BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
THE LORD’S GLORY RETURNS
(The Temple ministries)
In Ezekiel chapters 8-11 Ezekiel described how GOD’s glory left the Temple that King Solomon had constructed. HIS withdrawal symbolized HIS temporary removal of protection from the city of Jerusalem, and, from the Israelite people in general. Here in Ezekiel 43, the angelic being in Ezekiel’s vision brings him back around to the East Gateway of the Temple area. It is there that the glory of the LORD suddenly appears before Ezekiel just at it had before at the Kebar River, and also when GOD came to destroy Jerusalem. The sounds of HIS coming were like the roar of rushing water, and the whole landscape shone brightly when HE arrived, coming in through the east gateway of the temple (Vs.1-4).
Then the HOLY SPIRIT took Ezekiel into the inner courtyard as the glory of the LORD then filled the Temple itself. As the angelic being who was assigned to measure the temple area stood beside Ezekiel, a voice spoke to Ezekiel from inside the Temple saying;
“Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel. They and their kings will not defile my holy name any longer by their adulterous worship of other gods or by honoring the relics of their kings who have died. They put their idol altars right next to mine with only a wall between them and me. They defiled my holy name by such detestable sin, so I consumed them in my anger. Now let them stop worshiping other gods and honoring the relics of their kings, and I will live among them forever” (Vs.7-9) (NLT).
And so GOD would conditionally bring HIS divine glory back into the Temple in Jerusalem after the exiles returned, and reside there once again among HIS people. However, in verses 10-12, GOD tells Ezekiel to describe the Temple plans, that, HE had shown him, to the people of Israel, and, to do it in such a way that, it would bring to remembrance, the shame of all of their past sins. GOD wanted the people to feel the shame for all of the profane things that they had done in the old Temple, and let it be a deterrent from re-visiting those same old trespasses again, after they begin to assemble again in the new Temple. And only if the people repent of their past behavior, was he to describe the specifications of the construction of the new Temple.
GOD wanted HIS people to be able to see HIS grace through HIS promise of restoration, and be led to repent. Here HE stressed one basic primary law of the new Temple that must be adhered to at all times, and that is; ABSOLUTE HOLINESS! In fact, GOD says that the entire top of the hill where the Temple is built will be holy! And the Temple itself must be adorned with holiness, not human ideals and ingenuity.
Ezekiel was allowed by GOD to see the same glory that had once adorned the Temple of old in Jerusalem. Now GOD, would be coming back to Jerusalem, and resting in a rebuilt glorified physical edifice, where HE would also restore the Israelites relationship of friendship with HIM, and fulfill the covenant that HE had made with Abraham.
As Ezekiel’s prophecies continue to waver back and forward between pre-exilic, post exilic, and eschatological times, here in the passage of Ezekiel 43, verses 13-27, we find perhaps one of the more stronger arguments that the prophet’s foretelling of the coming post-exilic Temple may not be descriptions of a yet to come future eschatological restoration of Israel. Beginning in verse 13 of this chapter, we see the detailed description of plans for a sacrificial altar to be built in the new Temple.
Here we can see that there is a theologically based problem with this being an eschatological reference, instead of a post-exilic one, since CHRIST JESUS is the once-and-for-all-time sacrifice that won us our salvation. Therefore, this passage begs the question, Why will we need a sacrificial altar in the “Millennial Kingdom Temple? And the answer is that, we won’t. Here in this passage Ezekiel is clearly prophesying of the Temple that was built by the exiles who would return to Israel from Babylon.
In the Millennial Kingdom Temple there will be no need for a sacrifice altar or Levitical priests of the family of Zadok to minister before the LORD on behalf of the people for their sin because there will be no sinning in the Millennial times here on earth under the direct rule of CHRIST. GOD will have already cleansed us of our sin nature and filth and we will only have the desire to live like CHRIST (Ezekiel 36:26-29). There will be no sinful desires in the Millennial Kingdom as satan, sin, and death will be locked away for a thousand years.
In Ezekiel 44, when the angelic being brought Ezekiel back to the East Gateway in the outer wall, the prophet saw that it was closed. Then the LORD said to him,
“This gate must remain closed; it will never again be opened. No man will ever pass through it, for the LORD, the GOD of Israel, entered here. Thus, it must always remain shut. Only the prince himself may sit inside this gateway to feast in the LORD’s presence, but HE may come and go only through the gateway’s foyer” (Vs.2-3) (NLT).
The east gate of the outer courtyard opened toward the Kidron valley, (where Ahithophel betrayed David, and, where Judas Iscariot betrayed JESUS) and the Mount of Olives. Ezekiel had seen the glory of the LORD enter into the Temple through that gate earlier, and HIS entry had now hallowed that gate and left it restricted from human usage. Only the prince (including JESUS, the prince of man and GOD) of the linage of King David will ever be able to enter in through the east gate, otherwise, it will never be opened again.
After hearing this, the angelic being led Ezekiel in through the north gate (the side that the priest’s rooms faced) to the front of the Temple where he then saw the glory of the LORD as it filled the Temple, and he fell to his knees with his face to the ground, in reverence to GOD’s presence (v.4).
