Answering Objections to Ezekiel’s Temple Sacrifices

ezekielsanctuaryOne of the important matters I wanted to address with my series on Ezekiel’s temple is that of hermeneutics and their application in the interpretation of prophetic passages like Ezekiel 40-48.  I certainly acknowledge there are difficulties for my literal take on those chapters. However, there are also some profound difficulties for Reformed covenant folks who utilize a non-literal, more spiritualized view of the Ezekiel’s temple.

Because my literal hermeneutics place my theology in a position of criticism in what I would consider important matters of atonement, Christ’s cross work, and human salvation, I think it is necessary to demonstrate internal, theological and orthodox consistency with my literalism. Hopefully I have shown that to some degree, though I am sure there are blind spots I have overlooked.

With that in mind, I wanted to offer some quick responses to the various objections and questions I have encountered before and during my writing of my series.

I want to zero in on the ones I hear most repeated, as well as a few that may be considered debunkers of my view. I realize there may be some that I may overlook, so this is where I open up the comments to hear from readers who have been waiting eagerly to challenge me.

I definitely welcome those challenges, and if any are significant, I will try and add them to the main body of this post in an updated fashion with my response. I also realize there may be individuals who wander over to this post because they did a search on “Ezekiel’s temple” and was linked to me. I welcome your questions and challenges to.

I only ask one thing of you: Please take the time to read the series in it’s entirety and engage the arguments I have presented. I archived the articles under a specific tag so you can read them as a stand alone series. See here:

Ezekiel’s Temple

Oldest articles are at the bottom, so scroll down.

Now I know for a lot of folks, that request may be deflected out into the black hole of your mind, but if you take the time to read my articles before hand (carefully and with thoughtfulness), it will help eliminate any misunderstandings and covering old ground that has already been explained and answered.

Objections will be in bold blue, my responses will follow.

To push Ezekiel’s picture into some future era is to destroy the atoning work of our Savior on the cross.

As I have attempted to point out in my articles, there are significant, functional differences between what Christ did on the cross and the worship ceremonies that will be performed within Ezekiel’s temple.

I go into more detail with those differences in my articles, but the main distinction hinges upon the grammatical, contextual usage of “atonement” and to what “atonement” is applied. Whereas typically, any atonement made was designed to cleanse and purify objects and people from external, ritual impurity, the atonement Christ made on behalf of sinners cleanses and purifies people internally from their guilty consciences and sin against God (Hebrews 10:2,3).  Animal sacrifices could never perform such a work. That is the distinction I believe many opposed to my viewpoint on Ezekiel’s temple fail to take into consideration.

Isn’t any kind of use of animal sacrifice in worship a return to the Mosaic law and Judaism?

No. Opponents of a future, literal fulfillment of Ezekiel’s temple vision exaggerate the nature of those animal sacrifices. This is especially true of my Reformed brethren who seem to think any mention of an animal sacrifice automatically equates Moses, the 10 Commandments, the book of Leviticus, works righteousness, etc.

Again, as I have noted, the sacrifices offered in Ezekiel’s temple have a different purpose and function than what Christ did on the cross. Additionally, because many of the key Levitical elements are missing in Ezekiel’s temple, particularly the ceremony of the Day of Atonement and the Mercy Seat (Ark of the Covenant), it is clear that what is happening in Ezekiel’s temple is not a return to Moses and the OT law.

The idea of animal sacrifices in worship is just odd in light of what Christ did and the enactment of the New Covenant. 

I can understand that objection. We folks in the modern world who have been immersed among talking Disney animals for a couple of generations and who sleep with our pets would find animal sacrifices a strange ordinance or ritual to perform. Let me offer my thoughts on the matter in a bullet format:

  • First off, that is our modern mind informing us, not Scripture. 
  • There is nothing biblically objectionable to using animals in a worship ceremony especially in the manner Ezekiel revealed. They don’t “replace” Christ.
  • The ceremony is performed by an identifiable, specialized priest class who serve in the temple. 
  • The ceremony as outlined in Ezekiel’s description seems to be limited to the people of Israel who live in the land surrounding the temple complex. In other words, the ceremonies are not performed by every living person in the world at the time.
  • Most significantly, other prophets saw the use of sacrifices (animals included) in worship for future Israel (Isaiah 19:21; 56:7; 60:7; 66:20-23; Jeremiah 33:18; Zechariah 14:16-21 to name a few).

