by Pastor David Groendyk
One look at the footnotes of this chapter in the ESV Bible, and it’s not hard to tell that translators have had a difficult time figuring out what exactly is being measured; yet it is still clear that Ezekiel and his guide (from Ezek. 40:3) are measuring the temple. However, the exact measurements themselves are not the main focus. It’s easy for us to get lost in the details and (if we’re being honest) get a little bored reading through this chapter, but we need to keep the big picture in mind. As one commentator says, this is not simply a nostalgic priest musing about the temple he left behind in Jerusalem, nor are these the precise notations for a building program that Ezekiel expects to be built in the future. Ezekiel 33–48 is all about God restoring his people in a spiritual sense. If the earlier chapters in that section were all about recreating his people, then these later chapters are all about recreating the place in which they live.
It’s true that when the exiles return to Judah that they will build another temple, but these dimensions that Ezekiel lists are not the specifications to which they build it. That’s because this vision points forward to something even greater when the glory of the Lord would truly dwell with his people (Ezek. 43:5, 7, 9). As Lawrence wrote yesterday, Jesus proclaims himself to be the true temple in which God dwells with his people (John 1:14; 2:19–22). And there’s an even fuller fulfillment to this vision in Revelation 21 when the new heavens and new earth are created and God himself dwells in the midst of all his chosen ones. Therefore, we ought not to be looking for another actual temple building, but we must see the God-man Christ and the eternal Paradise that awaits as the true meanings of this vision.
Notice some key similarities and differences between Ezekiel 41 and Revelation 21. The Most Holy Place in Ezekiel 41:4 measures twenty cubits by twenty cubits—a perfect square. Notice also that the Most Holy Place is a place where Ezekiel himself does not go. Only his guide goes there while Ezekiel watches from the nave (verse 3). Then in Revelation 21, the holy city of new Jerusalem also measures as a perfect square (verse 16), but this time all of God’s people dwell in the city. To be more accurate, the people of God are the city. God’s dwelling presence is, in a sense, limited with us now, and we wait for the full consummation of him dwelling with us perfectly, without the barrier of sin blocking us and hindering us. But God’s limited presence is still good news, because the alternative is to not have his presence at all. Imagine what a depressing and hopeless world that would be. Rather, we have the ability and privilege to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence when we need his grace, mercy, and help (Heb. 4:16). The thrust of this chapter is to make us look forward to the day when we will see God face-to-face, but it’s also meant to make us appreciate and take advantage of the presence of God we have now because of what Christ has already done. Do not neglect the ability and privilege you have in drawing near to God.