The following is excerpted from Lambert Dolphin’s excellent essay, The Temple of Ezekiel (used by permission).
Mr. John W. Schmitt of Portland, Oregon (Ref. 3) has devoted many years to a study of Ezekiel’s Temple, and to the construction of several fine scale models used for educational purposes.
Ezekiel had planned to enter the priestly service in the First Temple when he reached thirty years of age. His plans were cut short in 597 when King Nebuchadnezzar raided and captured Jerusalem after a brief siege, taking with him young king Jehoichin and “all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths.” (2 Kings 24:14). (By way of reference, Daniel and his three friends of the tribe of Judah plus others from Jerusalem had previously been taken to Babylon in a raid by General—soon to be King—Nebuchadnezzar after the battle of Carchemish in 605. That famous battle ended the rule of Egypt in the ancient world).
In the fifth year of his own exile from Jerusalem, that is in 593 BC, Ezekiel was called by God to exercise a prophetic ministry to the house of Israel which he continued until about the year 570. Ezekiel was married, in fact his wife died as a sign from God on the day the siege of Jerusalem began, (24:18).
Ezekiel’s temple and the millennium occupies the last eight long chapters of his book. He gives 318 precise measurements of the temple using some 37 unique words that are architectural terms, such as “door-posts,” “windows,” etc. Ezekiel received this great wealth of information on the millennial temple in the year 573 BC in the form of a vision and a personally conducted tour of the temple by “a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze.” (Evidently the Angel of the Lord). “He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand and he stood in the gateway.” (40:3) The tour began at the Eastern Gate—which was closed:
“Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. And he said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.” (44:1–3)
The present Golden Gate in the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is walled shut. Jewish and Arab tradition teaches—probably because of a misinterpretation of this passage in Ezekiel—that the Jewish Messiah is to enter the Golden Gate. For that reason the gate was walled up by the Arabs in the 11th Century after the Crusades, (if not earlier) or perhaps by Suleiman the Magnificent in AD 1539–1542—to prevent the Jewish Messiah from entering. The much older gate beneath the present Golden Gate, or else another (as yet undiscovered) gate in the Eastern wall could have been the one used by Jesus when He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on the foal of a donkey.
In addition to being a very large and complex structure Ezekiel’s temple differs in several very important ways from any previously existing Jewish temple. These have been cataloged by researcher John Schmitt, a Portland, Oregon Bible scholar, as follows:
Features Unique to Ezekiel’s Temple
No wall of partition to exclude Gentiles (compare Ephesians 2:14) The Gentiles were previously welcome in the Outer Courts, but excluded from the inner courts on pain of death.
No Court of Women (compare Galatians 3:28 (Outer Court and Inner Court only)
No Laver (see Ezekiel 36:24–27, John 15:3)
No Table of Shewbread (see Micah 5:4, John 6:35)
No Lampstand or Menorah (see Isaiah 49:6, John 8:12)
No Golden Altar of Incense (Zechariah 8:20–23, John 14:6)
No Veil (Isaiah 25:6–8, Matthew 27:51)
No Ark of the Covenant (Jeremiah 3:16, John 10:30–33)
Major Changes to the Altar: The sacrificial Altar will be approached by a ramp from the East. Previous altars were all approached from the South. Now there will be stairs to the altar, not a ramp as previously. The top of the altar is now described by the Hebrew word “ariel” [Isaiah 29:1] meaning “hearth of God” or “lion of God.” [Rev. 5:5].
If the previous temples, as well as the Tabernacle of Moses, are pictures for us of man as the dwelling place of God, then Ezekiel’s temple may be intended to teach us about the marvelously new resurrection bodies waiting for every believer when he leaves this present life (2 Corinthians 5:1–5).
Believing saints from the Old Testament epoch, saints from the Christian era, and all those raised from the dead at the rapture and at the second coming of Christ in glory receive new resurrection bodies, like that of Jesus, as detailed in 1 Corinthians 15. Yet, after the Battle of Armageddon, Jesus will gather all the survivors of the nations outside Jerusalem and determine which individual sons and daughters of Adam are worthy to enter the Millennial Kingdom on earth. This is the famous judgment of the sheep and the goats described by our Lord in Matthew 25:31–46, and also given by the prophet Joel:
“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it. “What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will requite your deed upon your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border. But now I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will requite your deed upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far off; for the Lord has spoken.” Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare war, stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”
Hasten and come, all you nations round about, gather yourselves there. Bring down thy warriors, O Lord. Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. And the Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. “So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall never again pass through it. “And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the valley of Shittim. “Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited for ever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the Lord dwells in Zion.” (Joel 3)
The criterion for judgment at this time will be how individuals Gentiles have treated the Jews, especially believing Jews who constitute “true Israel.” The “Sheep” category clearly represents those righteous gentiles whose hearts are right before the Lord, that is they are all regenerated men and women, but individuals who have not previously received their resurrection bodies. They will repopulate the earth, according to Christian belief, during the thousand year reign of Messiah under greatly improved living conditions:
“But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their children with them. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 65:18–25)
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THOMAS HORN EXPLAINS TO JIM BAKKER WHAT COULD HAPPEN THAT WOULD DEMAND THE BUILDING OF THE THIRD TEMPLE!
