One of the most neglected portions of prophetic scripture is the temple vision recorded in the final chapters of the book of Ezekiel. But this vision is one that the church can no longer afford to ignore because it is also divinely linked to both the Sabbath and the Jubilee. As a depiction of the end-time church it illustrates what the church, spiritual Israel, is to become under the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The temple vision of Ezekiel 40 to 48 was given to the prophet during a time of national calamity. Through apostasy Israel had forfeited the protection of God. The flower of the nation, its most promising youth, its leading men and women, were captives in Babylon. Solomon's temple was destroyed, Jerusalem lay in ruins and Judah was a desolate wilderness. Finally the land rested and enjoyed the Sabbaticals that had been denied it during Israel's apostasy and rebellion.
But even while Israel was suffering under the censure of God, the vision of Ezekiel pointed them forward to a complete reversal of fortunes and renewal of the divine favor. The vision reassured the repentant of the return of the presence and favor of God, pointing both them and us to the long-awaited latter rain of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Ezekiel was shown a new, restored temple filled with the glory of God, and Israel once again dwelling in peace and safety in their allotted inheritance at the final restoration of all things, the great and final Jubilee.
The prophet Isaiah identifies this final Jubilee as the “acceptable year of the Lord”; the year of full and complete liberty from sin under the power of the Holy Spirit. But Isaiah also calls it the “day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:1-2). Likewise, the temple vision, while it comforts us with the assurance of God's presence, warns of the consequences of being unprepared for God's next great move—the outpouring of the latter rain that ripens the gospel harvest.
Nineteen years prior to receiving this vision Ezekiel was shown in a similar vision the glory of the Lord departing the first temple five years before it was destroyed by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 8 to 11). In this vision the glory of God reluctantly, agonizingly withdrew, first from the temple, then from the doomed city, resting briefly as if in final parting on the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:22 and 23). Six hundred years later, Christ at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem would halt the colt that carried him at the same place on the mount and once again weep over the impenitence of the doomed city.
In the temple vision the same glory that left the first temple in Ezekiel 11 returns and fills the new temple (See Ezekiel 43:1-12 and 40:1.). But before this occurs, the vision describes an atonement and cleansing of the temple, similar to the work of Christ in the second cleansing of the temple just before his death (Ezekiel 45:18-20, 43:1-12). This cleansing and atonement represents the essential work required before the return of the Presence.
The Symbolism of Ezekiel's Temple
That Ezekiel's temple typifies the empowered, end-time church is shown in many ways throughout the vision. For example, the articles that are measured and cleansed in this temple are the same articles measured in the Revelation given the Apostle John—the temple, the altar and the inner court along with those worshiping there (Revelation 11:1, 2). And, the commission of John to measure the temple is the same directive given to Ezekiel. Both Ezekiel's and John's commissions symbolize the judgment or measurement of the end-time church and confirm the testimony of the Apostle Peter that judgment begins at the house of God (I Peter 4:17 and Ezekiel 9:6).
Recall from Malachi that the Lord will “suddenly come to his temple.” Why? To measure and purify it in the refiner's fire, so that it will be ready as the lovely bride of Christ to meet her groom, adorned with every jewel of the Spirit and arrayed in the splendor of Christ's righteousness.
In Palestine the latter rains come in the spring to mature and ripen the grain harvest. In order to have a harvest the showers of the early and latter rains have to do their work. Christ will have a pure bride “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27). And the bride of Christ has more than a theoretical purity. The grace and power of the Spirit that flows into her is a transforming power. Like a mighty water fall plunging downward in the manner of a bridal veil, the dark river is transformed to white as it is purified by the oxygen of the air. In the same way the bride of Christ is transformed by the life and breath of the Holy Spirit. Through the in-filling of the Spirit she is fitted to be the wife of the groom and a channel of blessing to humanity.
That Ezekiel's temple describes the Spirit-filled church of the latter rain is shown in many ways. Here is a brief summary of some of them:
- Ezekiel's vision parallels the sealing of the 12 tribes of spiritual Israel in Revelation 7 and 14:1-5. Unlike in the original distribution of the land under Joshua in which larger tribes received larger land allotments, in Ezekiel's temple vision the land of Israel is divided equally among the tribes indicating that their populations are the same. This mirrors the equal number of sealed ones in Revelation's description of the 144,000, 12,000 in each of the 12 tribes.
- The pure, beautiful woman that appears in Revelation 12 also symbolizes this remnant church—spiritual Israel. Her victorious demeanor, her crown of 12 stars, her wedding gown of sunlight with the moon under her feet, symbolize her purity and the victory of her 12 spiritual tribes over sin, the fruit of the atonement of Christ by the infilling of the Spirit.
- The promise of the latter rain immediately precedes the temple vision in the final verse of Ezekiel 39, indicating again that this temple describes the Israel of God under the latter rain. "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name; . . .Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which . . . have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 39:25, 28, 29).
