Some argue that Christ still has a future plan for national Israel. One of the reasons they say this is because of the description of a new temple in Ezekiel 40. Their argument goes like this: God gave us very specific architectural instructions in this passage. Why would he be so specific if it were not to be built?
Part of their reasoning may be that the first temple and the tabernacle in the wilderness had very specific directions. All of it had to be made precisely as was laid out in Scripture.
I'm glad to see that these brethren are eager to hold tenaciously to the inspired text. In a day where many are flippant regarding the holy Word of God, their zeal is refreshing.
While I appreciate my dispensationalists strong adherence to the divinity of text, I wish to offer clarity as to how the Spirit's word is to be understood. First, I will agree: Ezekiel's vision is specific; very specific! However, the details of the passage give us understanding of a greater reality. The specifics help us to see that God had something greater in mind than just stones and mortar.
Tracing out the details one comes to find that this temple is somewhat different than the original. It is perfectly square. It, essentially, is an ideal temple (whereas the first was "oblong" in its shape). Its dimensions set before us a picture of a time where there is no defect or skew among God's house.
This is one reason why it may be pointing to a future reality of the eternal kingdom, and not a time of reinstated Jewish rule.
"But the details!" they cry. "You can't have architectural detail like this with no plans to actually build it." To this I respond by pointing us back to the original tabernacle in the book of Exodus. Yes, Moses was given incredibly specific directions for the building of the tabernacle. And the text tells us that he followed each minutia precisely.
Yet when we come to the book of Hebrews, we read that the these details served a greater purpose. The structure on earth was never intended to be limited to itself. Hebrews tells us that it was a type that pointed to the heavenly reality. It was supposed to replicate the dwelling of God in heaven. They were "copies of the heavenly things" (Heb. 9:23; shadows of the good things to come" (Heb. 10:1).
Most importantly, Heb. 8:5 says that God told Moses to make everything according to the pattern shown on the mountain. Yet the same verse proclaims that these served as "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things." In sum, they were pictures that gave us an understanding of the real work of Jesus Christ as atoning sacrifice.
The details then served a greater purpose. It pointed to the reality of God with man; Christ and his church. With that knowledge we can then look to the vision of Ezekiel and see that the details may indicate something more than just architectural instruction. Ezekiel, who has had radical, symbolic visions and prophetic actions that indicated heavenly realities, may likely be talking about ideas that are not merely physical in appearance.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.