Ezekiel’s Vision of the World to Come (Ezekiel 40-48)
This is the fourteenth in a short (!) 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.
Ezekiel’s Vision of the World to Come (40-48)
THIS is the capstone, the last of Ezekiel’s three Oracles of Good News.
In the first, God promised his people a final restoration to the land, the coming of the Messiah, the gift of Spirit, and the fullness of his covenant blessings (Ezek. 36-37).
In the second, he promised to rescue them from the Last Battle, and to destroy, once and for all, all their surrounding enemies (Ezek. 38-39).
Here in the third oracle, he completes his words of encouragement, giving them a vision of life together with him in the eternal World to Come (Ezek. 40-48).
In essence, this vision is an elaboration of the great promise previously given in Ezekiel 37:24-28. To re-read that text is to see immediately that the word “forever” is both prominent and crucial. Israel will dwell in the land forever (25a). The Messianic son of David will be their Prince forever (25b). God will enter into a covenant of peace with them forever (26a). And he will set his sanctuary in their midst forever (26b, 27, 28).
Here, then, is what life will be like in the eschaton, in the World to Come. Here, at long last, the promise of the Eternal Covenant will be fully realized. Here the LORD will be “Israel’s” God, and they his people. Here, every impediment to their union will be removed, and every blessing of that union enjoyed—forever (v. 27).
This is the message of Ezekiel 40-48, as well. Here, however, the promise comes less by way of divine utterance, and more by way of divine vision (40:2).
It is indeed a vast, extended vision, but with a definite structure. Incorporating ideas and images familiar to every godly Israelite, it depicts life in the World to Come under seven memorable motifs: the everlasting Mountain of God (41:1-4), the everlasting Temple of God (40:5-42:20), the everlasting glory of God (43:1-2), the everlasting worship of God (43:13-46:24), and the everlasting River of God (47:1-12), bringing perfect wholeness to the everlasting Homeland of God (47:13-48:29) and to the everlasting City of God (48: 30-35). In a moment we will examine each one.
But first, how is the vision to be interpreted? Confronted with an unavoidable decision to interpret it literally or figuratively, the vast majority of Christian commentators, from the Church fathers on, have opted for the figurative approach. Writes Biederwolf:
The prevailing view has been that it presents in grand outline the good in store for God’s people during the times of the Gospel; that it is a vision of spiritual realities pictorially presented . . . thus expressing under well-known (OT) symbols certain fundamental and eternal ideas with regard to the true worship of God.
The reasons for this longstanding consensus are many, and well worth a brief discussion.
(To continue reading this long article, please click here)