There are some prophesies that are said to be conditional. For example, we read in Lev. 26 that if Israel will obey the law (a stated condition) they will be blessed, and if they do not obey (a stated condition) they will be punished.
There are also some prophesies that are not said to be conditional but are not fulfilled because God determined a different course of action. One example is God’s dealing with Hezekiah’s illness. God told Hezekiah that he would die, but after Hezekiah prayed, God determined that fifteen years would be added to his life. (Please see the Appendix I of this paper for a further discussion of God’s dealing with Hezekiah.)
But those who believe in conditional prophecy say that all prophecy is “contingent upon man’s response“. I will quote Tim Crosby. He wrote, “The Scriptures teach that all of the prophecies, covenants, promises, and threats found in the Scriptures are conditional whether or not a condition is stated; their fulfillment is contingent upon man’s response to God’s commands”. In other words, the fulfillment of God’s will is dependent on what man does. And therein lies both the importance of, and my disagreement with, this method of interpreting prophecy. That is to say, I do not believe that God’s will can be thwarted by man. God may determine a different course of action which may be influenced by man’s response (as in the case of Hezekiah), but the important point is that that action is determined by Him, not dictated by man.
We will consider the following topics in our study of conditional prophecy.
APPENDIX I: HEZEKIAH
APPENDIX II: OTHER PROPHECIES, THE FULFILLMENT OF WHICH ARE SAID TO BE DICTATED BY MAN
It is often pointed out that God wills all men to be saved which, to some, indicates that God’s will is not always fulfilled, because not all men will be saved. Those who hold to the notion of conditional prophecy will point to this verse and say that it proves that God is quite used to not having his will accomplished. I find this statement extremely demeaning to God Who is no less than the Creator of the universe. Let us consider I Tim. 2:4.
We read in I Tim. 2:4, “Who (God) will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”. The Greek word translated “will” in the phrase, “will have all men to be saved” is “thelo” which is defined in the Companion Bible as, “to wish or desire, and is the emotional element which leads to the consequent action”.
Because the meaning of words are determined by their usage, let me give a few examples of how this Greek word is used. The usage will, in my opinion, substantiate the definition quoted in the Companion Bible.
We read in Matt. 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them…..”. One can only desire what man will do unto them.
Matt. 12:38 reads, “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, “Master, we would see a sign from Thee'”. These men were saying that they desire a sign.
Let us also consider the noun “thelema”. The word “thelema” is defined as, “must also be noted, with the same distinction from boulema, as denoting the desire rather than the resolve“. Again, let us see how it is used.
“Thelema” is used in these verses: I Cor. 16:12, “As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren; but his will was not at all to come at this time…..”.
Eph. 2:3, “….fulfilling the desires of the flesh….”.
There are other Greek words translated “will” that do mean “determined resolve”. The Companion Bible defines “boulomai” as “the deliberate determination“. It is used for example in Matt. 1:19, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing (thelo, desiring) to make her a publick example, was minded (boulomai, determined) to put her away privily”. This shows the difference between “desire” and “determine”.
Acts 12:4, “and when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people”
The Greek word “boulema” is defined as, “to be distinguished from thelema as denoting resolve, counsel, or determination, rather than the wish or desire”. It is used in only two verses: Acts 27:43, “But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that they which could swim, should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land”.
The second occurrence is in Rom. 9:19, “….for who hath resisted His will?”. Let us consider Rom. 9:19 in relation to conditional prophecy. In this verse we have the question “who hath resisted His will? The context will show that the answer is “no one has resisted His will”. The point of verses 15-19 is summed up in verse 15, (according to the note in the Companion Bible, the word “will” does not appear in the second part of both phrases, so I will omit it), “for He saith to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion'” .
We may conclude that what God desires is not always accomplished, but that His will can not be thwarted by man or any other creature.
In other words, conditional prophecy fails to understand the difference between God’s will and His desire. The former is always carried out and the later is often dependent on man.
Ezek. 26 is a prophecy that is used to try to prove that God’s prophecy can be thwarted by man’s weakness. Those who believe in the concept of conditional prophecy will point to the fact that God said in Ezek. 26 that He would permanently destroy Tyrus. But Tyrus is now a thriving city. Ezek. 29 is offered as proof that because Nebuchadnezzar could not pay his army, God’s will to destroy Tyrus was thwarted. I believe that as we carefully study this prophecy we will see that that was not at all the case.
