I just read in one of my commentaries… “Interpreters do agree on one point… Ezekiel 40-48 is one of the most difficult passages in the entire Bible.” Great.
I know why it is difficult. These prophecies have not been fulfilled, and therefore, theologians have different interpretations of its meaning.
Ezekiel 40-48 is the 2nd “temple vision” in Ezekiel. The first vision in chapters 8-11 showed the abominations of idolatrous people before the destruction of the temple. This second vision occurs 14 years (to the day) after the fall of the city and the destruction of the temple. Through visions, God shows Ezekiel a vision of a future, rebuilt and restored temple.
Here’s the controversy… Some scholars believe this vision is a literal temple that will be built one day in the future. Others believe this rebuilt temple is symbolic of God’s presence with his people during our current church age – and still others believe this vision is symbolic of perfect worship in the New Earth.
Not that it matters much… but I lean toward a symbolic interpretation of this vision – especially since Ezekiel was a priest (in his life in Judea) and would have been extremely familiar with the old temple. Temple life would have been deeply valuable to Ezekiel, so it makes sense that God would wrap the restoration of Israel in the context of a symbolically “perfect” temple.
But let’s look at the text… This video is especially helpful in picturing the temple as Ezekiel describes it in Chapter 40. Just a word of caution… this is one person’s visual interpretation. It is helpful, but not authoritative :)
Moving on to Acts 16, we read of the beginning of Paul’s 2nd missionary journey where the text describes another vision! In this case, God used the vision to direct Paul to preach the gospel in far-away Europe. So Paul obeyed, traveling north into the Roman colony of Philippi. Philippi was so far removed from Jewish culture that there wasn’t even a Jewish temple! Undeterred, Paul and his companions approached a group of women who were praying by a riverside.
From a human perspective, this makes no sense. Why go north to Philippi instead of south to more familiar territory? Why approach women instead of the influential men of the city? But God’s ways are not our ways.
God planned for the first convert in Europe to be an ordinary woman named Lydia. The church in Philippi started in her house and grew to be a major influence in the region. The influence of the church in Philippi ripples to this day as we are instructed by the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian church.
God used Paul’s obedience in the face of ambiguity to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth! Has God ever asked something of you that didn’t make earthly sense?? I have found that obedience in the face of ambiguity brings about the richest blessings. May we have the faith to follow Jesus… wherever He may lead!
This is so, so interesting. I’ve never thought before that the temples were anything other than actual (literal) temples. But then you analyze the “Through visions,” and you come up with the symbolic slant on why there was controversy (and still is, apparently). I thought the one man’s “picture” of what it could have been like was fascinating, and it was so much more ‘modern’ or forward-thinking than I could have imagined, for the times. I’ll say, though, that you made a good case for its being symbolic. :)
I so appreciate your comment! There is no controversy surrounding the first temple vision in Ezekiel 8-11 – somehow Ezekiel was able to see the actual temple in Jerusalem. But because the 2nd temple vision (of a restored temple one day in the future) hasn’t happened yet… well that’s where all the different theories come to play. Thanks so much for following along with me! It’s such an encouragement to me :)
Yes, I realized after I punched “Post” that I had misspoken. By the way, I loved the last paragraph in this entry. It is especially meaningful to me at this time.
I actually don’t think I was very clear. So I edited the post to try to clarify all of the different temples :) So I appreciate you “mis-speaking” !!
Thanks again for the encouragement. Ezekiel has been especially difficult for me, so every comment helps!
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