God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

Ezekiel 40 to 48 reports a vision that in some parts is similar to elements of Revelation 21 and 22, but in other aspects is quite different, quite inferior, and sometimes contradictory.

In trying to determine whether, or to what extent, we are meant to understand Ezekiel to be speaking of the same reality as Revelation, we need to remember that Old Testament prophecies frequently have two or more applications – they apply in some respects to a more or less immanent future event in the history of Israel and in some respects to an event connected with Jesus Christ. In addition, the Old Testaments frequently concertinaed time in such a way that what the New Testament distinguished as two events [the first and second comings of Christ] the Old Testament saw as one.

Things that are similar in Ezekiel and Revelation

[1] Both Ezekiel and John were taken, in the vision, to a very high mountain [Ezekiel 40:2; Revelation 21:10].

[2] Both Ezekiel and Revelation a measuring takes place [E: 40:3ff and 42:15ff; R: 21:15ff].

[3] Both Ezekiel and Revelation speak of ‘glory’. Ezekiel ‘saw the glory of God coming from the east’ [43:1]; this ‘glory of the LORD filled the temple’ [43:5; 44:4]. The city John saw coming down out of heaven from God ‘shone with the glory of God’ [21:11]. Note that the place where the glory is is not the same – it is the physical temple in Ezekiel and the ‘city’ in Revelation.

[4] The temple in Ezekiel is the place of God’s throne [43:7]; the ‘city’ in Revelation is the place where God’s throne is [22:3].

[5] God will dwell there forever in both [Ezekiel 42:7,9; Revelation does not use the word ‘forever’ but does indicate the permanent presence of God with his people [21:3].]

[6] The absence of evil is portrayed in both [E: 43:7; R:21:27]. But in Ezekiel it is not total – there is still evil outside the Temple.

[7] God’s anger has previously been expressed [E: 43:8; R: 20:9-15 and previous chapters].

[8] There is a ‘river of life’ in both [E: 47:1-12; R: 22:1]

[9] The trees supported by both rivers have similarities – they grow on the banks of the river; they bear fruit every month; their leaves are for healing [E:46:12; R:22:2]. [Note: the trees in Ezekiel are not called ‘the tree of life’.]

Things that are different, inferior, or contradictory

[1] Ezekiel saw some buildings that looked like a city on the south side of the mountain [40:2]; John saw ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God’ [ 21:10].

[2] In Ezekiel a wall surrounds the temple area [40:5], in Revelation a wall surrounds the whole city [21:12, etc].

[3] The measurements in Ezekiel are like those of an ordinary physical building [40:5ff]; those in Revelation are gargantuan [21:16,17].

[4] Ezekiel records extensive detail about the four gates of the temple [40:6-37]; Revelation says nothing at all about them.

[5] Ezekiel records detail about rooms for the priests in the temple [40:38-47]; Revelation says nothing at all about them.

[6] Ezekiel 40:48 to 41:26 is occupied describing the details of the temple structure and ornamentation; the only mention Revelation 21 and 22 make of the temple is to say that he saw no temple in the city, because ‘God and the Lamb are its temple’ [21:22].

[7] Ezekiel 42 gives further detail about rooms for priests. Revelation 21 and 22 make no mention of priests. 22:3 ‘his servants will serve him’ [the verb is latreuo, which means to do homage, to worship] and 22:4 ‘his name will be on their foreheads’ [see Exodus 28:36-38] may be allusions to the fact that all the redeemed are ‘priests’ of God [1:6; 5:10].

[8] In Ezekiel 42:20 there is a wall with the specific purpose of separating ‘the holy from the common’. In Revelation 21 and 22 there is no such separation in the city: all who are in it are God’s holy people.

[9] Sin is still present in the context of Ezekiel’s vision [43:10]. Sin has already been removed in the context of John’s vision [the ‘bride’ (the ‘city’) has already been washed in the blood of the Lamb].

[10] All kinds of offerings are being made with great regularity in Ezekiel’s temple, including sin offerings [43:13-47; 45:13-25;46:1-24]. There are no such offerings in Revelation 21,22. The only allusion to offerings is inferred in the presence of ‘the Lamb’.

[11] The east gate of Ezekiel’s temple is shut [44;1,2], and various instructions about which gate people can go in and out are given in 46:9,12. All the gates of the city in Revelation are always open [21:25].

[12] Only the ‘prince’ can enter the east gate and ‘eat’ in the presence of God [44:3]. In Revelation all the redeemed ‘eat’ with Christ [3:20].

[13] In Ezekiel’s temple there are no foreigners [44:5-9]. In the ‘city’ of Revelation 21 the ‘nations walk by its light, and the kings of the earth bring their splendour into it’ [21:24]. [Revelation has previously told us that people from every nation, language, tribe and people comprised those redeemed by the Lamb – 5:9; 7:9].

