The Millennial Temple
The Identity of Ezekiel's Temple
There are perhaps five interpretations of Ezekiel's Temple.
Solomon's and Ezra's (Herod's) Temples as Built
There are similarities shared by these temples. The width and length of the holy place and the holy of holies of Solomon's, Ezra's, Herod's and Ezekiel's Temples are probably identical (1 Kings 6:2; 2 Chronicles 3:3; Ezra 6:3; http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14499a.htm; H. G. Stigers, Temple, Jerusalem, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, volume 5, pages 622-656; Ezekiel 41:4). However, the heights of the temples were probably different. There is controversy surrounding these dimensions:
Ezekiel's temple is to be surrounded by a sacred district 25,000 cubits long and 20,000** cubits wide (Ezekiel 45:1). The earlier temples never incorporated a sacred district. Therefore, Ezekiel's Temple cannot be Solomon's or Ezra's (Herod's) Temples.
Ezekiel's measurements were based on long cubits (a cubit [18 inches] plus a handbreadth [3 inches], see Ezekiel 40:5 and Ralph H. Alexander, Ezekiel, Expositors Bible Commentary, page 955-956). Thus the sacred district would be 43,750 by 35,000 feet or 8.3 by 6.6 miles. A change in topography through natural disaster may provide the space for the district (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 16:18-20).
The whole city of Jerusalem (including the Temple) in Herod's time was about 1 mile square. It was smaller in Solomon's days. Just the city is 1.5 miles square according to Ezekiel 48:30 and following. Other differences are revealed under additional topics below. The size of Ezekiel's sacred district was beyond anything associated with Solomon's and Ezra's Temples. Thus Ezekiel's description cannot be of Solomon's, Ezra's, or Herod's Temples.
There are differences between the King James Version (KJV) and the New International Version (NIV):
*In 2 Chronicles 3:4, KJV follows the text of Biblia Hebraica (BH) which is the generally accepted Hebrew text of the Old Testament. NIV follows the text of Greek and Syrian versions (translations) of the Hebrew. J. Barton Payne prefers the NIV wording because he believes that a 120 cubit (210 feet) high building was beyond the abilities of the ancient Hebrew architects (1,2 Chronicles, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, page 450). However the ancients did construct tall buildings:
Temple of YHWH
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Lighthouse of Alexandria
shortly after 290 BC
Colossus of Rhodes
The specifications are from http://ce.eng.usf.edu/pharos/wonders/.
**In Ezekiel 45:1, KJV follows BH and says the width of the sacred area was 10,000 cubits. NIV says its width was 20,000 cubits following Greek, Syrian, and Latin versions. Payne is correct to state that the preferred reading is 20,000 cubits because it includes two other sections that are 10,000 cubits (p. 981; Ezekiel 45:3, 5; 48:13).
Ezra's Temple as Planned
Here the idea is that Ezekiel gave a plan of the temple that should have been built in Ezra's time. However, according to this theory, the builders did not have the vision for such a huge complex and it was never achieved. The problem with this interpretation is that Ezekiel's vision was given as a prophecy. If it did not come true, he would have been a false prophet. If Ezekiel had been a false prophet, the Holy Spirit would never have allowed his prophecy to become part of the Canon. Since Ezekiel is a part of the Canon, it must not be that his description is of Ezra's Temple as it should have been built.
The Tribulation Temple
The Tribulation Temple is only described in Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; and Revelation 11:1-2. Not much is known about it. However, it is disclosed that it will be desecrated by the throne of a false god (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Ezekiel 43:7 states that the temple he describes will be the throne of the true God throughout its existaence. The true God would never share His glorious, inhabited temple with another. Thus, Ezekiel's temple cannot be the tribulation temple.
The Believer as a Temple
There is no evidence in Ezekiel that his temple is to be taken as a figure of the Holy Spirit's indwelling of Christians (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:19). There are several similar descriptions of temples in the historical books of the Old Testament (above) that were designed to be taken literally and actual physical complexes were built from these plans. Furthermore, to explain the tremendous number of details of Ezekiel's Temple using allegory detracts from a disciplined interpretation of the text. We can be confident that a physical temple will also be built from Ezekiel's vision.
