Touring the Temple

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 40-42, “Touring the Temple”

Everyone loves a good building project! One of the most exciting times is getting the chance to explore the building before it officially opens, checking out every nook & cranny.  That’s the opportunity Ezekiel receives regarding a new temple, as his book of prophecy starts to come to a close.  Recall that Ezekiel had been among the Jewish captives in Babylon when he first started receiving prophetic visions from the Lord.  First he witnessed the glory of God, and was called to ministry – then he saw how the glory of God departed from the then-Jerusalem temple (originally built by Solomon) all due to the sin of the people.  Jerusalem was destroyed, and God gave Ezekiel a long series of signs and sermons detailing the reality of their sin & the righteous judgment of God that had come upon them.  After that point, Ezekiel’s attention was briefly turned to the other nations surrounding Israel, for God was not blind to their sins, and had declared their judgment as well.  Finally, God began to give Ezekiel a look at the future.  His people would eventually be restored to the land of promise, and despite future attacks, would be miraculously protected by God Himself.  The Jewish people would know God in a new way, and His Spirit would be poured out upon them introducing a new age.

What will this age be?  Most likely, it is the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus.  Today, we live in the age of the Church, which will come to an end the day Jesus calls us to heaven in the resurrection of the saints & rapture of the living believers.  That will start the 7 years known as the Great Tribulation (described in detail in the book of Revelation), and those years will end with Jesus’ glorious return.  With His return is the Millennial Kingdom, to be populated on earth by those who survive the Great Tribulation…including the Jews.  It is this period of time that God shows Ezekiel through these visions that conclude his book of prophecy.

As might be expected, some sections of our Old Testament are arguably more Jewish-focused than others.  (It is the Hebrew Bible, after all!)  This is one of those sections.  Starting from Ch. 40 through the end of the book, the prophet Ezekiel is given a vision of a new Jewish temple, used by Jews, performing very Jewish rituals.  If this is indeed a literal temple yet to be built and used during the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus (which seems likely), then this is a place where we as New Testament Christians (born-again saints of the Church age) will not be.  Perhaps we will see it from time to time, but it won’t be the place we’re residing, nor will it have the rituals in which we participate.  This is a Jewish place for Jewish people – at least, those Jews who have come to faith in the Living God as revealed through Jesus the Messiah.

So it begs the question: why do we need to know about this at all?  Because this still speaks of the workings of our God.  It shows the faithfulness of His promises towards Israel, and it shows of the glories we experience right now in our current relationship with Christ.  After all, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16).  The blessings and fellowship that Israel awaits with God is what we can (and do) experience every single day.  Thus as we read of the blessings that are promised to the Jews, we can rejoice & worship God for the blessings we now (and will always) have.

With all of that said, we need to be aware that there are many theories as to what this temple actually is – some better than others.

  • This was an idealized vision of Solomon’s temple.  Problem: the description doesn’t match in the slightest.  There are a couple of similarities, but is otherwise plainly different.
  • This was a prophetic look at Herod’s temple.  This has the same problem as with Solomon’s.  If nothing else, the sheer difference in size ought to put these theories to rest.
  • This is an ideal temple described by God, but never meant to be built.  In this view, the Jews were to see what they could have, if they only obeyed the covenant.  Problem: there’s absolutely nothing in these series of prophecies that show God holding this out like a carrot to His people.  Besides, what would that say about the promises of God, if He offered something in illusion only, but not in truth?
  • This is a symbolic description of the Church.  Because all of the sacrifices are fulfilled in Jesus’ one sacrifice at the cross, there is no need for a future temple with future sacrifices.  Thus everything here is figurative & spiritual.  Problem: it certainly isn’t described that way.  Ezekiel receives very real measurements and sees very specific things.  To abandon a literal interpretation here for symbolism abandons any standard of interpretation whatsoever.  Anyone could say this means anything.
  • This is a literal description of a future, yet unbuilt, temple – most likely to be built during the Millennial Kingdom.  This view is not without its difficulties (primarily being that of future sacrifices), but it has the advantage of being the most faithful to the text.  There are potential answers to the objections, and we’ll look at those as we go through it.

