A Picture of the Kingdom
“Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee … declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 40:4).
— Gleaned largely from material by Edmund Jezuit and Frank Shallieu
Our subject is one of the most remarkable visions recorded in Scripture. In fact, the last nine chapters of the book of Ezekiel are devoted to this unusual vision. The scene follows Jacob’s Trouble depicted in the previous two chapters, illustrating the blessings which will follow the great Time of Trouble.
The vision beautifully portrays the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. It is helpful to become acquainted with the physical features of this vision, so the reader is encouraged to examine the diagrams on the previous pages and become acquainted with the general layout of Ezekiel’s Temple. Although many symbols reflect back on the Gospel Age, the focus is primarily on the effect God’s kingdom will have on the way mankind comes to worship. Many of the interpretations suggested in this article are not offered dogmatically. They are simply reasonable interpretations based on firmer knowledge of the Tabernacle and New Jerusalem pictures.
“In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south. And he brought me thither, and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate. And the man said unto me, ‘Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel’” (Ezekiel 40:2-4).
In a vision, Ezekiel was brought to a “very high mountain” north of Jerusalem. From this vantage point, he had a panoramic view of the Sanctuary and its surroundings. As he gazed south, he saw that within the Sanctuary stood the holy Temple.
The symbolic identity of the man whose appearance was as brass, or copper, has been debated by Bible Students. But what is important are the items he possessed. He carried a line of flax and a measuring reed. The line of flax functioned as a tape measure and was used for longer measurements. Flax is used in making linen, symbolic of righteousness. The line of flax, then, represents a standard of righteousness used to convey God’s designs. The measuring reed, or rod, was six cubits long and used for shorter measurements. The man of the vision directed Ezekiel to see, hear and listen to what the vision would teach. The vision was a snapshot of how blessings would emanate from the spiritual Temple and how mankind would join in the true worship of God.
From Ezekiel 40:5 we are given the length of the man’s measuring rod. “In the man’s hand a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and an hand breadth.” The length of a cubit was measured from the elbow to the tip of middle finger, a distance determined to be 18 inches. A handbreadth was the width of four fingers, a length of 3 inches (see diagram, figure 5). Therefore, the measuring rod cubit of Ezekiel’s vision was 21 inches in length (18 + 3 = 21 inches). This was also known as the “Babylonian cubit.” Since Ezekiel was writing from Babylon, this is a reasonable conclusion and would be known to the Jews captive there.
The Sanctuary encompassed a large area and contained the Temple within its walls. The measuring rod being six cubits in length was, by our standard, 10½ feet long. The outer wall of the Sanctuary being 500 cubits means the wall was 875 feet long on each side, 10½ feet tall and 10½ feet thick. Being a perfect square, it was immense, the length of almost three football fields. Many translations of Ezekiel 42:16-19 describe the measurement in “reeds.” However, the Septuagint substitutes the word “cubits” for “reeds.” If “reeds” is correct the measurement of one side of the sanctuary would be approximately one mile, an unrealistic dimension.
Purpose of the Vision
In Ezekiel’s day the vision had a specific purpose. “Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them” (Ezekiel 43:10,11).
Although many prophets had forewarned Israel of her coming punishment, the people could not have imagined that God would allow the Temple and the city of Jerusalem to be destroyed. But He did, and through this vision was saying the worship of Jehovah would one day be restored. They were to look upon their past iniquities with shame. Now, in hearing Ezekiel describe the vision with all its intricate detail, they could believe and be encouraged that someday their punishment would end, and proper worship of God would be restored.
But, of course, there was an even larger purpose in providing the vision. It indicates more than the reinstatement of Israel’s place of worship. The vision conveys a picture of how the Adamic curse will someday end and all classes of mankind will worship and honor God. It describes the special place that Jesus and the Church occupy in making access to the Father possible.
