A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 43:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the first of four lessons from the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet to the people of Judah in exile in Babylon. In the first parts of the book, he has “bad news” for the people regarding the necessity of judgment and the fact that there will be no immediate relief from exile. He records several awesome visions of God, beginning with his call in Chapter 1, and a vision of the LORD leaving Jerusalem in Chapter 10. The LORD instructs him in a number of very public symbolic prophetic acts (including the famous lying on his side for 390 days as a picture of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem). He speaks prophecies against the evil of both God’s people and the surrounding nations.

Chapter 37 is then the famous “dry bones” chapter and a vision of God’s restoration of His people, bringing life where there is none. Chapters 38-48 describe God’s setting things right and revealing His glory both among the nations and more specifically again among His chosen people.

Chapter 43 describes Ezekiel’s vision of God’s return to the Jerusalem temple and some of its implications.

Ezekiel 43:1 Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east.

Ezekiel has been having a tour of a future new and more perfect temple in Jerusalem (Solomon’s temple having been destroyed by the Babylonians) guided by an angel. Now that angel takes him to the east gate.

2 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.

This is 19 years or so after Ezekiel’s call and his vision of God leaving Jerusalem. It’s 12 years or so after the arrival in Babylon of the news of the destruction of the fall of Jerusalem. This has surely been a trying time for Ezekiel, but here in this vision, God comes in awesome majesty and power, returning to His people. The misery of exile and Jerusalem in rubble must seem completely swallowed up in glory.

3 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.

This is the same God that called Ezekiel and he’s overwhelmed at His awesome presence and complete holiness. Humans are not in God’s class, and Ezekiel is acutely aware of that truth and he prostrates himself on the ground.

4 As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east,

5 the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

As the visible presence of the Creator and Sustainer of all that is returns to Jerusalem, Ezekiel is given an aerial view of a new perfected temple and courtyard, and sees and hears what had been seen when the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40) and Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5). He sees and hears very much what was seen and heard on the Day of Pentecost when the Glory of the LORD came to rest on Christ’s church.

6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple,

God interprets for Ezekiel the significance of the vision. The promise is that God will dwell permanently among a holy people. He’s not seeing here Zerubbabel’s temple (built after the exile). He’s seeing something far more lasting and far more important and far more grand.

7 and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places,

This permanent dwelling will be characterized by the holiness of the people. There will be no more coming short of the holy character of God. There will be no more idolatry. There will be no more false religion.

Some of the kings of Judah had been buried on Mount Zion and it seems that there may even have been idols raised to some of them. That’s inconsistent with a right understanding of the real grandeur of the God of the Bible. Ezekiel is promised a “temple” and a time and a people where none of that will be present.

8 by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger.

The royal palaces had encroached on the temple space on Mount Zion. That physical situation was a symptom and picture of the reality that the hearts of God’s people were not wholly His. They were trusting as much in politics and international alliances as in God. They cared more for wealth and comfort than for holy religion and obedience to the real King.

9 Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.

If God is to dwell with His people, these things can’t be. God will not abide apostasy. He will be with His people forever, but not under these standard human conventions. There is a real problem here outside of the saving and sanctifying work of Christ. This future temple (that can only be Christ’s church) must be holy. And we don’t have it in us to live up to or generate this perfection in and of ourselves.

10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan.

The necessity is complete holiness. We ought to have grief and shame for our unholiness. Ezekiel can’t know at this point the full plan of God for the salvation of humanity. But he is to preach repentance.

11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.

Ezekiel is to let the people know the glorious holy nature of God’s dwelling with man. Where there are soft hearts and is sorrow for sin, the people will have to throw themselves on His mercy.

12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.

And the extent of this is even beyond what Ezekiel has seen. It’s not to be that only the Holy of Holies is most holy. Rather all of it, what was temple territory and what was “secular” territory, all of it is to be most holy. God’s dwelling with His people will not be some thing limited to very special locations and circumstances, it will be pervasive. All of existence for His redeemed people will ultimately be most holy and full of His Glory.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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