It’s important to emphasize that well-meaning Bible-believing Christians differ on this.  How someone views Ezekiel’s temple is not an essential of the Christian faith.  A person’s salvation does not rise or fall on this.  It is important, in that it puts our method of interpretation to the test – but ultimately it is a non-essential.  Ezekiel 40-48 ought not to be something we fight over; it ought to be something that causes us to rejoice as we study the promises & presence of God among His people.

Ezekiel 40
1 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, on the very same day the hand of the LORD was upon me; and He took me there. 2 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. 3 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.

  • Date: April 28, 572BC – 14th anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.  It was considered the 1st of the year (Rosh Hashanah), based on an older calendar system, whereas today it is celebrated in the fall.  In any case, this is a very significant day to Ezekiel & all of the Jews in captivity.  On a day in which many of the Jews would be mourning the loss of their city (as we might do on the anniversaries of 9/11), God gives Ezekiel a vision of a glorious future.  God wasn’t done with Israel – not by a long shot!  He had a plan for them that they could barely imagine.
  • What happened?  The Lord God took Ezekiel in a vision to a “very high mountain” in “the land of Israel.”  Most likely, this seems to be a reference to Mt. Zion, upon which the previous temple rested in Jerusalem.  Of course, in the Millennial Kingdom, the topography could be different, due to the massive earth-shaking events of the Great Tribulation.  Even so, Ezekiel knows that he is looking upon the land of Israel, and he sees something so large that it as the “structure of a city.”  This is the temple he’s about to tour.  Again, this is far larger than any temple complex he had seen in the past – it truly would be better compared to a city than another temple.
  • That wasn’t the only thing Ezekiel saw.  He also saw “a man whose appearance was like…bronze,” most likely an angel of some sort.  In fact, this particular angel had a couple of tools in his hand, taking on the role of a heavenly land surveyor.  In fact, that is what he’s about to do, as he will take Ezekiel on a tour of the temple & measure the various structures that the prophet sees.

4 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.”

  • Not too many words will be spoken directly to Ezekiel in these chapters, so what is here is significant.  When Ezekiel sees this angel, he receives specific instructions from the angel as to why Ezekiel was seeing these things & what he was to do with the visions.  The vision was given to Ezekiel, but it wasn’t for his eyes only.  He was told to “declare [it] to the house of Israel.”  God wanted His people to know these things.  Are all the measurements a bit tedious?  Perhaps.  Is there a lot to it?  Definitely.  But these were things God wanted His people to know.  He wanted Israel to know of their future, because if they knew that, they could have hope.  Stuck in captivity with their temple destroyed, it would seem as if the Jews had lost everything.  But they hadn’t.  There was still a future for them, and it was a glorious one in the presence of their Almighty Covenant God.
  • That’s one thing the Scripture consistently does for us: show us hope.  We look to the promises of Jesus contained in the Bible, and we have hope for today & for the future.  We know we haven’t been left alone – we know that we have the indwelling presence of the Spirit – we know we have power & grace for living – we know that we have the promise of eternity in heaven….we have hope!  But to have it, we need to know the promises – we have to actually read the Bible for ourselves. 
    • So read it!  Read all of it: both the easier & the more difficult passages.  We might not understand it all, but we will certainly benefit from it all as God the Holy Spirit uses His word in our lives.

5 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; and he measured the width of the wall structure, one rod; and the height, one rod.

  • The size of the rod is important, in that the cubit used by the angel was different than that currently used in the days of Ezekiel.  Apparently the angel used an older standard of 7 hands (21 inches) rather than 6 hands (18 inches).  This made the rod approximately 10½ feet long, which affects the overall scale of the building plans.  Why the angel used a different measuring standard is unknown.  Perhaps it is one more indication that the Hebrews had gradually moved from God over time – a minor detail, but one that fits with their overall relationship with Him.  The same thing can happen with any of us.  Like a ship veering a degree or two off its course eventually ends up hundreds of miles away from its intended destination, so will a slight deviation from the word of God eventually lead us to places we don’t intent to go.  The key for us is not to hold ‘mostly’ to the word of God, but to cling to it as our final and ultimate standard of instruction.

