Ezekiel warned and encouraged the exiles living in the land of the Chaldeans. These exiles had received the grace of God in a special way; their friends and family who remained in Jerusalem would be consumed by God’s wrath. The exiles were thus to fear the Lord and recognize that what was happening in the geopolitical developments of the day was not the result of Nebuchadnezzar’s power but God’s displeasure and wrath toward the idolatry of His people. In accord with Isaiah 13-23 and Jeremiah 46-51, Ezekiel pronounced the Lord’s judgment on the nations. What did the Lord have planned for Abraham’s descendants? Ezekiel proclaimed that the Lord would reassemble His people in the Promised Land; God’s word of correction was never His final word to the remnant.
In Ezekiel 25-32, the prophet described God’s judgment against both the historic enemies of Israel and the nation’s more recent adversaries. Ezekiel’s portrait of God’s justice against the nations that celebrated the devastation of Judah and Jerusalem informs expectations about God’s justice in the storyline of Scripture. Many of Ezekiel’s prophecies in Ezekiel 25-32 are employed by writers of the New Testament to encourage their audiences that God would destroy their enemies and vindicate His faithful ones.
(1) Ezekiel prophesied that God would execute His wrath on those institutions and individuals that exalt themselves over His people. In Ezek 27:22, the prophet noted that Sheba was one of Tyre’s trading partners, giving the city “gold, the best of all spices, and all kinds of precious stone for your merchandise.” John noted that opulent wealth characterized the success of Babylon such that when Babylon was destroyed, the merchants of the world mourned over their loss (Rev 18:11). Just as the world mourned over the loss of Tyre and all her abundance (Ezek 27:30), John wrote that those who watched the Lord’s wrath on Babylon would likewise lament, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls; because in a single hour such fabulous wealth was destroyed” (Rev 18:16-17). Ezekiel described God’s angst with Tyre’s financial institutions and the nation’s arrogant leader. In Ezek 28:2, Ezekiel confronted the ruler of Tyre, saying, “Your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god; I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the sea.’” Paul noted that the “man of lawlessness,” the antichrist, would be one like the ruler of Tyre, one who “opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is God” (2 Thess 2:4). Paul went on to note that when Christ returns, He will destroy the man of lawlessness with the breath of His mouth (2 Thess 2:8). In Ezek 32:7, the prophet lamented for the king of Egypt, declaring to him the word of the Lord, saying, “When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars. I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light.” These same images were employed by Jesus and the John to describe God’s final judgment (for example, Matt 24:29//Mark 13:24//Luke 21:25; Rev 6:12; 8:12). In Ezek 26:3 and 28:22, Ezekiel described the fall of Tyre and Sidon. Jesus also spoke of the downfall of these cities but said that the final judgment would be better for them and worse for towns like Bethsaida and Chorazin; the latter had rejected not the prophets of Israel, but One greater, the Messiah Himself (Matt 11:20-24//Luke 10:12-15).
(2) Ezekiel promised that God would personally vindicate His people. In Ezek 30:3, the prophet described the Day of the Lord’s vengeance upon the nations saying that that day was near. Ezekiel’s words reverberate in Jesus’ teaching about the nearness of the Day of the Lord and the need for His disciples to be watchful (Matt 24:36-44//Mark 13:35//Luke 17:26-36). In 1 Thess 4:16-18, Paul described the return of the Lord, emphasizing the vindication and hope it would bring for both the dead and the living in Christ. Paul told the Thessalonians that the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, an archangel’s voice, and the sound of the trumpet of God. Paul said that the dead in Christ will rise first and after that those still alive in Christ will be caught up to heaven to be with the Lord forever. In Ezek 31:6, Ezekiel described the grandeur of Assyria, the nation who had conquered Israel (2 Kings 17). So great were the Assyrians that Ezekiel said, “All the birds of the sky nested in its branches, and all the animals of the field gave birth beneath its boughs; all the great nations lived in its shade.” Yet Assyria grew proud and the Lord destroyed her. Jesus employed the same agricultural metaphor but in reference to the kingdom of God. Despite the fact that its beginnings were as humble as a mustard seed, it would grow so large that birds of the sky could build their nests in it (Matt 13:31-32//Mark 4:30-32//Luke 13:18-19). Though the disciples were a small band, the growth of the kingdom over time vindicated their participation in God’s eternal plan.