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Ezekiel’s guide next led him to the east gate in the outer wall. This was the wall of the millennial temple that he had been seeing and continued to see, not the wall of the Solomonic temple. There the prophet saw the glory of God approaching the temple from the east (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; Isaiah 60:1-3). Ezekiel had seen God’s glory departing from Solomon’s temple to the east when the Babylonians destroyed it (ch. 8; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18-19; Ezekiel 11:22-25). It did not return when Zerubbabel rebuilt it or when Herod the Great remodeled it (cf. Haggai 2:7). But now the Lord was about to take up residence in His millennial temple. God’s voice was as the sound of a mighty waterfall (powerful and majestic; cf. Ezekiel 1:24; Revelation 1:15; Revelation 14:2), and His glory illuminated the land as it passed over it (cf. Exodus 34:29-30; Exodus 34:35; Mark 9:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 18:1).
An interesting foreview of the departure and return of God’s glory occurred when God’s glory departed with the ark of the covenant into the Philistine camp (1 Samuel 4:19-22) and then returned when David brought the ark into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17-19). Another parallel is Jesus’ departure from Jerusalem in His ascension and His return to it at His second advent, both events happening on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem.
The vision itself 43:1-5
3. The return of God’s glory to the temple 43:1-12
Having described the temple, God next revealed that He approved of it.
This vision reminded Ezekiel of the vision of God that he had seen by the river Chebar (Ezekiel 1:3), when he saw God coming to judge Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 1:4-28; Ezekiel 9:1; Ezekiel 9:5; Ezekiel 32:18). He responded by prostrating himself before the Lord again (cf. Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:23). [Note: See Michael Fishbane, "Through the Looking Glass: Reflections on Ezekiel 43:3, Numbers 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:8," Hebrew Annual Review 10 (1986):63-75.]
Yahweh’s glory entered the temple through the east gate, the same gate through which Ezekiel had formerly seen it leave the city. The Holy Spirit transported Ezekiel in his vision to the inner court, and there he saw that God’s glory had filled the temple (cf. Exodus 24:9-17; Exodus 34:29-30; Luke 2:8-10). Similarly the glory of God had come upon and filled the tabernacle at its dedication (Exodus 40:34-35) and Solomon’s temple at its dedication (1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3).
The prophet heard someone speaking to him from the temple, and there was a man, probably Ezekiel’s guide, standing beside him (cf. Ezekiel 1:16).
The significance of the vision 43:6-12
The one speaking from the temple, undoubtedly the Lord, told Ezekiel that the temple was His throne, the place where He would rest His feet (take up residence) and live among the Israelites forever (cf. 1 Kings 8:12-13; 1 Kings 8:27; 1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalms 99:5; Psalms 132:7; Isaiah 66:1; Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 17:12). He announced that the Israelites and their leaders would no longer defile His holy reputation (cf. Ezekiel 39:7). They had done this by their religious prostitution and spiritual unfaithfulness to Him and by burying some of their kings too close to the temple precincts (cf. 1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 21:24-26). They had built their defiling graves too close to the temple, with only a wall between, not allowing some distance between them (sacred space) to honor God’s holiness. The Israelites had formerly defiled His name by their sinful acts that were abominable to God (cf. Ezekiel 8:1-18). That was the reason He had burned them in judgment. He had been angry with them.
If the Israelites would put away their harlotry (physical and spiritual) and would refrain from burying their dead too close to holy ground, the Lord promised to dwell among them forever. While the place of burial may seem insignificant to modern Westerners, it was important to ancient Near Easterners since it expressed respect or disrespect.
This is one of many places in which a prophet conditioned the coming of God’s kingdom on Israel’s repentance (cf. Haggai 2:4-7; Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 14:9; et al.). The prophets presented the coming of the kingdom as contingent on the sovereignty of God and the enablement of the Holy Spirit as well. [Note: See Stanley D. Toussaint and Jay A. Quine, "No, Not Yet: The Contingency of God’s Promised Kingdom," Bibliotheca Sacra 164:654 (April-June 2007):131-47.]