From this point forward, Ezekiel is going to describe (in varying details) the size and scope of this visionary temple, as the angel basically takes him on a tour around the campus.  There are many measurements – much of which can perhaps be a bit tedious, but gives a fairly clear picture of what it was Ezekiel saw. 

  • Eastern Gateway (40:6-16)

6 Then he went to the gateway which faced east; and he went up its stairs and measured the threshold of the gateway, which was one rod wide, and the other threshold was one rod wide. 7 Each gate chamber [alcoves for the guards] was one rod long and one rod wide [10½’ x 10½’]; between the gate chambers was a space of five cubits; and the threshold of the gateway by the vestibule of the inside gate was one rod. 8 He also measured the vestibule [porch/portico] of the inside gate, one rod. 9 Then he measured the vestibule of the gateway, eight cubits [8¾’ ]; and the gateposts, two cubits [3½’ ]. The vestibule of the gate was on the inside. 10 In the eastern gateway were three gate chambers on one side and three on the other; the three were all the same size; also the gateposts were of the same size on this side and that side. 11 He measured the width of the entrance to the gateway, ten cubits [17½’ ]; and the length of the gate, thirteen cubits [22¾’ ]. 12 There was a space in front of the gate chambers, one cubit on this side and one cubit on that side [21” total]; the gate chambers were six cubits on this side and six cubits on that side [10½’ sq].

  • There are 6 total guard alcoves in each gateway to the temple complex.  Why guards are necessary at all is not stated at this point.  Ch. 42 will end with the reminder that the temple is walled off to separate what is holy from what is common (42:20) – perhaps the temple will have Levitical doorkeepers present to ensure that no one enters the Millennial Temple in a profane/common manner.  That’s not protection for the Lord, but protection for the people! 

13 Then he measured the gateway from the roof of one gate chamber to the roof of the other; the width was twenty-five cubits, as door faces door [43¾’]. 14 He measured the gateposts, sixty cubits high [105’], and the court all around the gateway extended to the gatepost. 15 From the front of the entrance gate to the front of the vestibule of the inner gate was fifty cubits [87½’].

  • Incredibly tall!  Again, we’re not told the reason, but it certainly would stand out in the distance.  As people approach the temple, there will be no mistaking the fact they approaching the holy house of God.

16 There were beveled window frames in the gate chambers and in their intervening archways on the inside of the gateway all around, and likewise in the vestibules. There were windows all around on the inside. And on each gatepost were palm trees.

  • Palm trees are going to be seen throughout the temple grounds.  Images of palm trees were found in Solomon’s temple (as were cherubim, which will also be seen here).  Palms were often used as symbols of uprightness, and to be likened to a palm tree was a compliment (Ps 92:12, Song 7:7).  Ultimately we’re not given any specific reason for the palms…perhaps God just likes them. 
  • Outer court (40:17-19)

17 Then he brought me into the outer court; and there were chambers and a pavement made all around the court; thirty chambers faced the pavement. 18 The pavement was by the side of the gateways, corresponding to the length of the gateways; this was the lower pavement. 19 Then he measured the width from the front of the lower gateway to the front of the inner court exterior, one hundred cubits toward the east and the north [175’].

