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.
Ezekiel’s first temple vision – before Solomon’s temple was destroyed – ended with God’s glory leaving the temple through the East gate (Ezekiel 11:22-23). In Ezekiel’s second temple vision, we read of God’s glory returning to a rebuilt temple through the East gate (Ezekiel 43:1-5).
No matter to what interpretation you ascribe, whether you believe this future temple will be rebuilt physically or whether this temple is symbolic of God’s relationship with His people in some future age… The return of God’s glory to dwell among His people is the most important aspect of Ezekiel’s vision!!
Yes, Ezekiel goes into great detail to describe the sacrifices and duties of the priests. It all harkens back to the giving of the Mosaic law in Exodus and Leviticus. These are all important reminders of God’s holiness and our need for a sacrificial Savior… But the returning of the Glory of God is the climax!
In the Old Testament, the temple was the dwelling place of God’s glory. We see this in Exodus as God’s glory descended upon the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35) – and in 1 Kings as God’s glory descended upon Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10-11). But in the New Testament, God’s presence dwells among his people in the context of the church.
As Paul and his companions were traveling through Macedonia, they weren’t just creating individuals who believed in Jesus… No, they were creating communities, congregations… they were planting churches. In Acts 17, Paul visited Thessalonica and Berea, but when he left those places, he left behind groups of people who would meet together to worship Jesus as God. He left behind churches.
Paul makes it clear that because of Jesus’s final sacrifice, the temple has been replaced by the church as the worship center for the believer.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
The “you” in these verses is plural. Paul is talking to a collective “you.” He is talking to the church.
In the past, God’s glory descended upon the Holy of Holies in the innermost chamber of his temple. In the future new Jerusalem, there will be no need for a temple, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22). But right now, in this present age… the temple is us, the church. And God’s glory has descended, and God’s glory dwells among us! That, friends, is something to celebrate!