The Millennial Temple
There are other passages that speak of a temple during the Millennium (e.g., Isaiah 2:2-3; Ezekiel 37:26; Micah 4:1-2, 7; Joel 3:21; Malachi 3:1). This is the only viable option that remains.
The Covenant Associated with Ezekiel's Temple
The following table chronologically lists the major centers of Israel's worship. The tabernacle and Solomon's and Ezra/Herod's Temples were associated with the Mosaic Covenant. The Millennial Temple is associated with the New Covenant.
A CHRONOLOGY OF ISRAEL'S WORSHIP CENTERS
DOMINANT NATION OVER JERUSALEM
COVENANT IN EFFECT
ISRAEL'S WORSHIP CENTER
|1440 BC -- The Exodus||Canaanites||None With Israel Prior To Mt. Sinai||
|Israel||Mosaic Covenant After Mt. Sinai||(1)|
|972 BC -- Dedication of Solomon's Temple||Israel||Mosaic Covenant||Solomon's Temple Was the Largest YHWH Temple
That Has Been Built.
|586 BC -- Destruction Of Solomon's Temple||Babylon||Mosaic Covenant||None|
|516 BC (2) -- Dedication Of Ezra's Temple||Persia -- Greece -- Ptolemies -- Seleucids -- Maccabees||Mosaic Covenant||Ezra's Temple Was The Smallest YHWH
Herod's Expansion Was Still Smaller Than Solomon's Temple.
|20 BC -- Dedication Of Herod's Expansion Of The Temple||Roman||The Mosaic (Law) Covenant Ended At The Crucifixion of Christ.|
Approximately 30 AD -- Crucifixion Of The Lord Jesus Christ
|The New Covenant Began At The Crucifixion of Christ.|
|70 AD -- Titus Destroys the Herod's Temple||Roman||New Covenant||None|
691 AD -- Muslim Dome Of The Rock (Mosque of Omar) Built On The Temple Mount.
715 AD -- Muslim El Aksa Mosque Also Built On The Temple Mount.
2001 AD -- An Extension of a Mosque Was Built Underground On The Temple Mount
|Arab -- Crusader -- Turk -- England -- Jordan -- Israel||New Covenant||None|
|Future AD-- Tribulation
Temple To Be Built (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4;
Future AD -- Tribulation Temple May Be Destroyed by Natural Disaster Or War (e.g., Revelation 16:18-21)
|Unknown||New Covenant||The Tribulation Temple Will Be Desecrated By
The Incorporation Of The Throne Of A False God (2
Thessalonians 2:4). This Temple May Be Built By Jews
Inappropriately As Part Of The Replaced Mosaic Covenant.
|Further Future AD --
Millennial Temple To Be Built (Ezekiel 40-48)
Further Future AD -- Millennial Temple To Be Destroyed (Revelation 21:1)
|Eternity Future -- No
"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (Revelation 21:22, NIV)."
(1) Graphic from http://www.thebiblerevival.com. To view the tabernacle model in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, click here. (2) Date from Life Application Bible (NIV), page 783. (3) Picture from http://www.ebibleteacher.com/. (4) See: Ralph H. Alexander, Ezekiel, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, volume 6, pages 946-950; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pages 520-524. (5) Art used by permission from Pat Marvenko Smith, © 1992. Click here to visit her "Revelation Illustrated" site.
