ISRAEL'S LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD IS ONCE MORE ACTIVE
THE TEMPLE IS REBUILT IN THE MILLENNIUM
[Expositers Bible Commentary, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1986, Vol 6, pp. 943-952]:
"These chapters [Ezekiel 40-48] have been interpreted as referring to Solomon's temple, the temple of Zerubabbel (either real or proposed), Herod's temple, or a future temple in the Millennium or in the eternal state. Some, having difficulty understanding the passage when taken literally, interpret the section allegorically as teaching about the church and its earthly blessings and glories, while others understand the passage to symbolize the reality of the heavenly temple where Christ ministers today.
The historical fulfillments do not fit the details of the passage. The temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, or Herod do not share the design and dimensions of the temple described in Ezekiel 40-42. The worship procedure set forth in chapters 43-46, though Mosaic in nature, had not been followed in history in exactly the manner described in these chapters. The river that flows forth from the temple in 47:1-12 has never flowed from any of the three historical temples mentioned above. The only comparisons to this river are seen in Genesis 2:8-14 and Revelation 22:1-2 (cf. Isa 35:6-7; Joel 3:18; Zech 14:8). The geographical dimensions and tribal allotments of the land are certainly not feasible today, nor have they ever been followed in times past. Geographical changes will be necessary prior to the fulfillment of chapters 45, 47-48. Therefore one would not look to historical (past or present) fulfillments of these chapters but to the future....
THE MILLENNIUM IS A PREVIEW OF BUT NOT IDENTICAL TO THE ETERNAL STATE
In light of the whole Scripture, it appears that the Millennium is like a 'first-fruits' of the eternal state. The Millennium will be like a preview of the eternal messianic kingdom that will be revealded fully in the eternal state. Therefore, because the two are alike in nature, they share distinct similarities. Yet because they are both different revealed time periods, they would likewise reflect some dissimilarities....
Revelation 21-22 speaks of the eternal state.... Both writers [Ezekiel and John of Revelation] receive apocalyptic visions on a high mountain with an intercepting messenger present, holding a measuring rod to measure various structures (Ezek 40:2-5; Rev 21:2, 10, 15). Both visions portray waters flowing forth toward the east, with trees alongside and leaves for healing (Ezek 47:1-7, 12; Rev 22:1-2). The names of Israel's twelve tribes are written on the city's twelve gates in both visions (Ezek 48:31-34; Rev 21:12), and three gates each are found on the east, south, north, and west sides of the city respectively (Ezek 48:30-35; Rev 21:15-17). The waters that flow toward the east have different sources: the temple in Ezekiel (43:7; 47:1-5) and God's throne in the Revelation (22:1, 3). It might appear that these sources are really similar since Ezekiel maintains that God's throne is the temple; but John, in his vision, declares that God's throne is in Jerusalem. The temple and the city of Jerusalem are distinctly different entities in Ezekiel (45:2-4: 48:10, 15-17), and in the Revelation vision there is no temple structure (21:22; 22:3). Since a major aspect of Ezekiel 40-48 is the temple and its regulations, perhaps this would argue for Ezekiel's discussion to reflect the Millennium more than the eternal state. The tribal allotments of Ezekiel include the sea as the western boundary (47:15-20), whereas in the Revelation John declares that the sea no longer exists (Rev 21:1). Therefore, Ezekiel's tribal boundaries could not exist in the eternal state if the sea no longer existed. Items are discussed in each passage that are not mentioned in the other. These, of course, neither argue for similarity or dissimilarity but the dissimilarities discussed above indicate that Ezekiel's vision is more concerned with millennial concepts than the eternal state, whereas the Revelation vision is focused on the eternal state.
The river flowing east from the temple would likewise appear to be millennial since the source is different from the Revelation passage...
It seems, therefore, that Ezekiel 40-48 may be primarily describing the millennial temple, its regulations for worship, and the tribal allotments. The Millennium is only a beginning, sort of a microcosm, of the eternal state and a transition into it....
THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE WILL HAVE A WORSHIP SYSTEM MOSAIC IN NATURE
As previously stated, a normal grammatical-historical hermeneutic should be used when interpreting the Book of Ezekiel. In doing so, a real temple, real sacrifices, and real priests are observed functioning in the millennial context. When the sacrifices and priestly functions are closely examined, it becomes evident that they are Mosaic in nature, though omissions and modifications are present. Such an observation may cause concern since the reinstitution of a Mosaic worship system may seem contrary to NT teaching. The NT states that Jesus Christ died once and for all on the cross for all sin. There is no need for a further sacrifice for sin. Likewise, the Lord's Table is designed to bring rememberance of the Lord's death to the worshipers. Why go back to OT modes of worship set forth under the old covenant when the new covenant has been instituted?
In Ezekiel 37:15-28 all the covenants given to Israel would be fulfilled at the time of her restoration to the Promised Land and the institution of the messianic kingdom. This includes the Abrahamic covenant, Davidic covenant, new covanant, peace covenant, and the Mosaic covenant. The covenant formula of the Mosaic covenant - 'they will be My people, and I will be their God' - will be operative as Israel walks in the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant, cleansed under the new covenant, and experiencing the eternal reign of her king, the Messiah, under the Davidic covenant (37:23-26; cf. Exod 19:5-6; Lev 26:12; Deut 26:18-19; Jer 30:18-22; 31:33; 32:36-40). Because Israel was in a relationship with God through the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, she had always been expected to worship the Lord in holiness. Her entire worship procedure was designed to point her to God's holiness and to her need to be holy before Him (cf. Lev). The basic emphasis throughout Ezekiel 40-48 is on God's holiness. The holiness of the Lord's temple and the worship of Him are contrasted with the profaning of His name and His temple in Israel's past worship. Israel would have a final opportunity to worship God correctly - in the purity of holiness. Such worship would demonstrate that Israel had truly been redeemed and cleansed.
Ezekiel 40-48 presents only the Hebrew perspective of millennial worship. This does not preclude other worship forms from also existing and being carried out (cf. Luke 22:18). The manifestations and functions of all God's covenants do not contradict but rather complement one another. Therefore Israel will finally be a people of God, living and worshiping in the holiness revealed in the Mosaic stipulations. The omissions and modifications from the Mosaic system observed in Ezekiel 40-48 are undoubtedly present to enable the various aspects of the different covenants to harmonize.
THE PURPOSE OF THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE AND TEMPLE WORSHIP IS THE SAME AS THE OLD TESTAMENT TEMPLE AND WORSHIP
One difficulty sensed by many is the need for and the purpose of a temple. Is not the presence of a temple anachronistic? However, the existence of a temple as a place of worship would be the normal concept from an OT perspective (cf. 2 Sam 7:12-16; 1 Kings 9:3; 2 Chron 6:14-7:16; 29:1-30:27; Ps 132). Likewise, without a temple complex sacrifices could not be offered properly. Therefore the temple would be necessary for worship (Ezek 43-46).
Ezekiel sets forth two major purposes for the millennial temple. First, the temple will provide a throne for God among His people (43:6-7), the residency of His glory (43:1-12) from which He will rule over His people. Second the temple complex will reflect God's holiness by its walls of separation, various courts, and temple divisions (40:5; 42:14-20). The design of the structure will cause the people of that day to be ashamed of their iniquities....
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM AND CHRIST'S FINISHED WORK ON THE CROSS
A second major difficulty is the relationship between Ezekiel's sacrificial system and the NT teaching of Christ's death as a finished and complete work for sin....
Most stated aspects of the worship procedure in Ezekiel are like those of the Mosaic system....
