The final chapters of Ezekiel bridge Exodus and Revelation, stitching the Old and New Testaments together. Ezekiel’s vision of restoration in Ezekiel 40-48 establishes a grid for understanding the storyline of Scripture. According to the New Testament authors, God’s jealousy to renew His people in Jerusalem and the temple is fulfilled in Christ’s atoning self-sacrifice and the presence of His Spirit among His people of all nations.
(1) The Spirit carried Ezekiel to a high mountain to reveal to the prophet the vision of restoration. Ezekiel stated that his prophetic vision of the future restoration of Israel began when God took him and set him on a very high mountain, the southern slope of which housed what resembled a city (Ezek 40:2). When Ezekiel described the new temple, he said, “The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (Ezek 43:5; Exod 40:34-38; 1 Kgs 8:10-11; 2 Chron 5:13-14; 7:2). Toward the conclusion of Revelation, John wrote that an angel carried him away “in the Spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory” (Rev 21:10-11). John wrote that when the risen Christ spoke to him, the voice was like cascading waters (Rev 1:15), similar to the voice Ezekiel heard speaking to him in his vision (Ezek 43:2).
(2) Ezekiel saw a vision of the new temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel saw an angelic figure employ a measuring rod to measure the size of the temple (Ezek 40:3). John’s vision of the New Jerusalem included a similar feature; John recorded that the angelic figure guiding his prophetic vision had “a gold measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall” (Rev 21:15b). In Ezek 45:2-3 and 48:8-13, Ezekiel noted that the section of the Promised Land belonging to the Lord was equal on all sides; likewise, the outer walls of the new temple complex would resemble a square (Ezek 42:20). These geometrical configurations were perhaps meant to reflect the Holy of Holies of the temple (1 Kgs 6:16//2 Chron 3:8-9). John stated that the new, heavenly Jerusalem was likewise a cube: “The city is laid out in a square; its length and width are the same. He measured the city with the rod at 12,000 stadia. Its length, width, and height are equal” (Rev 21:16). Concerning the new temple, the Lord told Ezekiel, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place for the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the Israelites forever” (Ezek 43:7). The prophet understood that the entire city of the New Jerusalem would be called, “Yahweh Is There” (Ezek 48:35). John wrote that in his visionary experience, “I heard a loud voice from the throne: ‘Look! God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God’” (Rev 21:3). In Ezek 47:1, 7, and 12, the prophet described a river flowing eastward from underneath the temple, with many trees lining the river, each bearing seasonal fruit and never withering. John’s vision in Rev 22:1-5 reflected Ezekiel’s description of a life-giving river but the river John described had two distinguishing features. The river John saw flowed from the throne of God and the Lamb, and the fruit of the trees nourished by the river was for the healing of the nations.
(3) Ezekiel prophesied that sacrifices would be central to Israel’s temple. In Ezek 43:18, the prophet heard the word of the Lord concerning the construction of the altar, where burnt offerings were to be sacrificed and blood was to be sprinkled. The author of Hebrews described a heavenly tabernacle, where Christ’s blood was spilled (Heb 9:11-22). The temple of Ezekiel’s vision would be the place where Israel would offer continual and regular sacrifices. But the author of Hebrews noted that the new, heavenly tabernacle enjoyed only one sacrifice, saying, “He [Christ] doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself” (Heb 7:27). The author of Hebrews did notice one parallel between the practices of Ezekiel’s new temple and Christian practices. Since the bull of the sin offering was to be burned “outside the sanctuary” (Ezek 43:21; Exod 29:14) and Christ suffered outside the city gates of Jerusalem, his audience should bear Jesus’ disgrace by going outside the structures of Judaism to identify with Jesus (Heb 13:11-13).