In verses 5-9, the LORD says to Ezekiel;
“Son of man, take careful notice. Use your eyes and ears, and listen to everything I tell you about the regulations concerning the Lord’s Temple. Take careful note of the procedures for using the Temple’s entrances and exits. And give these rebels, the people of Israel, this message from the Sovereign Lord: O people of Israel, enough of your detestable sins! You have brought uncircumcised foreigners into my sanctuary—people who have no heart for God. In this way, you defiled my Temple even as you offered me my food, the fat and blood of sacrifices. In addition to all your other detestable sins, you have broken my covenant. Instead of safeguarding my sacred rituals, you have hired foreigners to take charge of my sanctuary.
“So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: No foreigners, including those who live among the people of Israel, will enter my sanctuary if they have not been circumcised and have not surrendered themselves to the Lord”.
Here GOD is demanding “absolute holiness” from his people, the people who call themselves by HIS name, and in today’s society, that means “Christians”. The only way that man can be holy is by closely adhering to the Word, wisdom, and directives of GOD at all times. Man has already proven that he will not adhere to GOD’s holy standards when given a chance to administer his own human ingenuity into GOD’s program in the Church.
We must turn from the practice of allowing people to minister in the Temple, who do not exhibit through their behavior, that they really have a heart for GOD (v.7). There is to be no hiring of people to work on staff who are not firmly rooted in the word of GOD, and who have not first proven themselves by testing, to be free of worldly ideas that can be used to profane the Temple.
Only those who have experienced a “spiritual circumcision” of the heart, and exhibits such through their behavior at all times, may be able to minister in the Temple. This is something that Ezra, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and the returning exiles heavily stressed when they began to put GOD’s plan that was given to Ezekiel, into practice (Ezra 4:1-3, Nehemiah 13:1-9).
In verses 10-16 GOD identifies the Levites who were eligible to minister before HIM in the new Temple at Jerusalem. The men of the tribe of Levi, who abandoned GOD and caused Israel to stray away to foreign gods and idol worship, would not be able to minister as priests (in a spiritual capacity) in the new Temple (v.10). However, they could be used (in a physical capacity) as Temple guards and gatemen, and, they may also be allowed to slaughter the animals that are brought to the Temple for sacrifices, and assist the people in minor areas (v.11). They were not allowed to touch any of the holy things, or holy offerings so that they might bear the shame of their sins against GOD. They were to serve only as Temple caretakers relegated to doing maintenance work, and helping people in a general way (Vs.12-14).
The Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, on the other hand, who had continued to minister faithfully in the pre-exilic Temple while all the other priests fell into sin, would be the only men who could serve as GOD’s ministers in the post-exilic Temple. They alone, would be able to stand in GOD’s presence and offer sacrifices and fulfill all of HIS requirements (Vs.15-16).
For those priests of the family of Zadok, who were to minister in GOD’s presence, there were special clothing and dressing requirements that needed to be adhered to. For instance, when they entered into the gateway to the inner courtyard, they had to wear only linen clothing. They could wear no wool garments while on duty in the inner courtyard, or the Temple itself. They also had to wear linen undergarments and turbans, and could wear nothing that would make them perspire (Vs.17-18).
Those clothes that were worn while ministering to GOD could not be worn outside the inner courtyard where the general public might gather. Those garments must be left in the sacred rooms that were provided for the priests. This would help the people to understand the importance of distinguishing between that which is holy, and that which is common, and to not confuse the two (v.19).
In verses 20, we see the regulations GOD set for the way priests can wear their hair, it can neither be too long, nor could it be shaved off completely, but it must be trimmed on a regular basis. The priests must never drink wine before entering the courtyard to serve the LORD (v.21), GOD wants HIS ministers to operate only under the influence of the HOLY SPIRIT while in HIS service.
In verses 22-23 we see the restrictions GOD places on priests who desire to be married. First of all they must choose their wives only from the virgins of Israel, or from the widows of the priests. They cannot marry widows of non-priests, or divorced women period.
Included among the duties of the priests, are that they must act as judge to resolve disagreements between the followers of GOD, using GOD’s regulations and directives as their guide (v.24a). The priests themselves must also be careful to obey all of GOD’s instructions and laws concerning all of the sacred GOD-appointed festivals, and to see to it that the Sabbath Days are set apart, and kept apart as holy for all time (v.24b).
Regarding priests being in the presence of the dead, they are restricted to only close family members such as their father, mother, child, brother, or unmarried sister (v.25), however, even after these occurrences, he must be ritually cleansed and satisfy a seven-day waiting period before he can come to the Temple to minister again, and at that time, he must offer up a sin offering for himself (Vs.26-27).
Finally we see that priest can own no property, as GOD is his only inheritance (v.28). All of their food will come from the tithes and offerings of the people (v.29). The first of all the offerings that are set apart for GOD will belong to the priests. And finally in verse 31 we see the meat restrictions that are applied by GOD to those who minister before HIM in the Temple. The priest must never eat the meat of strangled birds and animals, birds and animals that die of natural causes, or birds and animals that die after being attacked by other animals.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website