- The glory of God returns to this temple, (see Ezekiel 43:1-12), not to the Mosaic model. This portends a transition from the early rain to the latter rain which means great grace. But because it is a rain of truth, it also means judgment, especially in regard to the Sabbath. Unlike in the Mosaic tabernacle and Solomon's temple, in this temple the eastern gate is open on the Sabbath but shut on the six working days, indicating that the true observance of the Sabbath and all that this entails is central to the true worship of Jehovah in the end-time, Spirit-filled church (Ezekiel 46:1-4).
- In the Mosaic service on the Day of Atonement, the sin offering of the people is a goat while the sin offering for the High Priest is a bull (see Leviticus 4 and 16). In Ezekiel's temple the only sin offering for the atonement is a bull. This teaches that the final atonement is for the priesthood. This is the final generation of sacred history, and points to the fulfillment of God's original plan for his people—to make them a royal priesthood. This is only possible through the anointing power of the Spirit. Ezekiel's temple depicts a royal priesthood empowered with a double anointing of the Spirit—that of both priests and kings.
- In Ezekiel's temple a fresh water spring flows miraculously from inside the sanctuary, increasing from a small stream to a mighty river in the span of one mile (Ezekiel 48). That the water in this river makes salt water fresh and gives life wherever it flows shows that this is no ordinary water, but is a symbol of the miraculous regenerative power under the latter rain of the Holy Spirit.
- And finally, the new name given to Jerusalem in Ezekiel's vision, “The Lord is There” in chapter 48, points us to the fullness of the Presence. The Lord is There is an epitaph that has its counterpart in the name The Lord Our Righteousness, both of which point to the gathering of spiritual Israel under the latter rain, the New Covenant church, the seed of Abraham by faith. “And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this [is] his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land” (Jeremiah 23:4-8).
A Spring Atonement?
But one of the strongest evidences that Ezekiel's temple is prophetic of the end-time, Spirit-filled church, is that it contains a spring atonement rather than a fall cleansing. This atonement, rather than being a single day service as in the Levitical type, spans seven days, indicating completeness.
Does this refute or undermine Adventism's claim that the end-time work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary is typified by the ancient fall Day of Atonement? We've already seen some indicators above that the opposite is true. Ezekiel’s temple emphatically points us to the latter rain, the New Covenant ministry of Christ, the message of righteousness by faith, the arrival of the judgment hour and the gospel harvest.
This vision does no violence to the Levitical regulations. Like all the great apocalyptic prophecies of scripture, the temple vision of Ezekiel works on the same principle—repeat and expand. It fleshes out for us in more detail the final mediatorial work of Christ and the final Jubilee of total liberation from sin. And it points us to the secret chamber of the Most High, to His protection and comfort when the wrath of God is falling during the seven last plagues. Like the Hebrews on the night of the first Passover, we are protected by the blood on the door posts (Psalms 91).
A correct understanding of Ezekiel’s temple vision and its wide dissemination is urged on us by God Himself. The vision contains three divine admonitions to consider each detail and relate it faithfully to the people. A dual admonition in scripture means it is important, pay attention. A triple admonition means it is extremely important, and we are to pay the closest attention, make the required practical application and then share the message. Here are the passages:
And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee; for to the intent that I might show [them] unto thee [art] thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel (Ez. 40:4).
Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, show them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write [it] in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them. This [is] the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about [shall be] most holy. Behold, this [is] the law of the house (Ez 43:10-12).
And the Lord said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary. And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations (Ezekiel 44:5 and 6).
The sanctuary vision given to Ezekiel is the gospel in type, and if it is a powerful revelation of the gospel, the Sabbath, the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, then it will be accompanied by the testimony of the Spirit and ultimately by the latter rain. The mighty angel of Revelation 18 who lightens the earth with his glory points us directly to the measuring of the end-time church and the mediatorial work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary (Rev. 11).
Clearly, God's people will become more intelligent at the end of time in regard to the Sabbath, the sanctuary and the final atoning work of Christ. And as the Sabbath is proclaimed more fully we will indeed work the works of Christ in behalf of fallen humanity. This is how Isaiah 58 is fulfilled and how the light of God floods the world in a blaze of glory. “They will know that we are Christians by our love, yes they'll know that we are Christians by our love.”
When Christ comes, may He find us working for others unselfishly even as He worked, giving the household of God its meat in due season, laboring as godly stewards, sharers of heaven's bounties, and as medical evangelists full of the love of God. “And above all these things, put on charity which is the bond of perfectness” (Col 3:14).
Readers can learn more about Ezekiel's temple here. This book is intended as a stimulus for study, not a final authority. If anyone cannot afford the book, please don't hesitate to email Mark for a free copy. Mark.Shipowick@gmail.com.