Ezekiel's Temple

Covenant in Ezekiel, Part 5

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A Literal Reading

The structure of Ezekiel reaches its crescendo in the theme of the returning Glory to the Temple in Ezekiel 43:1-7.1 This return must be linked with the abandonment of Solomon’s Temple by the Glory-cloud in chapter 11. There is a narrative-theological arc extending from Ezekiel 8 and 11 over to Ezekiel 43.

This arc from a literal temple to what is often taken to be a spiritual temple at the end of the book, looks hermeneutically unbalanced and forced upon the prophet’s words. But if this arc and the other details in this section can be adequately accounted for by not spiritualizing them, then the theological fallout is immense.2 The strongly covenantal connections involved would, for example, stimulate a long overdue examination of God’s eternal covenant of peace with Phinehas (Num. 25:10-13) and his descendants the Zadokites (cf. 1 Chron. 6:4-8).

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 1

Israel’s temple was a symbolic shadow pointing to the eschatological “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (Heb. 9:11) in which Christ and the church would dwell and would form a part. If so, it would seem to be the wrong approach for Christians to look in hope to the building of another temple in Jerusalem composed of earthly “bricks and mortar” as a fulfillment of the OT temple prophecies. (G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 634)

The above quotation presents one of the logical outcomes of adopting the position that the garden of Eden was designed as a “temple,” which in turn symbolized the created cosmos, which needed to be subordinated to its Creator. This micro-cosmos Eden “temple” was to be expanded by mankind, we are told, until it covered the surface area of planet earth. The tabernacle and the temple of Israel were related to the Eden “temple” in that they too were mini-cosmoses; yet they also functioned as types of the final temple, the church in Jesus Christ. The church is the new and real temple which is to expand its “sacred space” until it spreads over the whole of creation.

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The Temples

Southern wall of the temple mount enclosure ("second temple").

Many religions had multiple temples, but God revealed a different standard: He only permitted one central sanctuary. Deuteronomy 12:5 (ESV) states, “But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go.” In contrast, an altar was to be built wherever God made an appearance (Exodus 20:24), but not a building. Only certain types of sacrifices could be made upon these local altars.

Although there are many physical and spiritual aspects to the Temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, for example), we must limit our focus.

Preventing Confusion: The Temple vs. the Synagogue

Modern Judaism does not use the term “temple” in the same way the Bible does. Jewish congregations often name their synagogues (meeting places) with the title “temple.” Temple Shalom would be an example. In actuality, these synagogues are not temples in the Biblical sense. In the Biblical sense, the Jewish people have not had their Temple since 70 AD.

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