Catching the Vision
Abraham sought a city built by God, Ezekiel was shown a vision of a future city and John saw, also in a vision, the New Jerusalem descending from Heaven. Three men, three cities! Is it possible these three cities were one and the same?
Abraham looked for a future city made by God, “For he (Abraham) looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10). He, along with many others looked forward to this heavenly city, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth… …But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
About fifteen hundred years after Abraham, the prophet Ezekiel was shown a city, “In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south.” (Ezekiel 40:2). From his vision he described in detail a city/temple complex starting with the eastern gate, “Then came he unto the gate which looketh toward the east” (Ezekiel 40:6). Then the outer court, “Then brought he me into the outward court” (Ezekiel 40:17), the inner court, “And the gate of the inner court…” (verse 23) and the rest of the complex in great detail.
About six hundred years after Ezekiel, the Apostle John saw a vision of a city descending from Heaven, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.” (Revelation 21:2). It was the city of God, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” (Revelation 3:12).
First the patriarch Abraham, then the prophet Ezekiel and finally the Apostle John were made aware of a future city yet to be built. Two of them were shown prophetic visions from which they both described a similar city/temple schematic.
Principles to Consider
Before we compare the visions seen by Ezekiel and John we need to understand some important principles concerning the interpretation of prophecy.
Prophecy is a prediction by God of future events conveyed through direct contact, inspiration and visions, usually illustrated with analogies, types and symbolism and often in a figurative language style that needs interpretation of some sort. Like the law, prophecy is a shadow, or outline of what is to come (Hebrews 10:1). A shadow is not an exact image, neither is an analogy, nor a metaphor. It may be a mistake to interpret something literally when a figurative interpretation is required.
We need to understand that all prophecy comes from one source through one spokesman, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Because no man has ever seen or heard God the Father (John 6:46) it means that prophesies were initially relayed to the prophets by the Word of God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). He was the spokesperson (Logos) for the Father. The Word later became Jesus Christ, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Throughout the history of man all prophecy has come from God through His spokesman who was the Word and is now Jesus Christ.
It is also important to remember that prophecy is not subject to our own interpretation, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (II Peter 1:20). We must look to the Bible for the interpretation.
We must also be aware that our understanding of all scripture is based on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ, the one through whom God has spoken, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:11). That foundation has three components: the prophets, the Apostles and the chief cornerstone, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
A cornerstone is the focal point to which every other part of the building, especially the foundation, is aligned. Everything the prophets and Apostles have said must align with and be focussed on what Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone, is doing.
We need to keep these principles in mind when studying prophecy.
What Christ is Doing
Isaiah prophesied that a descendant of Jesse which he described as a Branch would eventually come to prominence, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” (Isaiah 11:1-5).
Zechariah said that the Branch would build the temple of the Lord, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:” (Zechariah 6:12).
The Apostle Matthew confirmed that Christ was a descendant of Jesse (Matthew 1:1-16) and Paul tells us that Jesus Christ has laid the foundation of which He is the chief cornerstone and is building the holy temple of God, “For through him (Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are 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 groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18-22). Christ is building a temple so God can dwell among His people.
Notice the phrase ‘through the Spirit’. As we look further into this we shall see that it is a holy city/temple complex built of spirit. In his description Ezekiel gave no indication of the type of materials used. It was left to the Apostles to provide this information. Peter said that Christ is a living stone, “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,” (I Peter 2:4). And that we also are living stones from which the complex is built, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5). It is a spiritual city built of living spirit. We, the living stones built on the foundation laid by Christ are to be pillars of the spiritual city/temple that John saw, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” (Revelation 3:12). By adding the teaching of the Apostles to the words of the prophet we see that the spiritual city represents the Kingdom of God.
Paul confirmed that the mystery of what the prophets foretold long ago is revealed through the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. He said that they are in full agreement, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” (Romans 16:25-27).
If we add what the Apostles taught to the words of the prophets and consider them within the context of what Christ is doing there should be no confusion, “…Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (I Peter 2:6).
Knowing that Christ was formerly the Word who told Abraham about the city and showed Ezekiel the prophetic vision of it we should be able to understand the meaning of what is prophesied by what Christ revealed to John (Revelation 1:1) and the other Apostles. We should also be able to catch the vision of what Abraham sought and Ezekiel and John both saw. It was the holy city/temple complex that represents God’s Kingdom!
