320 - Millennial Blessings (Ezekiel 40–48)
God rightly condemns sin and consistently warns of its consequences. And so should we. God also offers hope, again and again—the assurance of eternal life and the joy of eternal blessing that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. And so should we.
Today we come to the final pages and the final prophecy of Ezekiel. Here in chapters 40 through 48, the prophet Ezekiel points to the future of Israel. Although the nation is suffering the consequences of their idolatry and rebellion; although their land is desolate; although the capital city of Jerusalem is in ruins and the glorious, golden temple is destroyed; and although the people are now exiles in a foreign land, this book of prophecy ends with a vision of the coming glory and kingdom of the Messiah.
We have seen glimpses of this kingdom already in our Wisdom Journey through this book. But these closing chapters give us a more detailed and —I must say—rather breathtaking description of your future and mine, along with that of the nation of Israel.
Now let’s set the timeline here. After the seven years of tribulation, Jesus Christ will return to earth, destroy His enemies, and establish His kingdom. That kingdom will continue for a thousand years. Resurrected believers of all times will be there, reigning with Christ over millions of people on earth who have entered the millennial kingdom. These are people from every tongue, tribe, and nation who have accepted Christ during the tribulation and survived to witness Christ’s return—they will literally move directly into the kingdom reign of Christ.
Ezekiel’s focus, however, is on the nation of Israel—those Jewish people from around the world who, in this future day, have regathered in the land of Israel. They have accepted Christ during the tribulation and now have welcomed their Messiah who has returned to set up His kingdom.
In a vision, the Lord takes Ezekiel to Jerusalem, which is now restored and rebuilt. There, Ezekiel sees a man—more than likely an angel—with a measuring rod in his hand. He tells the prophet, “Declare all that you see to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 40:4).
And what does he see? He sees the millennial temple. This is a future, rebuilt, glorious temple for the millennial kingdom.
Now we know that when the captives in Babylon eventually returned to their homeland, they rebuilt their temple. It was later enlarged by King Herod into the temple of Jesus’ day. But that temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, and listen, the temple has never been rebuilt. I have been to Israel and seen all that remains of Herod’s temple—an outer wall that has been nicknamed the Wailing Wall. This is where people go to cry because of all that has been lost.
But one day the weeping will cease, and the glorious temple Ezekiel sees here will be present during Christ’s reign on earth. Chapters 40–41 describe this temple in great detail. There is no reason to understand this prophecy as anything other than a description of a literal temple in a literal future kingdom.
We are given here in chapter 40 the measurements for gates, and courts, and offices. The angel gives Ezekiel a tour as they work their way from the outer court into the inner court of the temple. Eventually, they arrive in chapter 41 at the Holy of Holies—the Most Holy Place.
It is interesting that there is no mention of the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. And as one writer notes, there’s “no mention of the ark of the covenant or the mercy seat on which the blood was sprinkled on the annual Day of Atonement.”
Why not? Because the Lord Jesus, the physical, visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the Lamb of God who “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12), will be physically and visibly present. He is the mercy seat—the place where God’s wrath is turned away. He is the presence of almighty God.
Once everything has been measured here at the end of chapter 42, Ezekiel is taken out to the gate that faces east, where the outer perimeter of the entire temple complex is measured. It is a perfect square of 500 cubits on each side. One commentator puts that into perspective, noting that this temple complex is large enough to hold “more than 13 football fields.” It is massive!
Now the most significant part of this vision is what Ezekiel sees next in chapter 43, where millennial worship takes center stage. In verse 2 he writes this:
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.
Imagine the sound of Niagara Falls, with this brilliant light, moving toward the city of Jerusalem as the glory of God returns.
The people of Israel living in the millennium are believers. They have a new heart and a new spirit, as the Lord prophesied. So, the Lord’s presence has returned. God, then, can say these words in verse 7:
“I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name.”
A rather interesting feature of the millennial worship is that the descendants of Zadok will serve as priests. These are Levites, but they are not from the line of Aaron. The sons of Zadok had remained faithful to the Lord. Listen to what the Lord says in Ezekiel 44:15:
“The sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister.”
Chapter 45 tells us that a portion of the land is going to be set aside as a sacred district. There will be a section for the temple and for the priests and a section for the Levites. In addition, verse 7 records this:
“To the prince shall belong the land on both sides of the holy district . . . extending from the western to the eastern boundary.”
This prince apparently is a civil ruler who serves under the Messiah, Jesus. Some believe the prince of Jerusalem will be David himself. We cannot be certain—we will just have to wait to find out.
Now, you might wonder why priests are even needed in the millennium. After all, Jesus fulfilled everything the Old Testament sacrificial system symbolized, and now Jesus is visibly present on earth.
Well, chapter 46 makes it clear the priests will be carrying out sacrifices in the new temple. But these sacrifices in the millennium will have a different purpose than those of the Old Testament era. These sacrifices will serve as memorials to the sacrificial death of our King. They will serve as teaching tools for a thousand years to tell the story of redemption to Israel and to the nations around the world.
The final two chapters of Ezekiel focus on the millennial land. There are some new features in the land of Israel, like the river of fresh, life-giving water flowing from the temple eastward to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is called the Dead Sea for a reason—fish and plants cannot live in it because of the extremely high salt content. But listen to what Ezekiel is told here in verse 8 of chapter 47: “When the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.” Verse 10 add, “Fishermen will stand beside the sea. . . . it will be a place for the spreading of nets.”
Frankly, we cannot imagine all the new, beautiful, flourishing aspects of this coming kingdom. It will be glorious, beloved, and all who belong to Christ will experience it firsthand.
And with that, we come to the end of the prophecies of Ezekiel. They are prophecies of judgment, but also promises of joy for all who repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah—this coming King.
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