  • Although the outer chambers are new, the fact that there is an outer court is not.  This was something seen in the previous temple of Herod, and basically implied in both the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple (although it got considerably larger with Ezekiel’s temple!).  There was a barrier between that which was considered holy & that which was considered common.  Here, the entirety of the temple complex is considered holy, but even so, there are divisions on where people could go, based on their role of service.
  • This is a major difference between the NT Church and the Nation of Israel.  As the Church (Gentile and Jew), we have direct access to our Lord God.  We are invited to come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16).  Apart from Christ Jesus, we have no access to God, but once we belong to Christ, we have full access to Him.  Not partial access; full, unrestrained, total access.  He is our Abba Father, and we are His beloved children.  We cannot get any closer than that!
  • Northern Gateway (40:20-23)

20 On the outer court was also a gateway facing north, and he measured its length and its width. 21 Its gate chambers, three on this side and three on that side, its gateposts and its archways, had the same measurements as the first gate; its length was fifty cubits and its width twenty-five cubits. [87½ x 43¾ ] 22 Its windows and those of its archways, and also its palm trees, had the same measurements as the gateway facing east; it was ascended by seven steps, and its archway was in front of it. 23 A gate of the inner court was opposite the northern gateway, just as the eastern gateway; and he measured from gateway to gateway, one hundred cubits. [175’]

  • Same as Eastern Gate.
  • Southern Gateway (40:24-27)

24 After that he brought me toward the south, and there a gateway was facing south; and he measured its gateposts and archways according to these same measurements. 25 There were windows in it and in its archways all around like those windows; its length was fifty cubits and its width twenty-five cubits. [87½ x 43¾] 26 Seven steps led up to it, and its archway was in front of them; and it had palm trees on its gateposts, one on this side and one on that side. 27 There was also a gateway on the inner court, facing south; and he measured from gateway to gateway toward the south, one hundred cubits. [175’]

  • Same as other gates.  Also, very tall. 
  • Inner Court Gateway (40:28-37)

28 Then he brought me to the inner court through the southern gateway; he measured the southern gateway according to these same measurements. 29 Also its gate chambers, its gateposts, and its archways were according to these same measurements; there were windows in it and in its archways all around; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. [87½ x 43¾] 30 There were archways all around, twenty-five cubits long and five cubits wide. [43¾ x 8¾] 31 Its archways faced the outer court, palm trees were on its gateposts, and going up to it were eight steps.  32 And he brought me into the inner court facing east; he measured the gateway according to these same measurements. 33 Also its gate chambers, its gateposts, and its archways were according to these same measurements; and there were windows in it and in its archways all around; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. [87½ x 43¾] 34 Its archways faced the outer court, and palm trees were on its gateposts on this side and on that side; and going up to it were eight steps. 35 Then he brought me to the north gateway and measured it according to these same measurements — 36 also its gate chambers, its gateposts, and its archways. It had windows all around; its length was fifty cubits and its width twenty-five cubits. [87½ x 43¾] 37 Its gateposts faced the outer court, palm trees were on its gateposts on this side and on that side, and going up to it were eight steps.

  • All of the gateways to the inner court had the same dimensions as those to the outer court, as Ezekiel went from the southern, to the eastern, to the northern (past the altar, which he does not yet describe).
  • Ezekiel next focuses in on some features adjoining the northern gateway.
  • Sacrificial tables (40:38-43)

38 There was a chamber and its entrance by the gateposts of the gateway, where they washed the burnt offering. 39 In the vestibule [“porch/portico”] of the gateway were two tables on this side and two tables on that side, on which to slay the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering. 40 At the outer side of the vestibule, as one goes up to the entrance of the northern gateway, were two tables; and on the other side of the vestibule of the gateway were two tables. 41 Four tables were on this side and four tables on that side, by the side of the gateway, eight tables on which they slaughtered the sacrifices. 42 There were also four tables of hewn stone for the burnt offering, one cubit and a half long, one cubit and a half wide, and one cubit high; on these they laid the instruments with which they slaughtered the burnt offering and the sacrifice. 43 Inside were hooks, a handbreadth wide, fastened all around; and the flesh of the sacrifices was on the tables.