If we try to interpret prophesy outside the context of what Christ is doing, or without taking into consideration the teachings of the Apostles on the subject, it will result in confusion and flawed conclusions.
Isaiah the prophet was describing his vision to people who had turned their back on God and whose minds were closed to things spiritual, “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10 see also Acts 28:24-27). Even today these people, the Jews, maintain that Ezekiel’s temple will be built of stone in Jerusalem before the Messiah comes. Because their interpretation is built on an incomplete foundation it is flawed. They interpret literally what was meant to be symbolic and wrongly assume the temple will be made of stone. They also reject Christ’s testimony and ignore the teaching of his Apostles.
There are many who have given credence to this flawed interpretation and believe that a physical temple will be built in Jerusalem either before Christ returns, or in the Millennium after he returns.
John on the other hand was describing his vision to the spiritually enlightened, New Testament church, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-10).
With the help of God’s Spirit we are able to consider Ezekiel’s vision alongside the one John saw within the context of what Christ is doing and can come to the correct interpretation. We can see that Christ is going to build a city/temple not of stone, but of living spirit beings. We will be that city, "...and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 60:14).
Further study on the subject also reveals that the holy City, New Jerusalem, comes down from Heaven (Revelation 21:2) after the, “the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21:1) which is also after both the Millennium and White Throne Judgment periods (Revelation 20:1-15) when Christ has put ‘all enemies under his feet’ including the last enemy which is ‘death’ (see I Corinthians 15:22-28 and Revelation 20:14). It will be a city/temple complex comprising all who have been resurrected to eternal life as spirit beings.
Those who have received God’s Spirit in this life are considered to be ‘circumcised of the heart’, or circumcised spiritually and they will be resurrected as spirit beings to be part of the city/temple, “ …ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” (Colossians 2:11-13). Any one who is not spiritually circumcised will not be part of the city.
Ezekiel said that regardless of whether they have been circumcised of the flesh, or not, no one will be allowed to enter the city unless they have been circumcised of the heart, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” (Ezekiel 44:9). No Israelite, no Jew or no proselyte who has been circumcised of the flesh, but not circumcised of the heart can enter. It does not mean that we have to be physically circumcised as some interpret. Christ said that physical circumcision achieves nothing, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:15). It means that only those who are circumcised of the heart can enter the city.
In his famous sermon (Acts 7:1-53) for which he was stoned Steven confirmed that the Jews of his time as well as their forbearers were uncircumcised of the heart, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” (Acts 7:51). The situation has still not changed and unless they repent and turn to Christ they along with anyone else who does not repent will receive the reward of the wicked, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised; Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” (Jeremiah 9:25-26). The city/temple complex that Ezekiel saw is only for those who are circumcised in the heart.
Only those who worship God in Spirit are the true circumcision, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3). It is a circumcision made without hands. It is a circumcised of the heart (mind) carried out when we receive the Holy Spirit, which makes us new creatures, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17). It is the circumcision of Christ, “For in him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:” (Colossians 2:9-11).
The city/temple complex that Ezekiel saw is for those who have put off their old ways of sin and have received God’s Spirit and become ‘circumcised of the heart’ which means they are spiritually circumcised.
John said similar things about the city/temple complex that he saw. Those who were not circumcised of the heart (i.e. those who had not put off their old ways and still sinned) would not be admitted. Instead they will die in the Lake of Fire, which represents the second and final death, “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:6-8). And, “…there shall in no wise enter into it (New Jerusalem) any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27).
When we consider what the prophets have said along with what the Apostles have taught it becomes very clear that Ezekiel and John were talking about the same spiritual city/temple complex which Christ is building. It is the Kingdom of God into which only those who are ‘circumcised of the heart’ will be admitted.
In His testimony recorded by John, Christ said, “…These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.” (Revelation 22:6). The Word who later became Christ has revealed these things through both the prophets and Apostles.
Healing waters were seen by Ezekiel issuing from city/temple complex, “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side… …Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.” (Ezekiel 47:1-8).
John saw a similar phenomenon, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2).
The living waters symbolise the Holy Spirit, “…Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost (Spirit) was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:37-39). The Holy Spirit is eternal life, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14).
Zechariah said that living waters would be seen when Christ returns to the Mount of Olives, “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh… … And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem… …And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.” (Zechariah 14:1-8).