[14] Members of the priestly line who sinned are excluded from serving as priests in Ezekiel’s temple; they were not allowed to come anywhere near God or to any ‘holy things’ [44:10-14]. In Revelation all the redeemed serve God as priests [1:6: 5:10; 22:3], and they all see his face [22:4].

[15] The task of the faithful priests is to ‘offer sacrifices’ [Ezekiel 44:15]. There are no sacrifices mentioned in Revelation 21,22.

[16] All sorts of regulations apply to the priests and their on-going need not to become defiled [Ezekiel 44:15-31]. There is no possibility of defilement in the ‘city’ for nothing that defiles will ever enter it [Revelation 21:27].

[17] People are still dying in the context of Ezekiel’s vision [44:25]; there is no longer any death in John’s ‘city’ [21:4].

[18] Ezekiel 45:1-8 speaks of allocation of land surrounding the temple, and rules that apply to that. Revelation speaks of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ and the conditions that prevail there.

[19] Ezekiel 45:20 speaks of the presence of sin; there is no sin in the ‘city’ of Revelation.

[20] Ezekiel 45:19,22,23,25 speak of ‘sin offerings’. These are neither mentioned nor needed in the ‘city’ of Revelation.

[21] Ezekiel 45:15,17,20 state that the priests are to present various offerings ‘to make atonement for sin’. In the ‘city’ of Revelation such an action does not occur; the Lamb has already purchased the redeemed for God; the ‘bride’, the ‘city, is already clothed in white garments, bright and clean [19:8].

[22] Ezekiel 45:17 and 46:1-12 give instructions regarding the ‘festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths’. The New Testament perspective is that these feasts must no longer be regulatory, because they were mere shadows of the reality, which is Christ [Colossians 2:16,17]. Revelation says nothing about them.

[23] Ezekiel 45: 21-25 commands the Passover. None of the Old Testament feasts are mentioned in Revelation.

[24] Ezekiel 46:20 speaks of the ‘guilt offering’. There is no guilt left in Revelation 21,22.

[25] Ezekiel’s river of life flows out of the temple and down to the Gulf of Arabah [46:8]. Revelation’s river of life flows from the throne of God and the Lamb throughout the ‘city’ [22:1,2]. [Note: if we give the ‘temple’ a symbolic meaning of ‘the throne of God’ [see 43:7], there is a degree of similarity here.]

What can we conclude?
For the most part, Ezekiel 40 to 48 predicts the rebuilding of the physical temple in Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonian exile, and the re-establishment of the associated Jewish rituals which were of necessity suspended by the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. This rebuilding is reported in Ezra 3 – 6. The celebration of the Passover, as Ezekiel’s vision had commanded, is reported in Ezra 6:19-22. These events are the primary prediction and meaning of Ezekiel 40 – 48.

That this temple, and all the festivals and rituals performed in it, are physical symbols of the presence of God and of the person and work of Jesus Christ goes without saying. That is what the original Tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem had always been.

Ezekiel’s vision, still bound to the Old Testament form of physical prophetic symbols in the physical temple, its physical structure, its physical priesthood, its physical festivals, its physical offerings, portrays the holiness of God and the necessity for atonement. It parallels the Revelation ‘city’ only where its symbols point beyond the once-for-all atonement achieved by Christ, and beyond the age of witness and suffering to the restoration of God’s forever presence with his people. And it does this only a few times. Leaving aside incidental similarities [mountain and measuring], the similarities are all linked to the person of God – his glory, his throne, his presence with his people, his anger, his exclusion of evil, his provision of life. These are things that do not change, regardless of the symbol, regardless of the vision.

The vision of the ‘city’ of Revelation 21 and 22 is, in its totality, very obviously depicting conditions after the death of the Lamb, after the Gospel has been proclaimed over all the earth, and also after the removal of all evil from the universe. The conditions prevailing in Ezekiel’s vision no longer exist in John’s vision – sin, death, guilt, the need to make atonement for sin, exclusion from the ‘temple’. Repeatedly Revelation 21 and 22 uses the words ‘no more’ to convey a completely renewed ‘heaven and earth’.

Problem for dispensational premillennialists
Nor can we place this ‘temple’ in a supposed literal ‘thousand year’ reign of Christ on earth after his second coming and prior to the final judgment, as taught by dispensational premillennialists. Dispensational premillennialists see a physical temple, with physical offerings, but maintain that these offerings are not expiatory – that they do not atone for sin, that they are merely commemorative. Such a belief is clearly outlawed by the words of Ezekiel who in several extended passages referred to ‘sin offerings’, ‘to make atonement’ and ‘guilt offerings’. While insisting on interpreting the ‘thousand years’ of Revelation 20:1-10 in a strictly literal way, dispensationalists have themselves denied the literal understanding of the Ezekiel references to sin, guilt and making atonement, claiming the words used are symbolic.