The Lord is There

1 “These are the names of the tribes: Beginning at the northern extreme, beside the way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, as far as Hazar-enan (which is on the northern border of Damascus over against Hamath), and extending from the east side to the west, Dan, one portion. Adjoining the territory of Dan, from the east side to the west, Asher, one portion. Adjoining the territory of Asher, from the east side to the west, Naphtali, one portion. Adjoining the territory of Naphtali, from the east side to the west, Manasseh, one portion. Adjoining the territory of Manasseh, from the east side to the west, Ephraim, one portion. Adjoining the territory of Ephraim, from the east side to the west, Reuben, one portion. Adjoining the territory of Reuben, from the east side to the west, Judah, one portion.

“Adjoining the territory of Judah, from the east side to the west, shall be the portion which you shall set apart, 25,000 cubits in breadth, and in length equal to one of the tribal portions, from the east side to the west, with the sanctuary in the midst of it. The portion that you shall set apart for the Lord shall be 25,000 cubits in length, and 20,000 in breadth. 10 These shall be the allotments of the holy portion: the priests shall have an allotment measuring 25,000 cubits on the northern side, 10,000 cubits in breadth on the western side, 10,000 in breadth on the eastern side, and 25,000 in length on the southern side, with the sanctuary of the Lord in the midst of it. 11 This shall be for the consecrated priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept my charge, who did not go astray when the people of Israel went astray, as the Levites did. 12 And it shall belong to them as a special portion from the holy portion of the land, a most holy place, adjoining the territory of the Levites. 13 And alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites shall have an allotment 25,000 cubits in length and 10,000 in breadth. The whole length shall be 25,000 cubits and the breadth 20,000. 14 They shall not sell or exchange any of it. They shall not alienate this choice portion of the land, for it is holy to the Lord.

15 “The remainder, 5,000 cubits in breadth and 25,000 in length, shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open country. In the midst of it shall be the city, 16 and these shall be its measurements: the north side 4,500 cubits, the south side 4,500, the east side 4,500, and the west side 4,500. 17 And the city shall have open land: on the north 250 cubits, on the south 250, on the east 250, and on the west 250. 18 The remainder of the length alongside the holy portion shall be 10,000 cubits to the east, and 10,000 to the west, and it shall be alongside the holy portion. Its produce shall be food for the workers of the city. 19 And the workers of the city, from all the tribes of Israel, shall till it. 20 The whole portion that you shall set apart shall be 25,000 cubits square, that is, the holy portion together with the property of the city.

21 “What remains on both sides of the holy portion and of the property of the city shall belong to the prince. Extending from the 25,000 cubits of the holy portion to the east border, and westward from the 25,000 cubits to the west border, parallel to the tribal portions, it shall belong to the prince. The holy portion with the sanctuary of the temple shall be in its midst. 22 It shall be separate from the property of the Levites and the property of the city, which are in the midst of that which belongs to the prince. The portion of the prince shall lie between the territory of Judah and the territory of Benjamin.

23 “As for the rest of the tribes: from the east side to the west, Benjamin, one portion. 24 Adjoining the territory of Benjamin, from the east side to the west, Simeon, one portion. 25 Adjoining the territory of Simeon, from the east side to the west, Issachar, one portion. 26 Adjoining the territory of Issachar, from the east side to the west, Zebulun, one portion. 27 Adjoining the territory of Zebulun, from the east side to the west, Gad, one portion. 28 And adjoining the territory of Gad to the south, the boundary shall run from Tamar to the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. 29 This is the land that you shall allot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions, declares the Lord God.

30 “These shall be the exits of the city: On the north side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, 31 three gates, the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi, the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel. 32 On the east side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, and the gate of Dan. 33 On the south side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, and the gate of Zebulun. 34 On the west side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, and the gate of Naphtali. 35 The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” Ezekiel 48:1-35 ESV

In this closing chapter of his book, Ezekiel provides a detailed layout of the tribal allotment within the Millennial Kingdom. Beginning in the north and working his way down, he describes God’s plan for the geographical arrangement of the 12 tribes, beginning with Dan and ending with Gad. Each tribe will occupy a portion of the land of promise that extends from east to west, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. The tribes of Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad will have the “Brook of Egypt” as their western border. Unlike the division of the land under Joshua, the Millennial Kingdom will allot equal portions of real estate to each of the tribes. When Moses had set aside the land for the people of Israel, he had done so based on the population size of each tribe. But in the Millennial Kingdom, the distribution of the land will be based on very different criteria. Rather than size, it appears to be based on faithfulness.

Genesis 35 provides the names of the 12 sons of Israel (Jacob).

Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram. – Genesis 35:21-26 ESV

In examining the north-to-south allotment of the land, it becomes clear that there is an intended progression to their order. Dan, one of the most unfaithful tribes, will find itself located in the far north of the land.  The tribe of Gad will bookend the land from its location in the south. It’s interesting to note that the four sons born to Jacob’s concubines (Dan, Asher, Naphtali, and Gad) all occupy land on the extreme edges of the Kingdom. Yet Judah and Benjamin are located on either side of the holy district, the site of the Millennial Temple. These were the two tribes that made up the southern kingdom of Judah after God split Solomon’s kingdom in two. During the days of the divided kingdom, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin displayed the greatest degree of faithfulness to Yahweh and yielded the largest number of godly kings. Their reward for their faithfulness will be in the form of land allotments on either side of the holy district. The rest of the sons born to Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel, will occupy land toward the center of the kingdom.

Proximity to the Millennial Temple seems to be the point in all of this because that is where God’s presence will dwell. Ezekiel saw the vision of God’s glory reentering the new temple and taking up residence in the Most Holy Place (Ezekiel 43:4). The Millennial Temple will sit within the holy city, and Ezekiel describes this future Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8) as being six miles in circumference. It will have 12 gates, three on each side, dedicated to the 12 tribes of Israel.

His description of the city and its gates mirrors the one given by the apostle John in the book of Revelation. But John was describing the New Jerusalem.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. – Revelation 21:10-13 ESV

He was not describing the Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom, but yet another iteration of the holy city that will appear at the end of the millennial age when God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). This New Jerusalem will have 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel, but it will also feature 12 foundations, dedicated to the 12 apostles.

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. – Revelation 21:14 ESV

The greatest difference between these two versions of the city of Jerusalem appears to be the timing of their appearance. The Jerusalem that will exist during the Millennial Kingdom will feature a temple and a reinstated sacrificial system. The city will be occupied by both Jews and Gentiles, but not all will be Christ followers. In the New Jerusalem, the occupants will be from every tribe, nation, and tongue, and share a common faith in Christ. It will be filled with the elect of God from all eras, including both Jews and Gentiles.

The Millennial Kingdom is dedicated to the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Its very existence culminates God’s covenant promises to the patriarchs and fulfills every commitment He had made to them. But that kingdom will come to an end and be replaced by the New Jerusalem and the eternal state, and at that time, “it will be “true” Israel—those who have trusted in Jesus Christ—that will enter the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is through the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem that the true tribal people—believers of Jewish descent as well as Gentiles who have been “grafted in” with God’s people (Romans 11:17–25)—will enter the joy of the Lord (see Matthew 25:21). (

But there is one important factor that both Jerusalems have in common: The presence of God. John describes his vision of the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven.

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4 ESV

The dwelling place of God will be with man. He will dwell with them. God himself will be with them as their God. There is a promise of permanence in this passage. God will come to live among His people – on earth. Our final destination is not heaven, but earth. All the redeemed will live in perfect unity with God the Father and God the Son – for all eternity. And in this future Jerusalem, there will be no temple.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it – Revelation 21:22-24 ESV

But the Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom, with its glorious temple filled with the glory of God, will also enjoy God’s presence. In fact, the very name of the main gate that will lead into this future city is “The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35 ESV).

