A New Most Holy Place
“He measured the length of the room, twenty cubits, and its breadth, twenty cubits, across the nave. And he said to me, ‘This is the Most Holy Place’” (v. 4).- Ezekiel 41:1–4
Under the old covenant, God made His presence known most strongly in the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, the most sacred area of the tabernacle/temple. This presence among Israel was contingent upon the loyalty of the nation to the Law (2 Chron. 7:19–22), a loyalty that was seen the majority of time only in the lives of a holy remnant within the nation. Most Israelites failed to keep covenant and ended up defiling the temple, with the result that God moved out of the Holy of Holies (Ezek. 10) and allowed foreigners to burn the temple to the ground (2 Kings 25:1–21).
We can hardly overestimate the tragedy this must have been in the eyes of Ezekiel, who witnessed the temple’s destruction, for he was of the priestly lineage that served in the temple (Ezek. 1:3). Much of the book that bears his name is concerned with the threat of exile and the promise of judgment upon the people of God for their sins. But this is not all the book has to offer, as it also looks forward to the day when the Lord would restore His people and bless them once more. This is especially clear in Ezekiel’s vision of a renewed temple in chapters 40–48.
Today, many people believe this account of the temple is a blueprint for a literal temple that will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. This is an inappropriate reading, as the dimensions of this temple would make it impossible to be built according to the plan in chapters 40–48. We do not have the space to go into all the details, but if we were to add up all the measurements of the temple, we would get a length of 4,500 feet. Ancient Jerusalem could not have accommodated such a large building on Mt. Zion; it would have to extend outside of the city. Moreover, the imagery of a life-giving river and trees that bear fruit perpetually are clearly symbolic and thus expressive of the blessings that will flow from God’s sanctuary to all the earth (47:1–12).
What, then, do we learn from this vision of the new temple and new Holy of Holies in today’s passage? Keeping in mind that Ezekiel was a priest, a revelation of a grand temple was a clear way for the Lord to show him that there was yet a glorious future ahead for the faithful Israelites. Upon their restoration, God’s presence and glory would extend past the borders of Jerusalem to the outlying lands. All creation would be His temple, for all creation would then be holy (Isa. 11:9).
What Ezekiel saw in a vision we now see in reality as the kingdom of God spreads across the earth and people from every tribe and tongue are set apart to be priests (1 Peter 2:9). The turning of the nations to Yahweh, the only God, is clear evidence that the Bible is true, for in Christ Jesus the prediction that all would worship Yahweh is coming to pass. What are you doing to faithfully proclaim the gospel?
Passages for Further Study