Ezekiel Bible Study (A New Heart)

Ezekiel 40-43, A New Temple With Glory


As we come to the final chapters of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is going to have a vision for the new temple. Chapters 40-48 all depict a new glorious temple that the Lord will have for his people. Before we look at this vision, we need to consider where we are in the flow of the book and why this would be how the prophecy of Ezekiel ends. One big message that we are seeing the Lord give through Ezekiel is an explanation of how things are going to be different in Christ’s kingdom when the Spirit comes. The people have lost their king but the Lord describes how he will send his Shepherd to lead and rule his people, establishing a covenant of peace with them (Ezekiel 34). The people have lost their inheritance. But when the Spirit comes, the Lord’s people will be able to obtain the promised eternal inherence (Ezekiel 35-36). The people have been rebellious to the Lord. But this new kingdom will be different because the Lord will cause his people to walk in his ways and keep his rules because they will have a new heart and new spirit put within them (Ezekiel 36). The people are cut off from the Lord because of their sins. But the Lord will give new life to his spiritual dead people and they will live with David as their king and all the nations will know that the Lord lives in the midst of his people (Ezekiel 37). The people have been under subjugation from the surrounding nations. But now the Lord will not raise up nations to destroy his people any longer because they will walk in his ways. So when the worldly kings and nations rise up against the Lord, his plans, and his people (the Gog and Magog of the world), the Lord will use their resistance to be their total demise and judgment (Ezekiel 38-39). With these pictures before us, we can see that there is only one thing left that needs to be restored. The Lord has prophesied that he will restore his king, restore his covenant, restore his blessings, restore his relationship with his people, restore the kingdom, restore his nation, and restore his glory among the nations. The only other thing lost due to their sins that needs to be restored is the temple. So Ezekiel 40-48 conclude with a vision of the Lord’s new temple for the world.

Interpreting the Temple

Now before we go forward in our study, we need to stop and think about the purpose of this section because there is a wrong way to look at this temple. I will submit to you that we cannot read this section about the new temple as a prescription for how to build the future temple of the Lord. There are a number of reasons why. One of the biggest reasons why we should not read these chapters as a prescription for how to build the temple in Jerusalem is because the people of the scriptures did not read it this way. For example, it should be striking to us that when the people of Israel return from the Babylonian exile under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, none of them go to Ezekiel 40-48 as the directions for how to build the temple. If the purpose of Ezekiel’s prophecy is about building an actual physical temple in Jerusalem, then why didn’t these faithful, godly servants use the directions given through Ezekiel for the rebuilding of the temple? It must have been clear to them that this was not the purpose of the vision.

The second reason why we should not read Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple as directions for its building is because there are no instructions for building this temple. The text just states what will be. Further, this temple cannot be built by humans because it is missing key dimensions and key information. For example, we are never told how high the temple is. We are also not told what the construction materials for the temple are supposed to be. Not only this, but this temple design cannot fit on the present temple mount site.

One more reason why we should not read this section as a temple that is to be constructed in the future is because it lacks key details. This temple does not have a wall to exclude the Gentiles. It does not have a courtyard for the women. It does not have a laver, table of showbread, lamp stand, altar of incense, veil, or ark of the covenant in it. In short, we are not intended to read this vision as directions for constructing a new temple. This is not how the people of the scriptures read this text. Rather, we need to read about this temple as a symbol. The message of the temple becomes clear when we notice the differences about this new temple than the temple of the past. The context of Ezekiel’s prophecy tells us to do this. Ezekiel 34-39 has all been a contrast of what will be versus what was. For example, rather than false shepherds the Lord will give a new shepherd. Rather than wicked kings, the Lord will give the people David as king. Rather than the worldly nations destroying God’s people, God will raise up worldly nations for their own destruction. Rather than the people have stubborn hearts of stone, they will have repentant hearts of flesh. What I want us to see is that our understanding will come from looking at contrasts rather than thinking this is a blueprint for new temple construction.

Vision Purpose (43:10-12)

Ezekiel 40 begins with Ezekiel touring the new temple in a vision. Ezekiel starts on the outside of the temple complex, walking the outer court and observing the various gates into the temple courts in chapter 40. In chapters 41-42 Ezekiel walks the inner court and visiting the various chambers there. But chapter 43 explains to us what the Lord wants us to understand. So we will spend the time for our study in Ezekiel 43.