The flowing of living waters symbolises the beginning of the time when eternal life is given first to those called in this age and then offered to everyone else in their own order, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (I Corinthians 15:22-23).
All who accept that offer in this age, during the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgement period will become part of that city/temple complex Christ is building, “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14-17).
The living water that Zechariah said would flow from the Mount of Olives and that both Ezekiel and John saw issuing from beneath the city/temple complex symbolise the spiritual healing that will take place, from the time Christ returns to the ‘end’ when Christ will deliver the Kingdom up to His Father, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
God was scathing toward the priests of ancient Israel who had failed in their role and had Ezekiel describe the priests of the future who will enter the city/temple. They shall be dressed in linen, “And it shall come to pass, that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments;” (Ezekiel 44:17). And they shall teach the law and judge, “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.” (Ezekiel 44:23-24).
The Apostle Peter said that those called to salvation by Christ will become a royal priesthood, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (I Peter 2:9). John said that the they will be dressed in linen which he says represents righteousness, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8). Having come out of great tribulation they will be cleansed and righteous, “…These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white with the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14).
Jesus Christ is the High Priest and mediator of a new covenant under which those who are saved will receive eternal life, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:11-15).
They will be priests under Christ, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6). And will continue in that role for ever more, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6 see also 5:10). As priests they will uphold and teach the law, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Revelation 20:12).
When we consider what Ezekiel prophesied along with the teachings of the Apostles it is clear that we will be the righteous spiritual priests under Christ our High Priest, who will serve God forever more.
Ezekiel said that priests would be making a sin offering before entering the sanctuary, “And in the day that he goeth into the sanctuary, unto the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin offering, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 44:27). Having made a sacrifice the priest could then enter the sanctuary cleansed of sin. Many have interpreted passages like this to mean that animal sacrifices will be reinstated. However, Paul said that, “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4). God takes no pleasure in animal sacrifices at all.
The sacrifices in the past merely foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ which was to cover all of our sins forever, “In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” (Hebrews 10:6-13).
The future priesthood under Christ will be without sin. Having accepted Christ as their saviour their sins will be cleansed by His sacrifice. The only sacrifices in God’s Kingdom will be spiritual sacrifices, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (I Peter 2:5-6).
The offerings and sacrifices Ezekiel described were symbolic of the sacrifice that Christ would make after which there is no need for animal sacrifices anymore. Because the Jews did not have spiritual discernment He had to describe spiritual concepts in physical terms that they did understand.
Dimensions and Measurements
God is preparing a spiritual Kingdom with such exact attention to detail that Ezekiel went to great lengths to portray with detailed measurements. Just as the sacrifices he described were symbolic so too were the measurements. They symbolised the incredible preparation and precision God is taking to prepare His living city/temple complex. Since the beginning of creation an incredible amount of preparation and planning has gone into each stage of His plan so that the finished product will be absolutely perfect in every minute detail.
Think about the millions of years of preparation and planning that took place prior to Genesis 1:1 so that in seven days God could replenish this earth in a form that was fit for mankind to exist. The exact location of the earth in the solar system, its degree of tilt, its distance from the sun and the complex laws and processes that need to be put into place to maintain a ‘self-sustaining’ environment of billions of integrated physical life forms necessary to support human life for the duration of God’s plan. All these things had to be mathematically calculated with such precision to create the physical living conditions that are themselves only part of the preparation of the perfect spiritual city/temple complex He is creating.
Isaiah interprets the symbolism by defining what is actually being measured, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘He who believes will not be in haste.’ And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet…” (Isaiah 28:16-17). The analogy of a bricklayer using a line and plumb bob is used to show how ‘lively stones’ must be aligned with the cornerstone and plumbed perfectly into place. They must align with the cornerstone in justice and righteousness.
The Apostle Paul added to Isaiah’s explanation, “And he (Christ) gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-13). The cornerstone is Christ who has provided the means for us to be perfected to the fullness of His stature and aligned with Him in faith, justice and righteousness.
The measurements Ezekiel described symbolise the infinite detail and lengths that God is going to in perfecting each and every one of us to become part of His spiritual Kingdom which is represented by the city/temple complex Ezekiel was shown.
