A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
From our last installment, we can see that Ezekiel’s Temple will be much different from either previous one in both appearance and function. The Holy Place will have no Menorah, no incense altar, and no table of show bread. A wooden altar will be its only piece of furniture. A thick veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in previous Temples and no one was allowed through the veil except the High Priest and then only on one day each year, Yom Kippur. In Ezekiel’s Temple the veil has been replaced by folding doors, and there will be no ark, and no mercy seat in the Holy of Holies.
At the close of our last study we saw the Shekinah Glory return after a 2600 year absence and proclaim that this Temple is where He will live among the Israelites forever. Now we’ll hear His first words to them upon doing so.
The Lord’s Accusation
The LORD said to me, “Son of man, look carefully, listen closely and give attention to everything I tell you concerning all the regulations regarding the temple of the LORD. Give attention to the entrance of the temple and all the exits of the sanctuary. Say to the rebellious house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Enough of your detestable practices, O house of Israel! In addition to all your other detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my sanctuary, desecrating my temple while you offered me food, fat and blood, and you broke my covenant. Instead of carrying out your duty in regard to my holy things, you put others in charge of my sanctuary. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites. (Ezek. 44:5-9)
This accusation could only refer to the anti-Christ and False Prophet, one of whom will apparently serve as a kind of High Priest after the Temple is made desolate during the Great Tribulation. Uncircumcised in heart means the foreigner will not be a Christian, for as Paul wrote to the Church, circumcision is of the heart. (Romans 2:29) Uncircumcised in the flesh means he won’t be a religious Jew either.
Some have wondered how Israel could accept a non-Jew as their High Priest, but remember, they like everyone else will be totally persuaded by his miracles that he is the one they’ve been waiting for. (2 Thes. 2:9) Daniel 11:37 says he’ll have no regard for the God of his fathers nor for the one desired by women, a reference to the Messiah. This confirms that he’ll be neither a practicing Jew nor a Christian.
“The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the LORD. He is to enter by way of the portico of the gateway and go out the same way.”(Ezek. 44:3)
“The prince will have the land bordering each side of the area formed by the sacred district and the property of the city. It will extend westward from the west side and eastward from the east side, running lengthwise from the western to the eastern border parallel to one of the tribal portions.” (Ezek. 45:7)
“It will be the duty of the prince to provide the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths—at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel. He will provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.” (Ezek. 45:17)
In Ezek. 34:23-24 the Lord had promised, “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.”
This tells us that a descendant of David’s will be the Prince in Israel. He’ll be a human in natural form because he’ll be a sinner (Ezek. 45:22) and he’ll have children. (Ezek. 46:16) He will not be the original David, nor will he be the Messiah, but he will be the ruling authority in Israel, subject only to the Messiah.
Although he provides the animals for offerings, he can not enter the inner court since he won’t be of the priestly family. He will stand at the gate while the priests prepare and sacrifice the animals. (Ezek. 46:2)
The Levites And The Priests
“The Levites who went far from me when Israel went astray and who wandered from me after their idols must bear the consequences of their sin. They may serve in my sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them. But because they served them in the presence of their idols and made the house of Israel fall into sin, therefore I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign LORD. They are not to come near to serve me as priests or come near any of my holy things or my most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices. Yet I will put them in charge of the duties of the temple and all the work that is to be done in it.
“But the priests, who are Levites and descendants of Zadok and who faithfully carried out the duties of my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign LORD. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and perform my service.” (Ezek. 44:10-16)
“In any dispute, the priests are to serve as judges and decide it according to my ordinances. They are to keep my laws and my decrees for all my appointed feasts, and they are to keep my Sabbaths holy.”
“I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession.” (Ezek. 44:24,28)
Zadok the Priest remained faithful to King David even when many others around him were doubting that he could effectively reign due to his advancing years and the strife within his own family. As a reward David made him the High Priest just before yielding the throne to Solomon. Now Zadok’s descendants are given the favored place in all of Israel, that of being closest to God in His Temple.
As in days of old the priests will be the keepers of the law and will settle disputes among the people according to God’s law. And as before the tribe of Levi will receive no land grant. The Lord is their inheritance. They will eat the offerings as always, in rooms dedicated for that purpose (Ezek. 44:29-30) and derive their incomes from the tithes of the people.
There will be no High Priest, that office being permanently filled by the Lord. There’s no indication that He’ll preside at any ceremony, however. One of the priests will accept that duty and act under the supervision of the Prince, who although from the tribe of Judah, will be responsible to supervise the presentation of offerings from the thresh hold of the gateway to the inner court.
There will be an altar for sacrificing the various burnt offerings in the courtyard just outside the Temple and there the priests will perform the ongoing and precise work of preparing and presenting the endless sacrifices to God. But unlike before there will be no bronze laver or washing station. Also different from before is that this altar will be made of dressed stones and can be approached by ascending steps, in place of the unhewn stones and ramp that were required previously. A seven day long purification ceremony will be necessary to make atonement for the priests and the altar before it will be acceptable for use. Beginning on the eighth day their sacrifices and offerings will make the people acceptable to the Lord. (Ezek 43:13-27)
The Sacred District
“When you allot the land as an inheritance, you are to present to the LORD a portion of the land as a sacred district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits wide; the entire area will be holy. Of this, a section 500 cubits square is to be for the sanctuary, with 50 cubits around it for open land. In the sacred district, measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. In it will be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. It will be the sacred portion of the land for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and who draw near to minister before the LORD. It will be a place for their houses as well as a holy place for the sanctuary. An area 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide will belong to the Levites, who serve in the temple, as their possession for towns to live in.”
“You are to give the city as its property an area 5,000 cubits wide and 25,000 cubits long, adjoining the sacred portion; it will belong to the whole house of Israel.”
“The prince will have the land bordering each side of the area formed by the sacred district and the property of the city. It will extend westward from the west side and eastward from the east side, running lengthwise from the western to the eastern border parallel to one of the tribal portions. This land will be his possession in Israel.” (Ezek. 45:1-8)
In the center of the nation a tract of land will be set aside for the priests and the Temple. We’ll discuss its exact location when we look at the distribution of the land. This area will measure about 7 miles by 6 miles. The priests will have their homes there on about half of this land with the rest being set aside for the Temple. Just south of this district will be a portion for the Holy City, and east of it another one for the Prince and his family.
Offerings and Holy Days
As we discussed in our last installment animal sacrifice will be practiced on Earth during the Millennium. In addition to the daily sin offering, there will be many other offerings as in Old Testament times, for Sabbaths, New Moons and other festivals, and for the atonement of the people. (Ezek. 45:17) The Levitical feasts observed in the Old Testament will be modified with First Fruits, Pentecost, Rosh Hashannah, and Yom Kippur eliminated. Only Passover, followed by the seven days of Unleavened Bread (Ezek. 45:21-24) and the seven day Feast of Tabernacles (Ezek. 45:25) will be observed. Passover will no longer include the sacrifice of a lamb, the Passover Lamb having already been sacrificed once for all time.
Everyone on Earth will be required to come to the Holy City each year for the Feast of Tabernacles. If any nation adopts an official policy exempting its people from attending this annual pilgrimage, they’ll experience drought and plague, (Zechariah 14:16-19) for this is the great celebration of the restoration of Israel and the in-gathering of the nations to their Creator.
Next time we’ll conclude this study with a review of the Temple’s location and the distribution of the land.