Before we look at Ezek. 26 I would like to point out why a correct understanding of this particular prophecy is so important in terms of what conditional prophecy says about God. As stated above, sometimes, as in the case of Hezekiah, God foretells one thing and because of the reaction of man (as in Hezekiah’s prayer) God determined a different course of action. But that is God’s determination, not man’s. But the proponents of conditional prophecy say that because Nebuchadnezzar could not pay his army (see Ezek. 29), God had no choice but to give up on His plans to permanently destroy Tyrus. This suggests that God is powerless to accomplish His own plans, i.e. that if man does not cooperate, for whatever reason, God cannot accomplish His own will.
And that is why I believe the student of God’s Word must have a correct understanding of the prophecy of Ezekiel 26.
We read in Ezek. 26:7-12, “For thus saith the Lord God; ‘Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, ……he shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. and he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horseman, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. with the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy poeple by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground. and they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water”.
This prophecy was fulfilled. How do we know that? We read in Is. 23:1, “The burden of Tyre (same as “Tyrus”). Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house…..”. But as we see in Is. 23:15-16, this was not to be a permanent destruction of Tyre. That verse reads, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of the seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot. Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot, that hast been forgotten: make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.”
Now let us go back to Ezek. 26 because there is a further prophecy concerning Tyre. We read in verses 13-14, “And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard. and I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more, for I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord”. This speaks of a permanent destruction not a temporary one. Is there a contradiction here between a temporary destruction of 70 years as in Is. 23 and a permanent one? No, I do not believe there are any contradictions in the Word of God. Let us continue in this study.
It is crucial to note the personal pronoun “I” used in this passage. “I will cause thy songs to cease”, and “I will make thee like the top of a rock”. It is an obvious change from the previous verses which have to do with what the Lord tells Tyrus Nebuchadnezzar will do.Twelve times in the passage from verse 7 to verse 12 the pronouns “he” and “they” are used referring to Nebuchadnezzar and his armies respectively. While it is true, of course, that God used Nebuchadnezzar and his armies to destroy Tyre, we cannot just overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit has changed the pronoun to “I” after verse 13.
Verses 15-18 record what God says to Tyre, so we will go on to verse 19, “Thus saith the Lord God; When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee, and great waters shall cover thee:……that thou be not inhabited….and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord God”. Let me quote an inter-net source concerning the present day city of Tyre.. “Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and the legendary birthplace of Europa and Elissa (Dido). Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and houses one of the nation’s major ports known locally in French as Soûr. Tyre is a popular destination for tourists. The city has many ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 (Resolution 459)” Tyre is certainly not uninhabited and it can not be said that it “cannot be found”. How are we to explain this seeming difficulty?
I suggest that because the pronouns from verse 13 through the remainder of the chapter changes from “he” and “they” to “I” this suggests a different aspect of this prophecy. Also, because verse 19 begin with the phrase, “For thus saith the Lord God” that we may expect a different aspect than what we read in the previous passage. Therefore, I believe that verses 7-12 were fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar, as we read in Is. 23, but verses 13-21 will be fulfilled in the end times. How do we know that the prophecy of Ezek. 26:13-21 will be fulfilled in the end times? Joel writes of the end time destruction of Tyre in Joel 3:4.
But let us first establish that Joel 3:4 refers to the end times. Note Joel 1:15, “alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand……”. Note also 2:1, “……for the day of the Lord cometh, it is nigh at hand….”. Note 2:19 which speaks of the millennium, “Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto His People, ‘Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith, and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen”. Note 2:28-31 which speaks of the signs “before the great and terrible day of the Lord”. It is clear that Joel’s prophecy concerns the end times.
Now let us look more closely at chapter 3. Joel 3:4 speaks of Tyre. That verse reads, “Yea, and what have ye to do with Me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine?……..”. And in verses 11-14 we read concerning Tyre and the other Gentile nations, “Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause Thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down: for the press is full the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision”. This passage speaks of an end time judgment of Tyre but does not tell us of a specific destruction. But Zech. 9 also speaks of Tyre.
Zech. 9:3-4 reads, “And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and He will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire“. But how do we know that Zechariah speaks of Tyre in the end times and not Tyre of Nebuchadnezzar time? Let us compare the destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar with the destruction as described in Zech. 9.