How is this theologically different from Romanist reenactments of Christ’s sacrifice in their mass?

The immediate problem with this objection is that it assumes the sacrifices in Ezekiel are the same in substance and purpose as the Catholic mass.  Whereas the mass is meant to be efficacious, in the sense that it is believed the real presence of Christ is literally in the elements and partaking of those elements imparts enabling grace to the person so he or she can work out personal justification, the sacrifices of Ezekiel are designed to externally purify the temple complex and the Jewish participants ministering in the temple. The Catholic mass is believed to genuinely impart some internal change to the participant, whereas the temple sacrifices are external effecting only the temple and the ministers’ outward impurity.

Ultimately it comes down to recognizing what the Bible teaches regarding the OT atonement and what was accomplished by Christ on the cross. Though there are similarities, they are not one and the same in design and purpose.

How is the OT sacrifice of animals again in the future an improvement on Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross?

They are not an “improvement” on Christ’s sacrifice, nor are the intended to be. As I have argued, there are really only two instances mentioned in Ezekiel of animals being sacrificed, 43:20, 26 and 45:15,17, 20.

In chapter 43, I pointed out that the sacrifice is made at the consecration of the altar in the temple. This sacrifice is not made on behalf of people, but is designed to cleanse the altar from impurity and setting it apart for worship of God whose presence will take up residence in the temple.

Additionally, it is noted that this sacrifice in chapter 43 appears to be a one time event, perhaps at the beginning of the millennium. Even if it is repeated annually, it is not a duplication of, or a replacement of, what Christ did on the cross, but is meant specifically to cleanse the temple of ritual impurity so as to minister along with the presence of God.

The next instance in chapter 45 are animal sacrifices being made on behalf of a specific group of individuals, that being what is called “the house of Israel.” I take that to mean those Jews living in the allotted land within Israel in which the millennial temple complex is situated. In other words, those sacrifices cleansed the people from external impurity so that God can dwell with them in the land.

Neither one of those instances have anything to do with Christ’s death on the cross nor are they salvific in the same fashion as Christ’s atonement.

Ezekiel’s temple is where the Lord will dwell with Israel forever (43:6-7). Does a literal 1000 years equate “forever?”

The funny thing about this question is that I know it is asked by an virulent non-premillennialist. He believes he has found an unsolvable “discrepancy” with my position in that the concept of 1,000 years does not equate the concept of “forever” or “eternal.”

In response, I can begin by pointing out an inconsistency with his position. While he may think he has found a glaring problem with my take on Ezekiel’s temple, he still chooses to ignore other references of “forever” as it pertains to Israel’s promise to the physical land of Canaan. Say for instance, Genesis 13:15, Exodus 32:13, 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 60:21 to mention a few. So, if “forever” means uninterrupted in the case of Ezekiel 43:6-7, why doesn’t “forever” mean the same thing with the land promises as noted in those other passages?

We know for a fact those promises didn’t “remain forever” at least at the time God spoke them. So the non-literalist, as my critic calls himself, is forced to engage in exegetical Jedi mind-tricks in order to wiggle around the implications those land promises have for his hermeneutics.

He then either, A) re-defines “land” to be expanded to the whole world or cosmos, or B) claims the promises were contingent upon Israel’s faithful obedience to the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents (i.e. Israel), which we know Israel failed with keeping, or C) he changes the meaning of “forever” in those other instances that don’t fit his particular hermeneutical paradigm.

Secondly, he fails to consider that future premillennialists teach that the millennium is the consummation of this age and the eternal state will follow immediately after the final judgment. God does dwell with His people “forever” just like Ezekiel states, because there won’t be any interruption between Christ’s return, the millennial reign, and the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Ezekiel’s prophecy suggests he expected that temple to be built once the exiles returned to the land of Israel in 536 B.C., but it wasn’t built. Why the 2,000 plus year “gap” with the prophetic fulfillment?