  • Notice that this is provision for real sacrifices to be performed in a real temple.  There are no needs for hooks, slaughter tables, etc., if there isn’t real meat being butchered.  Ezekiel even goes so far as to say that he saw “the flesh of the sacrfiices…on the tables.”  This was something actually taking place (though in a vision).
  • If it sounds a bit gory, it’s because it is.  Sacrifice is bloody!  Our modern culture has sanitized things for us quite a bit.  When we drink the cup of communion, we’re drinking the product of crushed grapes – but we’re not supposed to be thinking about grape juice at the time.  The cup of the New Covenant is the blood of Christ.  If we do not (symbolically) drink His blood nor eat His flesh, we have no part with Him.  Our salvation is born of blood, gore, suffering, and death.  How can it be otherwise?  The wages of sin is death, and someone had to suffer in order for us to have our sins dealt with.  It was either us or Jesus…and Jesus willingly took it Himself.  Never forget the price He paid!  It cost Jesus His blood – His flesh – His life. 
  • Question: how does all of this temple sacrifice reconcile with Hebrews 9-10, which emphasizes that Jesus only needed one sacrifice to be sufficient for all sin for all men?  This is something to be addressed in further detail in Ch. 47, but suffice to say for now that it seems sacrifice in this temple comports much to our celebration of the Lord’s Supper today.  When we take Communion, Jesus is not being sacrificed all over again; it is a memorial feast, looking back to the work He has accomplished.  Likewise with the Millennial Temple – they don’t sacrifice to earn salvation; they sacrifice to remember it.  Granted, this is one of the issues that makes these latter chapters of Ezekiel so very controversial.  Good born-again Bible-believing Christians come to very different conclusions here…and that’s OK.
  • Chambers for singers & priests (40:44-46)

44 Outside the inner gate were the chambers for the singers in the inner court, one facing south at the side of the northern gateway, and the other facing north at the side of the southern gateway. 45 Then he said to me, “This chamber which faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple. 46 The chamber which faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar; these are the sons of Zadok, from the sons of Levi, who come near the LORD to minister to Him.”

  • There’s a bit of debate on the actual location of these chambers: whether or not they are the same chambers as listed in Ch. 42, or if they are different buildings altogether (without any dimensions described). 
  • Either way, these are specified for two special groups of Levites: singers & priests of the line of Zadok.  Coming from a music background, I can’t help but love the idea that singers are given a permanent role at the Millennial Temple.  God loves music to be used in the worship of Himself, so much so that He ordains it in the future kingdom.  Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until then to do it!
  • That the priestly line comes from “the sons of Zadok” is significant.  All temple workers come from the tribe of Levi, and all priests come from Levi’s descendent Aaron.  Yet in the Millennium, it is narrowed down even further.  Zadok was priest during the days of King David, and Zadok remained loyal to David during the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam 15).  In addition, Zadok remained loyal to Solomon when David’s other son Adonijah attempted to assume the throne for himself (1 Kings 1).  Zadok was always loyal to the Davidic covenant, of which the Millennial Kingdom is the fulfillment.  Thus it is only fitting that the temple priests be of his lineage.
    • Again, this is another difference between Israel & the Church.  Israel has designated priests; the Church is a kingdom of priests! (1 Pt 2:9)  We enjoy direct fellowship with God our King, and Jesus our High Priest.
  • Entryway to Temple sanctuary (40:47-49)

47 And he measured the court, one hundred cubits long and one hundred cubits wide, foursquare. [175 x 175’] The altar was in front of the temple. 48 Then he brought me to the vestibule of the temple and measured the doorposts of the vestibule, five cubits on this side and five cubits on that side [8¾ each]; and the width of the gateway was three cubits on this side and three cubits on that side. [5¼ each] 49 The length of the vestibule was twenty cubits, and the width eleven cubits [35 x 21]; and by the steps which led up to it there were pillars by the doorposts, one on this side and another on that side.

  • Entry to the sanctuary.  Think of it like a narthex – it’s the entry room before you get to the main room.

Ezekiel 41

  • Sanctuary & Most Holy Place (41:1-4)

1 Then he brought me into the sanctuary and measured the doorposts, six cubits wide on one side and six cubits wide on the other side—the width of the tabernacle. [ 10½’] 2 The width of the entryway was ten cubits, and the side walls of the entrance were five cubits on this side [17½ ] and five cubits on the other side []; and he measured its length, forty cubits, and its width, twenty cubits. [70 x 35] 3 Also he went inside and measured the doorposts, two cubits; and the entrance, six cubits high; and the width of the entrance, seven cubits. [3½ x 10½ x 12¼] 4 He measured the length, twenty cubits; and the width, twenty cubits, beyond the sanctuary [35 x 35]; and he said to me, “This is the Most Holy Place.”