The book of Ezekiel has finally come to an end. It has been 22 years since Ezekiel first saw his vision of God and received his commission as God’s prophet to the people of Judah. His ministry began with an unbelievable glimpse of the glory of God. He was given a word to deliver from the very mouth of God, predicting the coming siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the deportation of the people of Judah to Babylon. In chapter ten, Ezekiel was shown the real tragedy of it all – the glory of God departing the temple. The very presence and power of God were removed from the midst of the people due to their sin and rebellion. But two decades later, God gave Ezekiel another vision of a rebuilt temple, a restored Jerusalem, and a revived relationship with the people of God.

The book of Ezekiel ends with the city of Jerusalem referred to by the name, “The Lord Is There,” and if the Lord is there that means His glory has returned once again to the city. This book began with the glory of God and ends with it. God will one day take up residence in the city of Jerusalem. The abiding presence of God is a powerful image with which to sum up this book. While God had to punish His people for their sins, He never abandoned them completely. He remained faithful and committed to His plan for them. Even while they were in exile, He sent His prophets to communicate His message to them. And ultimately, God returned them to the land. But there is a day yet future when God will complete His plan for the people of Israel and fully fulfill His promises to them. He will once again make His place among them, so that the city of Jerusalem can truly be called, “The Lord Is There.”

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Just As He Promised

13 Thus says the Lord God: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. 14 And you shall divide equally what I swore to give to your fathers. This land shall fall to you as your inheritance.

15 “This shall be the boundary of the land: On the north side, from the Great Sea by way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, and on to Zedad, 16 Berothah, Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer-hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran. 17 So the boundary shall run from the sea to Hazar-enan, which is on the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This shall be the north side.

18 “On the east side, the boundary shall run between Hauran and Damascus; along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel; to the eastern sea and as far as Tamar. This shall be the east side.

19 “On the south side, it shall run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. This shall be the south side.

20 “On the west side, the Great Sea shall be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo-hamath. This shall be the west side.

21 “So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 47:13-23 ESV

In this brief, yet critical, passage, God provides Ezekiel with a detailed description of the tribal land allotment in the Millennial Kingdom. With the people of Israel returning to the land, there will need to be a reassignment of the boundaries that will determine each tribe’s portion of the newly reconstituted nation. Over the centuries, those boundaries have all but been eliminated, and in its current state, the land of Palestine no longer reflects the territorial boundaries that God had given to Moses.

Prior to entering the land of Canaan for the first time, Moses received a detailed description from God as to what the actual boundaries of the “Promised Land” would be.

“Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your special possession, these will be the boundaries.” – Numbers 34:2 NLT

What God described to Moses is similar to what He shares with Ezekiel. The exterior boundaries of the Millennial Kingdom will be virtually the same as those of the Promised Land given to the descendants of Abraham. But the actual tribal allotment will look quite different. There is an order to the arrangement of the tribes that sets it apart from the original layout given to Moses. Things appear to be arranged in a more linear/sequential order, with the tribes dispersed from north to south in a very particular pattern. The boundary to the west is “the Great Sea,” which refers to the Mediterranean Sea. The primary boundary to the east is the Jordan River. The southern boundary extends from Kadesh Barnea to the “Brook of Egypt,” which Jewish tradition takes to be a reference to the Nile. To the north, the boundaries will run from the  Mediterranean Sea (Mount Hor) to Hamath to Zedad.

Within these borders, each of the 12 tribes will receive a new allotment of land to occupy, and at the center will be the special holy allotment that will contain the temple compound in Jerusalem. Ezekiel recorded the layout and dimensions of this holy district in chapter 45.

“When you divide the land among the tribes of Israel, you must set aside a section for the Lord as his holy portion. This piece of land will be 8 1⁄3 miles long and 6 2⁄3 miles wide. The entire area will be holy. A section of this land, measuring 875 feet by 875 feet, will be set aside for the Temple. An additional strip of land 87 1⁄2 feet wide is to be left empty all around it. Within the larger sacred area, measure out a portion of land 8 1⁄3 miles long and 3 1⁄3 miles wide. Within it the sanctuary of the Most Holy Place will be located. This area will be holy, set aside for the priests who minister to the Lord in the sanctuary. They will use it for their homes, and my Temple will be located within it. The strip of sacred land next to it, also 8 1⁄3 miles long and 3 1⁄3 miles wide, will be a living area for the Levites who work at the Temple. It will be their possession and a place for their towns.” – Ezekiel 45:1-5 NLT

The tribe of Levi would live within this central section of holy (set apart) land. It would be their portion within the new Millennial Kingdom. But each of the other tribes would receive new allotments, with the two tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) receiving two portions. Just before Jacob died in the land of Egypt, he pronounced a blessing on his sons, including his favorite son, Joseph. As part of that blessing, he swore to adopt Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own, guaranteeing them a right to his inheritance.

“Now I am claiming as my own sons these two boys of yours, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born here in the land of Egypt before I arrived. They will be my sons…” – Genesis 48:5 NLT

The descendants of those two boys did receive their allotment of land in Canaan. And in the Millennial Kingdom, they will also occupy their own tracts of land.

The arrangement of the tribes in the Millennial Kingdom is fascinating to consider. First of all, the tribes of Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali are all located on the northern and southern edges of the land. These were the sons born to Zilpah and Bilhah, the two concubines given to Jacob by his two wives so that he might bear additional sons. The descendants of these four sons will have land in the Millennial Kingdom, but it will be further from the holy district at the center.

The two tribes that will sandwich the holy district where the new Millennial Temple will reside are those of Judah and Benjamin. Those were the two tribes that made up the southern kingdom of Judah after God divided the kingdom of Solomon as punishment for his idolatry. What set the southern kingdom apart was the city of Jerusalem, the nation’s capital and the home of the temple that Solomon had built to honor Yahweh. Even in the Millennial Kingdom, these two tribes will still find themselves in close proximity to God’s house.

It’s interesting to note that every tribe will receive an equal apportionment of the land. No one tribe will have a large portion. God makes it clear that “each tribe will receive an equal share” (Ezekiel 47:14 NLT). And God reminds Ezekiel that this would all be in fulfillment of His covenant promise.

I took a solemn oath and swore that I would give this land to your ancestors, and it will now come to you as your possession. – Ezekiel 47:14 NLT

God will keep His word. He will honor His commitment to the people of Israel by restoring them to the land He promised to their forefather, Abraham.

But this land will not be strictly reserved for the descendants of Abraham. God makes it clear that there will be Gentiles living among His chosen people in the Millennial Kingdom.

“Distribute the land as an allotment for yourselves and for the foreigners who have joined you and are raising their families among you. They will be like native-born Israelites to you and will receive an allotment among the tribes.” – Ezekiel 47:22 NLT

The Millennial Kingdom will into being as a result of Christ’s second coming. He will return at the end of the seven years of the Tribulation, defeat the armies of the world, and reestablish the Davidic line by ascending the throne in Jerusalem, where He will rule for 1,000 years on earth.

With the end of the Tribulation, all those who survived the judgments of God will still remain on earth. That will include Jews who survived the persecutions of the Antichrist, Gentiles who lived through the judgments of God, and all those (Jews and Gentiles) who came to faith in Christ during those terrible days. All of these people will be living on the earth during Christ’s earthly reign. Over the ten centuries of His rule, children will be born and generations will come and go. There will be unbelievers living on the earth with Jesus Christ, the righteous King ruling over them. There will be unbelieving Jews who will be participating in the newly inaugurated sacrificial system in the new Millennial Temple. But salvation will come by faith in Christ alone, not by the blood of bulls and goats. Everything in the Millennial Kingdom will point to Christ. He will occupy the throne of David in Jerusalem from within that holy district that lies in the center of the newly restored land of Israel.

The presence of Gentiles within the land should not surprise us. God will still be redeeming those who are willing to seek salvation through His Son. While the land belongs to the Israelites, the chosen people of God, He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. All of this is in keeping with the promise God made to Abraham when He first called him.

