Ezekiel’s Temple


It is common for Christians to consider that the Spirit of God is given to us. But we often forget that the Spirit is also given through us. Ezekiel’s temple vision is one place where we see this truth. The Spirit flows out from the Christian Church to heal all of the sick places.

In Ezekiel 47, the prophet has a vision in which he is brought to the door of the temple where waters issue forth, run down by the side of the altar, and flow east (v. 1). The man with Ezekiel took him a thousand cubits east and this river was to the ankles, another thousand and the water was to the knees, another thousand and the water was up to his loins, and after another thousand it was deep enough to swim (v. 3-5). 

On both banks of this river were many trees (v. 6). The man told Ezekiel that the river flowed down to the desert and eventually would reach the sea, resulting in the sea being healed (v. 8). This river would give life. There would be so many fish that fishermen would spread their nets and catch boatloads of various kinds (v. 9-10). While the river will bring healing and blessing, there are some marsh places that will remain unhealed (v. 11). Because the waters from the sanctuary feed the trees, they won’t die. They will produce new fruit for food and leaves that will heal like medicine (v. 12). 

Ezekiel’s Temple Is the Christian Church

The temple Ezekiel sees is the Christian Church and the river flowing from that temple is the Holy Spirit. This becomes clear by considering two other texts of Scripture closely associated with Ezekiel 47.

In Revelation 22, right after John beholds “the bride, the Lamb’s wife . . . the holy Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:9), he sees the river of life as Ezekiel did. It proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. On either side of the river, there is the tree of life, bearing fruit every month with leaves that were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

The second text is John 7:37-39 where Jesus cried out on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, calling those who were thirsty to come to Him and drink. Christ said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). John adds, ” But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).

In addition to these two texts, the context of Ezekiel 47 contains indicators that Ezekiel’s temple is a vision of the Christian Church. A few chapters prior, Ezekiel prophesies of the new covenant, saying, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27). This new covenant is depicted in the valley of dry bones in the very next chapter (Ezekiel 37). 

The temple vision follows. Strikingly, the east gate of the temple remains closed, and it is only opened for the prince to enter (Ezekiel 44). This east gate reminds us of Eden, the first temple, and the Cheribums that were place at the east of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life. The only one who could enter back into Eden through that east gate was the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is that prince from Ezekiel’s vision, who has entered back into Eden through the east gate, so that we might enter back in through Him. 

It is no coincidence that a prophecy of the new covenant and a depiction of Christ coming to His temple as the Second Adam, the Man-King, precedes Ezekiel’s vision of the river of Living Water proceeding from the temple. These signs point to this temple being the Christian Church from which the Spirit goes forth to heal the nations.

East of Eden?

A great amount of confusion comes because we do not know where we are. Many Christians think that they are still east of Eden. But God has said that in the day He cleanses His people, “they shall say, ‘This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden'” (Ezekiel 36:35). Ezekiel’s temple vision was full of Edenic imagery (cherubims and palm trees). And in Christ, the prince, we have come back into Eden to worship God as forgiven and free people. 

We may not be east of Eden. But there are some still out there in those desert places to which the river flows. Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that the muck of the marshes will climb their way up to the temple of God and pollute it. But water flows downhill after all. We have believed in Christ and just what He promised has come to pass. The Holy Spirit—the river of living water—flows out of our hearts to the world bringing fruit and healing with it.

Knowing where we are is foundational. Knowing that the river is flowing is essential. But we must progress to see how this particular operation works. Christ is the source of this Living Water. We are not the headwaters. Apart from Christ, all you have is the flesh. But Christians walk by the Spirit. We come to Christ and drink. Doing so, we find that water has welled up in us and flows from our hearts. 

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come . . . Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).