  Although some of the details are a bit difficult to work out in light of the teaching we’ve received in the New Testament, the book of Ezekiel makes it absolutely clear that there is a literal Kingdom of Israel yet to take place in the future.  There is a glorious new temple, and it is one in which the glory of God will dwell with His people.  In fact, many of the prophecies in Revelation find their origin in the book of Ezekiel.  Anyone interested in Bible prophecy has much to learn in these pages!

BACKGROUND: Author, Date, Title
The prophet himself was both prophet and priest, though it seems unlikely that Ezekiel ever personally served in the Jerusalem temple.  The first several verses provide the background: Ezekiel 1:1–3, "(1) Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (2) On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, (3) the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there."

Ezekiel is extraordinarily specific as to the date of his prophecies and the overall context.  He opens the book (by some accounts) on July 31, 593 BC (almost 2608 years ago to the day!), which places him in the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity. Recall that Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he rose to the throne (replacing his father Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar removed after his alliance with Egypt against Babylon).  Jehoiachin only reigned 3 months before Nebuchadnezzar first invaded and conquered Jerusalem, carrying off thousands of people (including the young king) in captivity.  Nebuchadnezzar left Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah as king, who later had many confrontations with the prophet Jeremiah before the final fall of Jerusalem.  So when Ezekiel opens his book, the final Jerusalem siege is but 7 years away…7 years God called out to His people, giving them the opportunity to repent.

 The “30th year” seems to be a reference to Ezekiel’s own 30th year of life, which according to Hebrew custom would have been the year that a young priest began his ministry, and continued it up until his 50th year (Num 4:3,23,30) – which interestingly enough is close to the last date provided by Ezekiel.  His prophecy was his priestly ministry unto the Lord, even if he never stepped foot in the temple. 

Ezekiel was plainly among those originally taken captive, as he says that he wrote from the “River Chebar,” which was a long way away!  While Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem preaching to the people about to experience the siege of Babylon, Ezekiel was among the captives preaching the word of God to them about the same thing.  They were not to look back to Jerusalem and wonder if things might miraculously turn around; the captivity they experienced was the due discipline of God.  Their job now was to get their own eyes back onto the Lord, and trust Him; not to put their hope in vain rescues.

In any case, Ezekiel was among the captives.  Much of what he writes will apply directly back to the Jews still in the city, even though he was not there.  God is not bound by location, and that becomes perfectly clear throughout the book.  Interestingly enough, for all of the overlap there seems to have been between Jeremiah & Ezekiel, there’s no mention of either prophet among the other.  Whether or not they knew one another is a matter of speculation.  That makes the parallels between their prophecies even more astounding.  God did not say one message through one prophet, and something else through another.  There was a confirmed witness of the judgment of God, as His word did not change. (It still doesn’t!)

GENERAL OUTLINE
As we’ve seen with the other major prophets thus far, Ezekiel contains a bit of biographical information about himself & his calling, launches into oracles of judgment against Israel & the Gentile nations, and also looks forward in hope.  Ezekiel seems to have the clearest divisions of the prophets thus far:

  • The Prophet’s Calling (1-3)
  • God’s Judgment of Israel (4-24).  Although the name “Israel” typically refers to the northern kingdom, Ezekiel almost always refers to the people of the south as Israel.  There are likely two reasons: (1) The northern kingdom had long ago become known as Samaria & the people there were effectively gone, with only the Jews left of the covenant people of God. (2) When Ezekiel writes of the restoration of the nation, he doesn’t just write of the two tribes of Judah & Benjamin, but the entire 12 tribes of Israel.
  • God’s Judgment of the Gentiles (25-32)
  • God’s Words of Hope (33-48). There seems to be a clear chronological break between this section & the previous one, as all of the other prophecies were given prior to Jerusalem’s fall in 586BC, whereas Ch 33 picks up post-fall & looks forward into the future.

TEXT
The Prophet’s Calling (1-3)
A Heavenly Vision (1)
After Ezekiel provides his requisite background, he describes a vision that is almost beyond description.  He sees four glorious creatures coming to him, very much like what the apostle John describes when he receives his vision of the cherubim surrounding the throne of God.  Ezekiel does his best to write of it, but even under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, human words fail to truly paint the picture.  The whole idea is that Ezekiel was blown away as he witnessed the glory of God & the creatures surrounding His throne.

  • We can only imagine what it was Ezekiel felt when he saw it!  Or Isaiah with his vision, or John with his…each of them were astounded to their core.  That sort of amazement and astonishment is what God desires from us in our worship.  Beware of just getting into the “same-old, same-old” routine in worship.  Be utterly amazed at the glorious God who called you and saved you!