We are told in Ezek. 26 that Nebuchadnezzar will “set engines of war against thy walls and with his axes he shall break down the towers. (vs. 10). He will “slay with the sword” and “cast a mount against thee”. And he shall “ tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword”. But in the end time prophecy of Zech. 9. Tyre will be destroyed when God “will cast her out, and He will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire“. There is no mention of Tyre being cast into the sea in Nebuchadnezzar’s time. Nor is there any mention of her being “devoured by fire”.
In short, there are two different prophesies concerning Tyre in Ezekiel 26.
1) One is a temporary destruction of 70 years, the other is a permanent one.
2) One prophecy tells of the destruction by one means, the other is by an entirely different means.
3) One was completed by Nebuchadnezzar the other will be completed by God.
4) One was a destruction in the days of Nebuchadnezzer, the other in the end times.
Unless one is willing to admit to a contradiction in the Word of God (which I am not) we must see two prophesies in Ezek. 26. That is to say, in Ezek. 26:21 we read of a permanent destruction of Tyre (“and thou shalt be no more“), but in Is. 23:25 we read of a temporary (“Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years“) destruction.
Those who hold to the conditional prophecy view of Ezek. 26 say that God could not accomplish His will to destroy Tyre because Nebuchadnezzr could not pay his armies. That makes God powerless to accomplish His own will because of man’s weakness. I believe that the Bible tells us that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Tyre temporarily, but that God will destroy Tyre permanently in the end times.
Chapters 40-44 of Ezekiel describe a temple and temple laws to be observed in that temple. Most, myself included, understand this temple to be the temple which Christ will build for His millennial reign. We read in Zech. 6:12-13, “And speak unto him, saying, ‘…….Behold the Man Whose name is The Branch; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord; even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne…….”. But many of those who adhere to the idea of conditional prophecy see these chapters that tell of the temple as having been fulfilled by the remnant of returning Jews from Babylon, i.e. Ezra’s temple.
But Ezra’s temple was smaller than Solomon’s temple and Solomon’s temple was smaller than the one described in Ezekiel. How do we know that Ezra’s temple was smaller than Solomon’s temple? We read in Ezra 3:12, “But many of the priests and Levites, and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy”. They wept because the size of the foundation of the second temple was much less than the first, i.e. Solomon’s temple.
One could ask: if God had determined that the temple described by Ezekiel was the one the returning captives were meant to build, why didn’t they build it according to the plans Ezekiel laid out in those five chapters. The answer given by those who believe that Ezekiel chapters 40-44 is a conditional prophecy is that Ezra did not build the temple as described by Ezekiel because the return of the captives were conditional on Israel’s repentance, and the degree of their repentance did not merit the complete fulfillment. In other words God’s plans for a temple were greatly scaled down because, according to some, Israel was not repentant enough to merit the temple as described by the Holy Spirit to Ezekiel.
But was repentance a condition of Israel’s being released from captivity? To be sure the prophets begged Israel to repent in order to avoid the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple as we read, for example in Jer. 7:4, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place”. And also verses 6-7, “If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever”.
But again, was repentance a condition of Israel’s being freed from the 70 year captivity? It is assumed by most that it was, but what does the Word of God tell us? I have read through all the prophets who wrote about the 70 year captivity looking for a verse that said that Israel needed to repent in order to be released from captivity, but have not found one word about repentance for freedom from captivity. In point of fact, we read in Jer. 29 of a letter that was to be sent to the captives concerning their captivity. If they were required to repent in order to accomplish their release, that certainly would have been the time to tell them. Let us consider that letter.
We read in Jer. 29:1, “Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captive, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the People whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon”. Verse 2-3 are parenthetical and then we read what was written in this letter in 29:4-14, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. and seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; ‘Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in My name: I have not sent them saith the Lord. For thus saith the Lord, ‘That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. and ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. and I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive”.
Please note that “repent” was not mentioned once in this entire letter. Please note also the determining factor in the release of the captives. “After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place“.
Let us also consider the phrase, “then shall ye call upon Me. To what time does the word “then” refer? Let us leave off the parenthetical statement for the answer to that question. “After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place…..Then shall ye call upon Me”. Israel will call on God after they will “return to this place“, i.e. Jerusalem, the city from which the letter was sent.
