Ezekiel’s Oracles of Good News (Ezekiel 33-48)
This is the tenth in a series of posts dealing with the proper interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). If you’re new to this subject (or to my blog), you’ll want to read the essay with which I introduced the series (just click here).
My goal in these eschatological adventures is two-fold.
First, I want to open up something of the Christ-centered truth and beauty of OTKP to my brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Secondly, I want to reason a little with my premillennial brethren. In particular, I want to make the case that we all will best understand, enjoy, and profit from OTKP when we see that its true sphere of fulfillment is: 1) Christ, 2) the New Covenant he instituted by his blood, 3) the two-staged spiritual Kingdom he has already introduced (and will soon consummate), and, 4) the New Covenant community he is creating out of elect Jews and Gentiles: the Church.
In short, I would like my premillennial brothers to reconsider the amillennial approach to the interpretation of OTKP.
Since the end of the age will soon be upon us, it is important that we stand together as much as possible. Seeing eye to eye on eschatology would definitely help. These essays—and the book in progress from which they are extracted—represent my best effort at contributing to that worthy goal.
Because the prophetic texts I deal with are quite long, I have not reproduced them here. You will need to bring an open Bible to each blog. My hope and prayer is that you will enjoy them all.
Ezekiel’s Oracles of Good News (Ezekiel 33-48)
This is the first of several blogs in which we will tackle some of the most challenging OTKP’s prophecies in the entire Old Testament. Because of their great difficulty, we are going to have to dig deep, so brace yourself!
Moreover, when the going gets rough, you have to promise me you won’t give up! Again, I recognize that these texts from Ezekiel are controversial, even among the scholars. However, if you will persevere, I believe you are in for a joyous surprise. That’s because the New Covenant Hermeneutic wonderfully opens up these daunting passages (passages you may have avoided for years), so much so that folks actually begin to catch a glimpse of the shape of biblical eschatology as a whole, and also of the winner in the Great End Time Debate!
My purpose in today’s post is to equip you for the journey ahead. The goal is to give you a feel for the context of the prophecies we will be studying; for their place in the overall flow of Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry. Happily, it turns out that this is relatively easy to do, since the book falls neatly into four well-defined sections.
Commentator Iain Duguid outlines them as follows:
Part I: Ezekiel’s Call and Commission (chapters 1-3)
Part II: Oracles of Doom (i.e., prophecies of coming judgment, spoken against apostate Jerusalem and her homeland, chapters 4-24)
Part III: Oracles Against the Nations (i.e., prophecies of coming judgment and redemptive mercy, spoken over Israel’s hostile neighbors, (chapters 4-24)
Part IV: Oracles of Good News (i.e., prophecies whereby Ezekiel arouses the hope and expectation of God’s people, chapters 33-48)
Very importantly, Part IV may be further divided into the following three categories:
A. Promises of Israel’s eschatological restoration (chapters 34-37)
B. Promises of Israel’s divine rescue from the Last Battle with her Gentile opponents (chapters 38-39)
C. A vision of Israel’s fully renewed Temple, Worship, Homeland, and City (40-48).
In the weeks ahead, we will wrestle with prophecies found in each of these sections. For two main reasons, Duguid’s outline will be of great value to us.
First, it shows us that Ezekiel’s eschatology—just like that of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the other OT prophets—conforms perfectly to the prototype found in the Law of Moses (Deut. 30). That is, to a man they frame the Bible’s message of cosmic redemption in terms of national Israel’s sin, exile, and final restoration. Again, this is the great underlying motif of virtually all OTKP, a motif that, according to the NCH, finds its fulfillment under the New Covenant instituted by Christ, and in the two-staged Kingdom that he came to create.
Secondly, the simple three-fold structure of the Oracles of Good News supplies an exciting clue as to their proper interpretation. Why? Because it corresponds perfectly with the simple three-fold structure of NT eschatology!
In other words, as the Christian reads Ezekiel 33-48, his familiarity with NT eschatology will immediately incline him to think that:
1) Ezekiel’s promises of eschatological restoration (chapters 34-37) must speak primarily—if not exclusively—of the NT Era of Proclamation of Probation;
2) His prediction of a final clash between Israel and the hordes of Gog (chapters 38-39) must refer to the Last Battle between the Church and the World, and also to the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which that Battle will be brought to an end.
3) His vision of the ultimate renewal of Israel’s Temple, Land, and City (chapters 40-48) must look ahead to the World to Come; to the eschatological glory of the Church situated in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
We must, then, while examining our three prophecies, keep this amazing correspondence in mind, trying to see if the texts themselves vindicate our educated NT guess as to their likely meaning.
The Oracles of Restoration (Ezekiel 34-37)
Now concerning the Oracles of Restoration (chapters 34-37), a few further introductory words are in order.
Duguid outlines them as follows:
1) A New Shepherd (chapter 34)
2) A Renewed Land (chapters 35-36)
3) A Renewed Covenant (chapter 36)
4) A Renewed People (37:1-14)
5) A Renewed Unity (37:15-28)
The great value of this breakdown is that it highlights the theological unity of these chapters, and also strongly intimates their sphere of fulfillment: The New Covenant Era of Proclamation and Probation. In other words, Duguid’s outline quietly suggests what the NCH positively affirms: All the oracles in this section speak of the new things that God will do in and for his people in the Last Days.
In particular, 1) he will give them a new Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ; 2) he will plant them in a new homeland, the Zion above, where even now the exalted Christ dwells; 3) he will draw them into a New Covenant, the Eternal Covenant in Christ’s blood; 4) he will fill them with new spiritual life, the resurrection life of Christ; and, 5) he will bestow upon them—factious, warring sinners that they were—a new unity in the Spirit, in Christ, and in Christ’s Body.
Duguid’s outline enables us to see that all of these oracles—each in its own way and each from its own angle—depict the blessings of Christ’s Church in the first stage of the Kingdom of God. They depict them, however, “in a mystery;” in language and imagery drawn from life under the Old Covenant; in language and imagery calculated to stir the imagination and kindle the hopes of God’s struggling OT saints, some of whom had only recently endured the ruin of their capitol city, the destruction of their temple, and the humiliating agony of deportation and exile from their beloved homeland.
Thus, in the blogs ahead our thesis will be that in Ezekiel 33-48 the Spirit of God used OT ideas and institutions symbolically—typologically—in order to encourage faltering OT saints with a revelation of the glorious NT blessings soon to be unveiled, blessings that we who follow Christ know to be the true and eternal hope of all God’s people of all time.
With this as background, we are ready at last to examine three of Ezekiel’s Oracles of Good News. We’ll begin next time, by venturing into the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37).