What Time Period Is Ezekiel 40-48?
Here’s an interesting question a friend asked on Ezekiel 40-48:
Knowing you have studied most Bible prophesy, to which time period(s) do you attribute these 9 chapters? Who is the prince mentioned? Note HIS sin sacrifice 45:22 and after. Also “his sons” 46:16 (If you want to do it as a Facebook blog I can read it there. Thanks Bro)
It is well known that Ezekiel 40-48 are prophecies of the Millennium (and beyond). The temple referred to there is therefore called the Millennial Temple, not to be confused with the next temple, the Third Temple. Ezekiel 40-46 describes the Millennial Temple, the priesthood and sacrifices there. To most Christians it’s shocking that sacrifices are coming back until they understand the purpose of the sacrifices.
Who is “The Prince?” at the Millennial Temple?
Also strange is how there are several mentions of “the prince” in these chapters. You would think these verses refer to Jesus at the temple:
Ezekiel 44:3 — It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same.
Ezekiel 45:22 — And upon that day shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin offering.
Ezekiel 46:16 — Thus saith the Lord GOD; If the prince give a gift unto any of his sons, the inheritance thereof shall be his sons’; it shall be their possession by inheritance.
However as noted in the question above, there are clear problems with this. For example, Jesus has no sons and is sinless needing no sacrifice. The New American Commentary agrees:
Equally intriguing is the “prince” who may sit inside the gate to “eat in the presence of the Lord,” probably meaning to eat a communal meal. Not even the prince used the entrance of the gate. When he entered it, he entered by the porch (v. 3).
Because of the messianic associations with the eastern gate, some have identified the “prince” as the Messiah, since 37:25 says, “David my servant will be their prince forever.” In spite of this reference, two important details suggest that the “prince” of 44:3 is not the Messiah. First, the prince is not a priest but has priests who minister for him. The Messiah is portrayed in Old Testament prophecy as the coming Priest-King (Zech 6:13). The offices of priest and king are always kept separate because the Messiah is to be the only one in whom these two offices are combined (2 Chr 26:16-21). Second, the prince is required to offer a sin offering for himself (Ezek 45:22) every day for seven days during feasts (45:23). By contrast, the Messiah was the sinless sacrifice for all people and a perfect High Priest (Heb 9:22-28).
If the prince is not the Messiah, then who is he? Some have identified the prince as David resurrected and serving in the temple during the millennium. More likely the prince is a special representative of the Messiah who will serve as an administrator of the temple, temple area, and sacred district. Such a conclusion is suggested by Levenson, who sees the prince as an apolitical messianic leader or a David-like administrator.
What else you want to know? =)
Update: Someone asked if the fact that “the prince” has to atone for his sins means he’s not a glorified saint but a physical man. I think that’s right. He’s not Jesus, David or any glorified saint. (Plus not only will David be glorified, but he will be king over Israel and Judah, not a prince.)