Ezekiel exhorted the exiles to acknowledge that—just as God was the cause of their captivity—He was also the hope of their restoration. Ezekiel 33-48 sounds this theme. The word of the prophet and his role as a watchman was confirmed when the exiles were informed that Jerusalem had fallen (2 Kings 25). Ezekiel likewise announced that the Lord’s jealousy for His own glory through His people in His land would lead to a time of favor and protection.
Ezekiel 33-39 establishes a paradigm for the storyline of Scripture. The prophet’s themes lay a foundation for understanding the character of the Messiah and His kingdom, the inauguration of the new covenant, the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the final judgment of those who oppose God’s people.
(1) Ezekiel proclaimed the future messianic Kingdom. In Ezek 37:24, Ezekiel prophesied concerning the day when the Lord would gather His people to the Promised Land, saying, “My servant David will be king over them, and there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow My ordinances, and keep My statutes and obey them.” When Jesus saw the crowds gathering to hear Him, He felt compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36//Mark 6:34). In John 10, Jesus employed Ezekiel’s shepherd motif to contrast His ministry with the leadership of the Pharisees, saying, “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me” (John 10:14); and, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). In Ezek 37:26, Ezekiel prophesied concerning the future day of restoration when the Lord would make an everlasting covenant of peace with His people, multiplying them and dwelling among them forever. Paul and the author of Hebrews understood Jesus to have fulfilled that which Ezekiel foretold (2 Cor 6:16; Heb 8:7-12; 13:20). Ezekiel prophesied about God’s personal presence with His people in Ezek 37:27-28: “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be My people. When My sanctuary is among them forever, the nations will know that I the LORD, sanctify Israel.” This prophecy lays the foundation for understanding God’s presence in Christ (John 1:14) and among His people in the eternal state (Rev 21:1-4, 22-27).
(2) Ezekiel announced that the Lord would restore the exiles to the Promised Land and transform their spiritual disposition. In Ezek 36:24-27, Ezekiel spoke God’s word of promise to the exiles, saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.” Moses had prophesied the same generations earlier (Deut 30:6). Similarly, in Ezek 37:14, the prophet recorded the declaration of the Lord concerning the future of His people: “I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am the LORD. I have spoken, and I will do it.” When Paul defended his apostleship to the Corinthians, he did so in light of the fact that the expectations of Moses and Ezekiel had been fulfilled. Paul wrote, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone, since it is plain that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh” (2 Cor 3:2-3). How could this be? John understood the Spirit to have been given to believers after the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (John 7:39). Jesus Himself said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17a); and, “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me” (John 15:26).
(3) Ezekiel foretold the final battle the Lord would wage against those who oppose Him and His people. Ezekiel’s description of the destruction of Gog in Ezekiel 38-39 provides a framework for understanding John’s visions at the conclusion of Revelation. Like Ezekiel, John understood the sovereignty of God over those who oppose God’s people. John wrote that Satan—the one who stands behind all evil—would receive a measure of God’s wrath appropriate for one who had deceived Eve in the Garden and so many nations throughout history. According to John, the Lord would bind Satan for 1,000 years, allowing the earth to experience a period of peace. At the end of 1,000 years, the Lord would release Satan for a time of war and then throw him to the lake of fire for eternal punishment (Rev 20:7-10).