And so I come to the end of Ezekiel with these last five chapters, all of which go into great detail about how worship at the temple must be done, and how the city and the land are to be divided among the 12 tribes. As I discussed in the previous post, these instructions in the last nine chapters of Ezekiel were never implemented. So, the dispensational pre-mills think that means it will all come “literally” true in the millennium when Jesus comes back to physically reign in this temple. I’m, however, inclined to see it as typological, pointing to the perfection of God dwelling with his people forever. Indeed, the final words of the chapter are:
“And the name of the city from that time on will be:
the Lord is there.”
God’s presence is both the sine qua non (the essential condition) and the summon bonum (the highest good) of what it means to be his people. He is the ground of all existence, the only being that has life in himself, the only non-contingent thing that exists. As Paul says, “he gives all men life and breath and everything else.”
Another reason this can’t be “literal” is what we read of the river coming from the temple in chapter 47. Ezekiel sees water begin to flow “out from under the threshold of the temple,” which eventually turns into “a river that no one could cross.” From what I can tell there are no rivers flowing out of Jerusalem. And this is not just any old water, but living water because “where the river flows everything will live.” It even turns salt water of the Dead Sea into fresh water.
This living water is the Spirit of God himself. As Jesus says to the woman at the well in John 4, he can give us living water because as he declares (John 7:38), “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within him.” And when Jesus says “as Scripture has said” he is in effect saying he is God! The water coming from the Temple is living water precisely because of this (chapter 44):
Then the man brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple. I looked and saw the glory of the LORD filling the temple of the LORD, and I fell facedown.
God’s presence, his glory, is why the water brings life, and Jesus promises it to us! So these chapter are “literal” in that sense. John was likely thinking of these chapters when he writes in Revelation 7:
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'”
Oh what a hope we have!