The Lord instructed Ezekiel to describe the temple that he had seen in his vision to the Israelites. It would so impress them with the glorious future that God intended to give them that they would feel ashamed of their iniquities. They should examine the plans of the future temple carefully because they would inspire obedience in the people. If the exiles responded positively to Ezekiel’s revelation, they should study the vision carefully and conform to the instructions that accompanied it. Ezekiel was about to receive information about what the Israelites should do. So far the vision dealt with what they would see.
The overriding lesson of the vision was that holiness was to permeate everything connected with the future of the mountain-top temple.
The altar of sacrifice 43:13-17
Some scholars view this section as the central one in chapters 40-48. [Note: E.g., J. G. McConville, "Priests and Levites in Ezekiel: A Crux in the Interpretation of Israel’s History," Tyndale Bulletin 34 (1983):20-23.] The altar was at the very center of the whole temple complex, and it was the centerpiece of the system of worship represented in the new temple complex.
4. The temple ordinances 43:13-46:24
Instructions (statutes) designed to maintain holiness in the new temple follow. The Lord specified how His people were to construct the new altar to accommodate sacrifices (Ezekiel 43:13-17) and how they were to dedicate it (Ezekiel 43:18-27). He revealed how they were to use the temple (Ezekiel 44:1-9), how the priests were to function (Ezekiel 44:10-31), and how the sacred land district was to be used (Ezekiel 45:1-8). An exhortation to Israel’s leaders forms the center of this section (Ezekiel 45:9-12). The rest of it contains instructions for the worship leader (Ezekiel 45:13 to Ezekiel 46:18) and directions for the use of the priests’ kitchens (Ezekiel 46:19-24).
"The existence of the millennial temple and the reinstatement of the sacrificial system [though not necessarily the reinstatement of the Mosaic Covenant] is not only understandable but predictable. Ezekiel’s vision of a restored sacrificial system was really not so amazing after all. The millennium will afford Israel the opportunity for the first time in its history to use the symbols of their covenant with Jesus as Messiah in view. It will be their first time to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation showing forth to the world the redemptive work of Yahweh in the person of Jesus Christ the Messiah (Isaiah 53:7; Isaiah 61:1-3; Zechariah 4:1 [sic Ezekiel 3:10]; John 1:29; Acts 8:32-35; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 7:13-14; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 15:3)." [Note: L. Cooper, p. 381.]
The square altar rose above its foundation in three tiers, the largest one below, the next largest one above it, and the smallest one on top. The first, largest stage was two cubits (3 feet 4 inches) high and one cubit (20 inches) smaller than the foundation on each of its four sides. The second tier was four cubits (6 feet 8 inches) high and one cubit (20 inches) smaller than the first tier on each of its four sides.
The third tier, which formed the altar hearth, the very top of the altar, was also four cubits (6 feet 8 inches) high. Four horns stood on the top of the altar, one at each corner undoubtedly, symbolizing strength. This tier, the hearth, was 12 cubits (20 feet) wide on each side.
The second tier was 14 cubits (23 feet 4 inches) square. It too had a curb around its upper edge that formed a gutter, and that curb was half a cubit high (10 inches, cf. Ezekiel 43:13). There were to be steps up to the altar from the east. Formerly the Lord had forbidden the use of steps leading up to His altars (Exodus 20:24; Exodus 20:26). The total size of this altar was about 18 cubits (30 feet) square at the bottom, 20 feet square at the top, and 16 feet 8 inches high. Solomon’s brazen altar had been smaller (cf. 2 Chronicles 4:1). This design made this altar resemble a small ziggurat.
The Lord told Ezekiel what to do when the construction of the altar was complete. The purpose of this altar was to receive the burnt offerings that people would bring to the Lord and to receive the blood of those animal sacrifices.
"The offerings presented thereon were meant to be memorials, much as the Lord’s Supper is no efficacious sacrifice but a memorial of a blessedly adequate and all-sufficient sacrifice for all time. Thus, whereas the sacrifices of the Old Testament economy were prospective, these are retrospective." [Note: Feinberg, p. 254.]
