A New Temple for a New Era
For centuries Bible students have been fascinated by the details surrounding the Temple revealed in Ezekiel 40—46. In fact, a major section of the book of Ezekiel is given over to a Temple that the prophet described in detail: its dimensions, priesthood, worship, sacrifices, and ritual.
Scholars have pored over these prophecies, and their interpretations are varied and often confusing. However, if you look at these Scriptures honestly and clearly, you will see they can only refer to a Temple that will exist in Jerusalem when God, in the person of Jesus the Messiah, physically dwells on Earth in the midst of His people Israel.
Sorting Out the Structures
Some try to relate Ezekiel’s revelation to Solomon’s Temple. Others say it refers to Zerubbabel’s Temple, built after Israel returned from Babylon in the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. However, the dimensions, priesthood, and ministry of Ezekiel’s Temple differ completely from the other two.
Consequently, still others teach that Ezekiel depicted the “ideal” Temple that Israel was supposed to construct but did not. No text in Scripture comes close to validating this interpretation.
Today it is becoming increasingly popular to spiritualize the biblical text and teach that the Temple in Ezekiel 40 symbolizes the spiritual blessing being fulfilled in the modern church. Again, nothing in Scripture gives any credence to this position.
Nor is the Temple in Ezekiel the Tribulation Temple. A Temple will exist during the future, seven-year Tribulation (Mt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14; 2 Th. 2:4; Rev. 11:1–2); but it will be an ungodly one that does not correspond to the godly Temple in Ezekiel’s prophecy.
So to what Temple does Ezekiel refer? The interpretation that makes the most sense is that this is a future, literal Temple that will be built in the Millennial Kingdom. Such a Temple is consistent with Ezekiel’s earlier prophecy that God will set His sanctuary and Tabernacle in Israel (Ezek. 37:26–28). A Temple will be built after God has made a “covenant of peace” (v. 26) with Israel in the Millennium.
Other prophets also wrote about a future, literal, Millennial Temple (Isa. 2:3; 60:13; Dan. 9:26; Joel 3:18; Hag. 2:7, 9).
The Temple’s purpose will be sixfold: It will (1) exhibit God’s holiness (Zech. 14:20); (2) manifest God’s glory (Ezek. 43:1–5; 44:4); (3) be the Messiah’s dwelling place (43:7); (4) be the location from which the Messiah will govern Earth from David’s throne (Lk. 1:32-–33);(5) provide a place where people will offer blood sacrifices to God in worship (Ezek. 45:15–25); and (6) house a river “flowing from under the threshold” (47:1) to the Dead Sea, providing life-giving water to vegetation throughout the Negev (vv. 1–12).
This Temple will be unlike any other in Israel’s history. Bible scholar John F. Walvoord commented on some of the details:
As described in Ezekiel (40:5—42:20), the outer dimensions of the temple complex will form a square 875 feet (500 cubits) across and in length. The temple faces east as did the tabernacle and the temples of Solomon and of the Exile. The south, east, and north sides have an outer wall. Thirty rooms were also built on the second and third levels. The temple itself was projected from inside the western wall of the temple complex toward the east, and, except on the western wall, it had outer courts on three sides—south, east, and north, 175 feet in width. The rooms inside the temple area were assigned to their respective uses, including the temple proper in the center with an inner court in front of it extending to the east. The details, while not prophetic in themselves, together give a tremendous vision of the central place of worship in the millennial kingdom.
Ezekiel, who recorded this vision of the temple, was given what amounted to a tour which prompted the detailed description. He was led by an angel described as “a man whose appearance was like bronze” (40:3).
The measuring rod used by the angel was six cubits long (v. 5), with a rod being approximately twenty-one inches in length. The total measuring rod therefore was about ten feet six inches. Ezekiel entered through the eastern gate (v. 6); there was also one gate on the south and one on the north, corresponding to the gates of the outer court. Solomon’s temple had only a gate on the east.1
When the Messiah rules on Earth after the Tribulation, the system of laws in effect (Ezek. 40—46) will be quite different from the Mosaic Law and radically different from today, when we live under grace without a Temple.
First, Ezekiel makes it exceedingly clear that a resurrected King David will play the major role of king, shepherd, and prince appointed by God over Israel; he will serve under the Messiah (Isa. 55:3–4; Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23–24; 37:24–25; Hos. 3:5).
Second, an appointed “prince” (Ezek. 44:3) will oversee worship and service in the Temple. His identity today is unknown. He is not Jesus Christ, as some might believe, because he must offer a sin offering for himself (45:22). Many scholars speculate that David is the prince because he is so designated in other Millennial Kingdom passages. However, this seems unlikely because the prince appears to be a human being; David will be a sinless, resurrected saint. The prince’s duties are spelled out in Ezekiel 45:9—46:18.
Third, Ezekiel 44:4–31 provides information about the dress, demeanor, and duties concerning the priests in charge of the Temple. Only Levites from the sons of Zadok will be ministering priests because they alone obeyed the Lord when other priests and the children of Israel went astray (v. 15).
What a day of blessing awaits Israel and the world when Jesus the Messiah returns to erect a new Temple in the Millennial Kingdom!
- John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook (Wheaton, IL:, Victor Books, 1990), 200, 202.