Ezekiel’s Temple 4

(Continued from yesterday)

The alternative that I considered plausible is that Ezekiel described plans for a temple which the exiles are supposed to build upon their return, but which was never realized. This proposal is based on the introduction to the description of the temple:
Ezk 43:10-11 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.

The idea is that God told Ezekiel to describe to Israel a bigger and more glorious temple which would have been built had they been ashamed of their iniquities and had truly repented – what might have been. But, as history turned out, Israel’s repentance was not deep enough, so the temple which was eventually rebuilt by Zerubbabel ended up less grand than Solomon’s temple:
Ezra 3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy,
Those who had seen the first (Solomon’s) temple wept because they remembered its glory. Those who shouted aloud for joy were young men who had not seen the first temple and had no comparison of how inferior the second temple was.

This proposal therefore describes a temple that could have been built instead of Zerubbabel’s temple, and would be chronologically before Jesus’ first Advent. None of the objections raised against the Millennial Temple would apply, because Jesus hadn’t come yet. The weakness of this argument is what I raised last time, that God is not in the habit of giving detailed visions which never come to pass. But is this interpretation plausible? Yes, God does not do what we expect Him to do, He is sovereign. And He surprises us all the time. So this is a possible and valid interpretation. In hindsight this is a better interpretation than I first thought.

Will there be division of lands by tribes at that time? That depends on which school of thought you subscribe to. For futurists, yes according to Ezk 47:13 to Ezk 48. For the “what might have been” case, no because Israel did not live up to the precondition. Which tribe do we belong to? We are Gentiles, not Jews, and do not belong to any particular tribe.

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Ezekiel’s Temple 3

Q. Is the temple, court, restored Israel etc. described in Ezk 40-48 talking about the new world? Will there be division of lands by tribes at that time? If so, which tribe do we belong to?

A. I was asked about Ezekiel’s Temple 6 years ago. This is what I wrote at that time:
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/ezekiels-temple-1/
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/ezekiels-temple-2/

I concluded that it is most likely the Millennial Temple to be built upon the Lord’s return. This seemed to fit the clues best, though not completely. I had several reservations, including:

Animal sacrifices (Ezk 43:18-27). But Hebrews tells us that Jesus offered up Himself once for all:
Heb 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since He did this once for all when He offered up Himself.
• Heb 9:12 He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
• Heb 9:26 for then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
• Heb 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Now, since Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself is once for all, why repeat animal sacrifices which can never take away sin? Dispensationists tried to explain this away by saying it is only memorial of His sacrifice, not actually for removal of sin. But this is not what the text said, especially 45:20:
Ezk 43:20 And you shall take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the ledge and upon the rim all around. Thus you shall purify the altar and make atonement for it.
• Ezk 43:26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it.
• Ezk 45:15 And one sheep from every flock of two hundred, from the watering places of Israel for grain offering, burnt offering, and peace offerings, to make atonement for them, declares the Lord GOD.
• Ezk 45:17 It shall be the prince’s duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.
• Ezk 45:20 You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple.

I also find this unsatisfactory because our Lord instituted the Lord’s supper in remembrance of Him:
1 Co 11:24-25 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Who gives them the right to switch back now?

Levitical priesthood. Ezk 43:19 refers to Levitical priests of the family of Zadok. But, again according to Hebrews, the Levitical priesthood can never help us attain perfection, and had been superseded by Jesus’ priesthood after the order of Melchizedek:
Heb 7:11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?
• Heb 7:15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek,
• Heb 7:17 For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

So again, why revert to a replaced system that never worked?

It is for these and other objections that even well-known pastors such as Calvary Chapel’s Chuck Smith confessed that they don’t have a complete understanding of Ezk 40-48. So I am in good company when I don’t understand fully.

(To be continued)

Destruction of the Flesh

Q. What is the meaning of 1 Co 5:5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Does it mean sinners will have to go through earthly punishment for their sins? But Jesus has died for our sins if we repent of our sins!

A. Interpretation depends on context. Who does “such a one” refer to? Not sinners in general, but the one identified in 1 Co 5:1 in particular:
1 Co 5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.
That individual committed gross immorality, incest with his father’s wife.