As Ezekiel entered the Sanctuary through one of the giant gates, he saw a lower pavement surrounding the Outer Court and an upper pavement surrounding the Inner Court. This difference in elevation may represent the two destinies of man. The lower, indicating earthly restitution, and the upper, spiritual life. But there was an even higher level on which the Temple itself rested. Residing above the Inner Court, the Temple represents the higher level of immortality attained only by Jesus and the Church (2 Corinthians 6:16, Revelation 3:12).
In examining these three levels, there is a marked departure from the Tabernacle. Being all on one level, the Tabernacle illustrates the Gospel Age progression of faith – from the camp to the court, to the Holy and finally to the Most Holy. In the Temple, one likewise proceeded forward. However, in the forward progress, the individual also ascended upward. Seven steps led up to the Outer Court, while eight steps rose to the Inner Court.
The seven steps to the Outer Court likely illustrate mankind’s gradual climb to human perfection. To have communion with God, works will be required according to one’s ability. The seven steps may also be a reminder, or memorial, of the 7,000 years required to lift mankind back to perfection. The large Outer Court was clearly meant as a gathering place, capable of holding many individuals. This area of worship illustrates how the world will come and fellowship with one another as they worship God.
Eight steps to the Inner Court lifts one to the perfection of the spiritual plane, being only one step higher than human perfection. The difference between perfect humanity and the spirit realm is not great since perfect man is just “a little lower than the angels” (Psalms 8:5).
Though the Septuagint states there were ten steps up to Temple level, this is not accepted by all scholars. Keil & Delitzsch suggest the number of steps, “in all probability is merely a conjecture of the Seventy,” and that the number of steps is not indicated.1 When describing the porch leading to the Temple proper, our common translation of Ezekiel 40:49 simply says there are “steps.” So, if the number of steps is not clearly indicated, the lesson may be that on a human level we cannot clearly comprehend immortality. We may understand human perfection, pictured by the seven steps into the Outer Court. We can even have some comprehension of the spirit plane, being a little higher than perfect man, as shown by the eight steps into the Inner Court. But we cannot properly appreciate the full import of immortal life. We simply know it is on a far higher plane than all others. This lack of knowledge regarding the divine plane is described by the Apostle Paul. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
__________ (1) For Keil & Delitzsch comment on Ezekiel 40:49, see https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/ezekiel-40.html
There were three gates into the Outer Court and three into the Inner Court. Each gate was identical, about 17½ feet wide and 87½ feet long. They were beautiful in design, containing arches, windows and immense posts, 105 feet tall. As one walked through the long corridor of the gate, he noticed three chambers on either side (see diagram, drawing 4). These chambers were 10½ feet square with a small window in each.
These rooms seem to be inspection chambers or guard rooms. As such, they suggest there will be requirements that must be met before entering the place of worship (see diagram, figure 4). In the picture of the New Jerusalem, no defiling influence or abomination or lie will be permitted access (Revelation 21:27). The same lesson is shown in these inspection chambers. God had commanded this Sanctuary would not be allowed to be “defiled” (Ezekiel 43:7). The road to perfection will begin when one first ascends the seven steps to the Outer Court, even before passing through the gates. As one symbolically moves through the gate, he is being inspected for correct motives and sincerity. A passage often cited for the great hope of the Church can be applied in principle to those in the earthly kingdom who come to worship the LORD. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). The gates into this glorious place of worship convey an abundant entrance to all willing to submit to the righteous rules of God’s kingdom!
Sealing of the Eastern Gate
“Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell upon my face” (Ezekiel 44:1,2,4).
After the glory of the Lord passed through the east gate of the Outer Court, it was sealed, never to be opened again. God’s glory then entered the Temple itself. This event occurred during the dedication ceremony and recalls similar events at the dedication of the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple (Exodus 40:34, 2 Chronicles 5:14). The glory of God entering each of these places of worship indicates His presence and acceptance of the worship being offered.
The Apostle Paul also connects the Church with God’s glory, saying, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Church, refined and developed into His image, becomes part of God’s glory. So, the east gate being sealed seems to correlate to the high calling coming to an end. This is also pictured in the Parable of the Ten Virgins when the door is shut after the five wise virgins enter in (Matthew 25:1-13, see also R3624). When discussing the demise of spiritual Babylon, the Revelator describes the sixth plague as preparing “the way of the Kings of the east.” This refers to Jesus and the Church being made ready to exercise their reign over the earth.