  • Design similar to previous Tabernacle & Temples.  There is a larger room where the priest can go, and a smaller inner room, in which is the presence of God.
  • Holy of holies! קֹ֥דֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִֽׁים All of the temple was holy, but there was nothing more holy – more set apart – more specially sanctified than this inner chamber, the “Most Holy Place.”  Ezekiel apparently did not actually enter – the angel alone “went inside,” but Ezekiel still had the opportunity to see a room few people ever see…even among the priests!  Ezekiel came from a priestly lineage, but not every priest entered the Most Holy Place – that was reserved for the high priest on the Day of Atonement.  What a blessing for him to see it with his own eyes!  Not even a curtain stood in the way.  And why should it?  Upon Jesus’ death, the curtain was ripped in two!  We have free access into relationship with our God.  Now we are made holy, by virtue of simply being in His holy presence.
  • Sanctuary side chambers (41:5-11)

5 Next, he measured the wall of the temple, six cubits [10½]. The width of each side chamber all around the temple was four cubits on every side. [7’] 6 The side chambers were in three stories, one above the other, thirty chambers in each story; they rested on ledges which were for the side chambers all around, that they might be supported, but not fastened to the wall of the temple. 7 As one went up from story to story, the side chambers became wider all around, because their supporting ledges in the wall of the temple ascended like steps; therefore the width of the structure increased as one went up from the lowest story to the highest by way of the middle one. 8 I also saw an elevation all around the temple; it was the foundation of the side chambers, a full rod, that is, six cubits high. [10½ ]  9 The thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers was five cubits [], and so also the remaining terrace by the place of the side chambers of the temple. 10 And between it and the wall chambers was a width of twenty cubits all around the temple on every side. [35’] 11 The doors of the side chambers opened on the terrace, one door toward the north and another toward the south; and the width of the terrace was five cubits all around. []

  • If there’s one architectural tip to learn from the future temple is that there is never enough storage space. 🙂  We may not yet know what all of these chambers will be used for, but the Lord certainly made preparations for His priests to have the room they will require!
  • Western building (41:12)

12 The building that faced the separating courtyard at its western end was seventy cubits wide; the wall of the building was five cubits thick all around, and its length ninety cubits. [122½ x 8¾ x 157½]

  • This particular building is a complete mystery.  Ezekiel saw the structure, but he was not taken inside.  We have been told much about the future, but we haven’t been told everything.  It’s a good reminder to us to stay humble in regards to prophecy.  There are many theories about all sorts of prophetic events, but we won’t know any for sure until we actually see them fulfilled.
  • Description of Temple Sanctuary (41:13-26)

13 So he measured the temple, one hundred cubits long; and the separating courtyard with the building and its walls was one hundred cubits long; 14 also the width of the eastern face of the temple, including the separating courtyard, was one hundred cubits. [175’ square] 15 He measured the length of the building behind it, facing the separating courtyard, with its galleries on the one side and on the other side, one hundred cubits, as well as the inner temple and the porches of the court, 16 their doorposts and the beveled window frames. And the galleries all around their three stories opposite the threshold were paneled with wood from the ground to the windows—the windows were covered— 17 from the space above the door, even to the inner room, as well as outside, and on every wall all around, inside and outside, by measure. 18 And it was made with cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces, 19 so that the face of a man was toward a palm tree on one side, and the face of a young lion toward a palm tree on the other side; thus it was made throughout the temple all around. 20 From the floor to the space above the door, and on the wall of the sanctuary, cherubim and palm trees were carved.