A Heavenly Commission (2-3)
Calling Ezekiel the “son of man,” (a favorite title of God for the prophet, but totally different than the reference to Jesus), God specifically sent the prophet to Israel.  This would have seemed curious considering the part of Israel that Ezekiel saw was no longer in the land, but they were the ones that needed to hear the word of God the most!  Ezekiel was given a tough message, to tell the Jews how they had sinned against God – but it was a message that needed to be said.  Ezekiel was not to be fearful, but to be faithful.  Whether or not they listened was on their head, but Ezekiel was to be steadfast in proclaiming God’s word to them.

Driving home the point, God told Ezekiel that he was to be a watchman for Israel (3:16).  Just like a guard who was entrusted with the responsibility of sounding the alarm when danger arose, so was Ezekiel entrusted with the same in regards to God’s word.  He bore the responsibility of sharing the news.  If Ezekiel remained silent & people died in their sin, then Ezekiel was to blame.  However, if he spoke up & people still disobeyed, then the fault was theirs.

  • In a sense, ALL the church today bears a similar responsibility in our world.  We are the watchmen entrusted with the word of God. After all, we have been specifically commissioned to be Jesus’ witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8).  If we don’t bear witness, whose fault is it when people continue in sin?  Theirs AND ours.  We have to be willing to speak the truth.  When we don’t, people die.  It’s that serious.

God’s Judgment of Israel (4-24)
The Siege: pictured, proclaimed, prophesied (4-7).  Although many of the OT prophets had some unique aspects to their ministry, Ezekiel got especially involved. Many times, he physically acted out the word of God, and that’s seen here.

  • Acting out the famine (4).  Ezekiel was told to build a model of Jerusalem, and lie on his left & right side, one day for each year of their sin (390 days total).  In the meantime, he was to feed himself with a special bread baked over a campfire made of human excrement, symbolizing Israel’s defilement.  Upon Ezekiel’s horror, God allowed him to build the campfire out of cow dung, but it still got the point across.
  • Acting out the siege (5).  Next, Ezekiel was told to shave his head, using his hair follicles to symbolize the people being judged.  1/3 would be burned with fire, 1/3 would be cut with the sword, and 1/3 would be scattered to the wind.  Only a small handful would be tucked away for safekeeping.  God always keeps a remnant of His people.  He always has mercy!
  • Straightforward proclamation (6).  In case the symbolism didn’t get the point across, God gives a plain word through Ezekiel, saying how He would being a sword against His own people, leaving them desolate (6:4).  Again, there would be a remnant, but most of the people would be judged and destroyed.  Why? “Then they shall know that I am the LORD,” (6:14).  This phrase (or those like it) occur over 60x in the book of Ezekiel, as a major them.  Why does God judge?  So that people would know God as God.
    • We are invited to know Him know in grace.  Why wait to know Him in judgment?
  • Prophecy in verse (7).  The basic idea is the same as before, but the method of presentation is different.  God will use whatever it takes to get the point across.  A disaster was coming, and no one but a remnant would be spared.  It was time to repent!

Judgment at the Temple (8-10).  As a priest, Ezekiel would have had a heart for the sanctity of the temple, yet some of Judah’s most overt sins took place there due to the idolatry of the kings.  God knew it all, and judged it.

  • Abominations exposed (8).  Ezekiel receives a vision of all kinds of unclean animals and creeping things living inside the Jerusalem Temple, symbolizing all of the idolatrous worship taking place there.  The false priests may have thought their sin was hidden, but it was well-known by God.  The Jews had provoked God to anger (8:17), and He would unleash it.
  • God commands slaughter of the unsealed (9).  In a scene reminiscent of the Book of Revelation, God commands a mark to be put on the foreheads of all those who remained loyal to Him in worship.  All the rest were to be slain in judgment.  God did not pity those who were unrepentant, and they faced His utter wrath.
  • God’s glory departs the temple (10).  The cherubim that Ezekiel witnessed earlier at his initial calling are seen again, representing the glory of God.  This time, the creatures were seen over the temple, flying away from it, showing that God’s glory had departed.  Generations earlier, the Israelites cried out “Ichabod!” when the ark of the covenant fell into the hands of the Philistines, thinking that the glory of God had departed.  This time, it happened for real.  God’s presence had left God’s people, and they had no avenue through which to worship Him.
    • How utterly tragic!  This is truly a low point in the history of Israel!  Thankfully, this does not take place with us.  We are the ones indwelt by the glorious Spirit of God, and the ones sealed by Him for all eternity.  We have assurance in the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is not work that we ought to take for granted.  Treasure it – be thankful!

Wickedness exposed & punished (11-14)

  • False counselors condemned (11).  Although prophets like Jeremiah had repeatedly counseled the people to submit to the hand of God by submitting to the Babylonians, there were other influential leaders who said the opposite.  God knew these wicked counselors and condemned them, casting blame upon them for the multitudes that would be slain.
    • Yet in the midst of this is a note of hope.  Even with all of the condemnation that would come in the present, God looked forward to a future better time. Ezekiel 11:19–20, "(19) Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, (20) that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God."  Amen!  Revival would come, but it would come after their discipline and repentance.
  • The sign of captivity: burdens (12).  Ezekiel was given another word to act out.  This time, he was to walk among the people, weighed down with all his belongings on his back as a burden.  This symbolized the burdensome captivity the remainder of Jerusalem would endure.  Why?  Again: “Then they shall know that I am the LORD.” (12:16)
  • Woe to false prophets (13).  Not only were the wicked politicians and counselors judged, but so were the false religious leaders and prophets.  God knew the prophets that served Him & the ones who spoke falsely in His name…and God took it seriously!  They would be held to account for the lies they told, and they too would know the Lord as God. (13:23)
    • All those who speak in God’s name will be held to a stricter judgment.  It ought to be a sobering thought to proclaim the word of God!
  • Idolatry & unfaithfulness condemned (14).  Finally, all of the laypeople are condemned for their own sin against God.  God called them to turn from their idolatry, and to be faithful to His commands.  Sadly, there was none who was faithful.  If there had been even three (Noah, Daniel, and Job are listed as examples – 14:14), God would have turned from His wrath.  But there were none.  When it came to faithfulness unto God, there was a drought among the Lord’s people.  God was just in His judgment – it was not without cause. (14:23)

Parables of Judgment (15-17).  God gave Ezekiel all kinds of pictures of Israel’s unfaithfulness & the judgment to follow.  There are actually two general compilations of them in Ezekiel, the first found here.

  • A useless vine (15).  Just like a grapevine is useless for either construction or firewood, so did Jerusalem prove itself worthless.  They would be consumed by the fire of judgment for their unfaithfulness.
  • A harlot (16).  God pictured Jerusalem as a cast-off who had been pitied and cleansed by God, only to return to harlotry.  She gave herself to wicked men in idolatry, and she would be abused by wicked men in return.
  • Eagle of Babylon & Vine of Jerusalem (17).  An eagle is pictured taking a cedar branch that turned into a lowly vine, and another eagle taking a vine that became something majestic.  The parallel was made between Babylon & the king of Jerusalem that was humbled in captivity.  Yet one day Israel will once again be exalted.

Dealing with Rebellion (18-22)

  • Punishing the wicked; not the innocent (18).  Here, God gives an apologetic against charges that His judgment might be unjust.  Although previous generations were guilty of idolatry, so was the current generation.  God does not cast judgment upon sons for the sins of their fathers.  There may be consequences from previous sins that last for generations, but God does not target children for their parents’ wickedness.  In fact, this itself was Israel’s invitation to repent and find the mercy of God!  Ezekiel 18:31–32, "(31) Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? (32) For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!”"
    • As long as we draw breath, we have a similar opportunity.  Take it!
  • Lamentation for the kings (19).  Three times Ch 19 is called a “lamentation,” demonstrating God’s grief over the sins of Judah’s kings (princes).  They had been given every opportunity, and they cast it aside.
  • List of rebellions (20). Ezekiel gives another firm date for the prophecy (August 14, 591 BC) and proceeds to list out the various abominations of Israel.  They had repeatedly violated the covenant of God, and this serves almost as a legal deposition against them.  Yet even here, God gives Ezekiel a reminder that He will one day restore the nation, and bring them back into the promised land (20:38).
  • Babylon as God’s sword (21).  Although Babylon would run over the entire ancient near-eastern world, their rise to power wasn’t due to random politics – it was by the will of God.  They are shown as God’s chosen instrument of wrath, and used as God saw fit.
  • List of rebellions, con’t (22).  How numerous were the sins of Israel?  It required more than one prophecy to list them!  Their sins had reached a point where God’s judgment was absolutely required.  He had to purge the dross out of His people, and it would take a severe fire to do so (22:18).