The North and South Gates
Although this glorious path from the east will someday be closed to the world, there will be another way of access to God. Mankind’s access is pictured in the south and north gates of the Sanctuary. “But when the people of the land shall come before the LORD in the solemn feasts, he that entereth in by the way of the north gate to worship shall go out by the way of the south gate; and he that entereth by the way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of the north gate: he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth over against it” (Ezekiel 46:9). Being required to enter and leave from opposite gates may seem like an unusual requirement. But the traffic flow would necessitate that each individual pass the great altar which was in the precise center of the Inner Court. This also placed the altar at the center of the entire Sanctuary complex.
Passing before the great altar is a lovely reminder that mankind’s privilege of worship was obtained through the sacrifice of our Lord. No one will come to God without recognizing the love which prompted Jesus to pay the price of atonement. Those passing the east gate of the Inner Court will not be allowed to ascend to the Inner Court, but they will be able to see the altar, as well as the Temple, through the gate. Since the Inner Court represents the spiritual condition, the world’s more distant view of the altar may suggest the altar is intended as a memorial of the sacrificial offering which transpired in the past by those then on the spirit plane.
Teaching Role of the Princes
“Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; ‘This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same’” (Ezekiel 44:1-3).
Since the eastern gate was sealed after the glory of the Lord passed through, the Prince would have to enter the Temple complex through either the north or south gate. He would then walk over to the inside of the sealed eastern gate, sit and eat bread before the Lord. Having to enter from the north or south suggests this is an earthly class, but one with a special function. Sitting in the east gate describes their close association by faith with those who have entered through the gate before it was sealed. These individuals are likely referred to in Psalm 45:16 and represent the Ancient Worthies who are termed “princes in all the earth.” Their role will be to help feed the world with the truth of how the kingdom will operate. Sitting in the eastern porch indicates a position adjacent to the Outer Court. This allows each prince to interact with those in the Outer Court who come to worship. We can well imagine the wonderful discussions and sermons given by these noble men and women. What a blessing and help they will be.
The Princes Prepare the Offerings
“And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 45:17).
The role of the princes in providing animal sacrifices are a central feature of worship. They “prepare … offerings, to make reconciliation.” In this procedure, the princes bring the required number of animals to the Outer Court, where there is a platform just before going up the steps to the Inner Court. On this platform the animals are prepared for the altar in the Inner Court. The priest takes the prepared animals and puts them on the altar and applies the blood. But the princes’ role is vital in providing the required number of animals.
This procedure describes the role of the Ancient Worthies in helping the world understand their personal obligations of worship. Mankind will come to understand that the altar was sanctified by the sacrifices of the Gospel Age, and their own offerings could now be acceptable to God. There is a cooperation between the princes and the priesthood as they work together in the sacrificial offerings. In the vision offerings were mandated on the Sabbath, the new moon and during feast days. The Sabbath, the seventh day, suggests the time setting for these offerings will be the great Millennial day. The new moon indicates a new law order, similar to the Old Mosaic Law, but based on better sacrifices.
The Missing Feasts
In chapter 46 certain feasts are mentioned. However, not all the feasts in the Mosaic Law are part of the Ezekiel vision. There is no mention of the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), Feast of Trumpets, or the Atonement Day. The reason may be that the missing feasts were primarily Gospel Age pictures. Pentecost is directly connected to the Church since it was on the Day of Pentecost that the holy Spirit descended upon the early believers, 50 days after the death of Jesus.
The Feast of Trumpets represents the trumpet blown at the return of the Lord in 1874, which will, in the kingdom, be a past event (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16). The Day of Atonement celebration commemorated the Gospel Age as the time that the ransom and sin-offering were provided. Therefore, since these feasts primarily represent past events from a kingdom perspective, they are excluded from the Ezekiel picture.
Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles Retained
The only two feasts described in Ezekiel’s vision are the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. Why are these two specifically mentioned? It may be because these did relate to the world more directly. The Feast of Passover celebrated, not only the deliverance of the first-born but also the deliverance of the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage. This extended type illustrates the deliverance of mankind as they are freed from the slavery of sin and death. Its inclusion indicates a continuing remembrance of our Lord’s sacrifice as the world’s Passover lamb.
Retaining the Feast of Tabernacles is also interesting. The original feast commemorates the forty years of wandering in the wilderness when Israel dwelt in booths or tabernacles. It is a type of the 6,000 years of man’s journey through the wilderness of sin and death. Because each of these two feasts include mankind in the type, they are part of the Ezekiel picture. These will be occasions for the world to rejoice in their great deliverance.
The Great Altar and Dedication Ceremony
The altar consisted of four levels and was much larger than the Brazen Altar of the Tabernacle (see diagram 3). The top of the altar was 12 cubits square, possibly depicting the number of the Church (12 x 12 = 144). This measurement indicates the top of the altar is 21 feet on each side (using a 21” cubit). The altar itself was raised up on three pedestal-like risers reaching a height of 19.25 feet from the ground. This immense altar was a prominent feature meant to be seen even from afar.
Before the Temple could go into operation, it had to be dedicated, a service that lasted seven days. As was done on the Day of Atonement, the first sacrifice was a bullock for a sin offering (Ezekiel 43:19). As it did on the Day of Atonement, this young bullock represents Jesus. Blood from this sacrifice was placed on the tips of the four horns, on the corners of the top riser (called a “settle” in verse 20) and around the ornamental border of the altar. This sprinkling of blood is more pronounced than in the Tabernacle and meant to be seen by those in the Outer Court. Unlike the Day of Atonement, where the blood was also sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, this application of blood is limited to the Altar. There is no Ark of the Covenant in this Temple, so the emphasis is on what transpires in view of the people, as a witness to them.
As in the Tabernacle, the carcass of the bullock was to be burned outside the Sanctuary. We are not told what parts were placed on the altar, but we can surmise they were the kidneys and liver, following the Tabernacle offering. These two organs are for purification purposes and are appropriate when representing the antitypical sin-offerings which will purify our race from sin.
On each of the remaining days of the dedication ceremony (days 2-8), the sacrifice was simply a goat, treated the same as the bullock. We again note the similarity to the Day of Atonement. This secondary sin-offering was dependent on the primary sin-offering of the bullock and pictures the sin-offering of the Church. Its sacrifice is made acceptable by the previous offering of Jesus. But this offering of seven goats occurs during the following seven days, after the offering of the bullock on day one. How aptly the seven-days of offering a goat picture the seven stages of the Gospel Age. In Ezekiel’s vision the one-day offering, plus the seven-day offerings are intended to purify the altar, showing Jesus as the basis of the cleansing and the Church’s share in that cleansing — for the people.
But in the Ezekiel Temple offerings, we are given a different perspective. As the primary sacrifices of the Tabernacle pointed to things that would happen in the future, the offerings in Ezekiel’s Temple point back to the sacrifice of Jesus and the Church. They are a remembrance of the reality of what Jesus and the Church accomplished in providing access to God.2
(2) See http://www.BeautiesoftheTruth.org February 2012 for a more detailed explanation of these offerings
On the eighth day, representing a new beginning, the Altar was sanctified and ready to receive the people’s peace offerings. For mankind, there will be a new beginning. With enlightened minds, mankind will trust God and willingly obey and worship before Him.
When using the appropriate cubit, 18” for the Tabernacle and 21” for Ezekiel’s vision, the Temple was twice as large as the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle length was 30 (18”) cubits (Exodus 26:16,18). The Temple was 60 (21”) cubits (Ezekiel 41:2,4). In English terms the dimension of the Temple’s Holy was 70 feet long and 35 feet wide. The Most Holy was 35 feet square. The doubling in size reflects the reality that the Ezekiel Temple is more glorious than the Tabernacle (see diagram, figure 7).
