Sunday, February 24, 2019

Ezekiel's Temple Part 1: A Few Problems

The temple described in Ezekiel 40-48 was always my go to for defending both a belief in the rebuilding of the Temple and a pre-millennial view (that is, a literal thousand year reign after the second coming of Messiah). Over the last several years my views have shifted, and the Ezekiel Temple has become more of a problem to solve. Before, the thousand year reign seemed a convenient place to put all those passages that didn't seem to fit either in this world or the world to come. When I began to adopt a post-millennial position (the idea that the thousand year reign is more of a spiritual reality for a non-specific long period of time that began with Messiah's first coming) because of other Scriptural evidence, I was left with a number of passages that no longer had homes in time.

I want to propose a possible solution to the Ezekiel Temple problem for the post-millennial view, but first I want to look at whether the pre-millennial view provides an adequate framework for understanding this difficult passage. Placing the Temple in the time period of the thousand year reign seems like a simple enough solution, but I would suggest there are two problems the complicate the matter.

The Presence of Sin

In a number of places, the Ezekiel Temple speaks of a sin offering and a guilt offering (Eze. 40:39; 42:13; 43:19-25; 44:27-29; 47:17-25; 46:20). The implication here is that uncleanness and/or sin is present during the time of the Ezekiel Temple, which if placed in the thousand year reign means that sin is present during the thousand year reign.

Now, this was a fact that I acknowledged even when I held to a literal millennial reign. After all, Revelation says that Satan goes to deceive the nations at the end of the thousand year reign, so some amount of uncleanness and/or sin during the intervening period is really not that big of an issue. It should be noted, however, that acknowledging this greatly reduces the weight of what used to be one of my biggest objections to post-millennialism: namely, that there seemed to be too much evil and suffering in the world for this to be the thousand year reign.

Back to main argument, while the presence of sin in the thousand year reign doesn't necessarily present a problem in itself, there are some details that do make this issue problematic. Note that in the Ezekiel 45:22, the prince is instructed to offer a sin offering for himself. Who is this prince?

My first inclination would be to say Yeshua Himself. Ezekiel seems to use the terms "prince" and "king" somewhat interchangeably (see Ezekiel 37:24-25 where both terms are used to describe David). Since we know Yeshua will be the King during the thousand year reign, it makes sense to identify Him with Ezekiel's prince. However, if the prince is offering sin offerings for himself, this is impossible. Even for uncleanness, Yeshua is in His resurrected body. How can He ever become unclean again?

Another solution might be to identify the prince with an under-shepherd of sorts. Yeshua reigns as King, with a human prince under Him. However, this still doesn't solve the problem. The thousand year reign takes place after the first resurrection. Those who participate in that resurrection will no longer be under the power of the second death. Is it possible that we might have uncleanness or sin in our resurrected bodies? That would seem to require that we would have to die yet again. Perhaps the prince is not one of the resurrected but one of those who walk in alive into the Kingdom (and thus is still in their mortal body). But, why would Yeshua select as an under-shepherd someone who is still subject to sin and uncleanness to be over those who have been resurrected beyond the reach of sin and death?

I submit that the presence of sin in the Ezekiel Temple is a critical issue that must be dealt with before one can place that Temple within the thousand year reign.

The Problem of Yeshua's Presence

The second problem is simpler, but more fundamental. Revelation 21:22 says that John saw no Temple in the New Jerusalem for the Lord God and the Lamb were its Temple. Typically, we concentrate on the temporal aspect of this verse--namely, that there is no Temple in the world to come. However, I would point your attention to the reasoning. The presence of God and the Lamb makes the Temple unnecessary.

What does this have to do with the thousand year reign? According to Revelation 20, the saints of the first resurrection come to life and reign with Messiah. If we see this as a literal presence, then would not the reasoning of Revelation 21:22 apply here? Would not the presence of the Lamb on earth render any physical structure redundant?

Admittedly, this argument is more dependent on one's particular hermeneutic and so may be less convincing to some.

For the sake of length and discussion, I'm going to divide this post into two parts. The second part will put forth my proposed interpretation of the Ezekiel Temple.

Feel free to share your thoughts below. Perhaps you might have a possible solution to the problems I've outlined above.

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