THE LIFE AND MINISTRY OF EZEKIEL
Ezekiel chapter 1
For most people, the book of Ezekiel is a closed book. People in most churches know little more than a little about the vision of "dry bones," a little about a strange vision of a "wheel within a wheel," and a war description from chapters 38 and 39.
This ignorance is a direct result of the "watered down gospel" preferred by many churches, and most saints. We are definitely within the "tickle the ears" age predicted by the Bible. The day has come wherein church attenders are not enduring 'sound doctrine'. Instead, many are heaping to themselves teachers, and have "itching ears". These church attenders "turn away their ears from the truth," and are "turned unto fables."
The "milk of the Word" is proclaimed in many congregations, but the "meat of the Word" is unknown in many. In fact, many of the ministers and teachers in congregations are ignorant of major portions of the Word of God. If one worked for a major factory for twenty years, and still could only find the rest room, the time clock, and the office where payroll was handed out, the company would be wise to fire them, yet, many saints know the basics of the Christmas and Easter story, a little about David and Goliath, and a bit about Daniel and the lion's den, but the rest of the Bible, to them, is all "begats" and unintelligible stories. This is not satisfactory to the Lord.
The protestant denominations are a result of people breaking away from the Catholic church which had denied access to the Scriptures to its people. People hungered for the "meat" of the Word. Today, the protestant church has been ignoring, perverting, and shunning major portions of the Word. The doctrines of truth are still hungered for by real saints of the Lord. It is time we break away from the ignorance, the shunning of the Word. The ignorance of the Word of God found in many of Christianity today has resulted in a weak, bored, and apathetic church.
The false, hypocritical, and ignorant false prophets of our day substitute:
materialistic, prosperity teaching,
easy social club religion preaching,
permissive morality contrary to God's stated commands,
and generic positive thinking platitudes.
The "hard truth" of the Word is shunned by these "false prophets" of the last days. Therefore, the book of Ezekiel is part of the shunned and ignored message from God. It is vital we delve into its message, for we are in the last days. Ezekiel has a basic simplicity, and an orderly framework. It is an easy book to analyze.
BASIC OUTLINE OF EZEKIEL
The opening vision of the majesty of God,
and the call of Ezekiel to be a prophet.
A long series of messages and visions
(Some are acted out symbolically, some are in spoken form.
These messages foretell and justify God's judgment.)
Messages on God's judgment on surrounding nations
Announcement of the fall of Jerusalem (32:31)
and then promises of God's restoration of Israel
God's final triumph over enemies when Israel is finally restored
A vision of the millennial Jerusalem,
and the millennial Temple
Ezekiel was earnest, had eccentricities, loved symbolism, had an unbelievably great concern with detail, and had a sense of the awesome majesty of God. He was the son of a man called "Buzi", and a priest. He had been taken captive in 597 B.C. This was the time of the deportation of King Jehoiachin and all the craftsmen and smiths (II Kings 24:14).
Ezekiel was resettled in the dusty plains of Babylon. Five years after his deportation, God called him to be a prophetic ministry. This book began in the 30th year of the life of Ezekiel, and his book covered 22 years.
The thirtieth year of a priest's life was the year when they could assume the full duties of the priesthood (Numbers 4:3, I Chronicles 23:3). The training of the priest began at age 20. Yet, in exile, away from the Temple, and in captivity to the Babylonians, Ezekiel could not practice his profession very well. Yet, here was a man dedicated to the ministry of God, and so God calls him to a prophetic ministry in this year of his life that he had anticipated for so long.
No tradition exists to tell us how or when Ezekiel died. And he would have died sooner, if many of his listeners had their way. Ezekiel was a man of courage, and his people did not willingly listen to his messages. The elders did not like his messages from God, and so they had to be tricked by God to hear his sermons.
Apart from his visionary trip to the Temple in Jerusalem, his ministry occurred on the plain near the river Chebar, at a place called Tel Abib. The river Chebar (naru-kabari, the great river) is the modern river Shatten-Nil. It was an irrigation canal which brought the waters of the Euphrates into a loop south-eastwards from Babylon via Nippur, and then back to the main river near Uruk (Erech).
