An Interesting Fact About Ezekiel’s Temple

“In terms of the future and the Messiah, Routledge views things from an amillennial context.  Everything prophecied in the future was symbolized and fulfilled in Jesus.  There is no future temple or time of peace before the new heavens and new earth.  So when Ezekiel 40-48 describes this in detail, he was just condescending to people who could not otherwise understand except by making them think there was really going to be a temple and a repopulated Promised Land.  Somehow Routledge doesn’t find this deceptive in the least, despite the fact that every example we have until after the New Testament was written believed in a literal fulfillment of a restored temple.” (my emphasis)

– From Richard Hess’s review of R. Routledge’s OT Theology in Denver Journal

20 thoughts on “An Interesting Fact About Ezekiel’s Temple”

  1. Surprisingly candid.

    I just like plucking out any random verse and asking a church/Jesus/whatever person to tell me what it symbolizes. Like Ezekiel 42:3. What do the three stories symbolize? The Trinity?

  2. LOL

    So “three” symbolizes “four,” which is… um… the number of perfection? The four Gospels? The Four Spiritual Laws? The four books in the Inheritance series?

  3. Interesting you should post this. I just went hammer and tongs with a group of NCT guys on Ezekiel’s temple, which they of course claim it is all fulfilled in Christ. One person did offer a good rebuttal that I would appreciate your feed back regarding. He wrote concerning Ezekiel 38-39,

    “How about being honest and defining your approach as “literal when convenient” or “literal when I want it to be”?

    If horses and spears can mean cruise missiles, than you have sawn the legs out from under your position. Unless you can consistently define when things are not possible to be literal, you’ve got nothing to stand on. It all becomes arbitrary. If Ezekiel 38 and 39 cannot be literal, how can you DEMAND that 40-48 be literal?”

    Do you have any thoughts about this?

    1. Well Fred, you don’t need my help, but here’s my ten-penny worth:

      1. This complaint is quite justified if we are turning spears into cruise missiles. I have to agree there. This is what Hal Lindsey did and …….don’t get me started on that!

      2. I DO take Ezek. 38-39 “literally” even though I don’t know just how it will look. What I mean is I hold that there will have to be an identifiable literal correspondence between the nations in 38:3, 5, 6 and those involved in this future battle (which, because of 39:9 I cannot place at the end of the Millennium). I confess, I just don’t know how this will happen literally, but I believe God can handle the details just fine.

      3. This charge of “literal when convenient”/”literal when I want it to be” does not sound convincing on the lips of someone trying to turn the most detailed scheme of a building into Jesus Christ. I always ask these people what they do with the structural arc in the Book between Ch. 10 (the Shekinah departing from a literal temple), and Ch. 43 (where the Shekinah comes to Ezekiel’s temple)?

      4. I’m sure you have already pointed out that this temple, though enormous, can actually be constructed on this plan (we just need Zech. 14:4 to sort the topography out).

      5. Finally, the “Priestly covenant” which God made with Phinehas in Num. 25, and which is reiterated in Jer. 33:14ff. (cf. Ezek. 37:26) and implied by Malachi in Mal. 3:1-4 necessitates a rebuilt temple. My guess is that Ezekiel has provided us with its floor-plan!

      Hope you’re enjoying your “rest” 🙂

      God bless,


  4. I look forward with you to the good doctor’s reply. Mine would be twofold:

    1. I don’t know that they won’t be exactly those weapons. It is completely conceivable that we’ll bomb ourselves back to spears and swords and horses.

    2. Doesn’t take a PhD to tell the difference between seeing a prophecy naming one kind of WEAPON being fulfilled by the use of other types of WEAPONS, on the one hand, and the exctremely detailed prophecy of a BUILDING and a PIECE OF REAL ESTATE being fulfilled by something that is neither building nor real estate.

  5. Paul, as I have mentioned before, the comments following your posts at best show a lack of understanding in how the Reformers handled the text of Scripture. As I have followed your recent posts on hermeneutics, we are essentially in agreement! It is my conviction that the best approach when dealing with your regular readers, is show him by your example that just as CT do not at times take passages literally due to issues of context, DT are guilty of the same hermeneutical method. Phillips reminds me of some seminary students I trained with who love to blast . . . who after years of faithful study in the ministry . . . wish they could take back some of their flippancy (sp?).

    1. Christian,

      Of course you are right to point out when a dispensationalist who claims to use a consistent hermeneutics, digresses from the path. But this IS a digression, not an interpretative principle.

      If Dan were not to be a bit flippant he would not be Dan. I really don’t think he means it in any way other than a well-intentioned humorous way of making a serious point. It’s not fair to dismiss him like you have. As a matter of fact Dan would give you less headaches soteriologically than I do 🙂

      My next “Parameters” post takes it up a notch. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but I’d be honored to have you read it.

      As always, God bless you!


  6. Yep; like Rick Perry (or any conservative) according to liberals, dispensationalists are just immature and stupid to spiritualizers. I mean goodness, insisting that the text means what it would have meant to author and hearer! How jejune! How un-nuanced!

