Ezekiel 47: Vision of the Temple Restored
Ezekiel was with the captives in Babylon. Jerusalem was now destroyed, and the temple was in ruins. But bright promises of Jeremiah, of the later chapters of Isaiah, and especially of Ezekiel, who was living and teaching among them, kept alive the hope of the people that the Lord would bring them back and make them happy in their land. Among Ezekiel's cheering words were bright visions which were given him of the temple and of Jerusalem built again. As we read of the temple in the vision, we remember the temple built by Solomon, with its inner and outer chambers and its court, with the ark and the sacred furniture, and the altar in the court. But in the vision, all was more beautiful and more glorious. It begins to remind us of the vision of the holy city shown to John and described in the last chapters of the Bible. And from under the threshold of the eastern gate of the temple in Ezekiel's vision flowed a stream of water which grew larger and deeper as it flowed. It went out across the barren wilderness of Judea to the Dead Sea, so salt that nothing could live in its waters. Everywhere the stream brought life. The sea was made fresh and was filled with fish, and fishermen cast their nets along its shores. And by the river on this side and on that grew trees with new fruit every month and healing leaves. We must read the beautiful description of the vision given to Ezekiel to cheer his heart and the heart of the captives (Ezek. 47:1-12) and with this let us read the description of the vision of the holy city shown to John (Rev. 21:10-13, and 22:1-2).
At the 40th chapter of Ezekiel begins the description of his vision of the temple and Jerusalem restored, which fills the remainder of the prophecy. As we begin to read, we have in mind the temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem. But as we read on, we think still more of the vision of the holy city described by John in the last two chapters of the Bible. Please open your Bibles to Rev. 21 and 22, and compare the vision of Ezekiel and the vision of John. Do you note any striking difference? What likenesses do you find? In both cases there is the measuring by the angel. There is much likeness between the stream of living water of Ezekiel's vision and the pure river of water of life of the Revelation. Following this beautiful stream with Ezekiel, it flows eastward from under the threshold of the temple on the south side of the altar. It runs out across the barren wilderness of Judea, bringing everywhere fertility. It reaches the Dead Sea and freshens its salt water so that it teems with fish of all sorts, like the Great Sea, the Mediterranean, and its shores are busy with fishermen. En-gedi, mentioned in verse 10, is in the middle of the west shore of the Dead Sea. En-eglaim is not known. There is much likeness between this life-giving river and the river in the Revelation. Especially we find it in the 12th verse of Ezekiel's picture, in the fruitful trees on both sides of the river with new fruit every month and leaves that are for medicine. The whole land healed and made fruitful by the living water is in the vision divided anew to the tribes of Israel. The names of the tribes are given to the twelve gates of the city. The vision and the book of Ezekiel's prophecy end with the words, "And the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there." You will feel what encouragement this vision must have brought to the captives in Babylon. We know what encouragement the vision of the holy city brings to us. Both visions describe the Lordís church made strong and living and beautiful.
Surely no words could be more full of encouragement and hope for the dejected exiles than those of Ezekiel written after the destruction of Jerusalem. He points out clearly that evil is inevitably followed by fatal consequences. Israel's captivity is due to evil. Yet each is responsible for his or her own evil. And if the wicked will turn from wickedness, they will surely live. Confident that Israel will repent, he predicts their victory over Gog, and closes his message with the beatific vision of the restoration of his people.
The vision was seen in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity, fourteen years after the city was smitten. (Ezek. 40:1) That was the year 572 B.C. The city was destroyed in 586 B.C. The prophet is most methodical and exact in his description of the temple. Indeed, the methodical arrangement of his thoughts is a marked characteristic of the whole book. In this vision, he begins with the description of the temple, proceeding from the outer court, with its gate-ways and chambers, to the inner court with its various chambers. (Ezek. 40-42) The glory of the Lord then enters by the east gate, and fills the whole house. Ezekiel is counseled to "show the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern" (Ezek. 43:10), thus proving that it is the type of the perfect life. Then follows a description of the altar of burnt offering and the ceremony of consecrating it. (Ezek. 43) The next three chapters (Ezek. 44-46) deal with the relation of the people to the temple and the public services to be held there. "The central aim of the regulations contained in these chapters is to maintain the sanctity of the temple inviolate." It must never again be profaned. The last two chapters treat of the relationship of the temple to the land. Waters proceed from the threshold of the house eastward, and flow into the sea, and heal its waters. Fish shall again live therein. But the marshes shall not be healed. They shall yield salt. Trees shall grow on either side of the river. Their leaves shall not fade. They shall yield fruit every month. "And the fruit shall be for meat, and the leaf for medicine."
