Ezekiel Bible Study (A New Heart)

Ezekiel 47-48, A New Temple With Life


Ezekiel was given the task of preaching to a people who had been captured and taken into exile by the Babylonians because God was judging his people for their sins. But the people in exile were going to represent the future of Israel. Their children would be the future remnant to return to Jerusalem. The final chapters of the book of Ezekiel is to generate hope in the people regarding what God will do when the Christ comes and the Spirit is poured out. The final chapters of the book have described a glorious temple in great detail. The purpose of these details is for the people to see the glory of the Lord and be convicted and ashamed of their sins (Ezekiel 43:10). The point of the temple imagery is not so that we would expect a physical structure to be built in the end times. Rather, the temple imagery was to prepare the people to see Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophesied glorious temple (cf. John 2:19-22). Ezekiel has been in a vision taking a tour of this new temple. The book concludes with a wonderful picture of the temple giving life to the world. Open your copies of God’s word to Ezekiel 47-48 and let’s see how this vision ends.

Living Waters Flow (47:1-12)

Ezekiel is brought back to the temple entrance. But as the entrance of the temple he sees water flowing from under the threshold. Ezekiel begins walking through the water and measuring it. First, Ezekiel moves through the flowing water and it is ankle-deep (47:3). Ezekiel moves a little further and now the flowing water was knee-deep (47:4). Ezekiel walks a little further and the water is now waist-deep (47:4). Ezekiel moves even further through the water and now it is an uncrossable river (47:5). It was deep enough to swim in, but strong enough and wide enough that it could not be crossed. Ezekiel is asked to pay attention to what he has seen and then is brought back to the bank of the river (47:6). So what does this mean? What is this flowing river from the temple visualizing and teaching?

The power of what this river is able to do is shocking. The water flows east and into the valley of the Dead Sea (47:8). Look at the effect the river has on the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea’s salty, stagnant waters become fresh. Until the 21st century, the Jordan River was the largest water source for Israel. Until modern intervention, diversion, and pollution, the Jordan River used to flow about 1.3 billion cubic meters of water per year. Yet the Dead Sea stayed dead. Even with the Jordan River flowing into the Dead Sea, the salt content remained unaffected. It is named the Dead Sea because of its lack of animal life and plant life. They simply cannot live in that extreme environment.

But carefully look at what verses 8-10 describe. The Dead Sea will be full of fresh water (47:8). Large numbers of fish will be there because this water flows and will make the salt water fresh (47:9). In fact, everything will live wherever the river goes. Life will be so abundant that people will be fishing in the Dead Sea and they will catch fish out of it like they would the Great Sea, which is the Mediterranean Sea. I decided to google fishing in the Mediterranean and there are all kinds of websites about the great fishing that can be done in it. The Dead Sea which cannot support life will be teeming with life. But look at verse 11. The swamps and marshes will not become fresh but will be left for salt. This acknowledges the value of salt. Salt was a valuable commodity and industry in that area and it still is now. Salt was very important and was commanded by God to be included in the sacrifices and represented God’s unchanging covenant (cf. Exodus 30:35; Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5; Ezekiel 43:24).

The amazing power of this water is further described in verse 12. On the banks of both sides of the river grows all kinds of trees for food (47:12). Their leaves do not wither. The fruit does not fail. They bear fresh fruit every month because of these waters. Now think about this picture. If you have a fruit tree you know that this does not happen. A fruit tree does not bear fresh fruit every month. Fruit is grown in seasons and cycles. Yet the power of this water is so great and so life giving that the trees are pictured as providing fruit for food every month and the leaves giving constant healing.

