TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 39-40
“In the twenty-fifth year of exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me to the city.” – Ezekiel 40:1
This is the introduction to the vision of Ezekiel’s temple. Many Jews and many Christians are looking forward to the construction of this temple. The Jews have plans to build this temple and have already begun constructing some of the furniture. Many Christians are donating toward this effort.
But, is Ezekiel’s vision of a third temple about a physical temple that is to be constructed in the end times?
My answer is no.
Because of Jesus!
John 2 describes the scene of Jesus driving the animals out of the temple and flipping over the tables of the money changers. The Jews asked Jesus, “what sign do you show us for these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews (an apparently many Christians still today) though Jesus was referring to the physical temple because they asked Jesus how he would raise it up in three days when it took 46 years to build the current temple.
But, John 2:21-22 says, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Did you catch that? They believed what Jesus said. But, in addition to that, there was scripture that declared what Jesus had spoken as well.
Could it be that when we read Ezekiel 40:1 through the lens of Jesus we see that the third temple that Jesus said he would and did build, the temple of his body, is the same temple Ezekiel is describing?
The timing of this vision is no coincidence. And, I believe the timing reveals that the temple in Ezekiel’s vision is none other than the temple of Jesus’ body that he raised three days after he was crucified.
The vision takes place in the 25th year of the exile on tenth day of the month. While the month is not given, we know that it is the first month because Ezekiel writes the vision was “at the beginning of the year.”
John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word dwelt is literally tabernacled in the Greek. Jesus tabernacled, or was a temple, among us and because of that we saw God’s glory, which was full of grace.
Further, John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Grace is symbolized by the number five throughout the Bible. “Grace upon grace” would be 5 x 5, or 25.
Jesus came to us in grace and we have received from him “grace upon grace.” So, this statement by John corresponds to Ezekiel’s vision coming to him in the 25th year of the exile.
Now, it was on the 10th day of the first month of this 25th year of the exile that Ezekiel had this vision of the third temple. The first month is the month of the Passover. And, the 10th day of the first month is the day that the Passover lamb was selected.
This corresponds precisely with Jesus’ crucifixion. Hence, Jesus is the Passover Lamb. Notice that Ezekiel says in his vision God brought him to the city, referring to Jerusalem, on the 10th of the first month. This was the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem and was selected as the Passover lamb. And, it was three days after Jesus was crucified that he raised up the temple of his body.
Therefore, the timing of Ezekiel’s vision of the third temple coincides perfectly with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which Jesus said was the rebuilding of the temple of his body and the authority for what he did in the temple in John 2.
Ezekiel further says, perhaps in a parenthetical phrase, that this vision occurred in the 14th year after Jerusalem was struck down. Fourteen symbolizes deliverance in the Bible. And, it was Jesus’ death on the cross that delivered us from Satan, sin, and death. This was the work Jesus was sent to do by the Father.
Given that this was Jesus’ work, we should not be surprised that this third temple that Ezekiel sees is marked by the number 6. This is not true of the tabernacle of Moses or the temple of Solomon.
Notice that the measuring reed that was used for Ezekiel’s temple was six cubits long. Measuring reeds are symbolic of judgment. So, we can see that everything will be measured by the work of Christ. Whatever does not measure up to the work of Christ will be burned up. What does not measure up is the dross of the silver that needs to be burned away so that the pure silver, which symbolizes our redemption, can be revealed.
Ezekiel tells us that the wall of the temple he sees is six cubits high and six cubits thick. Further, he tells us that the threshold, or the width, of the gate on the east is six cubits. So, to enter the temple from the east you had to enter a cubed spaced that was 6 x 6 x 6.
This cubed space symbolizes the work of Jesus. And, we must enter into the temple, God’s presence, through the work – the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Even the New Testament authors tell us that the third temple is not a physical temple but the body of Jesus.
In Acts, Stephen says that God does not dwell in temples made by man’s hands. The very purpose and idea of a temple is for it to be a dwelling place of God. But, Stephen says that God does not dwell in physical temples made by the hands of man. So, we have no need to look for a future physical temple in Israel. God won’t be dwelling there.
Paul says that we are God’s temple. We are the third temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision. For, we are the body of Christ, which is the temple of God that was raised up three days after the crucifixion. Paul was able to see this because he no longer read the Old Testament by the literal letter and through the veil that covered it. He know read the Old Testament through the crucified Christ, who tore the veil that kept us from seeing God so clearly. I believe that Paul would say that all those looking for another physical temple would like the Jews, who are still reading the Old Testament through the veil (see 2 Corinthians 3 and 4).
As is always the case, Jesus transforms and then fulfills the visions and prophecies of the Old Testament.