More Parables of Judgment (23-24)

  • The harlot sisters (23).  This is one of the more graphic parables found in the entire Scripture.  The sin of Judah and Samaria are explicitly pictured as sexual fornication of the most perverse sort.  God’s holy nation had become wholly defiled as they profaned themselves, and God promised to deal with them accordingly.
    • We tend to lose sight of how awful sin actually is.  How does God view idolatry?  As spiritual prostitution.  When we give our worship to other things, it’s as if we’re sleeping around on God.  Horrible!  It’s not just a “mere indiscretion,” it’s as if we break a marriage vow.  God keep us mindful & lead us far from temptation!
  • The cooking pot & spousal death (24).  A pot is filled with good meat, that later turns to scum, serving as another picture of the sinfulness of Judah.  What was good became awful.  Ch. 24 also includes a profoundly personal lesson for Ezekiel as his wife dies, and he is forbidden to mourn for her (24:16).  This was to be a sign of what would happen to the people.  They would have everything taken from them, but not be given a chance to mourn it in Babylon. 
    • The reason?  Once more: “…and they shall know that I am the LORD.” (24:27)  Judgment is a powerful witness to the reality of God.

God’s Judgment of the Gentiles (25-32)
As with several of the other prophets, Ezekiel shows God’s sovereignty not only over Israel but all of the nations of the world.  In this case, this section also serves as a transitionary passage to the future hope God holds out for His people.

Against Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia (25)
Quick judgments are spoken against each of these neighbors of Israel.  They had boasted against Israel when it fell, and God turned Israel’s judgment back upon them.  Babylon did not restrain itself to conquering only one nation; the entire near east felt its military might.

Tyre (26-28)
Tyre receives a surprisingly long section of proclaimed judgment.  What seemed to be a minor nation was actually the port of a lot of trade.  Tyre may not have had much military might, but they had much economic power.  Yet even they would not be able to withstand the onslaught of Babylon.  They wouldn’t be able to buy their way out of the judgment of God.  Songs of lamentation are raised for Tyre, and its beauty is counted as lost.  There are a couple of interesting points:

  • Woe to the King of Tyre (28:1-19).  Many scholars see a parallel between Satan and the historical person listed as the King of Tyre.  No doubt the historical king was extremely proud, seeing himself as undefeatable – yet God would bring him down in judgment.  Yet the wording seems to apply to a far greater enemy of Israel: Satan, the devil.  Like the king of Tyre, Satan lifted up his heart and tried to take the place of God, only to be cast down from heaven in judgment.  (It’s happened before in history, and it will happen again!)
  • Hope for Israel (28:25-26). In the midst of all of the judgment against Tyre, a word of hope is spoken in regards to Israel.  God promises to regather them, and to make them dwell securely.  This is a hint of the prophecies yet to come in the next section.

Egypt (29-32)
Just as Tyre thought it could resist Babylon economically, so did Egypt believe it could resist Babylon militarily.  Several chapters are devoted to Egypt’s own fall, and like Israel one day even the Egyptians would know that the Lord is God (29:16,21, 30:19,26, 32:15).  For now, they were consigned to destruction, along with the other nations of the earth (32:17-32).

God’s Words of Hope (33-48)
Renewed Calling & Fall of Jerusalem (33)
Ezekiel’s commission as a watchman is reprised – a reminder to him to be faithful to pass along everything that God spoke to him.  He was to hold nothing back, in hopes that the people would repent.  Once more, God explicitly states that as His desire.  Ezekiel 33:11, "(11) Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’"

  • Will God judge?  Yes.  Is that His desire?  No.  That’s still true today.  God’s stated desire in the New Testament is that all men would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).  He is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).  THAT is God’s heart.  He will most definitely judge when necessary, and His judgment is just.  But His mercy is great, and He repeatedly reaches out to all the world!

Ezekiel does briefly recount the fall of Jerusalem.  No great detail is given, as it was in Jeremiah – but this makes sense considering Ezekiel wasn’t there to witness it.  God had warned for years of the coming fall, but God didn’t give Ezekiel a vision when it happened.  The prophet found out like everyone else did: as news came from those who escaped.

Bad vs. Good Shepherds (34)
One of the reasons Jerusalem fell into judgment was because of the horrible counsel they received.  God knew the sins of the shepherds (the religious teachers), and gave a promise of judgment for them.  Yet God truly cared for His people, and He promised Himself to be their shepherd, even speaking of the Good Shepherd yet to come (Jesus).  Ezekiel 34:23–24, "(23) I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. (24) And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken." And what would they know at that time?  “They shall know that I am the LORD.” (34:27)  God would make Himself known in times of judgment AND mercy!

