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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

10 September 2012

Week 37 - Ezekiel

Ezekiel – a book of three visions. We covered the first two last week, and now we see his vision of the temple in the Millennial Kingdom. Detail after detail is given. Widths and heights measured. Specific rooms mentioned. God’s glory returning to the temple. Sacrifices made and priests trained.  What’s the point of all those details?

While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, 7 and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, 8 by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. 9 Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever. 10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. 11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. 12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple. Ezek 43:6-12 (ESV)

God focused the people’s attention on His holiness. He wanted them to see their sin and repent of their whorings. God wanted them to see the temple as holy and treat it with the respect and reverence it deserved.

Israel has already had four sanctuaries: the tabernacle of Moses, Solomon’s temple, the second temple after the Jews returned from captivity, and in Jesus’ time, Herod’s temple.

There are two temples in Israel’s future: the Tribulation temple, which will be defiled by Antichrist, and the Millennial temple described by Ezekiel.

An interesting feature of Ezekiel’s temple vision is the lack of a separating wall for the Gentiles. Jesus’ atoning death tore down that wall once for all. The temple will be a house of prayer for all!

And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? Mark 11:17 (ESV)

The altar and sacrifices have caused great problems for many people. After all, didn’t Jesus come to give a once-for-all atonement? Why are sacrifices necessary? Why are sacrifices even happening? To answer that, we need to look at the role of the sacrifices under the Old Covenant.

The Burnt Offering symbolizes our dedication to the Lord, or placing our all on the altar.

The sin offering was brought by those who sinned through ignorance (there was no sacrifice available for deliberate sin).

You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them. 30  But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him. Num 15:29-31 (ESV)

The trespass offering dealt with sins needing some kind of restitution – the value of the property plus a fine!

The peace offering was the people’s expression of praise. This sacrifice became a time of celebration as the worshiper ended up with part of the meat to prepare as a feast. The people rarely killed an animal just to eat it – Mideast cuisine is not based around meat as our cuisine is – and people killed animals for sacrifice and special occasions.

The grain offering was the way the people acknowledged that God is the source of all food that sustains us.

Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 15  For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. 16 O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own.  1 Chron 29:10-16 (ESV)

The drink offering symbolizes life wholly poured out to the Lord.

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Phil 2:17 (ESV)

Every offering pointed to Christ and His voluntary death on the cross to atone for our sins.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ” 8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16  “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”  17 then he adds,  “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Heb 10:1-18 (ESV)

Sacrifices in the millennial kingdom don’t minimize Christ’s sacrifice! They will be expressions of love and devotion to God. if we can remember Christ by breaking bread and drinking the cup, why can’t Jewish believers bring Him sacrifices? Expressions of pure worship are always acceptable to God, and obviously He desires these sacrifices or He wouldn’t have set them up in the temple!

God gives Ezekiel the blueprint for the division of the land in the millennial kingdom as well. He also reminded the people that they would celebrate Jubilee years (the 50th year, where land was not farmed and property reverted to the original owners, set up in Leviticus 25).

Thus says the Lord God: If the prince makes a gift to any of his sons as his inheritance, it shall belong to his sons. It is their property by inheritance. 17 But if he makes a gift out of his inheritance to one of his servants, it shall be his to the year of liberty. Then it shall revert to the prince; surely it is his inheritance—it shall belong to his sons. Ezek 46:16-17 (ESV)

What’s the bottom line with the new temple? We are reminded that the temple was a place to separate the holy and the profane. Our churches should be treated with the same holy reverence. Although the temple is a place of worship, God doesn’t want “head worship”. He demands true worship, wholeheartedly and with joy. We are to worship God the way HE desires, not the way we want to, and what God desires most is our voluntary obedience. In the millennial temple we see the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people – because they are fulfilling the end of the bargain. Israel will repent, trust, worship and obey. Likewise, our call is to repent, trust, worship and obey our Creator. The land will respond and turn from a desert.

And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Ezek 36:35 (KJV)

Has the book of Ezekiel inspired you to honor God’s name even more? Has it shown you that wholehearted worship is demanded by our Creator? Can you see parallels between the way the people treated their temples then and the way we treat our churches now? Do we keep the world outside of our churches, reserving them for holy activities, or would Jesus feel the need to overturn tables as He did in Herod’s temple?

Were some of the word pictures frightening or disturbing? Were the descriptions too detailed, too vague, or just right?

I would love to hear what you have to say about Ezekiel’s visions and how you are applying these truths to your life. Email or post comments please!

See you again on Saturday with a recap of the prophetic book of Daniel.

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