There is no more a “problem” with that postponement than there is with Christ’s Second Coming postponed for 2,000 plus years. Reading the NT, there are indicators that suggest that the apostles and early Christians expected Christ to return within their life time. But He didn’t.  Christ Himself realized the postponement of His earthly kingdom would be confusing, hence the reason He responded to the disciples’ question about restoring Israel by saying “It’s not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:6,7).

Because other prophetic texts speak of nations worshiping God at a “sanctuary” in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:16ff., for instance), and it is tied to the coming of Messiah, I can understand how Ezekiel’s temple is related to the return of Christ and His reign over all the earth with absolute authority.

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122 thoughts on “Answering Objections to Ezekiel’s Temple Sacrifices

  1. Hebrews offers no prospect for more sacrifices. In fact, the opposite is promised. To offer sacrifices is to crucify Christ all over again. ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’.

  2. other details missing are: the garb to be worn perpetually in the new temple is the garb of a perpetual Yom Kippor — signifying the congruence with Hebrews actually — In other words no need for the day of atonement (Yom Kippor) at all….Also technically it is not the Levites– it is the promised subset of the Levites: the Zadokians who perform the rituals.

    As to ignoring the directions we remember the tabernacle and the first temple WERE built to specifications — so why not — in the future– the Ezekiel temple be built to specs as well as they come to belief!!!!– And: GRAND AND MASSIVE as would be appropriate for the presence of Christ Himself who will dwell with in and rule from. So I have a preference for it to be fulfilled literally for that reason alone……

    As to the curses of Dt 27 ( i assume these are some of what you are referring to )– they are promised yet the blessings are as well and thru the New Cov they will be enabled to be fulfilled. The full text of Dt 27-30ff seems to indicate in spite of the failures that the blessings WILL occur.

    We also have a grave hermeneutical difference of opinion: progressive (yet containing continuity) revelation as a hermeneutic VS read OT thru NT first –then see what we get. I prefer the first so as to not erase the flow and even the unity that I see throughout the scripture.

  3. Doug asked, “How are you defining differences Tammy?”

    It seems by yours and Fred’s interpretation the Jews and Gentiles are divided. God had a plan for the Jewish nations and God has a plan for the Gentiles(Church). All the way up through the Millennium. What I want to know is is that division in eternity as well?

  4. Hebrews offers no prospect for more sacrifices.

    Indeed. It offers no prospect for a specific sacrifice: the sacrifice offered on the Day of Atonement that took away the sin of the people. Jesus accomplished that once and for all for His elect. Hence the reason there is no Day of Atonement, Ark of the Covenant, Holy of Holies, high priest, etc., in Ezekiel’s temple. Other purging sacrifices, which there are only a scant few mentioned in Ezekiel, are entirely fine because they do not in any fashion compete with, or attempt to accomplish, what Christ did on the cross. Thus, it is not crucifying Christ over again.

  5. It seems by yours and Fred’s interpretation the Jews and Gentiles are divided.

    Neither of us have suggested such a thing. You are reading that into our words.

    God had a plan for the Jewish nations and God has a plan for the Gentiles(Church). All the way up through the Millennium. What I want to know is is that division in eternity as well?

    It is a distinction, not a division. Just like God has specific plans for men and women and the roles the perform in the home and church. Or are you an egalitarian with your views of gender roles? The members of the Trinity, as Doug noted above, also have a distinct role. Paul draws out those distinctions in the first chapter of Ephesians.

  6. So what are these distinct roles? Are you saying that the Jews position will be greater than the church, even in eternity?

  7. The church returns — made up of Gentiles & Jews I might add– with it’s groom finally & officially married which has occurred during the time of the great tribulation (see Rev) and is in it’s glorified state to reign & rule with Christ. The 1/3rd of the Jews (Zech 13) who have made it thru (endured to the end –Mt 24-25) are here with us but NOT in the glorified state– You are SO worried that they are exalted above us –“greater than the church” need not have such a concern. Remember we are the bride — they are not…. Remember what was said of John the baptist: he was only a friend of the groom– not the bride– there are distinctions and yes differing roles if you will for different gps of believers.