It is important to observe that millennial sacrifices are discussed elsewhere in the OT prophets (Isa 56:5-7; 60:7, 13; 66:20-23; Jer 33:15-22; Zech 14:16-21). The concept is not unique to Ezekiel.
The question whether these sacrifices are efficacious is crucial. It is important to remember that the Mosaic covenant was given to a people who had already entered into a relationship with the Lord in the Abrahamic covenant. The Mosaic covenant was not given to bring one into a relationship with God but to demonstrate how one in that relationship was to live holy before Him. True worship grows out of a personal relationship with God.
The Mosaic worship system, therefore, was to be used by those in a relationship with God. Never did the sacrifices and offerings deliver one from sin. They were never efficacious for the Israelite or anyone else. Rather, the sacrifices were picture lessons and types of the Messiah's work whereby He would atone for all sins in a propitious manner through the sacrifice of His own blood once and for all. The sin and guilt (compensation) offerings were reminders of one's personal inherent sin and the need for cleansing from that sinfulness by the shedding of innocent blood. These offerings were observed much in the sense in which a believer today confesses his sin (1 John 1:9) in light of the finished work of Christ for sin. The believer's confession is not efficacious. It is only Christ's finished work that provides forgiveness of sin [1 Jn 1:7]. Confession, however, reminds the believer that he has sinned and that the sin has been forgiven by Christ's blood. [and it restores his fellowship with God, (1 Jn 1:3-4)] The sin and guilt offerings, therefore, reminded the Israelite that he was sinful and that he needed the Messiah's innocent blood, typified in the animal, to cleanse him of his sin and to bring forgiveness from God.
The burnt offering pictured the offerers' commitment to the Lord. It was voluntary, even as commitment is today. The burnt offerings required daily and at other festivals were constant reminders that the Israelites needed to be totally committed to their Lord.
The fellowship offering reflected the offerers' thanksgiving to God and the peace that existed between them and God. Certainly believers today are to express their thankfulness to God for the various blessings bestowed on them because of their relationship with the Lord.
The sacrifices of the Mosaic system were never efficacious. Only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was efficacious. The offerings of the Levitical system were continual picture lessons and types of the work the Messiah would accomplish and the holy manner in which the Israelites were to walk...
The sacrificial animal could not offer an efficacious ransom; rather, the atonement sacrifice was only a picture lesson of Christ's finished work... the concept would be the same as that in the Mosaic system: a picture lesson of the ultimate atoning work of Christ when He would pay the ransom price of His blood to atone for sin and provide forgiveness of sin once and for all...
The Mosaic Day of Atonement for sin (cf. Lev 16:21-22, 30, 34) occurred annually in OT times, but it would not be observed in the Millennium. However, sin would still occur in the Millennium among the house of Israel, people who had natural bodies with a sin nature. Therefore the atonement offerings for the leader and the people would be a marvelous picture lesson and reminder of the work that the Messiah accomplished on the cross to enable their sin to be forgiven. It would also remind them that they were sinful people who needed that redemption provided through the innocent blood of Christ. But the sacrifices in Ezekiel are memorials of Christ's work even as the Mosaic sacrifices were picture lessons and types of the work He would do. Neither is efficacious, (Compare Heb 7-10).
Consequently, the sacrifices in the millennial sacrificial system of Ezekiel appear to be only memorials of Christ's finished work and pictorial reminders that mankind by nature is sinful and in need of redemption from sin. Not only is this view substantiated by comparison with the Mosaic covenant in which the sacrifices were picture lessons and types, but it is also confirmed by the writer of Hebrews as observed above.
Priests will be necessary in the millennial worship-system to conduct the sacrifices for the leader and the people. In addition priests will carry out all the necessary ministries of the temple. The main role of the priests, however, will be to demonstrate to everyone in the Millennium the distinction between the holy and the profane (Ezek 44).
HOW WILL THE GENTILES AND THE CHURCH RELATE TO THIS WORSHIP SYSTEM WITH ITS OLD TESTAMENT MODES?
