Ezekiel’s Temple Vision: Literal or Figurative?

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In the above video I respond to Michael Heiser, who believes that Ezekiel’s Temple vision is figurative. I, of course, believe it is literal. In this article, I’m taking a different but related approach, including one that explores a third option. Perhaps the vision is some combination of the two. Here I will explain why I disagree with this view, as it is expressed by Snack Shop Theology. However, I first wish to point out that this view is much more realistic than the view expressed by Dr. Heiser. Now, on to the topic. I will express my views by responding to assertions made in the article linked above.

It appears much of the controversy surrounding the meaning of Ezekiel’s temple vision arises from further revelation in the New Testament.

Ezekiel's Temple Vision: Literal or Figurative?

This is an understatement. To be clear, all of the controversy arises from “further revelation”. This is why we should seriously question the “further revelation”. Deuteronomy 13 tells us to test the prophets who claim to speak the word of God. If their prophecies go against the already revealed word of God, we must reject them. The problem here is that subscribers to New Testament theology are starting with the assumption that the NT is the word of God, then bending Tanakh to fit that view. This is the exact opposite approach of what we have been instructed to do. We are to test new revelations against the old, not bend the old to fit the new.

One particular point of criticism for the literal interpretation is the referencing of the offering of sacrifices at the future temple (Ezekiel 40:38-43, 42:13-14 ), which of course seems to discount Christ’s once and for all atonement for sin.

Therein lies the aforementioned problem. Ezekiel speaks of literal sacrifices that literally atone for sin in the third temple. See Ezekiel 45:10 “to make atonement for them, says Hashem God.” The Messiah is providing the sacrifices to atone for himself and the Israelites. See Ezekiel 45:22 “On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a young bull for a sin offering.” This contradicts both the “once and for all sacrifice” and the “sinless Messiah” teachings of the church.

Moreover, the Law of Moses is still in practice at the time of Ezekiel’s Temple. See Ezekiel 44:9. “Thus says Hashem God: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the people who are among the children of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary.” This is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Paul against circumcision. The article responds to these concerns as follows.

“sacrifices will have no more redemptive efficacy in the Millennial period than they had in the ages before Calvary.”

Feinburg

Fair enough, but this seems to be a case of shooting one’s self in the foot while chasing one’s tail. Sacrifices had no redemptive value before Calvary, nor will they in the end time. So why is it exactly that we need sacrifices in the meantime? This radically undermines the “without the shedding of blood” teachings of the New Testament. This is part and parcel to my rejection of New Testament theology. Consider these two competing ways of explaining this dilemma.

  • God offered salvation to those born before Jesus without any need for a sacrifice. It was a nice ritual to connect them to God, but it played no role in atonement. However, once Jesus died he suddenly demanded a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of anyone alive at that time. This necessity will remain until Jesus returns, at which point God will again cover sins with standard ham and egger rituals like animal sacrifices.
  • Some first century Jews believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Upon his death, their argument fell apart. However, firmly believing in him they somehow associated his death with animal sacrifices at the Temple. Thus, they concluded that blood sacrifices must be necessary for atonement, contrary to what Tanakh actually taught. Moreover, they forgot that animal sacrifices would be reintroduced in Ezekiel’s Temple, thereby committing the unforced theological error of declaring the end of all sacrifices.

It is important to begin with a literal interpretation of scripture and only move from there if the context and language give definitive reason to.

I agree with this observation from the article wholeheartedly. However, this brings us back to point one. This scripture gives us no reason to interpret it figuratively. Rather, it is later New Testament passages that make that demand. Because NT teachings contradict Ezekiel, it becomes necessary to reinterpret Ezekiel’s Temple Vision. Or, and follow me here, we could try this radical approach. We could presume that since the New Testament contradicts and demands reinterpretation of Ezekiel, it’s not the word of God. Then we have no reason to reinterpret, and we are left with nothing but the hope of Ezekiel’s beautiful Third Temple and the worldwide knowledge of Hashem.

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I was raised a Christian, turned atheist as a teenager, and became a Noahide in my 40's. Here I will share what I have learned, and look forward to what you can teach me. Thank you for stopping by Biblical Anarchy. Feel free to leave a comment.

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