How Ezekiel’s Prophecy is Fulfilled in Revelation (continued)
It is time to present the case for my declaration at the beginning of Part 1. This is why you are all gathered here. Unfortunately the town crier has gone home to bed.
May I remind you of my opening statement.
In the final chapters of Ezekiel, we are not given a glimpse of the millennial kingdom on the present earth, but the heavenly/eternal state on the new earth. Ezekiel’s prophetic word, presented in an OT setting, discloses the eternal fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, consummated in the “unveiling” of His bride, formally introduced as the NT dawns. Her veil is lifted for her Groom, and her beauty fully seen, at Scripture’s end. As Ezekiel closes, he looks beyond the shores of present earth and sees her apocalyptically. Through OT eyes, he sees “the bride” John saw in Revelation 21-22. Israel’s expectations (the hope of Israel) are, therefore, tied to the church, in mystic union with their Messiah. This means that the promises to Israel are fully realized in the eternal state by the church.
Before I begin, let me state my case in another way. I feel it is necessary. For, sadly, at times the church has the same problem as Israel (Ezek. 3:7,27; Rev. 2:16,17).
Listen to what I’m going to say.
Ezekiel’s prophecy is phenomenal! It goes far beyond any present-earth event. God, through him, presents a picture of Israel, in its classic religious/historic setting in the land, to describe the new earth: the eternal dwelling of God and His people. In so doing, He unfolds the ultimate fulfillment of His promises to Israel in the church, as we will see as we draw the parallels to John’s book of Revelation.
Yes, this does sometimes involve spiritual understandings of things (notice Heb. 8:4,5). But the realities set forth are as real as the nose on our face. The patriarchs themselves, who received the promises, were looking for a heavenly city: a heavenly land (Heb. 11:8-16,39,40). Why did they embrace the promises to their death, having never received them? Because they are not fulfilled on this earth. They are in fact fulfilled in a heavenly state. It is a heavenly reality. We are too earthbound: too present-earth oriented. We feel that, unless we stick our fingers in Palestine’s dirt or put a boot on some rock in the West Bank, it can’t be a real fulfillment of prophecy. Christians have lost a grip on what is really real. They have turned too many things on their heads.
Ezekiel’s epic disclosure begins in chapter 37, which corresponds with Revelation 20:1-6.
In Ezekiel 37, the dry bones that were raised to life, who had the Spirit of God placed within them and came out of their graves, have their counterpart in the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6. As it was for dry bones, those who experienced the first resurrection also “came to life” (NAS) and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). Like them, we are quickened. We are brought to life by the Spirit of God at the time of salvation (John 3:5-8; 5:21,25; Eph. 2:1-10; James 1:18; I Pet. 1:23). The thousand-year reign is a present reality. In Revelation 20 those who reign with Christ are disembodied “souls,” reigning with Him in heaven; and yet, it is a real resurrection. They have all experienced the resurrection Jesus spoke of in John 5. “An hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (v.25).
Even in Ezekiel it is evident that spiritual resurrection is in view. It is not an ordinary resurrection when bones have the Spirit of God enter them. This sounds more like regeneration. Physical resurrection requires that former souls return. But here God says the “bones are the whole house of Israel” who say, “Our hope is lost” (Ezek. 37:11). It is evident that this massive throng was not among the “saved” when they died. Just the opposite is inferred. And there will be no physical resurrection of Israel’s dead in the future so they can have a second chance to be saved. The Bible is clear. Once a man dies, judgment follows (Heb. 9:27), not a new chance for rebirth. Israel is no exception (Rom. 2:5-11).
Some feel strongly that a spiritual understanding of the “first resurrection” is unwarranted in Revelation 20. And yet it is commonly held that the “second death” is essentially spiritual in nature. The two are placed virtually side by side in Revelation 20:6 and are in complete harmony. “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power.” To say you will not see spiritual death if you experience spiritual resurrection, is not that far from the true meaning of the text, no matter what your view is on the first resurrection.
There is, however, also a physical component in the “first resurrection.” The first resurrection is Christ’s own resurrection from the dead which we “have a part in” by being identified with Him (Acts 26:23: NAS is not a good translation of this verse: the Greek text says He is the “first of resurrection of the dead,” translated correctly in NIV and KJV; also see I Cor. 15:20-23; Eph. 2:4-7; Col. 2:12,13).