My point is that the end of the seventy year captivity was not dependent on what Israel did. The captivity was ended in 70 years because that is what the Lord had determined. I might add that it seems that those who see all prophecies as conditional upon what man does puts too much importance on man, and it is therefore not surprising that they do so here as well. But the end of the seventy year captivity did not depend at all on what Israel did or did not do, it was always in the hands of God and it was always determined to be put to an end by God after seventy years
Let us consider other scriptures which support the statement that the end of the period of captivity was totally in God’s hands, and never did depend on Israel’s repentance.
Jer. 16:14-15, “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, ‘the Lord liveth, That brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, ‘The Lord liveth, That brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither He had driven them; and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers”. Please note that just as it was God Who determined to bring Israel out of captivity of Egypt, it is the same God Who brought them out of captivity of Babylon. In neither case is there a call for, or a record of, repentance on the part of Israel.
Is. 10:20-21 is also very helpful, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the Mighty God”. What does it mean to”stay upon the Lord”? Both the NASB and the NIV have “rely”. In other words, Israel is told that in the situation of their captivity they should rely on the Lord. Note there is nothing in this passage about repentance.
So Israel was not freed from captivity after 70 years because She repented. She was freed because that was what God had intended all along. That being the case, the argument that Ezra’s temple was not as grand as that described in Ezekiel 40-44 because of Israel’s degree of repentance is null and void. In other words, there is absolutely no Scriptural evidence that Ezra intended to build a temple the size and grandeur of the one described in Ezekiel but could not because Israel had not repented sufficiently.
Another argument put forth saying that Ezra’s temple was in place of Ezekiel’s is that it “only makes sense” that Ezekiel’s temple would be the one that Israel should build after their release from captivity. That is to say, why give the plans of a millennial temple when the second temple had not even been built yet. That is a good argument, only if it can be substantiated with Scripture. That is to say, what seems to be the sensible thing to us for God to do at a certain time, is not necessarily what the Word of God tells us He will do. As we continue in this study, I will give the Scriptural reasons for my belief that Ezekiel’s temple was never meant to be built until the millennium.
I believe the following points will prove from Scripture that Ezekiel’s temple will be built in the millennium:
1) We read in Zech. 6:12, “And speak unto him, saying, ‘…….Behold the Man Whose name is The Branch; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord; even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne…….”. Christ is the only One Who can fill the role of priest and King, therefore this refers to Christ. Because He has not built a temple, we must conclude therefore that He will build His temple for His millennial reign.
2) Ezek. 43:7. “And He said unto me, ‘Son of man, the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever; and My holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they nor their kings, by their whoredom…..”. There are several phrases of importance in terms of whether Ezekiel’s temple is millennial.
a) Let us look at just a few examples of the phrase “soles of My feet”. It is clear that the phrase indicates a personal presence but it also has another very interesting connotation.
Deut. 11:24, “Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be”. This is God’s promise to Israel if they obeyed Him. The point however is that this phrase “the soles of your feet” obviously carries with it the idea of conquering the lands upon which their feet will tread.
I Kings 5:3, “Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet”. In this verse the idea of conquering is evident.
Is. 60:14, “The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, ‘The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel”. Here too the idea of conquering is obvious.
Mal. 4:3, “And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in that day that I shall do this saith the Lord of hosts”. Here too, the idea of conquering is obvious in the use of the phrase “the soles of their feet”.
Coming back to Ezek. 43:7, where we read, “the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, this is the Lord speaking and obviously He is referring to His personal presence. That will not be accomplished until the Lord returns for the millennial reign. Also, I believe that because the phrase is always used of a conquering, we may conclude that it does indeed indicate, not only a personal presence, but also a presence that comes from having conquered His enemies. Those enemies are not conquered until after the tribulation, i.e. in the day of God’s wrath also called “the day of the Lord“. Therefore, this passage must refer to the millennium which, of course, follows the day of the Lord in which God’s enemies will be conquered.
b) Now let us consider the phrase, “where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel“. God will not dwell in the midst of Israel until the millennium. That being the case, this phrase also tells us that the context is millennial.
c) What about the phrase, ” the house of Israel shall no more defile”? Obviously this has not been fulfilled, but because the Lord’s will will not be thwarted, it will be fulfilled in the millennium.
