Chapter 12:21-28 (ESV) - And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing’? Tell them therefore, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.’ But say to them, The days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision. For there shall be no more any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the Lord; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord God.”
And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’ Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord God.”
Question to consider: Why would people have thought that the “days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing”?
While it is true that portions of Ezekiel’s first vision would refer to the final destruction of the temple by the Romans which would not take place for hundreds of years, there was also a very real and looming judgment that was coming by way of the Babylonians. Even so, this judgment by the Babylonians did not take place for seven years from the time in which the dramatic visions began, and people were beginning to think that these visions had come to nothing.
The same was true in the apostle Peter’s day right before the Roman invasion. Peter wrote the following before he was executed by Caesar Nero, “...you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:2-8)
If it seemed like God was taking a long time to fulfill the vision He gave to Ezekiel, it was only because of God’s mercy and patience which gave people every opportunity to repent.
I do want to point out that the portions of Ezekiel’s first vision that referred to the final destruction of the earthly temple were considered “far off” while the judgment by the Babylonians was considered “near”. More than seventy years later, Daniel would be given visions about the final destruction of the temple, and he still would be told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) When John was given the vision in Revelation, he was told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” (Revelation 22:10) At that point, the final judgment of the earthly temple was “near”, and the time of Christ’s heavenly reign would be described in terms of a millennium. People focus on Peter’s comment that “one day is as a thousand years” in trying to redefine “near” so that all prophetic visions can refer to the final judgment. However, I think we should preserve the same definitions of near and far off that were understood by the Old Testament prophets and realize that God’s judgment came by the Babylonians, and then by the Romans, and will culminate with the return of Christ physically to judge the world.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for being patient and merciful to give people every chance to repent and turn to You for life and salvation. Please give us the boldness of Ezekiel to proclaim Your word even though people may scoff and deny the return of Christ. Thank You for raising Christ from the dead and giving us the hope that one day we also will be raised up and dwell with You forever. Amen.