To most modern readers, these last nine chapters of Ezekiel can be exasperating. Filled with exquisite detail about an ideal, rebuilt temple, they seem almost impenetrable to us. To the Israelites, however, this description would have been exhilarating. Exiled from their land, and their temple destroyed, they had little hope that they would ever return home. Yet in these chapters, God gives them a tour of a place they loved with all their hearts, promising that he would bring them back home to a restored temple. Despite the people’s sin, despite their rebellion, despite God’s righteous wrath having been executed against them, he still wants to dwell among them, and he will make that happen.
The “tour” of the glorious future temple may be roughly divided into three parts. Chapters 40–42 are a tour of the temple grounds. Chapters 43–46 showcase the work of the priests in the temple, and then Chapters 47–48 provide a fly-over tour of the entire Promised Land. All this would have been deeply comforting to the Israelites, because it meant that God had not abandoned them forever. He would bring them back to their land and, more importantly, into his presence. The temple represented God’s presence, and therefore to regain the temple was to regain restored communion with God.
When we zoom in to Ezekiel 43, Ezekiel is shown the work of the priests. God is now accepting the sacrifices of his people; their sin is atoned for. Ezekiel 43:27 puts the point beautifully: “When they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord God.”
In order to read this chapter as promising a rebuilt temple and reconstituted sacrifices, one has to look at the rest of the Bible’s story line, especially the New Testament. Hebrews, for example, has no concept at all of animal sacrifices being valuable or necessary ever again. For Jesus has provided the final sacrifice “once for all” (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10). Moreover, John 2:13–22 makes it clear that God’s presence is no longer to be found in the temple, but in Jesus himself. And Revelation 21:22 says that in the beautiful new Jerusalem, there is no temple. Sinners meet God now not in a building of any kind, but in a person—in Jesus himself. He is present within us (Gal. 2:20), and we are the temple of his Holy Spirit wherever we are (1 Cor. 6:19). By his priestly sacrifice and intercession, Jesus is the ultimate reason God can say in Ezekiel 43:27, “I will accept you.”
At the climax of history, the true temple (Jesus) came, and true communion with God is made possible through Jesus (John 1:14). For God would come not in a temple of wood and stone but in a temple of flesh and blood (John 2:19–22). Jesus said that “everything written about me in…the Prophets…must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Ezekiel 40–48 looks forward to that fulfilment. And in the first coming of Jesus we see the initial fulfilment; in his second coming we will experience the complete fulfilment.
* Adapted from ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.
This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:
|☐||Monday: Ezekiel 40||☐||Thursday: Ezekiel 43|
|☐||Tuesday: Ezekiel 41||☐||Friday: Ezekiel 44|
|☐||Wednesday: Ezekiel 42||☐||Saturday: Ezekiel 45|