3) We read in Ezek. 44:2, “Then said the Lord unto me; ‘This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut”. If no “man” will use this gate, Who will use it? I believe the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will use it. Therefore, I believe this verse must refer to the millennial temple.
4) In Ezek. 43:1-3 we learn that Ezekiel had a vision like that of the vision he had by the river Chebar. As we consider that vision, I believe that it will be clear that it centers on Christ on His millennial throne. That being the case, Ezekiel’s vision concerns the end times.
Ezek. 1:1, “Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God”. These visions are described in the entire chapter. Let us consider verses 26-28, “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. and I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about it……This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of One That spake”. Surely this description must refer to Christ, Himself because only Christ’s appearance could be of the ” likeness of the glory of the Lord”.
Let us come back to 43:1-3. “Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: and behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east”. Neither Solomon’s temple or Ezra’s temple had gates, in the sense that the Hebrew word is used in this passage. Therefore, Ezekiel’s vision must have been of the millennial temple.
One of the main objections to the temple described in Ezekiel as being millennial is that it speaks of sacrifices and many believe that there will be no more sacrifices in the millennium because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. We read for example, in Ezek. 43:18 of the “house law” of the millennial temple, “….These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon”. There is no question that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient, but the question remains, will there be sacrificial offerings in the millennium?
Let us look at Is. 56:6-8, “Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord Which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, ‘Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him'”.
To what time period does this passage refer? I believe the clue is found in the phrase, “The Lord Which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, ‘Yet will I gather others“. Is this gathering of Israel after the 70 year captivity or is it the gathering for the millennium? In order to answer that question we must determine who are the “others” referred to in this passage. Given that it speaks of the gathering of Israel and “others”, I believe we must conclude that the “others” are Gentiles. There is nothing in the Word of God that tells us that Gentiles were gathered for the return to Jerusalem after the 70 year captivity, but there is Scriptural evidence that Gentiles will be gathered for the millennial reign.
Is. 49:22 also tells of the gathering of Gentiles for the millennial reign. “See I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up My banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens you nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord”.
Is. 56:6-8 will be fulfilled in the millennium. And we read in this millennial passage “their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar“. Therefore, I believe that in spite of the fact that Christ’s sacrifice was certainly sufficient, we must not assume that God has put away the Mosaic Law, including the sacrifices. His ways are not our ways.
We read in verses 10-12a, “Take them of the captivity…..which are come from Babylon and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah….then take silver and gold, and make crowns and set them upon the head of Joshua…. And speak unto him saying…”. Then in verses 12-13 we read of the prophecy concerning Christ building the temple. That passage reads, “…Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, ‘Behold the Man Whose name is The BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord: Even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both”.
Then in verses 14-15 we read, “And the crowns shall be to Helem…for a memorial in the temple of the Lord. And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord….and this shall come to pass if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God”.
I do not believe that the prophecy of verses 12-13 concerning Christ’s temple is conditional. In regard to Christ building the temple we read the phrase “He shall” twice. There is no hint of a condition in this prophecy.
What is clearly conditional is the meaning of verses 14- 15. Therefore, I believe that the prophecy of verses 12-13 is just that, an unconditional prophecy but that the verses that surround the prophecy, i.e. verses 10-12 and 14-15 have a set condition.
But note the phrases in those passages which tell us who will, conditionally build that temple”. For example we read in verse 10, “take them of the captivity”. And in verse 15 we read of “them that are far off” that “shall come and build the temple”.
I suggest that the condition was set for those who will come from afar, i.e. those of the captivity and build the second temple, i.e. the one built by those led by Zerubbabel and Ezra.
Let me try to clarify the paragraphs above. I believe that verses 12-13, i.e. the prophecy of Christ’s temple are parenthetical. Verses 12-13 speak of a different time and a different temple and it being built by a different Person than do the verses that surround them. Let’s test that suggestion out by leaving off, for the moment, verses 12-13. .
“Take them of the captivity…..which are come from Babylon and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah….then take silver and gold, and make crowns and set them upon the head of Joshua…. And the crowns shall be to Helem…for a memorial in the temple of the Lord. And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord….and this shall come to pass if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God”.
In short, verses 10-11 and 14-15 speak of those of “the captivity” building the second temple if they will obey God. But verses 12-13 is an unconditional prophecy that Christ will build the millennial temple.