When comparing Ezekiel’s Temple to the Tabernacle it is important to notice what is missing in the Temple. Everything contained in the Holy and Most Holy of the Tabernacle are gone in Ezekiel’s Temple. The only article of furniture in the Holy is a plain wooden table (Ezekiel 41:22). It was three cubits (5¼′) high and two cubits (3½′) square. Why was there no Lampstand or Table of Shewbread? Their absence is meaningful.
The Holy of the Tabernacle pictures the spiritual condition of the Church and its enlightenment during the dark time of the Gospel Age. The Shewbread depicts the spiritual nourishment provided during an age of general ignorance regarding God and His plan. The fact that these items are not in the Holy of this Temple tells us this is not a Gospel Age picture but represents a subsequent time when these special provisions will no longer be needed by the saints. The focus then is outside the Temple. The services are primarily for the public to view and appreciate.
However, this Holy is not a drab, empty room. The simple wooden table resembles the Incense Altar of the Tabernacle and yet did not allow an appropriate setting for burning coals. This suggests that prayer and praise will always be proper but will no longer be associated with the burning coals of trial and persecution.
The walls of the Holy and Most Holy were exquisite in design, containing larger-than-life cherubs carved in wood (Ezekiel 41:16-19). Each figure had two faces, that of a man and that of a lion. Between each cherub was the carving of a palm tree with the faces of the cherub looking toward them (see diagram, figure 6). As we have seen in other studies, the face of a man represents love while a lion pictures power. Both faces being on one cherub suggests that love and power will be in harmony. This is in keeping with the Tabernacle’s Ark of the Covenant, where two angels face the mercy seat waiting for the application of blood. Once the blood is applied these messengers of God will fly and accomplish their work of blessing. Today, the world does not yet understand why God has not exercised His power to restrain sin and evil. But when the kingdom is established, they will see His power intervening, in cooperation with His love, to bring blessings to all.
Psalm 92 is described as a Psalm “for the Sabbath day.” “For lo, thine enemies, O LORD … shall perish … The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree” (Psalm 92:9,12). These angels facing the palm trees seem to indicate how God’s messengers were used to help the New Creation triumph over all its enemies. These are appropriate symbols to adorn the Holy. The same wall carvings exist on the doors of the Temple and in the Most Holy and convey the same conquering theme. Their presence is a vindication of God’s character and plan and commemorates the overcoming experience of the saints.
Despite these lovely wall carvings, the Most Holy is empty. No Ark of the Covenant, with its Mercy Seat, will be needed, since the merit of Christ will have already been applied, once for all. The Holy and Most Holy then will stand as memorials to the work of the preceding age. Unlike the Tabernacle, the dividers between the Holy and Most Holy were not curtains but swinging doors, meant to open in either direction (Ezekiel 41:23,24). This fact is reminiscent of Jacob’s ladder, where angels ascended and descended from heaven. In the kingdom, there will be a free flow of communication, indicated by the swinging doors. No longer will mankind’s prayers to heaven go largely unanswered.
The Western Building
To the west of the Temple stood a large three-story building. Nothing is known regarding the purpose of this building. Because of its location behind the Temple, it may represent the dwelling place of all the hosts of heaven, thrones, dominions, powers, cherubim and seraphim (Colossians 1:16). If this is the case, then it is appropriate that this building is the largest one in the Sanctuary complex and faces the Temple, suggesting a cooperation with the work of the Temple class but not actually part of the Temple class.
The Holy District
The Princes are given large tracts of land outside the area designated for the Priests, Levites and city. See diagram, figures 1 and 2, for a visual description of the land designated for the various groups. Ezekiel 45:1 describes the length of the Holy District as 25,000 cubits. Using the 21” cubit, this equates to approximately 8.3 miles. The northern section contains the Sanctuary and is designated for the priests to reside. The center section is for the Levites and the southern section is occupied by a small city, likely Jerusalem (see Ezekiel 45:1-7). To the east and west of this Holy District is land given for the Princes to reside. This special inheritance of land is a blessed reward for the faithfulness of the Ancient Worthies. Their proximity to the Sanctuary is necessary because of their vital role there.