  8. “The church returns — made up of Gentiles & Jews. 1/3rd of the Jews… we are the bride — they are not.”

    So those Jews who come to Christ before the Rapture are part of the church. Those Jews who go thru the Tribulation are not part of church? These Jews are in a group all by themselves? You guys are really twisting scripture.

    You know it always bothered me growing up in a Pre-Mil church, how did people come to know the Lord when the Holy Spirit was taken out of the world. And that was when I was still Arminian. And now that I’m Calvinist you’re really blowing my mind with your doctrines.

    Eph 4:4-6 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
    5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

    Roms 10:11-13 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
    12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    Gal 3:27-39 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
    28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    I’m sorry but I can’t buy what you’re selling. It sounds heretical.

  9. I appreciate all the work you’ve done on this but you still haven’t responded to 43:9-11. Did the Israelites build the temple as they were instructed? Were they ashamed for all they’d done? Did they return to israel en masse and in repentance? Can you cite even one verse in the text that states that the temple is a promise rather than an instruction based on their repentance?

  10. Also: Ezekiel 46:18
    “The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property. He shall give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people shall be scattered from his property.”

    Since you can’t have inheritance without death the prince dose not have an immortal body as the Disp. system demands for believers in the millennium. What is the Disp. position on this?

  11. Tammy, as a Calvinist I was always confused about people getting “saved” after the “Rapture”. God has chosen the elect before the foundation of the world, so how would it be possible for the elect to be saved after the Rapture. Funny, when would these people get there immortal bodies? The silliness go on and on.

    A constant in the Disp. system -Opposites- , the Bible clearly says there is no difference between Jew and Gentile but their system demands God has a different plan for the Jews, and they accuse us of replacement theology.

  12. Ezekiel’s temple & gates form a Cross. The whole temple represents Jesus dying on the Cross. If you look at the plan it shows this. The River that flows from the temple represents the water from Jesus side which flowed out when he was pierced. The blood of the sacrifices represents the blood from his side. The East Gate is closed because only one person could enter through the east gate and pay for our sins. There is only one sacrifice for sins. Only he could lay down on the cross. The foot of the temple cross is at the Mount of Olives because the mount of olives will be split in half and form a 7th gate. The North and South Gates form Jacob’s Ladder. If you enter through the South Gate you must exit through the North Gate. If you enter through the North gate you must exit through the South Gate. This behavior of the worshipers allows them to represent Jacob’s Ladder with angels Ascending and Descending on it. No one can leave through the East Gate so it is only through the cross that a believer can get to heaven. Jesus is the Bridge Between Heaven and Earth. It is the same picture depicted in the Campus Crusade for Christ Booklet. The Alter would be where Christs Heart would be. The light from the burning altar would send rays of light through the doorways of the gates and form a cross of Light. Anyway that’s my opinion. I’m not sure if what is meant by the mountain version of the Temple. I’ve seen it but I’m having trouble working my way through any explanation I come across. I Believe that the temple described in Ezekiel forms a representation of Jesus on the Cross, although I think that it could have been built. I think it is an example of the fact that we have free will that it wasn’t built. God tells people what to do and often they don’t obey. I believe that Ezekiel’s temple passages are the plans for the 2nd temple which God wanted them to build but they didn’t build it. It would have represented Jesus on the Cross. Jesus referred to his body as the Temple. I see nothing wrong with saying that his body is the 3rd temple. Perhaps one day Ezekiel’s Temple will be properly built. If it isn’t going to be built then how did Ezekiel Visit it? He must have been traveling through time. Perhaps he went to an alternate quantum reality where it was built as the Second Temple. We are so left to ourselves these days.

  13. I am confused as to your hermeneutic you use in order to read the Bible. At the start, you comment that Ezekiel’s temple is spiritual for the church, Jesus, etc. Then about part way through your comment, you switch claiming that the vision could be of a literal temple. Which one is it?