As in Revelation 20:7-10, this is followed in Ezekiel 38 and 39 by Gog’s invasion. We know by Revelation 20:8,9 that the object of this hostility is actually the church. “They came upon the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.” Ezekiel says, “[Gog] will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land” (38:6). The “beloved city” in Revelation 20:9 is not the old city of Jerusalem that sits between mountains in Israel. That city is elsewhere known “spiritually” in Revelation as “Sodom and Egypt” (11:8). Rather, this is the “upwards Jerusalem” which is distinguished from “the present Jerusalem.” Jerusalem above is “our mother”: the mother of all who believe (Gal. 4:25,26; Rev. 3:12; Heb. 12:18-24). The writer of Hebrews says “we have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” We are residents of that city, because all the family in heaven and earth is mystically united.
In response to the invasion by Gog, God Himself will come and bring retribution. He says through Ezekiel, “All who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains will be thrown down” (38:20). The conflict is not regional. “All who are on the face of the earth” matches “the broad plain of the earth” in Revelation 20:9. This corresponds with Hebrews 12:26: “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” Through Ezekiel’s pen, God goes on to say, “I will enter into judgment with [Gog]; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone” (38:22).
Notice the resemblance of God’s response to the invasion by Gog in Revelation 20:9. “Fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” This coincides with the return of Christ as set forth by Paul in II Thessalonians chapter 1. Herein lies our hope of deliverance from those who surround “the camp of the saints” and intend to destroy us. “To you who are being pressed upon [surrounded on every side], there is relief [for] us in the revelation of our Lord Jesus from heaven…in flaming fire giving vengeance to those who do not know God…when He comes to be glorified among His saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed” (v. 7-10). What songs of victory there will be in the camp of the saints when Christ appears! Again, this matches what God said through Ezekiel: “I will magnify Myself…and make Myself known in the sight of many nations [‘every eye will see Him’]; and they will know that I am the Lord” (38:23); as if this came from the mouth of our “Lord” Jesus Himself in anticipation of His return.
Ezekiel 40-48 continues moving along a track that runs parallel with Revelation 21 and 22.
As Ezekiel 40 opens, he is transported to “a very high mountain.” To the south there is a structure “like a city” (v. 2). Likewise, John is carried to “a great and high mountain” and shown “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven” (Rev, 21:10). Next, in Ezekiel’s vision, “a man with a measuring rod” (40:3) measures the temple. This action is cataloged in chapters 40, 41, and 42. Measurements for the city are given in chapter 48. In Revelation 21 the one who speaks with John also has “a measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and wall” (v. 15).
In Ezekiel 43 “the glory of God” fills the temple. In John’s vision we also see the glory of God emanating from the temple in the new Jerusalem. Only, there is no temple there, as such. “The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). Their glory illuminates the city (Rev. 21:22,23; 22:5) much like the sun illuminates our solar system. They function as the tabernacle or temple once did, which lay in the approximate center of the camp or city, or land of Israel.
In Ezekiel, as the glory of the Lord fills the temple, God says to him, “This is the place of My throne” (43:7). John also discovers “the throne of God and of the Lamb” in new Jerusalem (Rev. 22:3).
As He enters the temple in Ezekiel, God goes on to say, “This is…the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever” (43:7). Countries jockey for a chance to host the Olympic games for a season. What prospective “country” could offer a suitable dwelling for God for eternity? He Himself has ruled out the present earth. “Where is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?” (Isa. 66:1). The NT agrees and is not ambiguous. “God does not dwell in temples made with hands.” Present earth is not a suitable place for God to dwell forever.
In Revelation 21, as the holy city comes down out of heaven, a loud voice announces, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them” (v. 3). This is where the train pulls into a station marked “forever.” This is the place where God will forever rest the soles of His feet. John has peeled the orange, as it were, that Ezekiel handed us. At the end of Revelation he sees what God foresaw in the final chapters of Ezekiel, veiled in OT imagery. It was described in Ezekiel in a setting the Jewish mind could grasp, in keeping with the fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel. But God was in fact giving them a glimpse of the new Jerusalem on the new earth, the ultimate fulfillment of His promises to them, which John later brings to full focus in Revelation 21 and 22.
I can see that I have a large audience now. Welcome, everyone! We are just getting started. I’ll have to make copies of my parchment roll for those who came late.