Tel Abib was probably the modern city of Akk. The name came from the words 'til abubi' which meant 'mound of the deluge.' It was a 700 mile trip across the desert to Jerusalem.
Ezekiel had abnormal behavior, if judged by what society calls normal. Yet, if we examine the ministries of true prophets, we find many with abnormal behavior.
John the Baptist went out into the empty fields and began to preach a message, and the crowd gathered to hear what this strangely dressed man in the field was doing.
Elijah had the altar drowned with many barrels of water before he called for God to send fire from heaven.
Jeremiah preached with a yoke about his neck.
For a prophet, a certain amount of abnormality is normal. He had much Scriptural training, much symbolism training, and yet, it was his real relationship with God that made Ezekiel susceptible to abnormal, bizarre, and curious methods of ministering.
At times, his message was delivered with great pain. He had to remain silent in his grief when his wife died, had to stay dumb (not speaking) unless directed otherwise by God, and had to endure long periods of strange diet and lying on one side as part of his sermon delivery. Yet, Ezekiel had a supremely controlled personality. He had a passionate zeal for God, was sensitive, was tender, and had a balance of his harsh judgments and cold logic.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporaries, and yet they make no mention of each other. Jeremiah ministered in Jerusalem, but Ezekiel ministered in the exile country of Babylon. They had many similar themes. Both took a lone stand against rebellious and unwilling congregations. Both stressed the need for repentance, and scolded the self-pity of the people. Both angrily attacked the false prophets of their locales. Why did they both have so similar a ministry, and yet did not know of the other? The answer is simple, both had the same God directing them.
The Rabbis forbid anyone under the age of 30 to read the first three chapters of the book of Ezekiel. There is an awesome vision of God in those chapters. Awesome visions of God are common amidst true prophets, for God is desirous to reveal Himself to mankind. John, on the isle of Patmos, fell down as dead before the Lord Jesus. Isaiah saw the Lord, "high and lifted up" before him. Enoch had to avert his eyes from the awesome vision of God.
False prophets speak glibly about God, because they have not come into the glorious presence of the Awesome Almighty God. The true prophets are indelibly marked by the holiness of God's presence. The vision of the Lord gave impetus to Ezekiel, and made it possible for him to minister to such a rebellious people.
Many may think that to be a prophet is easy and uncomplicated. But, it takes a life changing experience, as experienced by Ezekiel in chapters 1 to 3, to make a saint into a prophet.
Ezekiel 1:1-4 (KJV)
1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
2 In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity,
3 The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
This vision of Ezekiel has been misunderstood, and debated by many down through the ages. Having been shown some things in heaven, I feel that I can explain more clearly what Ezekiel was describing. His vision does not contradict the revelation of other prophets, nor does his vision simply describe a naive prophet's sighting of an UFO.
The view of Ezekiel, was a view of something other prophet's and saints have seen. He, like the blind men who each tried to describe an elephant, may have had different viewing point than some of the others, but Ezekiel saw God upon the same throne that the others saw. It is misunderstanding of words, and semantics that have caused the delusions. When one looks again at the description of Ezekiel, misunderstandings can be alleviated.
Suddenly, while listening to the Lord speak to his heart, Ezekiel became aware of a black cloud, a literal tornado approaching from the north. The physical and visible led to the spiritual and visionary experience that changed the life of Ezekiel. And as is common with visions, suddenly, unexpectedly, and while life goes on as normal all about, the Lord begins to reveal Himself. The glory of God came as a gleam of glowing bronze from out of the fire. This was the dazzling view of the awesome presence of God upon His throne. The body of Ezekiel still stood on the ground of heathen Babylon, but the Spirit of Ezekiel was transported to the seventh heaven.
There, in that inner sanctuary of heaven, Ezekiel saw the mountain of God that Isaiah saw when he said that he saw the Lord "high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1). This throne of God is set upon the flat surface of the top of the heavenly mountain of Zion. This mountain has since the return of Jesus to heaven been transformed into the New Jerusalem. Rivers of water began to flow from the Throne of Grace when Jesus sprinkled the blood and water of His sacrificial death upon the mercy seat following His resurrection.