I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:2-3 NLT

All of this will be a preface for what is yet to come. While the Millennial Kingdom will be 1,000 years in length, it will still be temporary and not eternal. It will be followed by the eternal state. But this future time period is when God will finally fulfill all the promises He has made to His covenant people. He will honor His word by returning them to the land and restoring them to a right relationship with Himself, because He is faithful, righteous, and good.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The River of Life

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47:1-12 ESV

What an amazing picture of God’s faithfulness. Not only is He going to restore the land and the people to it, but He is also going to rebuild the Temple, reinstate the sacrificial system, and renew their hearts. God is going to make it possible for the Israelites to serve Him faithfully so that they can remain in the land. He will give them new hearts and a new desire to serve Him faithfully.

For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. – Ezekiel 36:24-26 NLT

This entire vision that Ezekiel received was about what God is going to do in the future Millennial Kingdom. God will not only change the hearts of the people, but He will also change the nature of the land of Israel.

In his vision, Ezekiel sees a river flowing from the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the temple. This river will flow out from the temple grounds and into the Jordan Valley, slowly growing larger and deeper as it makes its way to the Dead Sea. And as its waters flow into the Dead Sea it will transform this lifeless body of water into a fish-filled, tree-bounded paradise. This river of life will dramatically alter the topography of the land.

At the present time, the region around the Dead Sea is a barren wasteland, but in the Millennial Kingdom, it will be transformed into a lush and fruitful paradise. Trees will grow where no trees exist right now. Fish will swim where no fish can exist right now. The aptly named Dead Sea will become a place of life and fruitfulness. Ezekiel is given a glimpse of the transforming power of God. He will make all things new.

The prophet, Zechariah, also alludes to this new water source that will suddenly show up when Christ returns to earth at His Second Coming.

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west. Half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south. – Zechariah 14:4 NLT

As a result of Christ’s dramatic and earth-shattering arrival to earth, the topography surrounding the city of Jerusalem will be permanently altered. A spring will open up in the Holy of Holies and flow out of the sanctuary, through the courtyard, and out the gate of the temple complex.

On that day life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half toward the Dead Sea and half toward the Mediterranean, flowing continuously in both summer and winter.

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped. – Zechariah 14:8-9 NLT

This life-giving spring will turn into two rivers that will transform the landscape, delivering the water of life to the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. Jesus Christ will reign from the throne of David in Jerusalem, for a period of one thousand years. And during this time, Jesus, the author of life, will be the source of life and sustenance for all who live under his righteous rule.

This future condition of life and fruitfulness stands in stark contrast to the assessment God made of His rebellious people during the days of Jeremiah the prophet.

“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me— the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all! – Jeremiah 2:13 NLT

In the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, living water will flow from Mount Zion, transforming the landscape of Israel. It is a picture of the life-cleansing, sin-atoning work of Jesus on the cross.

In His encounter at the well with the Samaritan woman, Jesus informed her: “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT). The woman, confused by what Jesus had said, asked, “Where would you get this living water?” (John 4:11 NLT). And Jesus, pointing to the nearby well, responded, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:12-13 NLT). 

This future Kingdom will be like nothing the world has ever seen before. The righteous administration of Christ will govern like no other government that has ever existed. Zechariah describes an environment where the city of Jerusalem will rise above the newly formed plains that surround it. The city will be filled to the brim with citizens anxious to live under the righteous rule of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

All the land from Geba, north of Judah, to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become one vast plain. But Jerusalem will be raised up in its original place and will be inhabited all the way from the Benjamin Gate over to the site of the old gate, then to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And Jerusalem will be filled, safe at last, never again to be cursed and destroyed. – Zechariah 14:10-11 NLT

But the river flowing from the inner recesses of the Millennial Temple should remind us of another river that will exist in the eternal state. The apostle John was given a vision of this life-giving river and he describes it in the book of Revelation.

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. – Revelation 22:1-2 NASB

In this future scene, which takes place at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, John sees the river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. This vision reveals the New Jerusalem, which will descend out of heaven and come to rest on earth. From this celestial city, God and His Son will reign over all the earth. And from their thrones will flow the river of the water of life.

God is all about restoring life and bringing about healing, and these things flow from His throne. He is the source of life. Only through Him can men be restored to new life. He can take what was once dead and bring it back to life. He can transform dead lives and renew lifeless seas. That’s the God we serve, and He remains the same, now and forever.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

A Habitat of Holiness

1 “When you allot the land as an inheritance, you shall set apart for the Lord a portion of the land as a holy district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits broad. It shall be holy throughout its whole extent. Of this a square plot of 500 by 500 cubits shall be for the sanctuary, with fifty cubits for an open space around it. And from this measured district you shall measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 broad, in which shall be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. It shall be the holy portion of the land. It shall be for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and approach the Lord to minister to him, and it shall be a place for their houses and a holy place for the sanctuary. Another section, 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits broad, shall be for the Levites who minister at the temple, as their possession for cities to live in.

“Alongside the portion set apart as the holy district you shall assign for the property of the city an area 5,000 cubits broad and 25,000 cubits long. It shall belong to the whole house of Israel.

“And to the prince shall belong the land on both sides of the holy district and the property of the city, alongside the holy district and the property of the city, on the west and on the east, corresponding in length to one of the tribal portions, and extending from the western to the eastern boundary of the land. It is to be his property in Israel. And my princes shall no more oppress my people, but they shall let the house of Israel have the land according to their tribes.

“Thus says the Lord God: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord God.

10 “You shall have just balances, a just ephah, and a just bath. 11 The ephah and the bath shall be of the same measure, the bath containing one tenth of a homer, and the ephah one tenth of a homer; the homer shall be the standard measure. 12 The shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina.

13 “This is the offering that you shall make: one sixth of an ephah from each homer of wheat, and one sixth of an ephah from each homer of barley, 14 and as the fixed portion of oil, measured in baths, one tenth of a bath from each cor (the cor, like the homer, contains ten baths). 15 And one sheep from every flock of two hundred, from the watering places of Israel for grain offering, burnt offering, and peace offerings, to make atonement for them, declares the Lord God. 16 All the people of the land shall be obliged to give this offering to the prince in Israel. 17 It shall be the prince’s duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.

18 “Thus says the Lord God: In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a bull from the herd without blemish, and purify the sanctuary. 19 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and the posts of the gate of the inner court. 20 You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple.

21 “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the Feast of the Passover, and for seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22 On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a young bull for a sin offering. 23 And on the seven days of the festival he shall provide as a burnt offering to the Lord seven young bulls and seven rams without blemish, on each of the seven days; and a male goat daily for a sin offering. 24 And he shall provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull, an ephah for each ram, and a hin of oil to each ephah. 25 In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month and for the seven days of the feast, he shall make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, and grain offerings, and for the oil.” Ezekiel 45:1-25 ESV

This chapter provides detailed dimensions for Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. Notice how many times God uses the term “holy” to describe this future realm. It was essential that Ezekiel understand that this future Kingdom will be like no other kingdom that has ever existed on earth.

There is a predetemined and precise layout for this Kingdom to come and there will be non-negotiable requirements for all those who inhabit it. Justice and righteousness will reign throughout the land, and God will expect His leaders to set an example.

Enough, you princes of Israel! Stop your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Quit robbing and cheating my people out of their land. Stop expelling them from their homes, says the Sovereign Lord. Use only honest weights and scales and honest measures, both dry and liquid. – Ezekiel 45:9-10 NLT

God seems to be going out of His way to ensure that Ezekiel understands that things will be different in this future Kingdom. Jerusalem will be under the reign and rule of the Messiah. He will sit on the throne of David and rule with righteousness and integrity. He will have a prince who rules under him and will be in charge of the city of Jerusalem and the temple grounds. This prince will be holy, righteous, and just. He will be honest and above-board, ethical in his behavior, and just in the administration of his duties – unlike the princes that had ruled in Jerusalem in the years leading up to the nation’s fall to Babylon.

For hundreds of years, the leadership in Judah had been characterized by greed, corruption, immorality, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, and disobedience to the laws of God. Even in Ezekiel’s day, the pattern continued. So God tells them, “I’ve put up with you long enough, princes of Israel! Quit bullying and taking advantage of my people. Do what’s just and right for a change” (Ezekiel 45:9 MSG).

They were guilty of embezzlement, fraud, graft, and all kinds of corruption. They had been taking advantage of the helpless and hopeless. And the corruption of the leadership had infected the people. Amos describes conditions among the people of Israel this way:

How you hate honest judges! How you despise people who tell the truth! You trample the poor, stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent. Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses, you will never live in them. Though you plant lush vineyards, you will never drink wine from them. For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. So those who are smart keep their mouths shut, for it is an evil time. – Amos 5:10-13 NLT

Corruption is contagious. It spreads like cancer and ends up infecting everyone it touches. Violence, greed, oppression, and injustice go hand-in-hand. A nation with lousy leadership is toxic to its people. And God points out that there is a day coming when Israel’s poor leaders will be replaced with righteous and godly men. No longer will the leaders take advantage of the people. Righteousness will reign. And God’s point to Ezekiel and the leaders of his day seems to be, if that is the way it is to be in God’s Millennial Kingdom, why not pursue righteous leadership now?  Why not rule justly, honestly, and righteously in the present if that is the standard for the future?

God’s vision of His future kingdom here on earth provides a glimpse into His heart. It shows us what He desires. It reveals what is important to Him. Holiness, righteousness, honesty, order, compassion, obedience, responsibility, justice – all these things will exist in His future kingdom, but they are just as important to God in the here and now. And while sin and the influence of the enemy make it impossible to practice these things perfectly, we are to pursue them passionately. We are to “do what is just and right” each and every day within those areas over which we have responsibility.

Our lives, as believers, are to be little kingdoms of righteousness in the middle of a very dark world. We of all people should be attempting to live holy and set-apart lives, doing what is just and right, so that the world might get a glimpse of what true justice, love, and mercy look like. What is important to God in the future is important to God now. So let’s make His priorities our priorities.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Holy and the Common

15 “But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. 16 They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge. 17 When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments. They shall have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court, and within. 18 They shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat. 19 And when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments. 20 They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads. 21 No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court. 22 They shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman, but only virgins of the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest. 23 They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. 24 In a dispute, they shall act as judges, and they shall judge it according to my judgments. They shall keep my laws and my statutes in all my appointed feasts, and they shall keep my Sabbaths holy. 25 They shall not defile themselves by going near to a dead person. However, for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister they may defile themselves. 26 After he has become clean, they shall count seven days for him. 27 And on the day that he goes into the Holy Place, into the inner court, to minister in the Holy Place, he shall offer his sin offering, declares the Lord God.

28 “This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession. 29 They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. 30 And the first of all the firstfruits of all kinds, and every offering of all kinds from all your offerings, shall belong to the priests. You shall also give to the priests the first of your dough, that a blessing may rest on your house. 31 The priests shall not eat of anything, whether bird or beast, that has died of itself or is torn by wild animals. Ezekiel 44:15-31 ESV

Ezekiel has been informed that not all of the descendants of the Levitical priesthood will be allowed to serve in the same capacity within the Millennial Temple. Some will be restricted in terms of their daily tasks and responsibilities because of the sins of their fathers.

“…the men of the tribe of Levi who abandoned me when Israel strayed away from me to worship idols must bear the consequences of their unfaithfulness. They may still be Temple guards and gatekeepers, and they may slaughter the animals brought for burnt offerings and be present to help the people.” – Ezekiel 44:10-11 NLT

The ancestors of these future Millennial priests were guilty of having led the people of Israel astray. Rather than modeling holiness and encouraging faithfulness among the people, they had set the precedence for apostasy.

 “…they encouraged my people to worship idols, causing Israel to fall into deep sin. – Ezekiel 44:12 NLT

As a result of the role these men played in Israel’s spiritual decline, their descendants would face punishment from God.

“They may not approach me to minister as priests. They may not touch any of my holy things or the holy offerings, for they must bear the shame of all the detestable sins they have committed.” – Ezekiel 4:13 NLT

This news must have concerned Ezekiel. How would the sacrificial system function without priests? What good was a rebuilt temple without qualified men to serve within its walls? Ezekiel would have known that only the descendants of Levi could fill this role, so hearing God’s plans to exclude them from service would have been disconcerting. For the new temple to function properly, the descendants of Levi were absolutely necessary. So, God quickly informed Ezekiel that there was nothing to worry about.

“…the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok continued to minister faithfully in the Temple when Israel abandoned me for idols. These men will serve as my ministers. They will stand in my presence and offer the fat and blood of the sacrifices, says the Sovereign Lord. They alone will enter my sanctuary and approach my table to serve me. They will fulfill all my requirements. – Ezekiel 44:15-16 NLT

Zadok was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the first high priest of Israel. Zadok served during the reign of King David and was the one who anointed the head of Solomon, formerly setting him apart as David’s successor for the contested throne of Israel. God describes the family of Zadok as having been faithful to their calling. They took their roles seriously, serving as dedicated ministers in the temple and as committed servants to the kingdom. And for this, they would be rewarded by God.

In chapter 40, verse 46, God revealed to Ezekiel that a special room on the south side of the temple sanctuary was reserved for the descendants of Zadok.

“The room beside the south inner gate is for the priests in charge of the altar—the descendants of Zadok—for they alone of all the Levites may approach the Lord to minister to him.” – Ezekiel 40:46 NLT

This faithful remnant of the Levitical priesthood would find themselves serving as God’s personal ministers within the new Millennial Temple. In this passage, God reminds Ezekiel that these holy priests who served in the future temple would have the same job descriptions and responsibilities that they had in the old one. But God emphasizes their need for holiness. Repeatedly, God states, “they shall…”

they shall keep my charge – vs 16

they shall wear linen garments – vs 17

“they shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat – vs 18

“they shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long – vs 20

“they shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman – vs 22

Each of these commands is tied to the issue of holiness. These men, as priests, were to remain consecrated to God at all times. Their behavior was to reflect their set-apart status as God’s chosen servants. Everything they did was to model holiness before the people. And, not only that, they were to teach the people the importance of holiness.

“They will teach my people the difference between what is holy and what is common, what is ceremonially clean and unclean.” – Ezekiel 44:23 NLT

One of the most significant roles they were to play was that of an instructor. Their very lives were to be a living example of what it means to live set apart to God. By keeping God’s regulations concerning the sacrifices, they would be showing the people what a set-apart life looks like. There was to be no cutting of corners, no concessions or compromises concerning God’s laws. As priests, they were responsible for the spiritual integrity of the people of God.

And along with providing instruction in holiness, they were to act as judges, resolving disagreements among the people based on the regulations handed down by God. God’s laws concerning defilement and impurity will still be in play, even in the Millennial Kingdom. With Christ serving as the righteous King of Israel, holiness will be of higher priority than ever before. And God makes it clear that all the rules and restrictions concerning the Levitical priesthood will remain as they were in the Old Testament. His laws and decrees are eternally holy and do not change.

Even now, during the church age, God demands holiness among His chosen people. At the present time, there is no temple, no sacrificial system, and no functioning Levitical priesthood. But according to the apostle Peter, there is a remnant of priests who are charged with serving God and instructing others about the difference between the holy and the common.

“for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9 NLT

We are priests in the kingdom of God and we have a responsibility to model a life of holiness to the world. We are to teach others the difference between the holy and the ordinary, and there should be a clear and irrefutable difference. Our lives should not blend in with the world around us. We should be distinctive in more than just name or religious affiliation. We should not have to TELL someone we are Christians. It should be evident in the way we live our lives, and Peter describes the kind of life we are to live.

So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 NLT

They say the best lessons are caught, not taught. The most effective form of teaching is still modeling. It is in the way we live our lives that we convey the true difference between that which is holy and that which is common or ordinary. When we live as if we have been set apart by God for His use, we model holiness. When we live for His glory and not our own, we display holiness. When we put His will ahead of our own, we exude holiness. When we seek the good of His kingdom instead of our own, we demonstrate holiness. When we love others more than we love ourselves, we reveal what it means to be truly holy.