How will the Gentiles and the church relate to this worship system with its OT modes? As noted above, nothing prohibits a Gentile or a church believer from joining the worship in commemoration of Christ's finished work. In addition, the church will also celebrate the Lord's Table. All these reminders of Christ's great work of redemption will be a constant avenue of worship for all the people of God who desire to worship the Lord (cf. Eph 2:14-16)...."
THE PHYSCIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE
"I saw a wall completely surrounding the temple area. The length of the measuring rod in the man's hand was six long cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth. He measured the wall; it was one measuring rod thick and one rod high.
6 Then he went to the gate facing east. He climbed its steps and measured the threshold of the gate; it was one rod deep.
7 The alcoves for the guards were one rod long and one rod wide, and the projecting walls between the alcoves were five cubits thick. And the threshold of the gate next to the portico facing the temple was one rod deep.
EZE 40:8 Then he measured the portico of the gateway;
9 it was eight cubits deep and its jambs were two cubits thick. The portico of the gateway faced the temple.
10 Inside the east gate were three alcoves on each side; the three had the same measurements, and the faces of the projecting walls on each side had the same measurements.
11 Then he measured the width of the entrance to the gateway; it was ten cubits and its length was thirteen cubits.
12 In front of each alcove was a wall one cubit high, and the alcoves were six cubits square.
13 Then he measured the gateway from the top of the rear wall of one alcove to the top of the opposite one; the distance was twenty-five cubits from one parapet opening to the opposite one.
14 He measured along the faces of the projecting walls all around the inside of the gateway--sixty cubits. The measurement was up to the portico facing the courtyard.
15 The distance from the entrance of the gateway to the far end of its portico was fifty cubits.
16 The alcoves and the projecting walls inside the gateway were surmounted by narrow parapet openings all around, as was the portico; the openings all around faced inward. The faces of the projecting walls were decorated with palm trees.
EZE 40:17 Then he brought me into the outer court. There I saw some rooms and a pavement that had been constructed all around the court; there were thirty rooms along the pavement.
18 It abutted the sides of the gateways and was as wide as they were long; this was the lower pavement.
19 Then he measured the distance from the inside of the lower gateway to the outside of the inner court; it was a hundred cubits on the east side as well as on the north.
EZE 40:20 Then he measured the length and width of the gate facing north, leading into the outer court.
21 Its alcoves--three on each side--its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as those of the first gateway. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide.
22 Its openings, its portico and its palm tree decorations had the same measurements as those of the gate facing east. Seven steps led up to it, with its portico opposite them.
23 There was a gate to the inner court facing the north gate, just as there was on the east. He measured from one gate to the opposite one; it was a hundred cubits.
EZE 40:24 Then he led me to the south side and I saw a gate facing south. He measured its jambs and its portico, and they had the same measurements as the others.
25 The gateway and its portico had narrow openings all around, like the openings of the others. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide.
26 Seven steps led up to it, with its portico opposite them; it had palm tree decorations on the faces of the projecting walls on each side.
27 The inner court also had a gate facing south, and he measured from this gate to the outer gate on the south side; it was a hundred cubits.
ISRAEL'S PRIESTHOOD SERVES IN THIS TEMPLE
EZE 40:44 Outside the inner gate, within the inner court, were two rooms, one at the side of the north gate and facing south, and another at the side of the south gate and facing north.
45 He said to me, "The room facing south is for the priests who have charge of the temple,
46 and the room facing north is for the priests who have charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who are the only Levites who may draw near to the LORD to minister before him."
EZE 42:13 Then he said to me, "The north and south rooms facing the temple courtyard are the priests' rooms, where the priests who approach the LORD will eat the most holy offerings. There they will put the most holy offerings--the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings--for the place is holy.
14 Once the priests enter the holy precincts, they are not to go into the outer court until they leave behind the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They are to put on other clothes before they go near the places that are for the people."