Judgment against Edom (35)
This particular prophecy seems to be a little out of place considering the context, but was likely included here simply because it came in the same timeframe as the surrounding prophecies.  God specifically spoke out against Mt. Seir in Edom, a neighboring country of Israel.  Just as Israel was made desolate, so would be Edom.

Israel Revived (36-37)
This is where things truly become hopeful for the nation of Israel.  Not only would they see God give vengeance to their enemies, but they would see their own nation restored & the kingdom become the thing that God had always intended it to be.

  • Promise to restore (36).  The land was desolate now, but it would become fruitful again.  God would restore the nation for His own name’s sake (36:22), as a witness to the nations.  God promised to bring them back into their own land, to cleanse them, and to give them a new heart towards Him again.
  • Dry bones live (37).  All of this renewal is pictured as a valley of dry bones coming to life.  In the middle of a gruesome decayed battlefield came life.  Bones were once again covered with flesh & sinew as the nation was pictured rising from the grave.  This itself was to be a sign to Israel that the Lord had done it.
    • There ought to be little doubt that this revival began in 1948 with the restored nation of Israel.  That was an act of miraculous proportions!  Although the full heart of the nation has not yet been restored to God (in that they still reject Jesus as Messiah), the process has begun.  All of this is according to prophecy, and it is exciting to live in the days that it is fulfilled!

Israel Attacked & Protected (38-39)
Along with the restored nation comes a prophecy of a future war.  A prince/city known as Gog from the land of Magog is pictured along with many allies coming against Israel, having been drawn out by the Lord to do so.  Israel at the time will be dwelling safely (38:11), and Gog will believe this to be an easy battle…they are mistaken!  God will judge Gog as He personally defends Israel through supernatural earthquakes and other events.  As the armies of Gog & Magog are destroyed, it will be a powerful testimony to all the earth that the Lord is God.  It may even be the very event that brings Israel to a true & lasting knowledge of God (39:7).

  • When will it all take place?  That’s a matter of considerable debate.  It seems to be rather certain that the war of Gog & Magog as described in Revelation is a different event entirely.  The apostle John certainly uses the imagery from Ezekiel to describe the war (Rev 20:7-10), but that battle takes place at the tail end of the Millennial Kingdom after Jesus’ 2nd Coming.  The war described by Ezekiel takes place much earlier – perhaps even prior to the Great Tribulation (or at least as part of it).

Renewed Kingdom & Temple (40-48)
In the closing section of Ezekiel, God gives the prophet a mysterious, but highly detailed vision of the future Millennial Kingdom.  Some of the theology is not easily categorized, but there can be little doubt that Ezekiel is writing of literal things.  There simply is too much detail to simply “spiritualize” away.

  • Temple described (40-42).  This is a massive temple – far bigger than any seen in Israel’s history.  Gateways, courtyards, and priestly chambers are described with incredible detail as to the physical dimensions.  These chapters could easily serve as a blueprint for construction.
  • Temple consecrated (43).  One of Ezekiel’s earlier visions was that of the glory of God departing from the temple.  Along with the restoration of the nation to the land is the restoration of their relationship with God.  His glory will once again return to the temple, and that is where God will dwell.
  • The people, priests, and Prince (44-45).  The formerly unfaithful people are commanded to be now faithful, in order that they might worship God.  The priests who were unfaithful shepherds are forbidden from coming near, but there were others pictured as holy, of the line of Zadok (44:15 – the priest who remained faithful to David during Absalom’s rebellion).  A prince is also mentioned, perhaps a reference to a Davidic king (David himself?) who serves as a governor of Jerusalem.
  • Worship & offerings (46).  Even worship and sacrificial offerings are shown in the temple.  How this takes place during the Millennial kingdom is highly debated.  One suggestion is that the sacrifices are done in memorial worship, not unlike Communion today.
  • The land (47-48). Even the land is restored back to full fruitfulness, and the children of Israel finally inherit everything they should have received all along.  The borders are huge – encompassing far more than they have ever had in the past.

Conclusion:
The book of Ezekiel may be filled with prophecies of judgment, but it ends with prophecies of hope & restoration.  God knew the sins of His people, and although He repeatedly called them to repentance, they forced His hand.  Yet that didn’t mean God was through with them.  They had been taken off into captivity, but God had a message for them even IN their captivity.  They were to know that the Lord is God, and He was still in control.

That hasn’t changed, has it?  We are in difficult times in our own culture (and perhaps in our own individual lives), but the Lord God is God, and He is still in control.  Whatever it is that we face, may we face them and know that Jesus Christ is the Lord our God!

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