People were attracted to the distinctiveness of Jesus. The book of Acts records the explosive growth of the early church, and it was directly tied to the distinctiveness of the apostles and the unusual way in which they lived their lives. Holiness is attractive when modeled correctly and lived out sincerely. As priests of God, we are here to teach the difference between the holy way of life and the ways of this world. We are to be different, distinct, and set apart – holy unto the Lord.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Enough is Enough

1 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.”

Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple, and I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord. And I fell on my face. And the Lord said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes, and hear with your ears all that I shall tell you concerning all the statutes of the temple of the Lord and all its laws. And mark well the entrance to the temple and all the exits from the sanctuary. And say to the rebellious house,to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: O house of Israel, enough of all your abominations, in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations. And you have not kept charge of my holy things, but you have set others to keep my charge for you in my sanctuary.

“Thus says the Lord God: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary. 10 But the Levites who went far from me, going astray from me after their idols when Israel went astray, shall bear their punishment. 11 They shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the temple and ministering in the temple. They shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before the people, to minister to them. 12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn concerning them, declares the Lord God, and they shall bear their punishment. 13 They shall not come near to me, to serve me as priest, nor come near any of my holy things and the things that are most holy, but they shall bear their shame and the abominations that they have committed. 14 Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the temple, to do all its service and all that is to be done in it. Ezekiel 44:1-14 ESV

Ezekiel had been given the privilege of witnessing the glory of the Lord enter the temple and fill the Holy of Holies. The return of God’s divine presence to the temple was a sign that He will one day return His people to the land of promise and restore their relationship with Him. Ezekiel had seen the glory of the Lord depart and now he had seen it return. But as Ezekiel’s divine guide led him back to the eastern gate of the Millennial Temple, he notices that the gate has been closed. This was the very gate through which the glory of the Lord had entered the Holy of Holies (Ezekiel 43:1-5). The sight of a closed and locked gate must have left Ezekiel a bit confused. It conveyed the idea of inaccessibility to God’s presence. Perhaps noticing the perplexity on Ezekiel’s face, his guide provided an explanation.

“This gate must remain closed; it will never again be opened. No one will ever open it and pass through, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered here. Therefore, it must always remain shut. – Ezekiel 44:2 NLT

This closure will be meant to commemorate the eastern gate as the place where God’s presence reentered the temple. It will set apart (make holy) this particular gate because of its unique role in God’s return to His house and His people. Only one individual will be allowed access to this gate and the guide describes him as “the prince.”

Only the prince himself may sit inside this gateway to feast in the Lord’s presence. But he may come and go only through the entry room of the gateway.”– Ezekiel 44:3 NLT

Many have assumed this to be a reference to Jesus, the Messiah because He is repeatedly referred to throughout the book of Ezekiel as “the prince.”

“And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them.And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Ezekiel 34:24 NLT

As the Son of David, Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel, and during the Millennial Kingdom, He will rule over the world from His throne in Jerusalem.

“My servant David will be their king, and they will have only one shepherd. They will obey my regulations and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave my servant Jacob, the land where their ancestors lived. They and their children and their grandchildren after them will live there forever, generation after generation. And my servant David will be their prince forever. – Ezekiel 37:24-25 NLT

The Hebrew word that is translated as “prince” is nāśî’ (נָשִׂיא). Like most Hebrew words, it can have a variety of meanings, including “chief, prince, captain, leader.” Ezekiel uses it repeatedly and not always in reference to the Messiah. And while it would be easy to assume that the “prince” who is given access to the closed eastern gate is a reference to Jesus, the rest of Ezekiel’s book would refute that notion.

In the very next chapter, Ezekiel describes this same prince making a blood sacrifice as atonement for his sins.

“On the day of Passover the prince will provide a young bull as a sin offering for himself and the people of Israel.”– Ezekiel 45:22 NLT

This could not be a reference to Jesus. Secondly, in chapter 46, Ezekiel reveals that this very same prince will father children, which would seem to make it an unlikely reference to the Messiah.

“…the prince may never take anyone’s property by force. If he gives property to his sons, it must be from his own land, for I do not want any of my people unjustly evicted from their property.” – Ezekiel 46:18 NLT

Finally, this prince will serve as an intermediary for the people but will not be a priest.

“The east gateway of the inner courtyard will be closed during the six workdays each week, but it will be open on Sabbath days and the days of new moon celebrations.The prince will enter the entry room of the gateway from the outside. Then he will stand by the gatepost while the priest offers his burnt offering and peace offering. He will bow down in worship inside the gateway passage and then go back out the way he came.” – Ezekiel 46:1-2 NLT

Yet, the book of Hebrews describes Jesus as our high priest forever (Hebrews 6:20), and, as the greater high priest, He is not required to offer sacrifices for Himself or for the people because He offered Himself as the perfect, sinless sacrifice.

He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.– Hebrews 7:26-27 NLT

So, who is this prince? It is likely an individual who is given authority over the temple itself. He will be appointed by God to serve as chief or governor of the temple complex. And in his role, he will be given access to the eastern gate each Sabbath day so that he might oversee the presentation of offerings to God. But only he will be able to enter and exit the eastern gate. The rest of the people will enter through the northern gate and exit through the southern gate (Ezekiel 46:8-10).

Having seen the closed eastern gate, Ezekiel is taken to the northern gate where he enters and is able to see the glory of the Lord hovering over the temple yet again. And as before, Ezekiel falls on his face in awe and reverent fear.

As Ezekiel lies prostrate on the ground, the voice of the Lord provides him with a solemn warning to deliver to the people of Israel.

“…give these rebels, the people of Israel, this message from the Sovereign Lord: O people of Israel, enough of your detestable sins! You have brought uncircumcised foreigners into my sanctuary—people who have no heart for God. In this way, you defiled my Temple even as you offered me my food, the fat and blood of sacrifices. In addition to all your other detestable sins, you have broken my covenant. Instead of safeguarding my sacred rituals, you have hired foreigners to take charge of my sanctuary.” – Ezekiel 44:6-8 NLT

Throughout his vision, Ezekiel has seen no other human beings. His only companion has been his guide. So, this message must be intended for his fellow exiles in Babylon. God has given Ezekiel a glimpse of a future day when He will return His people to the land and restore the nation of Israel to its former glory. In fact, its glory will far exceed anything the people of Israel ever experienced under David or Solomon because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will be their King. And they will worship God in a magnificent Temple that will put Solomon’s grand structure to shame.

But God makes it clear that He expects His people to repent of their sins – even now. The people of Judah were guilty of desecrating His former temple and that is why it had been reduced to a pile of rubble by the Babylonians. They had ignored God’s commands, broken His covenant, and abused the very house where His presence dwelt. So, God commanded Ezekiel to give his fellow exiles this sobering message of warning.

In God’s Millennial Temple, holiness will rule supreme. There will be no place for the uncircumcised and impure. Even the Levites, whom God had consecrated as priests and caretakers of the temple, would lose their divine privileges because of their role in Israel’s denigration of His house. They had forfeited their right to serve in His Millennial Temple because they had failed to maintain the holiness of Solomon’s temple.

But they encouraged my people to worship idols, causing Israel to fall into deep sin. So I have taken a solemn oath that they must bear the consequences for their sins, says the Sovereign Lord. – Ezekiel 44:12 NLT

Many of their descendants will be disqualified from service because of the sins of their fathers. They will still be able to serve as caretakers of the temple grounds and gates, but they will be restricted from any involvement in the sacrificial system.

“They may not approach me to minister as priests. They may not touch any of my holy things or the holy offerings, for they must bear the shame of all the detestable sins they have committed. They are to serve as the Temple caretakers, taking charge of the maintenance work and performing general duties.” – Ezekiel 44:13-14 NLT

But as the remainder of chapter 44 will show, there will be a remnant among the Levites who are able to serve as priests. God will allow the descendants of Zadok to fulfill their priestly duties in the Millennial Temple because they had remained faithful when everyone else had turned their backs on God.

God wanted His rebellious people to know that things were going to be drastically different in the future Kingdom of His Son. Holiness will be non-optional and required of all who serve in His house. His presence will be permanent and His requirement of righteousness will be non-negotiable. From the priest to the prince, everyone will be required to be holy as He is holy.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Gravity and Glory of God’s Grace

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.

