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May 04, 2016


A literal interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy -- Messiah offering sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple -- need not be a problem for followers of Jesus.

We know from Acts that the disciples and apostles met at the Temple and celebrated the Biblical feasts (Acts 2), which involved offerings in the Temple. Moreover, we know Paul's Nazirite vow (Acts 18) required sin sacrifices to be brought at its conclusion (Numbers 8), and Paul himself affirmed he "walks according to the Law of Moses." (Acts 21)

If sacrifices are a problem to Christianity, the disciples and apostles were not aware of it.

I propose the problem lies in our modern understanding of Hebrews, which implies Jesus abolished sacrifices. We need not read the text that way. Instead, we can understand that Messiah's sacrifice serves a different function than that of Levitical priests.

“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24)

When the Old Testament says Abraham’s seed is Israel, the New Testament clearly identifies Jesus as Israel (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15).

When the Old Testament says God will restore David’s Kingdom along with Israel, the New Testament says it happened when God raised Jesus (Israel) from the dead (Acts 2:30; 31).

When the Old Testament speaks of the Temple, Jesus says he is the Temple of God (John 2:19–22). Jesus and the Church are God’s Temple made without hands (1 Corinthians 3:16.)

A literal interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy -- Messiah offering sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple -- need not be a problem for followers of Jesus.

The first option noted above is that the sacrifices continue as representations of Christ's sacrifice, and I do think that's a possibility. But I don't think the prince referred to in the verse quoted could be Jesus if he's offering sin offerings for himself. Part of Hebrews' point as to why Jesus is superior to the Levitical priests is specifically that He didn't need to offer sacrifices for Himself "because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself."

In order to have a literal fulfillment of Ezekiel's Temple vision in the future, God would need to remove the New Covenant and replace it with the Old. Because technically speaking there is no such thing as a physical Jew since the time God removed Circumcision. It was circumcision that made one a Jew.

A better way to view Ezekiel's Temple is through the New Testament, especially the closing chapters of Revelation where too many similarities exist for it to be coincidental.

In this case Ezekiel's Temple is John's New Jerusalem (the Church) where God is the Temple. “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” (Revelation 21:22)

Dave, I agree with you that there are problems with position #1 above. While I don't think we can know for sure, I think the option I proposed in the second half of the post is the most likely of the options above (mainly because the way the instructions are expressed doesn't come across as metaphorical), though some people I respect take one or other of the positions noted above.

But even if it's not metaphorical, it's still (like many aspects of the Old Covenant) a shadow of the end times, something that pointed to a fulfillment in Christ. Like I said in the post, I think the connection between the two (i.e., between the temple of Ezekiel's vision and the New Jerusalem) is that the Old Covenant system (including the temple) was always pointing to Christ; Christ came and brought about a better covenant because the Law was never enough to save us. In other words, I don't think the vision is referring metaphorically to the future end times but literally to a present shadow of the end times (i.e., a possible physical temple). There were shadows throughout the Old Covenant that pointed to a fulfillment in Christ. The end times will be everything that the temple system pointed to, though it won't be the temple system itself. This passage, however, appears to be talking about the temple system. The similarities between it and Revelation exist because similarities were purposefully built into the system so that it would act as a shadow of what was to come.

@ Amy; Thanks.

What I see wrong with the animal sacrifice/memorial position held by some is that it would duplicate what the Eucharist already provides (Luke 22:14–20; 1 Cor 11:23–26).

To say that the sacrifices are simply “memorials” of Christ’s sacrifice means that there is likewise no reason to take the temple itself “literally” (i.e., as a physical structure). Jonathan Menn. Biblical Eschatology.

I want to thank you for your thoughts on the Ezekiel passage. The last explanation that you had given seems to make the most sense, since it was all conditional on how the Jews responded and there obedience, which was never the case through there history, that is there obedience.
As I reflect on the Jews and there lapses of obedience and failures, I see my own life and am hesitant to be condemning of the Jewish nation, but as you said this would ultimately usher in the messiah, Jesus the Christ.
I appreciate your insight.

It's very important to understand the historical context of Ezekiel's time. Ezekiel in chapter 1 verses 1-3 explains that he was one among the captives in the land of the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans were also known as the Babylonians, showing that Ezekiel's time relate to the Babylonian exile. The visions that follow speak to the judgement of Jerusalem as the kingdom of Judah was in sin(see Ezekiel chapters 4,5,6,7,8, and 9).This shows that Ezekiel was a part of one wave, but it also shows that there was another wave of judgement on its way. One that would include the complete and utter destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Ezekiel and Jeremiah who were contemporaries both prophesied concerning this. Concerning its fulfillment, the book of 2 Chronicles 36 says,

And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. [16] But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. [17] Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand. [18] And all the articles from the house of God, great and small, the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his leaders, all these he took to Babylon. [19] Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions.

Thus, Ezekiel knowing the climate of his day, and that the temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed, is only talking about the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple from the Babylonian captivity in Ezekiel 40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48. That's the same temple and city that are seen being rebuilt in the books of Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah,and Nehemiah. Ezekiel is just using hyperbolic language in his prophecy. That was clearly the nature of prophecy.The prince is none other than the High Priest, as Ezekiel is also speaking to the reinstatement of the levitical priesthood(see Zechariah 3 as its fulfillment). The fact that Ezekiel speaks about sacrifices, death, and the levitical priesthood show that this does not pertain to the new testament reign of Christ.

Reading Ezek. 45 is much like reading the OT law rather than a specific prophecy.
In fact it appears the prince is acting as the high priest, offering for himself and the people. V 20 even includes a portion about offering for the sins the people committed in ignorance, much like Hebrews 9:6-8 states. I think Castedcrown79 did a thorough job discussing this.
A little bit of logic clears this up. If the prince is Christ, He can't be offering a separate sacrifice because the sacrifice would need to be Himself. If the prince is sacrificing, as the verse says, for the people AND himself, that would mean Christ is offering Himself for Himself, which He couldn't do because that would mean He had committed sin that needed atoning, and if that was the case, He couldn't be the sacrifice to begin with. Further, this prince is being contrasted with other princes v8 who weren't 'doing their job' basically. Well, who would the other Christs be? Certainly scripture discusses folks, like Joseph, who represented aspects of Christ to be clarified and exemplified during His ministry, but none of them 'oppressed' God's people. The evidence here simply doesn't point to Christ as being the prince in question. He is certainly THE High Priest, but that's now that He has fulfilled through the cross all the requirements of the law.

Again, this bit of scripture appears much less like a prophecy about Christ and more like an admonition from God, detailing the terms of Israel's repentance (a recurring theme in the OT), illustrating again the sacrificial system and how it pointed to God and the redemption through Christ, and finally how God leaves NOTHING to chance. He's taking care of everything.

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