Home > dispensationalism, eschatology, hermeneutics, Israel, premillennialism > Ezekiel’s Temple: The Animal Sacrifices

Ezekiel’s Temple: The Animal Sacrifices


I recently learned of another approach to understanding Ezekiel 40-48.  Well known is the idea of amillennialists and postmillennialists, that those chapters do not have any specific meaning other than great spiritual ideas of what the Jewish worship might have been.  By contrast, dispensational premillennialists view the temple and the sacrifices as literal, a package deal.

However, a few within this group actually take an inconsistent approach:  the temple itself is a literal structure that will exist during the Millennial Kingdom.  But what is described about the sacrifices and priestly system is symbolic of the worship that the Israelites in that age will experience.  The Jews of Ezekiel’s day could not have understood our church age, and so Ezekiel described it in a way they would understand.  Dan Duncan at Believers Chapel (where the late S. Lewis Johnson taught), for instance, expresses this view in his Ezekiel series, again because of the supposed conflict with New Testament revelation, that Christ finished the OT priestly system.  This view is listed as the second (not primary) explanation in the Scofield Bible, and dispensationalist H.A. Ironside also took this view.

I found this explanation rather unsatisfying, for obvious hermeneutical reasons.  Why would Ezekiel 43 contain such very detailed, precise descriptions for something that is only symbolic of something else?  How can we say that the physical description of the temple itself is the Millennial temple, but that the description of the services held there (animal sacrifices) is not literal and really means something else?  At this point I also refer back to Matt Weymeyer’s list of rules for determining if a passage is literal or not.

1.  Does it possess a degree of absurdity when taken literally?  Example: Isaiah 55:12 “the trees of the fields will clap their hands.”

2.  Does it possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically?  Symbolic language effectively communicates what it symbolizes.
Isaiah 55:12 does possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically.

3.  Does it fall into an established category of symbolic language?  — figures of speech, etc.  You have to be able to identify what kind of symbol you’re dealing with.  Isaiah 55:12 is a  Personification type of symbol.

Matt Weymeyer applied this test to Revelation 20, but the same can be done for the Ezekiel passage about animal sacrifices.  We can easily understand that Ezekiel 43 does not appear “absurd” when taken literally.  Yes, it may be a difficult question to answer, but the passage itself is not absurd such as the idea of trees clapping their hands.  If Ezekiel 43 is symbolic, is that symbolic view clear?  Just as theologians have come up with many different “interpretations” of Revelation 20, same here, many different “interpretations” have been suggested:  that it’s symbolic for the future worship during the Mill. Kingdom, or that it’s describing the actual sacrifices of the post-exilic period; or that the whole temple structure itself isn’t real since there is no future Millennial Kingdom.  So again, Ezekiel 43 fails the second test; we do not see a clear meaning if Ezekiel 43 is symbolic.  Then the third test:  what category of symbolic language is Ezekiel 43?  Is it a figure of speech, a metaphor, a personification? Of course the Ezekiel passages about animal sacrifices are not a type of symbolic language.

Once we establish, on hermeneutical grounds, that there will be sacrifices during the Kingdom, we move on and address the issue more honestly, looking at the meaning of those sacrifices.

Here are a few links for further information concerning Ezekiel’s Temple sacrifices:

WHY LITERAL SACRIFICES IN THE MILLENNIUM  (Thomas Ice)

Animal Sacrifices in Israel — Past & Future  (John Whitcomb)

Ezekiel’s Temple: Premillennial Achilles’ Heel?  (Paul Henebury)

Advertisements
  1. October 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    It is ironic that some Dispensationalist would not be consistent in their hermeneutics when discussing the Temple in Ezekiel. It seems all the more important to be conscious of one’s hermeneutics when we approach the Scripture.

  2. October 31, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Agree, it’s definitely inconsistent, a situation where they want to hang on to ideas from both sides (CT and dispensationalism). I was surprised to learn that some early dispensationalists, such as Ironside, took this inconsistent approach.

  3. Mike Shaw
    November 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    WHEN THE PLAIN SENSE OF SCRIPTURE MAKES COMMON SENSE, SEEK NO OTHER SENSE; THEREFORE, TAKE EVERY WORD AT ITS PRIMARY, ORDINARY, USUAL, LITERAL MEANING UNLESS THE FACTS OF THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT, STUDIED IN THE LIGHT OF RELATED PASSAGES AND AXIOMATIC AND FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS INDICATE CLEARLY OTHERWISE….Dr. D.L. Cooper

    Unless axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate otherwise? Tetelestai! The fundamental truth is that my Lord was the Ultimate Sacrifice and there will be no animal sacrifices for atonement of sin in the Millennium.

  4. Andrew Weatherley
    December 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    The practice of sacrificing animals in the Millennial Kingdom seems to mar the peaceful living conditions for animals in passages such as Isaiah 11:6 & 65:25, which describes harmony between wolves and lambs, and also between lions and calves. The animals seem to be getting a raw deal here. However, I can see how these sacrifices might be necessary to remind those living in the millennial age of the horrors of sin, and thus the necessity for Christ to die for that sin; but wont Christ already be bearing the marks of His sacrifice for all to see anyway? (John 20:27; Zech 12:10; Rev 1:7). I guess the church has had the privilege of having the Lord’s Super all these years, so it would only be fair for Israel to have its equivalent of this ordinance. Still, Ezekiel 40:38-43 is one hard passage to understand (or at least come to terms with).

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: