Monday, October 24, 2016

Ezekiel 46: What Might Have Been?

One final theory to consider about Ezekiel's temple vision is that it was only meant to be a conditional prophecy, one that hinged on Israel's repentance and future obedience upon their return from exile.  If the people failed this test, the proposed temple would be left as an unfulfilled plan reminding them of "what might have been".

There is some support within the text for this view.  The Lord reveals to Ezekiel, "As for you, mortal, describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern; and let them be ashamed of their iniquities.  When they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the plan of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form—all its ordinances and its entire plan and all its laws; and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe and follow the entire plan and all its ordinances.  This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. This is the law of the temple" (Ezekiel 43:10-12).

What if, just as some of God's other promises to His people (such as enjoying His protection from enemies, diseases, famine, etc.), this prophecy of the temple was not an absolute but contingent upon the Israelites' readiness to faithfully follow the covenant?  This would explain many issues with the text - why we never saw such a temple actually completed, why it seems anachronistic now to expect such Old Testament practices when living in the light of Christ's sacrifice, etc.  There could have been a day and age when it was appropriate for God's people to erect this temple, but that time passed because they were not ready for it.  

Thus it appears as one more proof that only Jesus Christ's atoning death upon the cross can supply what is needed for a sinful and wayward people.  The temple is truly fulfilled with the Holy Spirit dwelling in God's people now, and, in heaven, there will be no need for a temple for God will dwell among us.  As John writes, "I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb" (Revelation 21:22).

In a very confusing section of scripture, I believe this is the interpretation I am most comfortable with.

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