  • Why palms, cherubim, and lions? Again, palms & cherubim were seen in Solomon’s temple.  Here, lions are added to the mix.  Perhaps it’s all symbolic of strength & holiness.  Perhaps it calls to mind the Garden of Eden, in that cherubim guarded the way to the tree of life.  Perhaps it’s one more thing that remains a mystery.  J
  • Note that these cherubim have a different appearance than the ones seen by Ezekiel in his initial visions at the beginning of the book.  Those creatures had four faces: a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, along with six wings fully covered in eyes (1:10-11).  In the temple, there are only two faces mentioned. 

21 The doorposts of the temple were square, as was the front of the sanctuary; their appearance was similar. 22 The altar was of wood, three cubits high, and its length two cubits. [5¼ tall, 3½ wide] Its corners, its length, and its sides were of wood; and he said to me, “This is the table that is before the LORD.”

  • What is this altar to be used for?  It’s unclear.  Some scholars believe that it is to be used for the showbread, whereas others note that its description more closely matches that of the altar of incense.  If it is for the showbread, then it symbolizes the presence of Israel in the sight of God.  If it is for incense, then it symbolizes the prayers of God’s people rising towards Him.  Of course, it’s possible that it has a different function altogether, one which we will need to wait until the Millennium to learn.

23 The temple and the sanctuary had two doors. 24 The doors had two panels apiece, two folding panels: two panels for one door and two panels for the other door. 25 Cherubim and palm trees were carved on the doors of the temple just as they were carved on the walls. A wooden canopy was on the front of the vestibule outside. 26 There were beveled window frames and palm trees on one side and on the other, on the sides of the vestibule—also on the side chambers of the temple and on the canopies.

  • Notice what’s missing: all the descriptions of the furniture and other items so prominent in the previous Tabernacle & Temples.  There’s no lampstand – no ark of the covenant – no mercy seat…at least, there is none mentioned.  This would provide an argument for those who theorize that the Millennial Temple has a different function than that of the previous temples.  Instead of being a place where sacrifice is necessary to make Israel’s relationship with God right again, it is a place to commemorate the one sacrifice of Jesus that is already sufficient.

Ezekiel 42

  • Chambers for priests (42:1-14)

1 Then he brought me out into the outer court, by the way toward the north; and he brought me into the chamber which was opposite the separating courtyard, and which was opposite the building toward the north. 2 Facing the length, which was one hundred cubits (the width was fifty cubits), was the north door. [175 x 87½ ]  3 Opposite the inner court of twenty cubits [35’], and opposite the pavement of the outer court, was gallery against gallery in three stories. 4 In front of the chambers, toward the inside, was a walk ten cubits wide [17½ ], at a distance of one cubit [textual debate – probably 100 cubits or 175’]; and their doors faced north. 5 Now the upper chambers were shorter, because the galleries took away space from them more than from the lower and middle stories of the building. 6 For they were in three stories and did not have pillars like the pillars of the courts; therefore the upper level was shortened more than the lower and middle levels from the ground up. 7 And a wall which was outside ran parallel to the chambers, at the front of the chambers, toward the outer court; its length was fifty cubits. [87½ ] 8 The length of the chambers toward the outer court was fifty cubits [87½ ], whereas that facing the temple was one hundred cubits. [175’] 9 At the lower chambers was the entrance on the east side, as one goes into them from the outer court.

  • Descriptions like this are one more confirmation that Ezekiel is certainly not looking at either the Temple of Solomon, or the (later) Temple of Herod.  Nothing like these three-story buildings existed with those temples.  These sorts of buildings also make it painfully clear why a spiritualized description of the church is not in view.  What could this possibly represent in the Church?  If an explanation was theorized, what would be the proof?  The interpretation would solely be in the eye of the beholder – which is a truly dangerous way to engage in Bible study.  Far better to let the text speak for itself as literal.  We may not have all the answers, but we know this much: Ezekiel was looking at a real building complex.