The Lord explains the purpose of this vision. Look at Ezekiel 43:10. The Lord instructs Ezekiel to describe the temple to the people of Israel “so that they may be ashamed of their sins.” The people were to hear about the details of this new temple and be amazed by its beauty and perfection so that they would be ashamed of how they had sinned against the Lord. Notice that the purpose is not to build the temple but to be convicted of sin by its design. So I think this leads to a natural question. How was the design of the temple supposed to convict the hearts of the people? Why would a new temple spur people to put away their sins (cf. Ezekiel 43:9)? Let’s notice what is described at the beginning of chapter 43.

A Glorious Temple (43:1-9)

After touring the temple courts, notice what Ezekiel sees as he comes to the east gate. Look at verse 2.

And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. (Ezekiel 43:2 ESV)

The glory of the Lord is coming from the east. In verse 3 Ezekiel tells us that the glory of the Lord was the same vision that he saw in Ezekiel 1. In the first chapter of Ezekiel we saw a staggering vision that is incomprehensible to the human mind depicting the glory of the Lord. Now Ezekiel sees that staggering glory returning to temple from the east. The glory of the Lord enters the east gate and fills the temple (43:4-5). This is amazing. The glory of the Lord has not been seen since Solomon finished building his temple in 1 Kings 8. When the temple was completed, we read about the glory of the Lord filling its structure. But Ezekiel 10 showed the glory of the Lord leaving this temple because of the people’s sins. But here is Ezekiel’s future prophetic hope. The glory of the Lord will return and fill the temple again. Notice what this means in verses 6-9. In verse 7 we read that Lord say that this will be the place of his throne. This is where the Lord will walk. This is where the Lord will live with his people forever.

This was the message to convict the hearts of the people. The people had sinned so severely against the Lord that the Lord could not live with his people any longer. The people had rejected the Lord, deciding to follow their sins rather than the Lord who loved them and cared for them. But all hope was not lost. Ezekiel pictures that there would be a day when the glory of the Lord would return from the east, come to the temple, and fill it with the fullness of God’s glory. This is the great hope.

New Testament Message

Please turn to Matthew 21 and I want you to notice the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples are making their way to Jerusalem and this will be the final time that Jesus will come to this city. Jesus knows he is going to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified there. This triumphal entry is the moment when the crowd who has come with Jesus go before him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Matthew records that this was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah which said that your king would come to you riding on a donkey (Matthew 21:4-5). But I want you to observe a crucial detail in the text that the three synoptic gospel accounts all record. Look at Matthew 21:1. Notice that Jesus and his disciples as they come near Jerusalem come from the direction of the Mount of Olives to enter the city. The Mount of Olives is directly east of temple. When Jesus comes to the temple, he comes from the east, just as the prophecy said that the glory of the Lord would return from the east and fill it with God’s glory. We just recently studied the transfiguration of Jesus in which Peter calls that a moment when he received honor and glory from the Father (cf. 2 Peter 1:17). The Gospel of John solidifies that Jesus in the flesh was the arrival of the glory of the Lord.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)

Though the people had rejected the Lord, the Lord promised that he would return. The Lord promised that his glory would return and that this would be the place for his throne and where his feet would walk (Ezekiel 43:7). This is where God would live with his people. Then it happened. The glory of the Lord as seen in Jesus came and lived with his people and established his rule. Edmund Clowney wrote, “It is not so much that Christ fulfills what the temple means; rather Christ is the meaning for which the temple existed.” Christ is the meaning of this vision of Ezekiel. The first picture is that the temple will be full of God’s glory.

Let’s end the lesson by thinking about what the Lord said was the purpose of this vision. The purpose was so that the people would be convicted and ashamed of their sins (43:9-10). Friends, we are to see the glory of the Lord on display in Jesus so that we are cut to the heart for our sinning. We should be amazed that the Lord would send his Son to display his glory to us only for humanity to reject him and crucify him. This is how the apostle Paul describes to the Corinthians what happened.

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7–8 ESV)

Our hope is in the Lord of glory who came and lived among us, displaying the glory of the Father for all to see. Let it cause us to be ashamed of our sins, reject our idols, and be more fully devoted to love him and serve him. Jesus is the glorious temple in whom we find atonement, where we are able to meet God, and are able to live with the Lord for all eternity.

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