  14. “I think that it could have been built. I think it is an example of the fact that we have free will that it wasn’t built. God tells people what to do and often they don’t obey. ”

    Ez 43 clearly tells us that in order for it to be built it must be an act of obedience– an act which so have has NOT occurred (no matter what hermeneutical school we are from we would agree to that fact) BUT the scriptural and theological fact you are overlooking is contained in the very context of Ez: namely Ez 36 ( and by association Jer 31 & Rom 11)) which states unequivocally that at a future time they WILL obey. The Sovereignty of God will triumph and hence build the temple exactly as described. We observe and note 24 “I WILL’S” in Ez 36 followed by one “then” that we will do……

    The observation that the temple appears to form a picture of the cross & Christ as you described should not necessarily surprise us– in Numbers the description of the tribes and their actual numbers if one were to take a birds eye view of this we would see a cross……

  15. I do not believe that the apostles and most of the early church expected Christ to return within their life time. The passage that says “this generation” in Matthew, refers to the generation that will be alive when the tribulation (which they regard as future) comes.

  16. When we hear that Christ died for our sins we have no problem understanding what that means because we have all seen many examples of death. In the Millennium death will be rare and perhaps it is possible that some who are born then will never actually witness death. A person who has never seen a dead person or animal might find it hard to understand the meaning of Christ’s death. Isn’t it possible that one purpose of the animal sacrifices will be to show such people what death is like and so enable them to understand better the meaning of Christ’s death?

  17. Hi Fred, I just wanted to thank you for your work on this. It has been a joy to read. Love when you said, “Considering that Ezekiel’s audience will be the people of Israel, how else would they understand the meaning of that vision? Why would they NOT understand it to mean God intended for them to build that temple in the fashion He reveals to Ezekiel? Am I to sincerely conclude that when they read Ezekiel’s plans, they understood them to merely be an “idealized” reality of God’s presence among His people, or that it was all “symbolic” of some spiritual body who will be known as “the Church” or “the New Israel” or whatever? If God intended for them to read Ezekiel’s description of the temple, I would expect God intended for them to really build it.”

    I couldn’t help but thinking about the measurements in Rev. 21 and how we the readers believe this to be an actually fulfilment of the New Jeruselum (so sorry if this has been said already).

    I love how you pointed out the external cleansing, because I believe the fulfillment of Gen 1:26-28 will take place during the Millennial Kingdom, obviously there would need to be external cleansing for a Holy God to dwell there it is not yet redeemed, please correct me if I am wrong with this.

    One of the reasons I believe Ezekial to be “literal” is because of Ez. 37:28, “And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forever.” Israel will be finally be restored, living how God required them to on earth and all will know we serve the One True Living God! The nations have always been against her and that will change (soon, I hope!)

    Thank you again, Brother!! This is all so exciting!

  18. Yep, this piece of garbage (i.e. the restored temple with sacrifices) is one of the main reason I reject premillennial and especially dispensational absurdities. Good job on defending the indefensible!

  19. I am enjoying reading your series on Ezekiel’s vision of the new Temple, having found it on a search while trying to come to grips with the meaning of the passage. Two questions, and forgive me if I missed them being addressed in the many comments.

    1. You write “In chapter 43, I pointed out that the sacrifice is made at the consecration of the altar in the temple. This sacrifice is not made on behalf of people, but is designed to cleanse the altar from impurity and setting it apart for worship of God whose presence will take up residence in the temple.” How do you reconcile this necessity for cleansing the altar with Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:16-21, especially v19, where He states that the altar sanctifies the sacrifice, not the sacrifice sanctifies the altar? Matthew 23:16-21 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And [u]whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

    2. If the vision of the new Temple in Ezekiel is to be taken literally and to have a literal fulfillment in the physical construction of that Temple, what are we to make of the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37? Did that vision have a literal fulfillment, with those same people slain in the siege of Jerusalem rising from the dead and returning to Judah? Or is this a figurative reference to some future post-70AD return of Israel to its land? If so, it certainly seems strange that Scripture is silent on a literal resurrection of so great a number of people, or on a future fulfillment of the vision.

    I look forward to your reply, and to reading the rest of the Ezekiel series and to being a regular reader of your blog.

  20. Pingback: Studies in Ezekiel’s Temple Vision | hipandthigh

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