This suggestion answers the seeming difficulty of the condition set for the building of the temple being obedience to God. Certainly Christ would never be put in a position where His obedience to God was in question. But those who had been in captivity certainly would have been put in that position.
APPENDIX I: HEZEKIAH
“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, ‘This saith the Lord, ‘Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live’. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord. and said, ‘Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight’. And Hezekiah wept sore. Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, ‘Go, and say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, ‘I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years'”.
There is no question that God was influenced by Hezekiah’s life and his prayer. But is that the same as Mr. Crosby’s statement that the fulfillment of prophecy is “contingent upon man’s response to God’s commands”. Mr. Crosby’s statement suggests a weak God Who cannot accomplish anything unless man responds to His will. God’s answer to prayer in this case is Him extending Hezekiah’s life fifteen years. That does not make His will “contingent upon man’s response”. God determined that course of action, it was not forced upon Him by Hezekiah.
APPENDIX II: OTHER PROPHECIES, THE FULFILLMENT OF WHICH ARE SAID TO BE DICTATED BY MAN
The following statements are taken from a paper by Tim Crosby.
“Because of Eli’s disobedience, God retracted His promise that his descendants would serve the Lord forever (1 Sam. 2:30).”
Please note that there is no scriptural reference for God’s so-called “promise” that Eli’s descendants would serve the Lord forever”. The reason there is no reference is because God never promised Eli that his decedents would serve the Lord forever. This promise is a total figment of Mr. Crosby’s imagination. And then to suggest that God broke His word to Eli is, in my opinion, absolutely unacceptable.
“God’s promise to bring the Israelites who came out of Egypt into the Promised Land (Ex. 6:8) was not fulfilled (Num. 14:30-34).”
To whom was that promise made? Was it made to that generation that God brought up out of Egypt, or was it made to Israel in general? That is to say, we have two choices: 1) God swore to the generation that He had led out of Egypt that He would bring them into the land and then broke His promise, i.e. He lied. Or
2) God made that promise to the children of Abraham as a whole and the promise fulfilled in His good time. Given that we are specifically told that “God cannot lie”, I believe we must conclude that God made the promise to the nation as a whole.
“Though God through Moses promised the Israelites they would never see the Egyptians again (Ex 14:13), He threatened to break that promise if they were disobedient (Deut. 28:58,68).”
Ex. 14:13 reads, “And Moses said unto the People, ‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will shew you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever”. The Egyptians that they saw that day, i.e. the day of their deliverance, were drowned, so they never would be seen again. That was the whole point of Moses saying, “fear not”. He was saying to the Israelites who must have been terrified to see Egypt’s army coming after them that those armies would kill them. So Moses, through the Holy Spirit encouraged those Israelites by telling them that “ye shall see them again no more for ever”
“Ezekiel 5 contains God’s promise to destroy Jerusalem, which was fulfilled a few years later (586 B.C.). Here God promised never to repeat this terrible punishment (verses 9,10), but the same sort of destruction happened again in A.D. 70.”
Ezek. 5:9, “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations”. This only proves that God did not destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Roman army did. In other words, it is assumed that God sent the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD, but there is absolutely no evidence of that. Certainly all historic events are allowed by God, but that does not mean that God caused them all to occur.
There are three prophetic passages that many believe were fulfilled by the destruction of the Roman army in 70 AD. One is the parable of the wedding feast as recorded in Matt. 22. The second prophetic passage that is often interpreted as being fulfilled in 70 AD by the Roman army is Matt. 24:2, “….There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”. And the third passage is Luke 21 which speaks of “the times of the Gentiles”. For a Scripturally based view (as opposed to a view that is based on the writings of man) please see the paper on this web-site The Nonevents of 70 AD.
“God promised Aaron and his sons a perpetual priesthood that would last throughout their generations (Ex 40:15; Num. 25:13). Yet the Levitical priesthood was replaced with the Melchizedekian (Hebrews 7).”
Ex. 40:15 reads, “And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto Me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations”. Note that Mr. Crosby has changed “everlasting” to “perpetual”. “Everlasting” is a translation of the Hebrew word “olam” which means “age long”. The definition of “olam” in the Companion Bible reads, “This word is derived from ‘alam’ (to hide), and means the hidden time or age…….”. The point is that “olam” does not mean “everlasting” or “perpetual”. It means “for the age”. An age is obviously a period of time, whereas “perpetual” implies no end.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org