During this thousand year reign of Yeshua over a restored earth, with Satan locked away in the abyss (Rev. 20:2), sinners will be born on the earth and will need to be instructed in matters of God’s grace and mercy. For this reason most commentators on Ezekiel believe that the Fourth Temple will be Memorial in nature, looking back in time to the cross of Jesus Christ, just as the Tabernacle and First and Second Temples pointed ahead in time to the cross. The prescribed worship services of Ezekiel’s temple are also described for us in great detail by the prophet. The priests presiding over the temple services will be of the line of Zadok (44:15) who proved faithful after the failure of the Levitical priests in the line of Eli (1 Samuel 2:35, 1 Kings 2:26-27, 35). The Millennial Temple will not have a separate High Priest. Instead the previously separate offices of King and Priest will be combined in the Messiah as noted, (See Zechariah 6:9–15)
Approximate Distribution of Land to the Twelve Tribes during Messiah’s Coming Reign
In addition to the physical differences in Ezekiel’s Temple a number of changes are made in the annual cycle of Jewish feasts. It is very clearly that the Millennial Temple sacrifices are definitely not a re-instatement of the Mosaic system.
Another feature of the Millennial Temple is the presence of a great stream of fresh water which issues from beneath the Southern wall of the Temple. Ezekiel describes this river, which divides into two branches and flows Westward into the Mediterranean Sea and also Eastward into the Northern end of the Dead Sea, freshening all the land South of Jericho,
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate, that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. Going on eastward with a line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the loins. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.
And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw upon the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea; from Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (47:1–12)
This same stream of water seems to be identical to that described in Zechariah 14:8 and Joel 3:18. If so then the site of the Fourth Temple would seem to be on or near the present Temple Mount in Jerusalem. If this is so, then the city of Jerusalem will evidently be rebuilt to the South since the temple holy district is specified in Ezekiel 48 as North of the rebuilt city of Jerusalem. Some commentators have suggested that the Millennial Temple will be located at Shiloh, 31 kilometers to the North of present day Jerusalem.
A second reason for believing that the site of Ezekiel’s Temple may be near the present Temple Mount is found in Ezekiel’s description of the return of the Lord to dwell forever with His people Israel. The Lord says the people will no longer defile the temple site with the dead bodies of their kings. Since there are so many cemeteries on and around the Temple Mount this would require a special ritual cleansing of the entire area (described by Ezekiel), and of course the relocation of the rebuilt City to the South of the Temple district as we have already noted:
Afterward he (the angel of the Lord brought me (Ezekiel) to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the east; and the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was like the vision which I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and like the vision which I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple; and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel for ever.
And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their harlotry, and by the dead bodies of their kings, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations which they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their idolatry and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst for ever. “And you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple and its appearance and plan, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, portray the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form; and make known to them all its ordinances and all its laws; and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe and perform all its laws and all its ordinances. This is the law of the temple: the whole territory round about upon the top of the mountain shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple. (Ezekiel 43:1–12)
Jerusalem, the rebuilt city in Israel, on earth, during the Millennium, should not be confused with the heavenly city known as “New Jerusalem,” referred to in the New Testament, (Hebrews 11:16, 12:18–29, Revelation 21–22) which seems to take the form of a great orbiting or stationary satellite above the earth. This vast city whose dimensions are of the order of 1500 miles on a side, may be connected to the millennial temple by a space-time gate way. The New Jerusalem does not include a temple (Revelation 21:22, 23)—“The Lord God, the Almighty and the Lamb, are its temple.”
During the millennial kingdom sin will continue to exist on the earth, but all forms of defilement and sin are clearly excluded from the New Jerusalem, and guarded against by the complex rituals proscribed for the Temple of Ezekiel on the earth.
Ezekiel saw in a great vision the departure of the glory (the Shekinah) of God from the Temple of Solomon, (Ezekiel 9:1–11:25). In a subsequent vision of Jerusalem in 573 BC, eighteen years later, Ezekiel was shown the future return of the Shekinah to Israel and to the Temple (43:1–12). That future day had also been foreseen by the prophet Isaiah:
In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing For those of Israel who have escaped. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:2–6)
Although we are given much information in the Bible on Tabernacle and Temples, the principal Biblical emphasis is not on buildings but on men and their character, scripture does not negate the use of shadows and symbols.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest. All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the Lord. But this is the man to whom I look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:1, 2).[i]
NEXT: As Christ’s Millennial Kingdom Nears
[i] By permission of Lambert Dolphin, www.ldolphin.org, Lambert Dolphin wwwtemplemount.org.