Gates and Boundaries
Ezekiel described twelve gates in the city wall, three on each side, named after the twelve tribes, “And the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel: three gates northward; one gate of Reuben, one gate of Judah, one gate of Levi. And at the east side four thousand and five hundred: and three gates; and one gate of Joseph, one gate of Benjamin, one gate of Dan. And at the south side four thousand and five hundred measures: and three gates; one gate of Simeon, one gate of Issachar, one gate of Zebulun. At the west side four thousand and five hundred, with their three gates; one gate of Gad, one gate of Asher, one gate of Naphtali. It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.” (Ezekiel 48:31-35).
John also describes twelve gates, three on each side and named after the twelve tribes, “And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.” (Revelation 21:12-13). He also adds that the foundation includes the Apostles, “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:14).
Ezekiel said that the overall area of the city referred to as the ‘oblation’, or offering, is to be 25,000 reeds by 25,000 reeds which is estimated to about 60 miles by 60 miles, “All the oblation shall be five and twenty thousand by five and twenty thousand: ye shall offer the holy oblation foursquare, with the possession of the city.” (Ezekiel 48:20). Whereas the overall area of the New Jerusalem was 12,000 furlongs (stadia) by 12,000 furlongs, which is estimated to be about 1,500 miles by 1,500 miles, “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.” (Revelation 21:16). John also said that the city was 12,000 furlongs high.
It must be remembered that both Ezekiel and John are describing God’s Kingdom and these measurements are purely symbolic. They are describing a Kingdom which the prophet Isaiah says has no end, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7). The Apostle Luke confirms this also, “… and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:33). Because the Kingdom has no end it cannot be measured. Just as we use a symbol ∞ to indicate infinity, the measurements of the city in both cases are symbolic of something that is immeasurable.
There are still many aspects of the future city/temple complex that are simply beyond the human intellectual ability to comprehend.
Fulfilment of Promises
Ezekiel said that God’s people will have David as their king, they will obey the law and dwell in the promised land under a new covenant and that God will dwell among them for evermore, “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” (Ezekiel 37:24-28).
According to the Jewish Study Bible (JPS Tanakh Translation [page 1118]) Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple builds upon these promises. In other words, Ezekiel’s vision portrayed the fulfilment of the promises. When we consider what the Apostles have added we can see more clearly how these promises will be fulfilled.
According to John, Christ is the offspring of David, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” (Revelation 22:16). In other words, David was a type of Christ. Those who enter God’s Kingdom will be judged according to how they kept God’s law, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Revelation 20:12). They will inherit the Kingdom of God which the land Israel (Jacob) inherited represented, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Matthew 25:34). Paul said that they will be under a new and better covenant, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;” (Hebrews 10:16). A covenant of which Christ is the mediator, “…to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24).
Ezekiel said that God’s presence will be in the city, “…and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.” (Ezekiel 48:35). And He will dwell among His people for evermore, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” (Ezekiel 37:28).
John said, the same thing about the city he saw, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3).
Abraham looked toward a future city made by God, “For he (Abraham) looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10). Ezekiel described the city to an audience who understood it portrayed the fulfilment of the promises, but lacked the spiritual discernment to interpret the vision correctly. Through the Holy Spirit the Apostles had spiritual discernment and when we add what they have said we can catch the vision.
We must keep in mind that in ancient times the audience to which most prophecy was originally given lacked spiritual discernment. Some prophecy was given for their immediate future which they could understand, but much was given through visions containing analogy, metaphor and symbolism for a future audience that would have the spiritual discernment to interpret it correctly. It all came from one source through one spokesman and there is no private interpretation. To interpret it correctly, we must compare what the prophets have said in conjunction with what the Apostles have added, within the context of what Christ is doing.
The city of the future that Abraham was told about was seen in vision by both the prophet Ezekiel and the Apostle John. The Word who spoke to Abraham and sent Ezekiel the vision was the same one who later became Christ and also sent John the vision. The city/temple complex that all three of them were made aware of symbolises the Kingdom of God into which each those who are ‘circumcised of the heart’ will be resurrected. It is a living spiritual city/temple complex comprised of spirit beings perfected in the image of God. It has been God’s plan from the beginning. It is the spiritual fulfilment of the promises made to the physical nation of Israel and foreshadowed by its tabernacle, laws, rituals and ceremonies. It is the fulfilment of God’s plan for mankind when His Spirit will be all that is in all for ever more.