The River of Life
One of the most interesting features of the vision is the river of water that flows from beneath the south side of the Temple and out just south of the Eastern Gate (see Ezekiel 47:1-12). Outside of the temple complex the man guiding Ezekiel measures the first 1,000 cubits of the river and directs Ezekiel to walk through the water. He finds it to be only ankle deep. The man measures another 1,000 cubits and Ezekiel finds it knee deep. After another 1,000 cubits the water is waist deep. And finally, after another 1,000 cubits the water is too deep to cross. This distance of 4,000 cubits is equivalent to 7,000 feet. This parable within a vision might depict that it will take the full 7,000 years for the water of truth to encompass the world. At the beginning of man’s journey our knowledge of God’s plan was sketchy. The only indication of salvation was that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). As time passed, word was given that there would be a seed to bless “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 22:18). At our Lord’s First Advent there was another great outpouring of truth that only a few understood. But in that day, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). This gradual deepening of the river then describes the slow revealing of truth over time.
Coming from the Sanctuary confirms that the healing and nourishment for mankind will come from God’s arrangement. How perfectly this corresponds to the words in Revelation 22:1,2. “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Like the river described by the Revelator, this river has trees on either side, whose fruit was good for food and leaves for medicine. Adam and Eve were once forbidden to eat of the “Tree of Life” (Genesis 3:22). But then there will be many life-giving trees, and the opportunity for eternal life will once again be available. The river finally made its way to the Dead Sea, the lowest elevation on earth. The sea is dead because of its extremely high salt content. Presently, no living creature can survive there. But when the river emanating from the Temple touches the Dead Sea it will come to life, abounding with fish.
Because there is no natural outlet from the Dead Sea, it is an excellent picture of the Adamic curse, from which there is no natural escape. The only way back to life for our dying race comes from the Temple of God. Only His designs have planned for a resurrection of all those in Adam. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Will the Temple be Built?
This question has been discussed by Bible Students for many years. Some feel to take the life of sacrificial animals would violate Isaiah 65:25. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” One must also keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul in Hebrews chapters 9 and 10. There he concludes the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. “but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). This tells us that the Mosaic system cannot be reinstituted since its sacrifices constituted merely types of the better sacrifices of Jesus and the Church.
On the other hand, Zechariah 14:18 suggests that the feast of tabernacles will be observed in the kingdom. This is one of two feasts described in Ezekiel’s vision and may suggest the vision is meant to convey building instructions for the construction of a future temple. Some suggest that the amount of intricate detail provided to Ezekiel would be unnecessary if the vision were simply meant as a symbolic representation of the Kingdom. If then, animal sacrifices will be offered, they will only be memorials, pointing back to the offerings of Jesus and the Church. The time setting will have changed the emphasis of the sacrifices. If this occurs, it will not be reinstating the Mosaic Law, but a system patterned loosely after it. Bro. Russell suggests that these sacrifices may be instituted for a specific purpose. “He [God] may restore laws respecting the Sabbath and various festivals, and even sacrifices, to teach the world by these object lessons. Some scriptures seem so to hint (Jeremiah 33:18, Ezekiel 46:19-24, 47:12, 48:10,11)” (R1733, see also R2507).
If the temple arrangement is established, it may be needed only during the mediatorial reign and, as Bro. Russell suggested, useful in teaching mankind the lessons of sacrifice. The New Jerusalem picture reveals that there will be no temple there, saying, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22). This may be describing the end result of the kingdom work, a time when a temple will no longer be needed.
If the Lord chooses to institute animal sacrifices, it will be with the proper understanding of what they represent. Regardless of one’s opinion in this area, it would be unwise to be dogmatic. We simply rejoice in whatever God chooses to do because His glorious plan means life from the dead and an opportunity for this world to praise God and recognize the priceless provisions He has made for the restitution of all things!