I finished my devotional reading of Ezekiel today, so this regards both the end of the book of Ezekiel and the end times as described by Ezekiel. As a disclaimer, this isn't a studied reflection following extensive work in commentaries and the original Hebrew. This is just a few brief thoughts on a casual reading of a passage that for several years has given me some confusion, with some help from my ESV Study Bible.
As usual, I found the last nine chapters of kind of thick and tiring, but I came away with two affirming impressions:
First, God seems to really love order, including numbers. My sister in law Kira once did a paper on the testimony to God in the order of the natural world, and I daresay she’s right. People that love math have a reason to see God in the order of all those laws, theorems, and equations. As tedious as it can be to read the dimensions of nearly every surface in the eschatological (end times) temple, it demonstrates a great deal of regularity and thoughtful proportions. There are several squares and congruent rectangles, with even spacing between things, all throughout the temple, the city, and the holy district. Those that have a fondness for architecture, or several other design occupations for that matter, can take pleasure in knowing that God also has an eye for order in the details. Shoot, even something as mundane as when I was putting together this webpage, with all the precisely defined margins and layout, bears a resemblance to God’s prescription for a city 4500 cubits long and wide with 250 cubits open land on each side, totaling to a nice, even 5000 x 5000 cubit city district. God has a thing for order.
Second, God calls for a renewed passion for holiness. We as Christians for whom the veil in the curtain was torn at Christ’s death and who read of a new creation WITHOUT a temple may read about all the temple specifications in Ezekiel and say, What gives? But in Ezekiel, God was speaking to a people who had trampled on his law and scorned the holiness of God the law was made to honor. God is making clear that the answer is not to lower the value of holiness. Everything in this new temple has its proper place and proper garments for the proper people performing the proper sacrifices, all in absolute reverence to God and his worship. The priests are commanded to “teach my people the difference between the holy and the common” (44:23). Let the Christian not throw these prescriptions away as outdated. Jesus our High Priest and Sacrifice did nothing to undermine the holiness of God. Rather, we should approach God with the same reverence and the same passion for his holiness that are called for in this picture of the consummation of temple worship, praying as Jesus taught us, “May your name be hallowed.” When we understand God’s holiness, we can be awed by the person of Jesus Christ, who is the holy God made flesh and yet who walked through busy streets with ordinary people, prostitutes, and sinners, and through whose blood we are allowed to “approach the throne of grace with confidence.” The imagery of Ezekiel may look different from the imagery of Revelation, but the wonder of God’s great holiness dwelling among his people is the same.