Paul’s judgment is given more fully in the AMP and EXB:
AMP You are to deliver this man over to Satan for physical discipline [to destroy carnal lusts which prompted him to incest], that [his] spirit may [yet] be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
• EXB then hand this man over to Satan. So his sinful self will be destroyed [sinful nature will be purged; or body/flesh will be destroyed; or body will be beaten down by sin], and his spirit will be saved on the day of the Lord.

Paul wanted to save his spirit, but to do that his sinful nature need to be destroyed. He wanted him to repent, and in order for that to happen he must be disciplined physically, so that he won’t perish spiritually. It does not mean sinners have to go through earthly punishment, nor purgatory as believed by Catholics. Christ died for our sins:
1 Co 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
• 1 Pet 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

We do not have to pay for the penalty of our sins ourselves.

Jesus’ Baptism

Q. What is the meaning of Mt 3:15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. If one of the reasons is for God the Father to properly identify Jesus’ righteous godhood, then why “us”, meaning John the Baptist and Jesus Himself?

A. The purpose of Jesus’ baptism was not to identify Jesus as God – the post-baptism appearance of the Spirit (v 16) and the voice of the Father (v 17) did that – but for Jesus to completely identify Himself with sinful man. Jesus had no sin to repent of. John needed Jesus’ Spirit-and-fire baptism, not Jesus his water-baptism of repentance, so he hesitated.

Jesus understood John’s hesitation, and corrected him by pointing out the appropriateness of this action. The AMP and the EXB bring out the meaning more fully:
AMP Amplified Bible but Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him.
• EXB Expanded Bible Jesus answered, “Let it be this way for [happen] now. We should do all things that are God’s will [or in this way we will do what God requires;  For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness].” So John agreed to baptize Jesus [gave in; consented; allowed it].

The “us” does not refer to both Jesus and John being of the same nature, but to each of them to do what is right, what God requires – for Jesus to identify with man, and for John to be Jesus’ forerunner to prepare His ways:
Lk 1:17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
• Lk 1:76-77 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation]By the forgiveness of their sins,

The “us” is not about being, but doing. Each has a purpose to fulfill according to God’s will.

Selah?

Q. What does “selah” mean? Why is it used?

A. The word selah appears 71 times in Psalms, and 3 times in Habakkuk. The meaning is obscure, so many versions including the popular ESV, KJV, NASB etc. simply transliterated rather than translate it, or skipped it altogether e.g. NIV.

The Hebrew lexicon definition is rest or silent. Some scholars view this as a technical musical term showing accentuation or interruption. They see this as a short pause in singing the words of the psalm, so that the singer would be silent, while the instrumental music continued. Support for this view comes from the Greek OT LXX which translated selah as daplasma i.e. a division. Several contemporary versions also hold this position by translating selah as interlude, including:
• EHV Evangelical Heritage Version,
• EXB Extended Bible,
• ISV International Standard Version,
• NLT New Living Translation, and
as pause in the Voice.

Others view this selah as “to lift up, exalt“:
• AMP Amplified Bible translates it as “pause, and calmly think of that!”, while
• TPT The Passion Translation has it as “pause in His presence“.

View 1 is actually contained in view 2, but either one would fit the context of the 74 times this word appears in the Bible.

Why is it used? Probably simply to ask the reader to reflect on what he is reading. Don’t rush through God’s word. Stop and think how it applies to you.

How God Judges

Q. I’ve known “Christians” whose behaviors do not measure up to what I expect of true believers. Are they saved? How will God judge?

A. I have written on related topics before, and refer you to previous posts:
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/principles-of-judgment/
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/seed-on-rocky-ground/
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/lazy-wicked-servant-2-of-2/

I believe the key test of whether a person is truly saved is fruitfulness. The Lord expected fruit from the Jews:
Lk 13:6-7 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’

And He expected it of His servants:
Mt 25:26-27 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.

