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The Millennial Temple

Amillenarians challenge, and at times berate, the Premillenarians who teach that the Temple described in Ezekiel chapters 40-48, and the sacrifices presented there, are to be interpreted and understood literally. Their rejection of a literal interpretation of these chapters is based upon the unbiblical notion that God is forever finished with national Israel being replaced by the Church which, they claim, is now "spiritual Israel." Their assertion is that national Israel in the Old Testament was merely a type of the Church now realized in the New Testament. And that the Messianic Kingdom, covenantly as well as prophetically promised by God to that nation, having no physical, earthly reality at all, was to be a spiritual (i.e., spiritualized) kingdom. But it is these allegations, when held up to the scrutiny of God's literal Word, that can find no Scriptural reality at all.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome and strongly warned Christendom not to be arrogant by presuming that the fall of the Jew and national Israel was final. Thus concluding that the Gentiles have supplanted the Jews and the Church has replaced the nation (Rom. 11):

"I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression (unbelief) salvation {has come} to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be" (Rom. 11:11-12)!

"For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will {their} acceptance be but life from the dead" (Rom. 11:15).

Paul goes on to enlighten us:

"For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in (i.e., into the Body of Christ); and thus all Israel will be saved; Just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob." "And this is my covenant with them, When I take away their sins (Rom. 11:25-27; cf. Hos. 2:14-23).
The remarkable irony is that the church of Rome (to whom the letter was written), completely discarded the Apostle's warning of arrogance to that church by officially adopting Augustinian Amillennialism, and has for centuries audaciously taught that the Church of Rome is now the Kingdom and the future Millennial blessings promised to national Israel in the Old Testament are now spiritually applied to the Church. And tragically, Reformation theology continued in Rome's arrogance by retaining an Amillennial view of their own.

Back To Literal Reality

Based on a consistent literal hermeneutics (interpretation) of God's written Word, and an honest examination of these remarkable chapters in Ezekiel which describe the Temple, we must agree with Eric Sauer where he states:

"We stand here really before an inescapable alternative: Either the prophet himself was mistaken in his expectation of a coming temple service, and his prophecy in the sense in which he himself meant it will never be fulfilled; or God, in the time of Messiah, will fulfill literally these prophecies of the temple according to their intended literal meaning. There is no other choice possible" (quoted by Randall Price, "The Coming Last Days Temple").
In his comprehensive book on eschatology Pentecost quotes James M. Gray's list of the anti-literalist's suggested interpretations of Ezekiel's Temple ("Things To Come," Worship In The Millennium, pg. 512):
(1) It describes the temple at Jerusalem prior to the Babylonian captivity of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and therefore serves as a memorial of it.
This interpretation falls short because a memorial of the destruction of Solomon's Temple is preserved in the Books of Kings and Chronicles. And the particulars described of Ezekiel's Temple do not agree with those of Solomon's destroyed by Babylon.
(2) It describes the temple built in Jerusalem by the Jewish remnant who returned to the land after the Babylonian captivity.
But the contrast between the two temples is vast. Gaebelien points out that the glory of the Lord returns to this temple and makes His dwelling place there (Eze. 43:1-6). The same "glory" which Ezekiel saw departing from Solomon's Temple at the time of Judah's apostasy (Eze. 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22-23; cf. 43: 1-6). However, the glory cloud that left Solomon's temple did not return to the temple built by the Jewish remnant that returned to the land from Babylon. No glory filled that house as it does in the one described by Ezekiel. And significantly, unlike the temple built after the Babylonian captivity, Ezekiel's temple describes no high priests presiding over its worship, nor can the healing waters that flow from this temple in any way be applied to the restored temple built by the returned Babylonian remnant.
(3) Some suggest that this is an ideal temple. One that should have been built after Israel's return from the Babylonian captivity.
But such a prophecy serves no purpose since it is only idealistic and therefore never was and never will be fulfilled.
(4) The popular interpretation today by most non-literalists is that the temple symbolizes the spiritual blessings experienced by the church during this present age.
However those who hold to this theory have never adequately explained the symbolism to which they confidently refer. They present no exposition of the text and leave extensive parts of the vision unexplained as to their supposed allegorical meanings. "Indeed, has God said...?" (Gen. 3:1)

Based on the elaborate detail provided by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48, it is safe to conclude that this temple is not historical (i.e., Solomon's or Herod's). And since the text itself gives absolutely no indication that Ezekiel meant it to be understood metaphorically, we must opt for its literal meaning and therefore the revealed plan of God for a future time fulfillment. Hence, it is not surprising that Ezekiel's prophecy regarding this Temple, with its Levitical priesthood and sacrifices, correlates perfectly with the covenant promises found in the Book of Jeremiah:

"For thus says the Lord, 'David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to prepare sacrifices continually '" (Jer 33:17-18).

"Thus says the Lord, 'If you can break My covenant for the day, and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers. 'As the host of heaven cannot be counted, and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me' " (Jer 33:20-22).