Since Old Testament saints will experience resurrection at Christ’s second coming (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3; Daniel 12:13), perhaps Ezekiel himself will lead this purification ceremony at the beginning of the Millennium. Alternatively the Lord may have dealt with him in the vision as He will deal with the person in charge of the real purification ceremony when it occurs.
The cleansing of the altar 43:18-27
Ezekiel was to give to one of the priests that would serve in this sanctuary, a priest from the honored line of Zadok (cf. Ezekiel 40:46; Ezekiel 44:15; 1 Kings 2:35), a young bull for a sin offering. He was to smear some of the bull’s blood on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of its second tier (cf. Exodus 29:12). This would cleanse the altar and make atonement for it (i.e., purify it). [Note: See J. Milgrom, "Sin-Offering or Purification-Offering?" Vetus Testamentum 21 (1971):237-39.] Similar ceremonies had taken place to cleanse the tabernacle and Solomonic temple altars (cf. Exodus 29:36-37; Leviticus 8:14-17; 2 Chronicles 7:9). Ezekiel was to burn the remainder of this bull outside the inner court (cf. Leviticus 8:17).
"Cleansing was needed because everything associated with man partook of sin and therefore needed to be cleansed, especially if it was to be used in the worship of the Lord." [Note: Alexander, "Ezekiel," p. 971.]
The next day Ezekiel was to offer a ram that was free of blemishes as a sin offering. This also was part of the seven-day ritual necessary to cleanse the altar. Then he should present another bull and another ram, equally blemish free, in the inner court. The priest was to throw salt on them, slay them, and offer them as burnt offerings. Salt was an agent of purification and preservation that was often used symbolically (cf. Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5; Mark 9:49).
On each of the seven days Ezekiel was to prepare a goat for a sin offering and a young bull and a ram as burnt offerings. These sacrifices also had to be without blemish, and they would make atonement and purify the altar. This seven-day ceremony would consecrate the altar for service (cf. Exodus 29:36-37).
After the completion of this consecration ceremony, from the eighth day onward, the priests were to offer burnt and peace offerings on this altar. The Lord promised to accept the worship of His people if they followed this procedure.
"Although all the offerings of Leviticus are not detailed here, it is considered by some that they are implied, and they may well be. Prospectively they all pointed to Christ, so this would be in keeping with that truth in the retrospective sense." [Note: Feinberg, p. 256.]
Most premillennialists believe that the millennial sacrifices will be memorials of Christ’s sacrifice and will have nothing to do with removing sin. [Note: E.g., Ibid., p. 254; Walvoord, The Millennial . . ., pp. 312-14; and Clive A. Thomson, "The Necessity of Blood Sacrifices in Ezekiel’s Temple," Bibliotheca Sacra 123:491 (July 1966):237-48.] However, some premillennialists argue that since Christ will be personally present on earth during the Millennium, these sacrifices may really purge sins, the sins of believers. [Note: E.g., Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 127; Jerry M. Hullinger, "The Problem of Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel 40-48," Bibliotheca Sacra 152:607 (July-September 1995):279-89; idem, "The Divine Presence, Uncleanness, and Ezekiel’s Millennial Sacrifices," Bibliotheca Sacra 163:652 (October-December 2006): 405-22; idem, "The Function of the Millennial Sacrifices in Ezekiel’s Temple, Part 1," Bibliotheca Sacra 167:665 (January-March 2010):40-57; idem, "The Function of the Millennial Sacrifices in Ezekiel’s Temple, Part 2," Bibliotheca Sacra 167:666 (April-June 2010):166-79; and T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, pp. 247-48.] The argument rests on the meaning of "atone." Now Christians confess our sins and receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9), but now Christ is not present on earth. When He is personally present and in closer contact with His people, it may take more than just confession to secure adequate cleansing. This may be a correct explanation for the presence of sacrifices in the Millennium, but it seems impossible to be dogmatic about that now. A third view is that the sacrifices are not literal, but that Ezekiel was describing worship in the future in terms and forms that he and his original hearers knew. [Note: E.g., Ironside, p. 305; and Keil, 2:417.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 43". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12