“So he measured the length thereof, twenty cubits; and the breadth, twenty cubits, before the temple: and he said unto me, This is the most holy place.” — Ezekiel 41:4
Have you ever tried to describe something to a person who has no knowledge of what you are talking about? It is a challenging task! On a recent trip to India, I found it difficult to explain the food I was enjoying to my family back home in Grants Pass, Oregon. It would be simple to relate a list of ingredients to a gourmet who knew what each spice tasted like, but I could only make general comparisons to things I knew my family members would understand.
The first thing I noticed about Indian cuisine was that the food relied more on spices than on salt and sugar for taste. My next discovery was that each dish featured several layers of complimentary flavors. My first bite of one dish contained bell pepper, onion, and cilantro, reminding me of the Mexican food my family and I enjoy at a local restaurant. My second bite, from the same dish, contained whole pieces of clove and star anise, and the resulting flavor reminded me of some of the dishes at a Chinese restaurant. After several more mouthfuls, I realized that there were bits of chili pepper in each bite. Soon, rather than having only a warm mouth, I was warm all over! Though I did my best to explain the taste sensations I was experiencing, my food comparisons did a poor job of conveying to my family an accurate perception of what I was eating.
In our text for today, Ezekiel described something that his hearers would have had difficulty comprehending. A divinely appointed guide — the one who had previously shown Ezekiel the courtyard, walls, and chambers of the future Temple complex — took the prophet into the Millennial Temple itself. As the guide led the prophet through each area, precise measurements were made and recorded, for Ezekiel had been instructed to relay all that he saw to the “house of Israel.”
The building in Ezekiel’s vision was different from Solomon’s Temple, and from the two later Temples in Israel’s future — those built by Ezra and Herod. It was also unlike any place Ezekiel had visited on earth. The foundation was six cubits high. Great pillars and posts upheld the roof. The three stories of chamber storerooms surrounding the Temple building increased outward in size so that each level had a larger perimeter than the last. The upper levels were accessed by winding staircases. While Ezekiel faithfully recorded what he was shown, no doubt he felt overwhelmed with the task of describing such an amazing structure!
While we may not fully understand God’s purpose for revealing this future Temple to Ezekiel in such detail, we can perceive some of what God was communicating through it. God desires fellowship with His people! In the Millennial Kingdom, there will be a place where those who have been united with Him through faith in the shed Blood of Jesus can come to worship. And the good news is, the Gospel is boundless — no one who comes to Christ in true repentance will be denied.
Some day in the future, God’s promise in Ezekiel 37:27 to put His sanctuary among His people will be fulfilled. As we read of Ezekiel’s vision and ponder what he saw, we will find that our desire to see that amazing place will continue to grow!
Having been told in Ezekiel 40:4 to “declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel,” the prophet obediently continued to record all he was shown by his divine guide. While in some cases Biblical prophecy can be attributed to more than one timeframe, the details of Ezekiel’s vision in this text seemingly picture the Temple that will exist in restored Israel during Christ’s Millennial Reign. A comparison shows it to be different from Solomon’s Temple (see 1 Kings 6-7) and also from the two Temples that were built after Ezekiel’s era (Ezra’s and Herod’s Temples).
A description of the Temple itself begins in Ezekiel 40:48 and continues through chapter 42. Ezekiel 40:48 indicates that a set of steps went up to the porch (or vestibule) of the Temple. This was the third level of the structure that Ezekiel was shown, but much of what is covered in Ezekiel 41 was part of the inner court (second level).
When Ezekiel spoke of the “house,” he was referring to the entire structure, including the Temple itself, its porch, and the side chambers. The word “house” in the original Hebrew has a wide variety of applications, but it refers to something that has been built. The word “temple” is used in reference to the areas in and around the Holy Place, and the “most holy place” (verse 4), which was also known as the Holy of Holies. This was the inner room whose height, length, and breadth were equal in measure, and which could only be approached by going through the Holy Place.
In verses 5-11 Ezekiel described a structure three stories high, with thirty storerooms on each floor, built around the perimeter of the Temple. He said it adjoined the Temple, but was not supported by it. A staircase wound around the stories, and each upward level increased in width.
The “separate place” mentioned in verse 12 refers to the chamber areas on the sides of the porch and Temple; only the priests were allowed to enter those areas.
The altar of wood that Ezekiel described in the Holy Place (verse 22) seems to have replaced the golden altar and table of shewbread of previous Temples. Nor did Ezekiel’s description make any mention of the golden candlesticks that were in the Holy Place of the wilderness Tabernacle and the Jerusalem Temple.
IV. The consolation of Israel
B. Prophecies of the millennial kingdom
1. The restoration of the Temple
b. The measurement of the Temple
(2) The Temple itself (40:48 — 41:26)
(a) The porch (40:48-49)
(b) The Holy Place (41:1-2)
(c) The Most Holy Place (41:3-4)
(d) The side chambers (41:5-11)
(e) The separate building (41:12-14)
(f) The interior features (41:15-26)
The detailed description of Ezekiel’s Temple can help us visualize it. But more importantly, it can cause us to purpose to prepare to go there!