The New Testament amplifies this picture to highlight to keys regarding this picture. First, the book of Revelation uses this picture to describe the effect of these waters.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1–2 ESV)

Notice that the river is described as the water of life and it is flowing from the throne. Notice also that we see trees on each side of the river, yielding fruit each month, just as Ezekiel saw. We are then told that this is picturing the tree of life in abundance on both sides of the river, providing the healing of the nations. The access is not limited. This new temple will provide healing to all people. This water will give the life you need. This water will give you the healing your life needs. This water will give you the restoration you need. I love the imagery of Ezekiel 47:9. Wherever the river goes, there is new life given. Now let’s look at the second picture in the New Testament.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39 ESV)

Notice what Jesus does. Jesus has identified himself as the temple filled with God’s glory in John 2:19-22. Now Jesus uses the meaning of the temple imagery. Rivers of living water are flowing from Jesus. Jesus cries out for anyone who is thirsty to come to him and drink. Jesus is the source of life. Jesus is the source of healing and restoration. Be thirsty and come to him to drink life-giving waters. He is the temple that gives life and healing to the world. Again, to look to a future physical temple to be built during the end times proclaims the insufficiency of Jesus. We have Jesus. We have life in him. We have healing in him. We have our thirst satisfied in Jesus. Why would we need a new temple to come after him? He is the temple that the prophets were speaking about. We will come back to this picture at the end of the lesson. But let’s come back to Ezekiel 47-48 and see what else is pictured.

Distributing the Inheritance (47:13-48:35)

As you look at the rest of Ezekiel 47 and on into chapter 48 you will see the boundary divisions listed for each of the tribes. This is a picture of distributing the promised land. In Joshua’s day the distribution of the land was the capstone of God’s blessings to his people. God had rescued his people from slavery, brought them through the water, cared for them in the wilderness, defeated their enemies, and placed them in the promised land. Distributing the land was the final piece of God dispensing his blessings. God has done his work and all that is left for the faithful to do is enjoy his inheritance blessings.

But there is a key difference to the distribution of this inheritance to the inheritance in Joshua’s day. In Joshua’ day the inheritance was divided in proportion to the size of the tribe (cf. Numbers 26:53-54). But in Ezekiel 47:14 we read that this inheritance will be divided equally. The size of the tribe is irrelevant. Each person has an equal portion of God’s promised inheritance. Further, in Ezekiel 47:22-23 we read that even foreigners are assigned a portion of the inheritance. “They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel” (47:22). Even the outsiders will be counted as citizens of this new kingdom with an equal portion of the inheritance distributed to them. This is what we are waiting for in Christ.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15 ESV)

Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3–4 CSB)

Come back to Ezekiel 48 and let’s look at how the prophecy ends. The city of God is measured and the name of the city is, “The Lord is There” (48:35). This city is further described in Revelation 21:12-21. Our inheritance is to enjoy the glory and honor of being with the Lord. The Lord is there and we are there. We are there enjoying an eternal inheritance. We have been given a new birth and a new life that gives us a living hope for this imperishable inheritance through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Friends, the hope of eternity with the Lord is our wonderful hope and glorious inheritance.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13–14 ESV)

Final Thought

I said that I wanted to end by coming back to something Jesus said on the last day of the feast in John 7. Let’s go back and look one more time at what he said.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39 ESV)

Jesus says that we need to come to him thirsty and drink the living waters that he gives which will provide restoration and healing. But I want us to notice that we are given a purpose in these words. Notice that Jesus also says that out of our hearts will flow rivers of living waters. As we enjoy the healing waters that restore the dead sea of our hearts, we are to overflow with healing waters to the world so that they can also have the dead sea of their hearts restored. The living waters of Jesus are not to terminate on us but continue to flow so that the whole earth is filled with God’s glory.

What a wonderful picture of hope and transformation! Come to Jesus and receive hope, healing, and restoration for your life. Then, as you are changed into his image, we are able to give hope, healing, and restoration to others through the gospel message of Jesus. The Lord is there. You can be there and you can help others be there too. Nothing should make us more ashamed of our sins than seeing God’s great plan to send rivers of living water throughout the world through Jesus so that sinners could be forgiven and restored.

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