In our previous study, we saw that Ezekiel was taken to Jerusalem in a vision. There, he was shown the Millennial Temple - a mile-square structure that will one day sit high on a mountain which does not yet exist.
Early in Ezekiel's book, he had been taken to Jerusalem in a vision, and was put in the inner court of the temple (Ezek. 8:3). He was shown how wicked the people of Israel had become, with their idolatrous and abominable practices. He was told the the inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to be judged (Ezek. 9). Then Ezekiel saw the glory of God go from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the temple (Ezek. 9:3), then go to the east gate of the temple (Ezek. 10:19), then go to the Mount of Olives (Ezek. 11:23). The glory of the Lord had departed. The temple was "ichabod," "no glory."
But now, Ezekiel is taken by the angel to the east gate, and he sees the glory of God coming towards him. The glory entered the temple's east gate, and went back into the temple. The glory had returned.
Remember, Ezekiel's vision is that of the Millennial Temple. This has not yet happened. The glory of God has not inhabited a temple in Jerusalem since it departed Solomon's temple before the final attack of Babylon. This is something that is yet future.
The angel was still standing beside Ezekiel, but the voice that Ezekiel heard was that of the Lord, coming from the house. God told him that this was the place of His throne, the place where He would physically and literally dwell among His people on earth.
God also tells Ezekiel that Israel would no longer defile the holy name of God. They will never again turn to idols.
God mentions some of the things that have been so offensive to Him: the corpses of their kings and the neighboring structures. Since this seems to be the first time God has brought this up, it has led to some confusion.
Some have suggested that the kings mentioned are the idols of Israel, a figure of speech that has been used in the Scripture (Amos 5:26), but I personally think that interpretation is a bit of a stretch. The literal and more logical way to read this statement is that the kings of Israel had build their palaces right next to the temple. This was not initially a problem, but God found it offensive when the kings fell into sin, because it was right next door. And the Israelites most likely imitated the neighboring nations by burying their kings in the high places and including the worship of dead kings in their idolatry.
When Ezekiel describes to the people of Israel the plans and operation of this temple, they will be confronted with God's holiness, and His requirements for inhabiting a place. This should cause the Jews to be ashamed of their sin and come to repentance.
These next 15 verses describe the altar - its measurements and requirements.
Ezekiel was shown that the gate where the glory of the Lord had entered was now shut. He was told that no one else could use that gate any longer, because that was the gate by which the glory had returned.
Although no one could go through this gate, the prince will be allowed to sit in this gate. Who is this prince? Many people have confused him with Jesus Christ. After all, we have read twice in Ezekiel,
Ezek. 34:24 “And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the LORD have spoken.
Ezek. 37:25 “They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever.
These are clearly statements about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. However, the prince being referred to here are clearly not Jesus. As we get further into this passage, we see that this guy is making a sin offering for himself (Ezek. 45:22), as well as having children (Ezek. 46:16), and being bound by laws that mandate he not steal land from others (Ezek. 46:18).
Jesus, of course, was without sin (2Cor. 5:21; 1Pet. 2:22; 1John 3:5; etc.). He also will not have children to pass His inheritance to, for although people will continue to have children and die, He will exist forever (Ezek. 37:25).
And so we are left to wonder who this prince is. Actually, there will be a number of them (Ezek 45:8). And, if we take into account that the word translated "prince" (naw-SEE) actually means "leader, " or "ruler," we realize that this is referring to some "head honcho" kind of guy. He could be the governor of Israel, the mayor of Jerusalem, or some other Jewish leader. He is given some special privileges certainly, but also has a sin nature definitely.
The future temple was supposed to be a call to repentance for the Israelites in Ezekiel's day. It certainly worked on him, who fell on his face in view of the glory of God!
Now, the Law of God had been specific about who could enter the temple: only Aaron and his sons, the priests:
Num. 3:10 “So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.”
But the Jews in Ezekiel's time had not only allowed other Jews inside, but they had actually permitted uncircumcised foreigners to enter the temple. God says that this new temple, with a strict holiness enforced, would not be allowing those who were uncircumcised to enter.
God specifies that He is not just talking about circumcision of the flesh - He is also referring to having circumcised hearts. This is a term that has been used throughout the Scriptures, and refers to a spiritual work (Rom. 2:29) that causes us to love God with all of our heart and soul (Deut. 30:6).
The Levites who served in the temple in Ezekiel's day had gone astray into idolatry. But even though they will bear the punishment for their sins, God is not going to cancel the Levitical system of temple servanthood. However, they would not be ministering to the Lord - they would be ministering for the Lord to His people.
There were some who had been faithful - the sons of Zadok. As a reward, they will be blessed with ministering to God.
Notice the difference here: It's a nice position to minister FOR God, but it's a better position to minister TO God. Over the years, I have met so many people who have this backwards. They think that being the Bible teacher is the ultimate thing. They think that being the worship leader is the best place to be. But Scripturally speaking, it is a higher calling to be a worshipper than a worship leader. It is better to sit at the feet of God and receive His Word than it is to be the one who has the responsibility of preparing it and giving it out.
The world thinks that being in front of people is the high calling. But in God's kingdom, it's better to be in the pew than on the stage.
The priests in the Millennial Kingdom will be given garments that are the opposite of sweatshirts and sweatpants. Their clothing will not make them sweat. The linen garments that they wear to minister to the Lord will make them say, "This job is no sweat."
Again, though, we see the same point as previously - their garments when they are in the outer court with the people don't have that benefit. Ministering to the people doesn't just mean sweat. It often means blood, sweat, and tears.
Some people pursue the public ministry because they like the idea of fame, of being recognized and respected. To tell you the truth, I'd rather be an "nobody" Christian who anonymously ministers to the Lord... because that's no sweat!
The priests were not to have extreme hair - either bald or hippie style. It's discouraging to me when I see that some pastors exercise their freedom in Christ by having long hair, earrings, or dressing in extreme fashions.
God fired the first priests who had been drinking on duty (Lev. 10:1-2). Then He told Aaron,
Lev. 10:9 “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die - it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations
In the church today, elders and pastors are not to be near any wine (1Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7). The same rules will apply to the priests in the Millennium.
The rest of chapter 44 gives more rules and instructions for the priests in the Millennial Temple.
Overall, what we carry away from these chapters should be a renewed sense of God's holiness, and a desire to pursue it...
1Pet. 1:16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”