Ezekiel is seeing this vision of the throne, the mountain upon which it sits, and the way it appeared before the resurrection time of Jesus. Without the flow of the fountains of waters flowing down from the twelve gates of the heavenly city, Ezekiel is able to see what makes this mountain to be suspended about the mountains of the seventh heaven, the throne room of God.
The New Jerusalem, has not always existed, as it is now. For Jesus said to the disciples that He was going away "to prepare a place" for us:
"I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also."
According to Enoch, this New Jerusalem was finished sometime near 1600 A.D.
"During the eighth week (900-1600 A.D.)... at its end, a house will be built for the great king in glory forever."
When John was shown this city, he viewed it as it would appear after the rapture, and at the time of the marriage supper of the Lamb. He noticed different things, as would have Ezekiel, if his vision had be futuristic.
Revelation 21:10-11, 16
"And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and a high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. Having the glory of God; and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal... The city lieth foursquare, and the length of it is as large as the breadth; and he measured the city with a reed, twelve thousand furlongs (1500 miles)."
Christ went away to prepare this special place for us. This place is the New Jerusalem. It is our heavenly home, the one eternal home upon which, at its top, is the throne of God. God dwells upon it, and we will dwell within it.
"Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
The New Jerusalem is sealed and shut up till after the war in heaven when Satan and his forces are forcefully expelled from heaven. No human has yet been able to walk its streets, or even to enter its gates. No unrighteous ones ever walk these streets till after the devil is expelled (Rev 12), and the saints in heaven are never to sin again. Then as the church has already been raptured, and the tribulation saints are later resurrected, and the 144,000 are raptured, and the two witnesses are slain on the earth, and then resurrected and ascend to heaven -- then all the saints are in heaven to be the righteous wedding garment of the "bride" and the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place. Finally, we will walk those streets, see our home, and worship atop it at the throne of God.
This city, the New Jerusalem, has 12 gates, each made of a gigantic pearl.
It has 12 foundations with the names of the twelve apostles.
It is 12,000 furlongs on each side (1500 miles).
Its wall is 144 cubits (216 feet), but we are unsure
if this is the width or the height.
The light of this city is Jesus Christ.
The twelve foundations are twelve precious stones.
(Greek = iaspis, Hebrew = yash-pheh)
There are 14 varieties of this stone,
generally it is green and transparent.
(Greek = sappheiros, Hebrew = sappir)
It is not the stone currently known as the sapphire,
but the lapis-luzuli, an azure color, not transparent.
(Greek= chakedon, Hebrew = tarshis)
This is a jasper stone of turbid hue.
(Greek = smaragdinos, Hebrew = nophekh)
This is the turquoise of the present day.
(Greek = sardonix, Hebrew = yahalom)
This is sarda, a red with a layer of white, or black as base,
vermillion and white for the upper part,
and sometimes a purple blending into a red.
(Greek = sardion, Hebrew = odhem)
This stone is transparent red.
(Greek = chrusolithos)
This is a transparent whitish or silver stone, with glints of gold.
(Greek = berullos, Hebrew = shoham)
This is a sea green colored stone.
(Greek = topazion, Hebrew pitdhah)
This stone has a green tint.
(Greek = Chrusoprasos, Hebrew Kadhkodh)
This is a variety of beryllus, it is a yellowish green,
or an apple green in color.
(Greek = huakinthos, Hebrew = leshem)
This is a diluted shade of violet,
it is not the modern jacinth, nor hyacinth.
(Greek = amethusios, Hebrew = ahlamah)
This is a transparent purple stone.
The church is never called a woman, nor is it the "bride of Christ." The church is likened to a "man" in Ephesians 2:15:
"...for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace."
The church is also likened unto the "body of Christ", which of course is male, not female.
I Corinthians 12:27
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."
The "bride of Christ" is the New Jerusalem. The saints are the bridal gown of the bride. We shall adorn the bride with our presence on that wedding day - the marriage supper of the Lamb.
"And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints."
The Lord will unite with this New Jerusalem and there will He dwell for eternity. It is the only part of heaven that will survive when the heaven and the earth pass away. It will be brought down to the new earth at that time.