10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. 11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. 12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple. Ezekiel 43:1-12 ESV

“Son of man, describe to the people of Israel the Temple I have shown you, so they will be ashamed of all their sins. Let them study its plan, and they will be ashamed of what they have done. Describe to them all the specifications of the Temple—including its entrances and exits—and everything else about it. Tell them about its decrees and laws. Write down all these specifications and decrees as they watch so they will be sure to remember and follow them.” – Ezekiel 43:10-11 NLT

After completing his tour of the future temple, Ezekiel was given a glimpse of God’s majestic glory returning to the very site it had vacated in his earlier vision. He describes seeing the glory of the Lord coming from the east and recalls having seen it before.

This vision was just like the others I had seen, first by the Kebar River and then when he came to destroy Jerusalem. – Ezekiel 43:3 NLT

Ezekiel opened his book with his vivid, out-of-this-world description of God’s glory arriving in Babylon by the Kebar River. It began as a storm cloud with flashing lightning and rolling peals of thunder. But upon close examination, Ezekiel saw that “From the center of the cloud came four living beings that looked human, except that each had four faces and four wings” (Ezekiel 1:5-6 NLT).

Each of these living beings “had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back” (Ezekiel 1:10 NLT). They were equipped with wings and glowed like bright coals of fire or brilliant torches, and lightning seemed to flash back and forth among them” (Ezekiel 1:13 NLT).

But the most important part of this vision was the presence of “a figure whose appearance resembled a man” (Ezekiel 1:26 NLT), who sat on a throne made of blue lapis lazuli. Ezekiel provided great detail in describing this royal figure.

From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me. – Ezekiel 1:27-28 NLT

Ezekiel was certain as to the figure’s identity. It was none other than Yahweh, God Almighty, who had come to distant Babylon to reveal Himself to Ezekiel and to commission him as His prophet.

In a later vision Ezekiel received, he saw the very same representation of God’s glory, but this time it appeared in Jerusalem, hovering over the temple.

In my vision I saw what appeared to be a throne of blue lapis lazuli above the crystal surface over the heads of the cherubim. – Ezekiel 10:1 NLT

Ezekiel recognized the cherubim as the four living beings he had seen in his earlier vision.

These were the same living beings I had seen beside the Kebar River. – Ezekiel 10:15 NLT

As Ezekiel continued to watch this spectacular display of God’s glory, he must have been shocked to see it begin to make its way from the temple itself and towards the eastern gate of the temple complex.

Then the glory of the Lord moved out from the entrance of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim. And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them. – Ezekiel 10:18-19 NLT

But God’s glory didn’t stop there. It went beyond the eastern gate, across the Kidron Valley, and onto the Mount of Olives. Then it disappeared altogether.

Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to the exiles. Then the vision that I had seen went up from me. – Ezekiel 10:22-24 NLT

The significance of this vision did not escape Ezekiel. He had just witnessed the glory of God departing the temple and vacating the city of Jerusalem. Yahweh was symbolically abandoning His house and His chosen people. But years later, Ezekiel was given the privilege of seeing the glory of God return. After taking Ezekiel on a whirlwind tour of the Millennial Temple, “the man” took the prophet to the very same spot where he had seen the glory of God depart.

…he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. – Ezekiel 43:1-2 ESV

Blown away by what he saw, Ezekiel fell on his face in awe and gratitude. But as God’s glory reentered the temple and took up residence once again in the Holy of Holies, Ezekiel was there to witness the entire scene. And in a state of stupified wonder, all Ezekiel could say was “and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (Ezekiel 43:5 ESV). God had returned. He had not abandoned His people after all. And God confirmed the permanence of His return by stating, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel” (Ezekiel 43:7 NLT).

God had left, but had returned and, this time, it was to stay. This was a new temple and a new era, and God had promised to give His chosen people new hearts so they could worship Him faithfully and fully. To quote the apostle Paul, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

God wanted Ezekiel to know that the day was coming when all things would be made new. There would be a new temple but there would also be a renewed people of God. Their sins had resulted in God’s judgment. Their rebellion against Him had led to His departure from among them. But Ezekiel was being given a glimpse of the future when God would miraculously restore His people to a right relationship with Himself. And He states that, on that day, things will be radically different. God commands Ezekiel to tell his fellow exiles all that he has seen and to give them this sobering reminder concerning that coming day.

And this is the basic law of the Temple: absolute holiness! The entire top of the mountain where the Temple is built is holy. Yes, this is the basic law of the Temple.” – Ezekiel 43:12 NLT

What an amazing picture of God’s grace. He was declaring His intention to restore His apostate people and return them to a life of holiness and sanctification. No more sin. No more rebellion. Instead, they would enjoy permanent fellowship with God in His eternal kingdom.

I sometimes think we take grace for granted. I love what Dallas Willard says: “We have a problem today in Evangelical circles. We’re not only saved by grace, we’re paralyzed by it.” We have allowed grace to become a one-dimensional concept that is tied solely to our salvation. We talk about the idea of being saved by grace. It is a priceless gift, unearned and undeserved. But the grace of God should have a long-lasting influence on our lives. There is a future element to God’s grace that I must never lose sight of because the reality is that I can no more earn my coming glorification than I could my salvation. A day is coming when I will be made complete and whole. I will be like Christ, with no sin nature and an ability to live righteously – completely and permanently. Future grace is a great motivator for present behavior. The reality of my guaranteed place in His presence for eternity should have a tremendous impact on the way I live my life now.

The same was true for the people of God in Ezekiel’s day. God had given Ezekiel a glimpse of His future kingdom, complete with a newly constructed temple, occupied by God Himself. God instructed Ezekiel to describe to the people the details of the future temple. They were to study its plans and go over every specification. Why? Because it was going to be a real place that was going to exist in real-time in the future. It was a picture of God’s future grace and His promise to reestablish His presence among the people of Israel. In spite of all they had done to offend Him, He was going to extend them grace, and the proof of it was this vision of His glory filling the rebuilt temple.

As Christians, we can easily allow the “grace alone” message to lull us into a sense of spiritual stupor or laziness. God does it all, so we have nothing to do. But grace is opposed to earning, not effort. The knowledge of God’s grace reminds me that I can do nothing to earn His favor. But awareness of His grace should cause me to make every effort to serve Him gratefully and joyfully. By hearing the detailed descriptions of the future Temple, the people of God were to be shamed for their own unfaithfulness as opposed to God’s faithfulness.

The reality that I have a place reserved for me in heaven should make me want to live my life differently here on earth. During their lifetimes, the people of God had desecrated the temple of God time and time again. And ultimately, God had it destroyed. Today there is no temple in Jerusalem. In its place sits a mosque. But God has promised that the day is coming when the temple will be rebuilt; not because the people of God deserve it, but because God has promised it.

Its presence will be proof of God’s grace. He will restore the people of Israel – in spite of themselves. And that future reality should have changed their present behavior. And one day God is going complete His work of sanctification in our lives – glorifying us and transforming us into the likeness of His Son – completely and permanently. Awareness of that future grace should shame me when I consider my present behavior. He has done so much for me and has promised to do so much. How can I live in disobedience and sin when God has such an undeserved future reserved for me?

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Set Apart

1 Then he led me out into the outer court, toward the north, and he brought me to the chambers that were opposite the separate yard and opposite the building on the north. The length of the building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty cubits. Facing the twenty cubits that belonged to the inner court, and facing the pavement that belonged to the outer court, was gallery against gallery in three stories. And before the chambers was a passage inward, ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long, and their doors were on the north. Now the upper chambers were narrower, for the galleries took more away from them than from the lower and middle chambers of the building. For they were in three stories, and they had no pillars like the pillars of the courts. Thus the upper chambers were set back from the ground more than the lower and the middle ones. And there was a wall outside parallel to the chambers, toward the outer court, opposite the chambers, fifty cubits long. For the chambers on the outer court were fifty cubits long, while those opposite the nave were a hundred cubits long. Below these chambers was an entrance on the east side, as one enters them from the outer court.