However, unlike those who hold to “once saved always saved“, I do not believe one act of obedience once in a person’s life guarantees his/her salvation. Nor do I believe one act of disobedience cuts a person off from God’s grace, as the God of the Bible is:
Ex 34:6 The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth;
God is a God of second chances, proven time and again throughout the Bible, but there is a limit and we should not presume on His forbearance.

As I explained in the article on “Principles of Judgment“, I believe God’s judgment is cumulative and based on obedience. That is, God looks at everything in the individual’s lifetime to determine whether he/she is truly obedient. Everything will be taken into account. Nothing will be overlooked. That’s why only God can judge whether your friend is a true believer or not, because only He knows all the thoughts, circumstances, considerations the person went through in acting the way he/she did. We see only the surface, like the tip of the iceberg, and are in no position to judge our fellow-men.

What if a wicked man repents or a righteous man turns bad? Then the principles in Ezekiel 18 apply:
Ezk 18:21-22 But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.
• Ezk 18:24 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.

That’s why I believe it is the whole pattern of one’s life, not just single acts, that determine whether he lives or dies. God assesses all at the end, taking the beginning, the end, and everything in between into consideration. He bases everything on truth, according to what was done, and does not play favorites. That’s why He is fair and every mouth will be stopped.

One last thing. According to Jesus, our concern should be whether we are following Jesus, not what will happen to others, as all of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God.
Jn 21:21-22 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!
• Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
• Rom 14:12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

So focus on your own discipleship. Don’t to nosy about what happens to others except to help them.

God sanctioned Genocide?

Q. What’s all this violence in the Old Testament? How can God order the extermination of a whole race of people, slaughtering men, women and children without exception? He is worse than Hitler or Pol Pot!

A. Instead of sitting under God’s judgment, critics and skeptics sit in judgment of God, charging Him to be a moral monster who butchers innocent people. They accuse God of being an out-of-control despot, killing those who oppose Him indiscriminately. Is that what’s happening? Of course not, because the accusers do not know the facts and are just ranting their false allegations.

What does the Bible say?
Deut 20:17-18 But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.
On the surface God did command the Israelites to utterly destroy the nations around them. Why? So that the nations may not teach the Israelites to do all their detestable things they have done in their idolatry. What detestable things? Archeology tells us a lot about the evil practices in the nations’ pagan worship, but let me quote just two passages from Scripture to illustrate.

Lev 18:24-25 Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.
God was punishing the nations who defiled themselves by doing all the detestable things by casting them out from the land. The list of “these things” is given in Lev 18:6-23, which includes:
• all forms of immoral sexual relations with blood relatives i.e. incest;
• adultery with neighbor’s wife;
• offering offspring to Molech as a whole burnt sacrifice;
• homosexuality;
• bestiality, among others.

The second example is in:
Deut 18:9-12 When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
This again includes burning children and all forms of the occult. As such, God is just in punishing the nations for their grievous evil. If God doesn’t judge them, He would not be righteous.

But even in His righteous judgment God is slow in anger and abounding in loving-kindness, being very patient in giving time to repent:
Gen 15:16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.
As an example, the Amorites were allowed four generations before judgment finally struck, when God used the Israelites to execute judgment.

Some feel the men and women deserved to be punished, but children? What evil could they have done? I need to point out two things. First an analogy. In dealing with cancer, you need to remove all the cancer cells, not just some parts of it. Otherwise what’s left behind will kill you. There can be no leniency in leaving parts behind. The same is true in dealing with the depraved nations, which need to be totally removed.

Secondly, in destroying the children, God is actually showing mercy to them, because children who are under the age of accountability, who do not yet have the capacity to distinguish right from wrong, are accepted into God’s Kingdom by grace. They are born sinners and do not deserve heaven, but God is compassionate and gracious. He gives grace when the young children are not yet developed to such an extent that they know how to trust Him. I have written on the evidence for this in previous posts. Those interested can refer to:
https://rayliu1.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/never-heard-gospel/
https://rayliu1.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/is-god-barbaric/
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/original-sin-3/
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/slaughter-of-the-innocents/

So in conclusion I say “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen 18:25) Don’t be so fast in condemning God, worry about how you will face Him as Judge instead.