Come with me as I set out on the parallel tracks, in Ezekiel and Revelation, for the city of God: the eternal city. I will point out important sign posts as we go.
There is one now, just ahead.
Ezekiel’s vision presents “ministers of the sanctuary,” from the priestly line, “who come near to minister to the Lord” (45:4). With an eye to unfolding the new-earth reality of this, God gives John a glimpse of “His bond-servants” who “will serve Him” and “see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3,4). This visual is expanded in Revelation 7:13-17 where John writes, “They serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.” Though reference is made to “day and night,” this has a new-earth setting (cf.Rev.7:13-17 and 21:4-6,23;22:3).
When Aaron ministered in the tabernacle, he wore a plate of gold on his forehead, engraved with the words, “Holy is the Lord” (Ex. 28:36-38; cf. Luke 11:2). This prototype finds its perfection in those who serve with their Father’s name on their foreheads in the new Jerusalem. New Jerusalem will enjoy the ultimate goal and most-eminent expression of God’s design for the OT priesthood. This was, after all, a major objective of the cross. The Lamb has purchased us from every nation and “made [us] priests to our God” (Rev. 5:9,10). Listen closely. This is OT priesthood consummated, realized in its perfection in the church!
We are approaching another sign post.
In Ezekiel chapter 46 burnt and grain offerings, rising to heaven “morning by morning,” are to be offered “to the Lord continually by a perpetual ordinance…for a continual burnt offering” (v. 13-15). Don’t think this is only for a thousand years. It’s not. This is forever. How can offerings be made perpetually when what is “perpetual” in Ezekiel is “vanishing away” in Hebrews (8:13)?
May I give you the answer? I wish you would, you say.
Foreshadowed in the offerings is the “everlasting covenant” disclosed in Ezekiel 16:60-63 and 37:26. God tells Israel how they will recognize this covenant. You will know it has come “when I have forgiven you for all that you have done” (Ezek. 16:63). The key component in the everlasting covenant is forgiveness. This is the covenant Jesus referred to when He said, “This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 12:24). Hebrews 8, quoting from Jeremiah 31, lays down this essential building block at the end of God’s description of the covenant. “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (v. 12; 10;17). These key words, “forgiveness of sins,” were present in the Gospel the apostles proclaimed to Israel (Acts 5:31; 13:38), which was their clue that this was the covenant God had promised.
Jesus called it “My blood” of the covenant. His blood actually does what other untold thousands or even millions of gallons of blood, spilled on temple grounds or beyond temple gates, were credited with. His is “the blood” of the eternal covenant (Heb.13:20). It stands alone, without peers. This is “the blood” in the heavenly Jerusalem that will not stop speaking (Heb. 12:24).
The offerings and ritualistic requirements of the law, set forth in Ezekiel 45 and 46, are beautifully fulfilled in Christ (Rom. 10:4; Heb. 8:1-5; 9:6-12; 10:1-18). He is the source of “eternal” salvation typified in them (Heb. 5:9) and has perfected “forever,” with His one offering (Heb. 10:14), those who dwell in new Jerusalem.
This is the “eternal redemption” typified in Ezekiel’s “perpetual ordinance” (Heb. 9:12). It points to nothing less than the eternally-vicarious work of Christ, veiled in OT offerings and rituals, set forth in their perfection in Ezekiel’s vision and completely fulfilled in Christ, as intended (Matt. 5:17-19).
It is the blood of the Lamb that has redeemed “the bride, the wife of Christ” (Rev. 21:9) and will forever bless all “those who wash their robes” in it (Rev. 22:14).
Watch out! We are coming quickly upon the next sign post.
At the beginning of chapter 47, Ezekiel is directed to a threshold of the temple from which “water was flowing” (v. 1). What begins as a trickle becomes “a river that could not be forded” (v. 2-5). Likewise, John is shown “a river of the water of life…coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” who are the temple in new Jerusalem on the new earth (Rev.22:1; 21:22). God refers to the stream as a “spring” when He says, “I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of water of life freely” (Rev. 21:6). To which John responds: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes, take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). This is the “river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High” (Ps. 46:4,5).
