Ezekiel - A Temple in the Millennium?

SYNOPSIS:  Ideas about a rebuilt Temple in the city of Jerusalem during the Millennium must be imported into Chapter 20 of the book of Revelation – Revelation 20:1-10.

 

Cathedral - Photo by Léa V on Unsplash
By Léa V on Unsplash
A rebuilt Temple during the Millennium is a central feature in several popular interpretations of Revelation. While several scriptures are cited to make the case, the key proof text offered is the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel of an ideal Temple recorded in Ezekiel 40:1-48:35.


A fundamental problem with this reading is that nowhere in Chapter 20 of Revelation is there any mention of a Temple, Jerusalem, Israel, or the land of Palestine (Revelation 20:1-6).

Furthermore, the preceding is the only passage in the entire Bible that refers to a thousand-year period when the righteous reign on the earth.  Ideas about a rebuilt Temple and the restoration of the Levitical sacrificial system must be imported into John's vision from elsewhere.

What the passage does discuss are the binding of Satan, the suspension of his deceiving activities, judgment on behalf of the martyrs, martyred saints that reign as a priestly company, and the “first resurrection.” Reading Ezekiel’s vision into the passage raises several problems.

In Ezekiel’s vision, animal sacrifices, the levitical priesthood, purification rites, and so on are fully restored. This includes the priestly requirement of descent from Aaron for all priests, plus descent from Zadok for the high priest. Further, the book of Ezekiel presents these future sacrifices as being expiatory - They remove ritual defilement and atone for sin (Ezekiel 43:20-45).

In contrast, from the outset in the book of Revelation, the sacrificial death of Jesus is central to its visions. His death provides the victory of the saints over the "Dragon," the discharge of their sins, the redemption of men from every nation, and the installment of the saints as priests.  His death is the basis for his reign and the participation of the saints in it (Revelation 1:4-62:27; 3:21; 5:5-12; 12:11).

Earth Photo by NASA on Unsplash

The geographic scope of 
Revelation 20:1-10 is global, not regional. In view is the world, not the land of Palestine. Thus, Satan is restrained from deceiving all the nations. The final attack by Gog and Magog covers the “breadth of the earth” and includes the “nations from the four corners of the earth.”

In his vision of the New Jerusalem, John was “carried away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and shown the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” The angel gave John “a golden reed to measure the city, its gates and wall” (Revelation 21:10-15).

Likewise, God brought Ezekiel to “a very high mountain” from which he could observe the Temple in Jerusalem. An angelic being had “a measuring reed six cubits long” to measure the Temple (Ezekiel 40:1-3).

When unveiled, the "New Jerusalem" had a “great and high wall with twelve gates, and names written on them, the twelve tribes of Israel. on the east were three gates; and on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates” (Revelation 21:12).

So, also, in Ezekiel’s vision of Jerusalem--
  • The gates of the city will be after the names of the tribes of Israel; three gates northward…at the east side three gates…at the south side three gates…at the west side three gates” (Ezekiel 48:31-34).
In the inhabited New Jerusalem, John saw “no sanctuary, for the Lord God and the Lamb are its `sanctuary…And a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 21:22, 22:1-2).

Likewise, in Ezekiel’s vision, the prophet saw--
  • Waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward…the waters came down from under, from the right side of the house, on the south of the altar…upon the bank of the river were many trees on the one side and on the other. These waters issue forth toward the eastern region, and shall go down into the Arabah; and they shall go toward the sea; into the sea shall the waters go which were made to issue forth; and the waters shall be healed…by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not whither, neither shall the fruit thereof fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because the waters thereof issue out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for food, and the leaf thereof for healing” (Ezekiel 48:31-34).
In short, the book of Revelation portrays Ezekiel’s vision as fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, not in the old city in Palestine. God and the Lamb become the “temple” in "New Jerusalem," not a stone building “made-with-hands” or a restored Tabernacle carried by the Levites in the wilderness. There is no place for sacrifices in this final Temple, for Jesus was and is the slain Lamb.

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