10 Also there were chambers in the thickness of the wall of the court toward the east, opposite the separating courtyard and opposite the building. 11 There was a walk in front of them also, and their appearance was like the chambers which were toward the north; they were as long and as wide as the others, and all their exits and entrances were according to plan. 12 And corresponding to the doors of the chambers that were facing south, as one enters them, there was a door in front of the walk, the way directly in front of the wall toward the east. 13 Then he said to me, “The north chambers and the south chambers, which are opposite the separating courtyard, are the holy chambers where the priests who approach the LORD shall eat the most holy offerings. There they shall lay the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering—for the place is holy. 14 When the priests enter them, they shall not go out of the holy chamber into the outer court; but there they shall leave their garments in which they minister, for they are holy. They shall put on other garments; then they may approach that which is for the people.”

  • Some of these chambers are holy dining rooms.  This isn’t the general cafeteria, so to speak, but the place where the priests eat the offerings that were presented to the Lord God.  Something that is often forgotten about the Hebrew sacrifices is that most of those sacrifices were eaten as fellowship meals with God.  Unless it was a burnt offering, where the entire sacrifice was consumed on the altar, the other sacrifices were meant to be eaten.  Not only was it physical provision for the priests, but it was a way that the worshipper could participate.  They shared a meal with their Covenant God – in a sense they had “communion” with Him.
    • Again, this is something we experience every day.  Even on the days we do not receive the Lord’s Supper, we still experience ongoing communion & fellowship with our Lord & King.  This is the free access we have received in Christ.
  • Notice the lengths the priests were to go in order to maintain their holy separation.  The building they were in was holy – the offerings which had been given to God were holy – the very clothes worn by the priests were holy, for they had been in the presence of God used for His glory.  The priests were to be very aware of this, and be mindful even to change their clothes when they approached other people.
    • Does this mean we have to wear different clothes when we go to church?  Of course not…but it does remind us not to mix what is holy with what is not.  As NT Christians, WE are made holy by God.  It’s not our clothes or our stuff; it’s us ourselves.  We need to be careful not to corrupt ourselves with the profane stuff of the world.  Remember that we may be in the world, but we are not to be of the world. (Jn 17:16)  God has left us in this world in order to tell others about Jesus & to be an influence for good, but we are not to partake of its evil.  Too many Christians (including myself!) skirt the line on this…be careful.  We need to draw clearer distinctions between that which is honoring to God & that which is not.
  • Outer dimensions of temple grounds (42:15-20)

15 Now when he had finished measuring the inner temple, he brought me out through the gateway that faces toward the east, and measured it all around. 16 He measured the east side with the measuring rod, five hundred rods by the measuring rod all around. 17 He measured the north side, five hundred rods by the measuring rod all around. 18 He measured the south side, five hundred rods by the measuring rod. 19 He came around to the west side and measured five hundred rods by the measuring rod. 20 He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide [875’ square], to separate the holy areas from the common.

  • Again, that which is “holy” is always to be separated from that which is “common.”  In the case of the Millennial Temple, it took a wall.  For us, it takes discernment.  The more we get the word of God into our hearts – the more time we spend in the presence of Jesus – the more often we are filled with the Spirit…the more we’ll become aware of the profanity of the world that surrounds us.  Not only will we better protected against it, but we’ll be better equipped to be a light for Christ within it.

Conclusion:
Ezekiel had this incredible tour of a yet-to-be constructed temple.  He was taken in through the Eastern Gate, went through the Outer Court, observed the middle area with all its tools for sacrifices, walked into the Inner Court & saw the Holy of Holies for himself, and eventually went back out again.  Hardly a corner of the campus was missed.

Nice tour, but so what?  Here’s the “so what”:

  • The Jews in captivity in Babylon had the promise of a marvelous future.
  • The Jews in history & in the present-day have the assurance of renewed worship.
  • Christians have the assurance of knowing that we worship a God who keeps His word!
  • Christians have the blessing of being the temple of God today!  We do not wait a future temple in which we can worship God; we are His holy temple.

Do you take advantage of your privileged position as a born-again Christian?  Do you worship God always, knowing that as a member of His Church you are His temple? Enjoy your relationship for all it’s worth!

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