The land shall again be divided among the tribes. The boundaries given are indefinite. Many of the names used occur only in Ezekiel. Those best known are Hamath, Damascus, the Hauran, and Kadesh. "The east sea" evidently refers to the Dead Sea and "the great sea" to the Mediterranean. The borders, north, east, south, and west, can only be dimly defined. They are made clear when the significance of the names is recognized. This territory was to be apportioned to the tribes in strips extending from east to west. Seven tribes received their portions in the north. Then comes the strip called "the oblation" to be occupied by the temple, and the domains of the priests and Levites. And then come the five strips of land given to the remaining tribes, reaching to the extreme southern border. The sanctuary is to be in the midst of "the oblation" (Ezek. 48:8), in the city on the top of the very high mountain in the land of Israel. (Ezek. 40:2) "And the name of that city is, Jehovah is there." (Ezek. 48:35)
This is a wonderful vision of the Lord's New Church. It depicts the heavenly state to be reached by all who have been regenerated. The temple on the mountain top in the city is the central feature of the vision. The worship of the Lord and the doctrines of the church have been debased and perverted by humanity. (The vision was seen "fourteen years after the city was smitten.") But through the mercy of the Lord, that worship will be restored and these doctrines established once more in their purity in the hearts and lives of people. The city is the type of active community life, or of the heavenly principles and precepts which actuate people in their service to one another. The sanctuary in the midst of "the oblation" represents the internal worship of the soul, its recognition of the Lord as the source of all life and power.
From study of the tabernacle of Israel and Solomon's temple, we recognize the temple as a type of the church, a type of heaven, and in the fullest sense a type of the Lord's Divine Humanity, the perfect dwelling of the Lord with humanity. There is so much likeness between the vision of Ezekiel and the vision of John in Rev. 21 and 22, that much that is said in interpretation of the Revelation in Apocalypse Revealed is helpful in study of the prophet. "There also the New Church is treated of." (R. 936)
In both visions, much is said of gates and of the several quarters. There is entrance to the Lord's church and to heaven for people of many kinds of heavenly character. Recall the meaning of the several quarters. The east is the quarter of nearest approach to the Lord. Here was the stream of living water. (R. 901, 906)
There is in both visions measuring of the temple and the city. What is spiritual measuring? There are also various reeds or standards by which measuring is done. (R. 904)
A beautiful feature of both visions is the river of living water. Such a river must represent abundant truth from the Lord cleansing and renewing the life. This is the meaning of the rivers in Eden. (A. 107, 108) Several verses of Scripture associate rivers with the temple and the holy city. "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High." (Ps. 46:4) "And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be." (Zech. 14:8) What is such water from the temple, but the truth of the Lord's Word, renewing the life of the soul and of the world! These waters signify "the Divine truth reforming and regenerating." The wilderness and the salt sea to which they come represent departments of life even to the most external made living by this truth. (E. 513) The saltness here represents states more and less confirmed in evil. (A 2702; E. 313) The broadening and deepening of the stream at the successive measurements represents the increasing perception of the Lord's truth as one receives it first in a natural way and then in a more spiritual way, till its celestial meaning is reached beyond the understanding of any but highest angels. (E. 629)
The trees on the river's banks are the lives made fruitful by the Lord. Compare Ps. 1. They are made fruitful according to every state of faith, for this is the spiritual meaning of the months. The healing leaves are rational truths that are received and correct evils of life with those who do not directly learn from the Lord's Word. (R. 935, 936)
The new earth is to be reapportioned to the tribes of Israel. The new heaven is to be restored to the faithful. Each will receive a place there in which he or she can best serve all the rest. All who will suffer themselves to be instructed in the new life (the sojourner) shall receive their place in the kingdom of the Lord. (A. 1403)
The vision opens with the measurements of the temple and closes with the measurements of the city. It discloses the quality of the internal worship of the Lord and the external life in harmony with it. And the book concludes with the words, "the name of the city from that day is, Jehovah is there." "The church is the Lord's church." Any heavenly life people have within them is the Lord's life. The acknowledgment of this makes heaven. (Matt. 16:13-19)
There are three great prophets of the Exile: Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah. The name Ezekiel has a twofold meaning: "God will strengthen" and "God will prevail." His message proclaims the Divine truth which strengthens and gives people power to prevail in the most direful temptations. The name Daniel means "God is my judge." His message proclaims the Divine truth which effects the judgment in states of profanation and of the love of ruling. But Isaiah proclaims the advent of the Savior - Cyrus - who represents "the Lord in respect to the Divine Human." And Isaiah's name means the same as Jesus, "the salvation of Jehovah."' It is worthy of note that the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel both receive the title "son of man." They are the only two prophets who have received this description. Daniel is only once so called (Dan. 8:17), but the title is applied to Ezekiel ninety times. There is a deep significance in this fact, which is connected with the two prophets in exile. (See L. 28.) They thus represent the Lord as to the Word. "The Lord is called the Son of Man when the passion and judgment are treated of." (L. 24, 25) The captivity is the picture of most severe states of suffering, and also of judgment.