Is Ezekiel’s temple vision literal, futuristic or allegorical?  

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Ezekiel’s temple vision is a continuous prophecy of a special nature. Chapters 40–48 present a vision of a new temple with specific details, a new and amazing plan for the division of the land, and a vision of life-giving waters gushing from that glorious temple.

There are three main interpretations for this vision:

1-The literal view. This holds that Ezekiel presents a plan of a new structure for Israel to be implemented at some time in the future. According to this view, the building of a temple, the establishment of worship, and the dividing of the land would have followed exactly the instructions given by Ezekiel.

This view has a problem. There is no allusion to the language of Ezekiel in the historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah or Haggai. And these prophets lived in that period.

2-The futurist view. This holds a new structure for restored and reunited Israel mostly after the Exile in a future golden age.

This view has a problem. In view of the relations between the old and new dispensations, it is impossible to believe that animal sacrifices could ever again be commanded by God.

3-The allegorical view. This holds some symbolical fulfillment in the time immediately succeeding the Exile, or in the Christian church, or at the end times.

This view has a problem. How can we explain the many details of the vision when it fails to present a sufficiently substantial interpretative forms for them.

The meaning of the vision

The prophet is here describing a literal state with a literal temple and a literal capital. Therefore,  the simplest way to understand this vision is that it would have been literally fulfilled if the people had been faithful to God.

But because the Israelites were not obedient to the Lord, the prophecy could not be fulfilled in its initial purpose. This is confirmed by the fact that the post-exilic Bible authors never mentioned this prophecy. The truth is that only a few returned from the exile. And these were not obedient to their calling.

In addition, the actual Temple builders seemingly didn’t pay attention to the plan. This was so because they understood that the conditions had not yet been met that would allow for the fulfillment of these prophecies. Also, these prophecies gave no indication that the plans were to be carried out directly upon the return of the exiles to their homeland. Thus, they were seen as a future goal for Israel to attain.

Why would God give such an detailed pattern of the future state?

The Lord gave a detailed pattern for the future state to help persuade His people of the surety of His promise. And He led His servant to draw up an precise plan of the temple that was to be the place of worship for the new state. Thus, the Lord did all that He can to help Israel accept the high calling originally He designed for it.

Up to this point Israel’s life had been one of rebellion. God was now giving the nation another chance to start anew. Its former way was to be forgotten and never again held against it. Israel nationally, and its inhabitants personally, were called again to walk in God’s wonderful promises.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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