Ezekiel observes that there are trees growing on the bank of the river, “on one side and on the other.” They bear fruit for food “every month.” And “their leaves are for healing” (47:12). Their counterpart in John’s vision, “on either side of the river,” is “a tree of life, bearing twelve fruits.” As in Ezekiel’s vision, it yields fruit “every month” and “its leaves are for healing” (Rev. 22:2). Ezekiel is in fact witnessing the glories of new earth through an OT binoculars which Jesus brings to clearer focus in John’s book of Revelation.
There are other sign posts I must point out as we approach the end of Ezekiel’s book.
He continues to present the promises of God to Israel, as they are played out in eternity.
Beginning in Ezekiel chapter 47:13, through chapter 48, the land is divided for an inheritance among the twelve tribes (47:13), as God “swore to give to [their] forefathers” (47:14). This is in keeping with His promise that the land would be their possession forever (Gen. 13:15; Ex. 32:13). “Forever” cannot be fulfilled apart from a new-earth connection. Inheriting the land now becomes a heavenly reality in the eternal state. It does in fact mean: inheriting the earth, which enjoys “the freedom of the children of God.”
Pictured here is the new-earth fulfillment of this promise to Israel, which is in reality obtained by the church, Jews and Gentiles united in Christ in the faith of Abraham and identified with the twelve tribes (as in Rev. 7): “the Israel of God.” This is the land, and new Jerusalem is the city, that Abraham was looking for. And we are the children of Abraham. We, like Isaac, are the children of promise (Gal. 4:28). By God’s grace, believing Jews and Gentiles partake equally of the root and fatness of the olive tree. As Jesus said: “Many will come from the east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom…but the children of the kingdom [the ‘natural’ branches that were broken off] will be cast out into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11,12).
The following sign posts will bear this out, as we discover that it is the bride of Christ, new Jerusalem, that lies before the eyes of the prophet at the close of his book.
The city revealed to Ezekiel is “a square” (48:15-20,30-35). In John’s vision, as well, “the city is laid out as a square” (Rev. 21:16). In Ezekiel’s city there are “three gates” on each wall, “named for the twelve tribes of Israel” (48:30-35). In new Jerusalem there are also “three gates” on each wall (Rev. 21:13) with “names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel” written on them (Rev. 21:12).
The “multi-racial” branches of the olive tree are clearly visible in the “bride, the wife of the Lamb,” the holy city Jerusalem. The “names of the twelve tribes” are written on her gates. The twelve foundation stones bear “the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev.21:14), uniting the Old and New Testament people of God in the bride of Christ. Gentile kings bear their splendor through gates marked “Naphtali” and “Issachar.” The nations “bring their glory and honor” into a city built on foundation stones bearing the names of Galilean fishermen and a tax collector, among others: establishing for eternity the church’s humble Jewish beginnings. (The Lamb Himself was the first to set sail from humble beginnings.) And all who live there, walk in the same glorious “light” (Rev. 21:24,26)! There is a beautiful display of unity among the branches of the olive tree in new Jerusalem. This is in perfect harmony with the eternal purpose of God, that all things would be united in Christ, the “Lamp” in the new world. He will always be the Light of the world! And in Him all things are joined together as one. There is one bride, one people of God, one shepherd, one King, one city, forever: our “Father’s house,” “the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.” It is one grand, festive gathering!
The words of Paul in Ephesians 2 are a surprising reflection of this description of the bride of Christ, new Jerusalem, presented to us in Revelation 21 and 22. “Now therefore, you [Gentiles] are no longer strangers and foreigners [from the commonwealth of Israel], but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (v. 19-22). Herein lies the name of the city.
What is her name? They are the last words that cross Ezekiel’s tablet: “The Lord is there.” This name flies across the ages and drops its wings on the banks of eternity. There it is proclaimed once again, as the holy city, new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven. “Behold,” says a loud voice from the throne, “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell among them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:3,4). “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in [the city]” (Rev. 22:3).
Sounds like something Ezekiel wrote earlier in his book. “I will make a covenant of peace with them…an everlasting covenant…and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place will be with them; and I will be their God and they will be My people” (37:26-28). Just as God promised Abraham: “I will establish My covenant [with you] for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.”
There you have it. The final chapters of Ezekiel are actually describing the heavenly city, new Jerusalem, in the new earth. They mark the beginning of eternity. And truly, David will be our Prince forever (Isa. 9:6)!
You have been a wonderful audience.
If, after all this, you agree with me, you may sit with me in my tree house.
©James Unruh 2014 and beyond
The tree house is full, but we’re adding another room.