A Glorious Millennial Temple

When considering the imposing description laid out in these chapters, it must be concluded that it is the future Millennial Temple that Ezekiel is presenting here in detail. The future, Millennial dispensation is an eschatological extension of the past Jewish age which includes Gentiles (contrary to this Church age which integrates Gentiles into the Body of Christ) and operates primarily as a Jewish economy under the theocratic laws of the New Covenant with Christ sitting (reigning) on the throne of David (Lk. 1:32-33; cf. 2 Sam. 7:16).

In Acts chapter fifteen James quotes the prophet Amos regarding what will happen after this Church age when Jews and Gentiles are being incorporated into the Body of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13):

"After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old" (Acts 15:16-18).

A Glorious, Divine, Meeting Place For All The Earth

This eschatological, rebuilt, Jewish economy (theocracy) involves a Temple, and sacrifices performed at this Temple for ceremonial cleansing and acceptance. The human population ushered into the Millennial Kingdom at Christ's second Advent (Matt. 25:34) will still be in their mortal bodies and will therefore be capable of incurring ritual defilement and polluting the holy Sanctuary. Even though those mortals who initially enter the Millennial Kingdom are regenerated by the Holy Spirit through personal faith in Messiah they, and their unregenerated offspring born during that Millennial age, can intentionally or unintentionally violate ceremonial standards.

The idea that a sacrificial system will once again be instituted during the Millennium, much less a Temple, has caused many Christians to wince. But it must be clearly understood that eternal salvation is, and always has been, by divine grace through the exercise of personal faith - never obedience to law - whether Mosaic or the Theocratic laws under the New Covenant during Christ's future reign on earth. Like the sacrifices under the Mosaic Law, the sacrifices performed at this future Jerusalem Temple will not, nor can not, "make the worshiper perfect in conscience" (Heb. 9:9-14) They can not impute to a sinner the righteousness of Christ (Gal. 3:21). But their "atoning" value will be ceremonially efficacious for those who, "in those days" enter the Holy Temple. In other words, the sacrifices performed during the Millennium will be ceremonially effective, but not expiatory (i.e., remove the guilt of personal sin which is only accomplished through personal faith in Messiah).

A Priest, A King and a Divine Architect

When examining all the prophecies which describe this future age, it is revealed that it is the Lord Himself who will preside over the building of this glorious Temple, and there reign as both Priest and King. The Temple will serve as the "meeting place" for all the nations on the earth at that time; and it is Jews who will lead the Gentiles in coming to seek the Lord there in Jerusalem:

"Then say to him, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts," Behold, a man whose name is Branch (a Messianic term), for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices" ' (Zech. 6:12-13).

"Thus says the Lord of hosts, '{It will} yet {be} that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. 'And the inhabitants of one will go to another saying, "Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go." 'So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.' "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you "'" (Zech. 8:20-23; cf. 1:17; 2:11-13; 8:1-3; Zeph. 3:11-20; Is. 1:26; 2:1-4).

The Millennium will be a unique time on earth. A time when Messiah "the Branch" will build His Holy Temple and the wealth of the nations will be brought to it (Hag. 2:7-9). Christ will rule as both Priest and King in the exalted city of Jerusalem, and for this reason the nations will stream to it:
"...and the peoples will stream to it, and many nations will come and say, "Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths. For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war" (Micah 4:1-3; cf. Is. 2:13; 59:20-21; 60: 1-3; 5, 10, 11,-12, 14, 15-18; 61:4-9; 62:7; Zech. 14:9).

And "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is. 11:9).

The Temple described by Ezekiel will be critical to Christ's future, Messianic rule on earth.

Replacement Theology: "Too Much Too Soon"

Randall Price is right when he states that the problem of replacement theology in Reformed theology is that "it promises too much too soon." In replacement theology it is taught that Jesus Christ Himself is now the fulfillment of the Temple. However, though Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ will indeed be the fulfillment of the Temple, it does not reveal Him to be its fulfillment now during this Church age, nor in the Millennial age to come - but in the future eternal state. After the Millennial reign of Christ on earth, God will create a new heaven and earth, and it is revealed that the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven (Rev. 21). The Apostle John tells us that in this Holy City there is "no temple" (sanctuary) because "the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb (Jesus Christ) are its temple" (sanctuary, Rev. 21:22-23).

A New City, A New Sanctuary, A new Communion

The personal communion, lost in Eden between man and his Creator because of sin and rebellion, will again be realized (and more so) in the New Jerusalem:

"And there shall be no longer any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face...." (Rev. 22:3-4).
As the inner sanctuary of Solomon's Temple was laid out as a square (1 Kings 6:19-20), the entire City (the New Jerusalem), also laid out as a square (Rev. 21:16), is depicted as a Sanctuary, an immense Holy of Holies. As the original design of the Temple was to allow God to dwell with His people, the New Jerusalem is the ultimate realization of the Temple's most ideal function -- the communion of God and man without hinderance in glory.

In the new creation, all is holy!

Written by Gary Nystrom

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