Chapter 7:14-27 (ESV) - “They have blown the trumpet and made everything ready, but none goes to battle, for my wrath is upon all their multitude. The sword is without; pestilence and famine are within. He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour. And if any survivors escape, they will be on the mountains, like doves of the valleys, all of them moaning, each one over his iniquity. All hands are feeble, and all knees turn to water. They put on sackcloth, and horror covers them. Shame is on all faces, and baldness on all their heads. They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. His beautiful ornament they used for pride, and they made their abominable images and their detestable things of it. Therefore I make it an unclean thing to them. And I will give it into the hands of foreigners for prey, and to the wicked of the earth for spoil, and they shall profane it. I will turn my face from them, and they shall profane my treasured place. Robbers shall enter and profane it.
“Forge a chain! For the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence. I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the pride of the strong, and their holy places shall be profaned. When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there shall be none. Disaster comes upon disaster; rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet, while the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elders. The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are paralyzed by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
Question to consider: What do you think is pictured in this prophecy as a “beautiful ornament”?
In the first half of this chapter, Ezekiel prophesied a threefold judgment on Israel. I gave reasons why I believe these came to pass as three separate judgments. To me the question was whether the second judgment referred to the day of the Lord that took place on Calvary or whether it encompassed both Calvary and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If the second judgment referred to the pouring out of God’s wrath against sin on the cross of Christ, then the third judgment would be the destruction in 70 AD. If the second judgment referred to both the cross and the destruction in 70 AD, then the third judgment would be a description of the final one by Christ against the whole world.
There are some who believe that the event of 70 AD was the final judgment. The official term for this view is preterism, and it holds that Christ’s rule was fully realized as a heavenly one, and that there will be no physical resurrection. I consider this view to be an overreach because it is evident from the gospel accounts that Christ rose bodily, and the apostles considered this to be the firstfruits of our own resurrection. I align with the early creeds which affirm that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. I believe that Christ’s return could happen at any time without warning, and that when He comes, the dead will be raised and Christ will sit in judgment over the whole world.
With that said, I would still argue that the third judgment in this chapter of Ezekiel referred to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. If you stopped reading at the first sentence of today’s passage, you might think that the “multitude” could refer to judgment of the whole world, but the rest of the passage focuses on the city. Those who fled out of the city would face the sword of the Roman armies. Those who took shelter within the city would face famine and pestilence. Those who escaped to the mountains would do so in terror and shame and beg God for mercy. Their silver and gold would not deliver them, but those who took refuge in Christ would be saved.
The beautiful ornament used for pride was the temple. Because of their idolatry, God would make it a profane thing that was given to the wicked for spoil. Not one stone was left on another, and the soldiers robbed it of its treasures. You may be asking yourself, "If the third judgment of Ezekiel really was about the fall of Jerusalem by the Romans, why did its description seem so final?" I would argue that it marked the end of the temple age. It was the final destruction of the earthly temple, and Christ now serves us from the heavenly temple not made with human hands but made with the living stones of the church with the apostles and prophets as its foundation and Christ as its cornerstone. To the Old Testament prophets, it must have seemed like the end of all things because they could not imagine a world without the earthly temple, but now when we gather together, we bring the temple with us.
Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the church and continually serving us through Your word and good gifts. Help us to love and serve one another and build each other up so that we may rejoice at Your return. Amen.