The Jews knew that God dearly loved their Jerusalem. He united His presence with that city, and the presence of God dwelt above the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem.
Because of sin, that union was broken, the temple destroyed, and the fruitfulness of the union lost. Jerusalem was destroyed, and the temple also, by the Babylonians.
Like the son of the woman seen in the vision of Ezra, as he entered the marriage chamber, he died. So when Israel should have brought forth the Messiah, and had fruitfulness of worship, Israel's sins brought forth death. A New Jerusalem has been prepared, and is awaiting us in heaven. The Lord will dwell in that city at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
At this point, the saved are eternally safe; and the rejecters are eternally judged. Satan is eternally bound, and rebellions against God are become things of the past. God will create a new heaven, and a new earth. This earth is destroyed after the White Throne Judgment. Fire will destroy it.
II Peter 3:10-14
"DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT IN WHICH THE HEAVENS SHALL PASS AWAY WITH A GREAT NOISE, AND THE ELEMENTS WILL MELT WITH FERVENT HEAT."
No curse will contaminate this New Earth. God will destroy all the former curse, and all that it has contaminated. On this New Earth, no condemnation will afflict the conscience.
No sin will pollute the soul. Today, the curse affects health, wealth, home, friends, business, pleasure, etc. Everyone of these can cause sorrow and tears. In much of the world famine, hunger, cold cause many to die. The curse will be removed, and the bondage to sin and its effects is to be totally gone.
God's presence will dwell with us.
"THE TABERNACLE OF GOD IS WITH MEN, AND HE SHALL DWELL WITH THEM."
Every spot will become holy ground. No special day will need be set aside for worship, for we shall worship Him daily. Everywhere, and always, we shall enjoy God's presence and fellowship.
Finally, we shall experience a time of "NO MORE TEARS." (Rev.21:4)
There will be no fear, nor terror, nor sorrow. Sin has brought terror and pain. The saints have experienced pain during this age to help reprove us and make us to understand Christ's suffering for sin. On the New Earth, God will remove all sorrow, pain, and the memories that would bring us grief.
At last, there will be no more sickness or death. Now death reigns, but during the Millennium, Christ will remove "death" as the last enemy. ( I Cor. 15:24-28, Rev. 20:11-15) The humans, over whom we rule and reign, will also live eternally by eating of the "tree of life. (Rev. 22:2).
This kingdom will finally have reached its epitome. Over and over, the Bible has referred to a coming kingdom. Jesus said: Matthew 26:29
"I WILL NOT DRINK OF THE FRUIT OF THE VINE, UNTIL THE KINGDOM OF GOD SHALL COME."
"WE MUST THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION, ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD."
After, we get to heaven, and finally, at the marriage supper of the Lamb, enter this New Jerusalem, we will then return to earth with Christ for the second coming. The battle of Armageddon ensues, and then the millennium begins. Later, the New Jerusalem comes down to the new earth, after the millennium is over.
While living in this New Jerusalem, we will be a time of ruling and reigning with Jesus.
"...ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration [palingenesia, renewal of an abnormal state] when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of glory, shall sit."
In that time, we will go to a ‘normal state’, opposite in many ways from the ‘abnormal state’ of life in this world. We will rule, and not be ruled by sinful mankind. We shall reign with Jesus Who is King of kings, Savior and God.
II Peter 3:11-13
‘all these things shall be dissolved ... the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat... Nevertheless, we, according to the promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
When Ezekiel saw this mountain of God that held up His throne, it was not yet made into the finished New Jerusalem. He saw it before the blood and water that flowed from Jesus was sprinkled upon the mercy seat. Therefore, the rivers of life that now flow down through the city from the throne and out through the twelve pearl gates, and down as the fountain of life to the surface of the seventh heaven had not yet started. This allowed Ezekiel to see the underneath part of the mountain better than we would today if there.
The beings that hold up this city, which is like unto the mountain, could be more readily seen in that view of Ezekiel. Some have viewed the heavenly city in the Old Testament period with the water already flowing, but their visions were future visions of what it would be like on the day of the rapture.
part 2 of chapter 1 to come