“In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there. In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city” (Ezekiel 40:1-2 NKJV). Chapters 40 to 48 give a spectacular recount of Ezekiel’s vision of a future Israel, Jerusalem and Temple. Compare the outside perimeter of the envisioned temple of 875 feet square (about 270 m square), to the Mosaic tabernacle of 100 x 50 feet (45.50 x 23.25 m). The building of the temple foresaw a time of complete restoration to the exiles, a time when God would return to his people.
This vision of the temple has been interpreted in 4 main ways.
- This was the temple Zerubbabel should have built in 520-515 BC and is the actual blueprint Ezekiel intended.
- This is a physical temple to be rebuilt associated with the millennial reign of Christ.
- This temple is symbolic of the true worship of God by the Christian church right now.
- This temple is symbolic of the future and eternal reign of God when his presence and blessing fill the earth (notes on Ez. 40:1 NASB study bible).
Obviously if the vision was a blueprint for the temple to be built by Zerubbabel as in point 1 above, then it wasn’t fulfilled. Whether the temple is literal or symbolic, it seems clear that this is a vision that gave hope to the people of Ezekiel’s time who had just seen their nation and temple destroyed with no hope of rebuilding it in the near future. The details given in this vision gave the people even more hope that what Ezekiel saw had come from God and would surely happen in the future.
The possibility of the vision being of the future eternal reign of God as suggested in the 4th point, would seem to be contradictory to scripture for the following reasons. In Revelations we are told that the New Jerusalem would not have a temple for God would reside with His people, and furthermore that sacrifices would no longer be required. Ezekiel 40:38-43 clearly mentioned the cleaning, slaughtering and offerings of sacrifices. If the sacrifices were reinstituted for the eternal days, then Christ’s sacrifice on the cross would not have been final. The New Testament makes it clear that Christ died once and for all (Romans 6: 10, Hebrews 9:12,10:10,18). Our sins have been removed; no further sacrifice is needed.