10 In the thickness of the wall of the court, on the south also, opposite the yard and opposite the building, there were chambers 11 with a passage in front of them. They were similar to the chambers on the north, of the same length and breadth, with the same exits and arrangements and doors, 12 as were the entrances of the chambers on the south. There was an entrance at the beginning of the passage, the passage before the corresponding wall on the east as one enters them.

13 Then he said to me, “The north chambers and the south chambers opposite the yard are the holy chambers, where the priests who approach the Lord shall eat the most holy offerings. There they shall put the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering—for the place is holy. 14 When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people.”

15 Now when he had finished measuring the interior of the temple area, he led me out by the gate that faced east, and measured the temple area all around. 16 He measured the east side with the measuring reed, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. 17 He measured the north side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. 18 He measured the south side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. 19 Then he turned to the west side and measured, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. 20 He measured it on the four sides. It had a wall around it, 500 cubits long and 500 cubits broad, to make a separation between the holy and the common. Ezekiel 42:1-20 ESV

I find it interesting that in the middle of all the detailed descriptions of the layout of the future temple complex, Ezekiel’s “guide” pointed to a set of rooms and designated them as being “holy.”

Then he said to me, “The north and south rooms adjacent to the open area are holy rooms where the priests who come before GOD eat the holy offerings. There they place the holy offerings–grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. These are set-apart rooms, holy space. After the priests have entered the Sanctuary, they must not return to the outside courtyard and mingle among the people until they change the sacred garments in which they minister and put on their regular clothes.” – Ezekiel 42:13-14 MSG

Wouldn’t the entire temple be holy? Since the whole structure would be dedicated to the worship of God, wouldn’t every room, wall, hallway, courtyard, and gateway be considered holy? Well, in a sense, yes. But the use of the word “holy” in this context gives us another important aspect of its meaning. It simply means to be “set-apart or separated.”

These rooms were dedicated or set apart for a distinct purpose.

“Here the priests who offer sacrifices to the Lord will eat the most holy offerings.” – Ezekiel 42:13 NLT

According to Ezekiel’s divine tour guide, these rooms would also be used for storage of the elements used in the various offerings.

“…because these rooms are holy, they will be used to store the sacred offerings—the grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings.” – Ezekiel 42:13 NLT

Even within this future temple complex, there will be places that are “set apart” and distinctive from all others. These rooms will be dedicated to a specific purpose and will not be available for any others use.

When the priests complete their job of ministering in the sanctuary, they will be required to leave their “holy” garments in one of these “holy” rooms, and change into their “street” clothes.  The robes they wear in the sanctuary will be dedicated solely to use within that area of the temple. The book of Exodus describes these sacred garments.

“Make sacred garments for Aaron that are glorious and beautiful. Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom. Have them make garments for Aaron that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service.” – Exodus 28:2-3 NLT

These would not be ordinary, run-of-the-mill clothes, but acquisitive garments of great beauty and detail.

“These are the garments they are to make: a chestpiece, an ephod, a robe, a patterned tunic, a turban, and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother, Aaron, and his sons to wear when they serve me as priests. So give them fine linen cloth, gold thread, and blue, purple, and scarlet thread.” – Exodus 28:4-5 NLT

Even when ministering within the far smaller and less opulent tabernacle, the priests were required to wear God-ordained and designed garments that set them apart for His service.

For Aaron’s sons, make tunics, sashes, and special head coverings that are glorious and beautiful. Clothe your brother, Aaron, and his sons with these garments, and then anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they can serve as my priests. Also make linen undergarments for them, to be worn next to their bodies, reaching from their hips to their thighs. These must be worn whenever Aaron and his sons enter the Tabernacle or approach the altar in the Holy Place to perform their priestly duties. Then they will not incur guilt and die.” – Exodus 28:41-43 NLT

Holiness was important to God. It’s why He told His people, “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 NLT). He had chosen them and set them apart as His own. They were His special possession and their lives were to reflect their unique status as His children. And every area of this future temple will be set apart for God’s glory and use. Each brick, decorative accent, room, doorway, wall, and ceiling will exist for one purpose only: To bring glory to God Almighty.

Even the garments the priests wore were to be considered as holy or set apart. Before they could enter the rest of the temple or go into the more public or common areas, they had to remove their “holy” clothes, because those clothes had been dedicated to God.

All this makes me think about how we have been set apart by God for His use. We are His people. We have been made holy or set apart by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God. We belong to God. The apostle Paul reminds us of this unique status as His holy people.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. – Colossians 3:12 NLT

God set us apart for a purpose. We are now dedicated to Him and for His use. Our lives no longer belong to us, but to him and we should be used only in the way that He sees fit. The priests could not use the holy garments for any other purpose. They were not free to use those holy rooms for any other reason than the one that God had prescribed for them. In fact, the book of Nehemiah records an incident in which one of the priests violated this very command.

Eliashib the priest, who had been appointed as supervisor of the storerooms of the Temple of our God and who was also a relative of Tobiah, had converted a large storage room and placed it at Tobiah’s disposal. The room had previously been used for storing the grain offerings, the frankincense, various articles for the Temple, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil (which were prescribed for the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers), as well as the offerings for the priests. – Nehemiah 4:4-5 NLT

Notice that Eliashib had taken one of the “holy” rooms and turned it into an apartment for one of his relatives. When Nehemiah got wind of what had happened, he was furious and took immediate action.

When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I learned about Eliashib’s evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God. I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room. Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense. – Nehemiah 4:7-9 NLT

Eliashib had taken liberties with that which belonged to God. He had the audacity to assign a new and totally different use for that which God had set apart. And, in doing so, he desecrated what God had deemed as wholly for His use.

And we can be guilty of the same thing. As God’s children, we have been set apart for His service. When God commands, “You must be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 NLT), He is telling us that we must be set apart, distinct, and different, just as He is. We must reflect His holiness. We must remain dedicated to His use. When we take what He has set apart (our bodies) and use it for some other purpose, we profane it. When we use our bodies for purposes other than those for which God has set them apart, we denigrate their God-given value. That is why Peter provides a sobering warning to live as who we are and for the purpose we have been assigned.

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. – 1 Peter 2:5 NLT

And the apostle Paul echoes Peter’s sentiments when he writes:

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Dwelling Place of God

Then he measured the wall of the temple, six cubits thick, and the breadth of the side chambers, four cubits, all around the temple. And the side chambers were in three stories, one over another, thirty in each story. There were offsets all around the wall of the temple to serve as supports for the side chambers, so that they should not be supported by the wall of the temple. And it became broader as it wound upward to the side chambers, because the temple was enclosed upward all around the temple. Thus the temple had a broad area upward, and so one went up from the lowest story to the top story through the middle story. I saw also that the temple had a raised platform all around; the foundations of the side chambers measured a full reed of six long cubits. The thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers was five cubits. The free space between the side chambers of the temple and the 10 other chambers was a breadth of twenty cubits all around the temple on every side. 11 And the doors of the side chambers opened on the free space, one door toward the north, and another door toward the south. And the breadth of the free space was five cubits all around.

12 The building that was facing the separate yard on the west side was seventy cubits broad, and the wall of the building was five cubits thick all around, and its length ninety cubits.

13 Then he measured the temple, a hundred cubits long; and the yard and the building with its walls, a hundred cubits long; 14 also the breadth of the east front of the temple and the yard, a hundred cubits.

15 Then he measured the length of the building facing the yard that was at the back and its galleries on either side, a hundred cubits.

The inside of the nave and the vestibules of the court, 16 the thresholds and the narrow windows and the galleries all around the three of them, opposite the threshold, were paneled with wood all around, from the floor up to the windows (now the windows were covered), 17 to the space above the door, even to the inner room, and on the outside. And on all the walls all around, inside and outside, was a measured pattern. 18 It was carved of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Every cherub had two faces: 19 a human face toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion toward the palm tree on the other side. They were carved on the whole temple all around. 20 From the floor to above the door, cherubim and palm trees were carved; similarly the wall of the nave.