The Differences Between The Tabernacle and Solomon's and Ezra's Temples and Ezekiel's Temple
The New Covenant, Millennial Temple Is Different Than The Tabernacle And Previous Temples In The Following Ways: (4)
- Temple: No Ark of the Covenant, Mercy Seat, Cherubim, Golden Candlesticks, Shew Bread, Nor Veil
- Priests: No High Priest & a Change In Order Of Priests
- Ceremonies: No Evening Sacrifice, Feast of Pentecost, Nor Day of Atonement
- Additions: Living Waters, Healing Trees, Suburbs, New Distribution Of Land, City's New Name, and Prince
Here are some sources for maps of the new land allotment of Ezekiel: http://www.mta.ca/faculty/humanities/religious/1671/ezek2.htm and http://www.templemount.org/ezektmp.html. Sources for maps of the sacred area: http://www.templemount.org/ezektmp.html. Diagrams of the altar of sacrifice: http://www.templemount.org/ezektmp.html. Diagrams of the temple gates: http://www.templemount.org/ezektmp.html. The commentary associated with these sources is not necessarily endorsed.
The Purposes of Ezekiel's Temple
First, Ezekiel's temple is the temple of the New Covenant. Solomon's and Ezra's (Herod's) temples were associated with the old, replaced (Hebrews 8:13), Mosaic Covenant.
The description of Ezekiel's temple indicates there will be animal sacrifices (Ezekiel 43:18-27; 44:11, 13, 29; 45:15, 17-19, 22-23, 25; 46:2, 4, 6, 12-13, 15). Since Christ's cross work established the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:6-13; 10:14-18), why would animal sacrifice still be necessary? Under the New Covenant Christ has already provided forgiveness of sins through His atonement on the cross.
Here are some issues to think about when trying to answer that question:
It Promotes Memories Of Christ's Sacrifice.
- Animal sacrifices by themselves never provided forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 10:4, 11). They were an illustration of a greater Sacrifice to come. Christ's work on the cross was and is the basis of all forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14-18). Likewise, the Lord's Supper is an illustration (the contents of the cup represent His spilled blood and the broken bread represents His tortured body), a remembrance of Christ's Sacrifice. The Lord's Supper does not provide forgiveness of sins. Thus it is reasonable that animal sacrifices could be performed in the Millennial Temple that would not provide forgiveness of sins but would provide a remembrance of Christ's cross work that provided forgiveness. The Lord's Supper is to the Church what animal sacrifices in the Millennial Temple are to the nation of Israel.
- There are significant institutions associated with the Old Covenant Tabernacle and Temples that do not appear in the New Covenant, Millennial Temple: the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat, the veil, a human high priest, the Day of Atonement, and so forth. The High Priest of the Millennial Temple apparently is the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-15; 5:6-8:6). The removal of several of the institutions is probably designed to cause the worshipper to reflect on our Lord's once for all sacrifice that makes these institutions unnecessary.
It Protects Unholy Persons From The Holy YHWH.
- The very first features of the Millennial Temple that are described are the walls and gates (Ezekiel 40:5-37). The gates are complex security devices that must be passed in order to enter the inner and outer courts (Ezekiel 40:5-16 20-37). These gates will be created to keep unauthorized persons out but also to allow authorized persons in to the presence of God.
- Numerous cherubim adorned the temple (Ezekiel 41:17-20, 25). In one case, the closing of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:24, it is known that a purpose of cherubim was to keep persons out of an unauthorized area.
Because YHWH is holy (Isaiah 6:3), unholy persons must be kept from His presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Exodus 19:5-6 promises the nation of Israel that it would become a holy nation if it obeys God. 1 Peter 2:9 calls the church, a holy nation. The individuals who make up the church become holy after they trust in Christ's work on the cross (Act 26:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10). The wall and the gates could also be an object lesson to remind us of God's holiness and the necessity of His citizens to become holy if they are to approach Him.
It Provides A Location From Which YHWH Imposes His Rule (Ezekiel 43:7).
Interpretation Of The Millennial Temple Passage
to prove/to Jews exiled in Babylon/that YHWH is greater than the gods of Babylon because His future temple will be greater than the temples of the false gods
Applications of the Millennial Temple Passage
- We should trust in the sovereign YHWH rather than in things (gods) created by man.
- We, believers, are made holy through faith because of Christ's sacrifice and will have eternal fellowship with the Holy God.
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