  7. Amillennalist in general from my own discussions with them on Ezek. 40 to 48 run from that whole passage and run to the Epistle of Hebrews as if Hebrews cancels out what is in Ezeck. 40 to 48. The person I had a discussion on a message board mocked the whole idea of the temple and the idea of animal sacrifices taking place. He claimed animal sacrifices would be blasphemy. So I asked him if what the apostle Paul did with some men when he took them to the temple in which these men performed an animal sacrifice under the Nazirite vow in Acts 21:15-26. I threw in his face that John Calvin had no exposition of Ezeck 40 to 48 in his commentary on that individual book. Which goes to show that Amillennialist have no real exegetical answers for those chapters at all. Sure enough this person was yet another claimed ” former dispensationalist ” who evidently had no real understanding of it. He even made a thread attacking the millennial kingdom claiming dispensationalist hold the millennial kingdom is 3 dispensations in 1. Then started attacking the idea of dispensations by claiming dispensationalist sometimes differ on the number of dispensations and claimed different meanings of the word dispensation. Basically the person was trying to redefine dispensationalism from what leading dispensationalist teach or have taught on it. And then using that to use strawman arguments againist dispensationalism. I will never understand claimed ” former dispensationalist ” . It seems to me anyway they use this in order to make themselves look to appear to be a realible source againist their claimed former beliefs. When press to specific points it always shows time and time againist they never had an indepth knowledge of dispensationalist and whatever they had was in name only and not by strong conviction and understanding.

  8. “Interesting you should post this. I just went hammer and tongs with a group of NCT guys on Ezekiel’s temple, which they of course claim it is all fulfilled in Christ. One person did offer a good rebuttal that I would appreciate your feed back regarding. He wrote concerning Ezekiel 38-39, ”

    They generally do not offer a good rebuttals on that when you look carefully at it. What they do is attempt to cast doubt on what is exactly written in order to over throw any and every exposition given for it. No matter what answer is given they will still cast doubt on it.

    “If horses and spears can mean cruise missiles, than you have sawn the legs out from under your position. Unless you can consistently define when things are not possible to be literal, you’ve got nothing to stand on. It all becomes arbitrary. If Ezekiel 38 and 39 cannot be literal, how can you DEMAND that 40-48 be literal?””

    I personally do not understand horses and speaks to mean cruise missles. That is him trying to tell a person what they believe when that may not be the case. I happen to hold that it involves real horses and spears. It will be used in that battle. You see they will still attack my position even though I am going with what the text is saying. The use of horses and spears is also a picture of warfare. That is how warfare was in that historical context of which it was written. We need not speculate what modern warefare will be used in the battle. All we need to know is it will be a war and horses and spears will be used as far as what is said in the passage. And we dont know what others will use as the text does not tell us. We just know it will be warefare weapons. 🙂 See. This is a literal interpretation of the battle of Ezek 38 and 39 . 🙂

  9. I think this is a valid point to consider: how would God have described through Ezekiel modern warfare (or even warfare beyond our own time)? Surely He has mainly two avenues: 1) use terminology which designates weapons of war familiar to Ezekiel and his listeners; 2) use terminology which attempts to accurately describe some futuristic scene which neither Ezekiel nor his listeners would be able to grasp. If #1, then we would have results much like we see in the text. If #2, then we’d be looking at something more akin to Ezekiel 1 or Ezekiel 10 — which is certainly possible. But even in Ezekiel 1 and 10 — as difficult to understand as those descriptions may be — we can see a resemblance to something familiar to Ezekiel: a chariot.

    However, I am not advocating interpreting Revelation 9 after such a manner (ala Hal Lindsey and others) because there are plenty of interpretive clues in the context (e.g., their origin) that what is being described is demonic in nature.

    My personal preference is to see the real possibility of retrograde warfare due to conditions or logistics at the time–mostly because the pattern of Scripture points toward literal fulfillment. It gets pretty hard to laud God as One Who keeps His word and so on when we allow it to be completely elastic in meaning. And there is always the problem lurking in the background concerning His character: if we can’t trust what He says in a straightforward interpretation, then how are we to know whether He keeps His word (the Revelation 1:3 problem).

    When I’m confronted with one of these “promise stealers” who delights in finding spiritual fulfillment in plain OT passages, sometimes I find it fruitful to take their same approach and apply it to the precious promises which they cling to from the NT. How do you know you are going to inherit real physical eternal life? How do you know God’s promises to the church mean what you think they do? If God could mislead OT readers so severely why not us?

  10. Good explanation concerning the terms of warfare used in Ezekiel 38-39, and reference to weapons of war (regardless of type).

    For all that is said about the possibility of reverting back to those old weapons, I also see Revelation 11:9-10 indicating the very type of world that we have, one of instant, worldwide diffused communication — something that completely befuddled Horatius Bonar, who concluded that these verses could not possibly be taken to mean a literal 3 1/2 day period.

  11. I think we agree that there has to be a clear identifiable correspondence between the biblical text and the future. We don’t have all the details, so I am content to wait and see (from the Grandstand of course :)). One must factor in the damage caused by the Four Horsemen in Rev. 6 and the very real possibility that oil reserves may be tapped out and electrical power grids disrupted.

  12. This is one of the factors I struggled with in my commentary on Revelation. On the one hand, there is great global disruption — especially to infrastructure. On the other hand, there is evidence of overwhelming control even in such circumstances. As an experienced high-technology person I think we often overlook just how important functional infrastructure (fuel, a working road system, distribution, communication) is to achieve — and maintain — the technology we have. We could retain all our technical knowledge, but lose stability and infrastructure and much of it would be for naught. That’s because high technology is inherently fragile. Complex systems like cell communication, GPS, the internet, or what-have-you are “highly tuned” by intelligent agents and therefore easily disrupted. As we increase our dependency upon such systems, the more easily the technological neighborhood we are so accustomed to could easily vanish leaving a situation which we thought our culture had left behind long ago (e.g., alternate modes of transportion). This is also why any nation which departs from God had better realize just where that could lead. Without His peace, much of what we take for granted could quickly erode.

  13. It seems to me that with recent developments, it is not hard to imagine how quickly “civilization as we know it” could be dramatically changed so as to make a very literal fulfillment of prophecy quite plausible. How ironic it is that many are abandoning a dispensational understanding of scripture.

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