21 The doorposts of the nave were squared, and in front of the Holy Place was something resembling 22 an altar of wood, three cubits high, two cubits long, and two cubits broad. Its corners, its base, and its walls were of wood. He said to me, “This is the table that is before the Lord.” 23 The nave and the Holy Place had each a double door. 24 The double doors had two leaves apiece, two swinging leaves for each door. 25 And on the doors of the nave were carved cherubim and palm trees, such as were carved on the walls. And there was a canopy[j] of wood in front of the vestibule outside. 26 And there were narrow windows and palm trees on either side, on the sidewalls of the vestibule, the side chambers of the temple, and the canopies. Ezekiel 41:5-26 ESV

The level of detail in Ezekiel’s vision is staggering. His guided tour of the Millennial Temple was conducted by “man whose face shone like bronze” (Ezekiel 40:3 NLT), who held “a linen measuring cord and a measuring rod” (Ezekiel 40:3 NLT) in his hand. Each time they entered a new area of the temple complex, “the man” provided detailed measurements to indicate the exact dimensions involved. The temple itself, which was the focal point of the entire compound, was an elaborate, multi-storied structure surrounded by three rows of antechambers. There were 90 of these small rooms stacked three stories high along three different sides of the temple. There is no information given regarding their purpose but they would have formed the outer wall of the temple itself. It seems that with each successive story, the rooms became slightly larger in size. 

To the west of the temple was another free-standing building that was roughly 116 feet deep and 150 feet wide. There is no indication as to the nature or purpose of this structure. But from all the details provided, it is clear that this future temple complex is far larger and more complex than any of the previous iterations of the temple. And its dimensions dwarf the original tabernacle used by the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings.

In verses 16-26, Ezekiel records the dimensions and decorative embellishments of the temple’s interior. The walls are paneled in wood and “decorated with carved cherubim and palm trees” (Ezekiel 41:25 NLT).  These images are meant to convey a powerful message regarding the temple’s occupant.

“In these figures aspirations of life and prosperity (palm) and security (cherubim) coalesce. In Israelite thought, the divine resident of this house was the source of both. – Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel

God is the giver of all life and the sole source of man’s prosperity and protection. God had already told Ezekiel that the day would come when He would restore His people to their land and take up residence among them once again.

“I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Ezekiel 37:26-27 ESV

God’s house will be of immense proportions and feature beautifully ornate architectural embellishments designed to reflect His divine glory and greatness. Everything about the temple and its surrounding grounds will be striking and attention-getting. This beautiful building will be a showcase of God Almighty and serve as a permanent reminder of His presence and power.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Most Holy Place

44 On the outside of the inner gateway there were two chambers in the inner court, one at the side of the north gate facing south, the other at the side of the south gate facing north. 45 And he said to me, “This chamber that faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple, 46 and the chamber that faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who alone among the sons of Levi may come near to the Lord to minister to him.” 47 And he measured the court, a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits broad, a square. And the altar was in front of the temple.

48 Then he brought me to the vestibule of the temple and measured the jambs of the vestibule, five cubits on either side. And the breadth of the gate was fourteen cubits, and the sidewalls of the gate were three cubits on either side. 49 The length of the vestibule was twenty cubits, and the breadth twelve cubits, and people would go up to it by ten steps. And there were pillars beside the jambs, one on either side.

1 Then he brought me to the nave and measured the jambs. On each side six cubits was the breadth of the jambs. And the breadth of the entrance was ten cubits, and the sidewalls of the entrance were five cubits on either side. And he measured the length of the nave, forty cubits, and its breadth, twenty cubits. Then he went into the inner room and measured the jambs of the entrance, two cubits; and the entrance, six cubits; and the sidewalls on either side of the entrance, seven cubits. And he measured the length of the room, twenty cubits, and its breadth, twenty cubits, across the nave. And he said to me, “This is the Most Holy Place.” Ezekiel 40:44-41:4 ESV

Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial Temple included a view of two chambers located just outside the northern and southern inner gates. In Hebrew, these rooms are described as liškâ šîr, which might best be translated as “the chambers of the singing men.”

These would have been members of the tribe of Levi who served as priests in the temple but also functioned as musicians as part of their service to God. The book of 2 Chronicles mentions these men.

And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. – 2 Chronicles 5:12-13 NLT

These men were responsible for providing musical praise to God as part of peoples’ worship.

Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!
    His faithful love endures forever!”  – 2 Chronicles 5:14 NLT

And the book of 1 Chronicles states that they lived in special rooms dedicated to their use in the temple.

The musicians, all prominent Levites, lived at the Temple. They were exempt from other responsibilities since they were on duty at all hours. All these men lived in Jerusalem. They were the heads of Levite families and were listed as prominent leaders in their genealogical records. – 1 Chronicles 9:33-34 NLT

The Psalms are filled with descriptions of music as a form of worship and singing as a means of praising God for all He has done.

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him. – Psalm 95:1-2 NLT

Shout to the Lord, all the earth;
    break out in praise and sing for joy!
Sing your praise to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and melodious song,
with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.
    Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King! – Psalm 98:4-6 NLT

And, according to Ezekiel’s vision, this musical expression of praise and glory for God’s goodness and greatness will continue into the Millennial Kingdom.

The praise of God will never cease in the Millennial Kingdom as God’s people express their heartfelt gratitude for all that He has done. And these priests will be accompanied by others who be responsible for maintaining the temple itself as well as all the elements associated with the altar and the sacrificial system. Each priest will perform his duties with joy and gladness so that the temple may function seamlessly and in full compliance with God’s decrees.

And Ezekiel is told that these men will be the descendants of Zadok, who served as a priest during the reigns of David and Solomon. This ensures the prophet that God will miraculously maintain the line of Zadok so that they may serve Him in this future temple.

As the vision unfolds before Ezekiel’s eyes, he is escorted into the actual doorway of the temple itself, through a portico or inner room that opens into the temple proper. As he moves forward into the recesses of the temple, Ezekiel passes through the Holy Place and into the Holy of Holies. With each step, he moves into a progressively smaller space that is meant to focus his attention on the significance of his final destination: The most holy place.  This was the innermost room of the temple where God’s presence was said to dwell above the mercy seat. In Solomon’s temple, this room was highly restricted and off-limits to anyone but the high priest, who could only enter one day out of the entire year, on the Day of Atonement. God had told Moses to warn his brother, Aaron, the high priest, not to venture into the Holy of Holies on any other day or he would face certain death.

The Lord said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover.” – Leviticus 16:2 NLT

Aaron was given a series of ceremonial tasks to perform so that he might offer a sacrifice on behalf of the people. It all began with his personal purification and included cleansing of the Holy of Holies, the altar, priests, the congregation, and the tabernacle itself. It all concluded with the release of the scapegoat.

“He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land.” – Leviticus 16:21-22 NLT

What makes this so important is that, in the future Millennial Kingdom, there will be no need for the scapegoat because of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice. He bore the sins of mankind with His death on the cross and provided a permanent means of forgiveness for all those who place their faith in Him. Yet, God told Moses and the people of Israel that His commands concerning the Day of Atonement would be permanent.

“This is a permanent law for you. In future generations, the purification ceremony will be performed by the priest who has been anointed and ordained to serve as high priest in place of his ancestor Aaron. He will put on the holy linen garments and purify the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle, the altar, the priests, and the entire congregation. This is a permanent law for you, to purify the people of Israel from their sins, making them right with the Lord once each year.” – Leviticus 16:31-34 NLT

But what makes the future temple so unique is that it will exist as part of the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ, who will reign as King over Jerusalem, the land of Israel, and the rest of the world. Because of His sacrificial death, resurrection, ascension, and ultimate return as the King of kings and Lord of lords, there will be no need for future purification of the temple. The scapegoat will be unnecessary. Cleansing from sin will no longer be needed.

The Most Holy Place will be permanently holy. The people of God will be eternally righteous, cleansed, and forgiven. Because God and His Son will take up permanent residence with His people.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.