Chapters 40 to 46 inclusive of the Book of Ezekiel contain the account
of a vision given to that prophet, in which was shown him the pattern of a
temple and its various appointments, the arrangements, gates, courts, and
chambers, their dimensions and other details being stated with minuteness, The
space given to the description of this temple would indicate that it is a
matter of considerable importance in the eyes of God. So it will be well worth
our while to seek an understanding of the vision, and to inquire as to the
purpose for which it is given; and the more so because, as regards the
interpretation of the vision and its purpose in God's plan, there has been
much barren conjecture and much contrariety of opinion amongst those who seek
to expound the Scriptures.
These visions present difficulties of interpretation, as is generally
recognized; but whatever they may or may not mean, they certainly afford no
support for the doctrine of a political future for the earthly Israel. Insofar
as this prophecy was to have its fulfilment in the realm of the natural, it
was fulfilled after the return from Babylon. But, as with the pattern of the
temple showed to Moses on Mt. Sinai, so likewise here it seems we must take
the Visions seen by Ezekiel on that "Very high mountain" (40:2) to be the
patterns of things heavenly and Spiritual. It is simply impossible to
naturalize (or carnalize) all the details of those visions.
Moreover, in chapter 43:9-11 it is distinctly stated that all these
promises given through Ezekiel (which were proposed first to the natural
Israel) were conditional; and we know that that people did not fulfil the
conditions here laid down any more than they fulfilled those of the old
covenant. Hence these later promises (along with all the others) have been
forfeited irretrievably; and they find their "yea" and their "amen" in Christ,
being all "unto the glory of God by us" - the true Israel (2 Cor. 1:20). That
is to say, God will have glory through the fulfillment of those promises in
and through His new covenant people.
IS IT THE PLAN OF A TEMPLE FOR THE MILLENNIUM?
One solution of the problem we are studying (a solution much favored
in certain quarters) is that Ezekiel's vision relates to Millennial times;
that Israel will then be reconstituted as a nation on earth and as such will
re-occupy the land of Palestine; and that then the temple shown to Ezekiel
will be erected on Mt. Moriah, and the system of worship described in these
chapters will be instituted and carried on. This view is characteristic of
that peculiar system of interpreting the Scriptures which we are examining in
the present volume; for, according to the principles thereof, all difficulties
in the prophetic Word, and all problems of like nature are solved by the
simply expedient of postponing their fulfilment to the Millennial age. Thus
the Millennium becomes the convenient and promiscuous dumping place of all
portions of Scripture which offer any difficulty; and the unhappy consequence
is that many prophecies which were fulfilled at the first coming of Christ, or
are being fulfilled in this age of the gospel, and many Scriptures, such as
the Sermon on the Mount, which apply directly to the saints of this
dispensation, are wrenched out of their proper place, and are relegated to a
distant future, much to the loss of the people of God and to the dislocation
of the Scriptures as a whole.
The "postponement" system doubtless owes the popularity it enjoys to
the circumstance that its method is both safe and easy. It is safe because,
when a fulfilment of prophecy is relegated to the Millennium, it cannot be
conclusively refuted until the time comes. All date-setting schemes owe their
measure of popularity to the same fact. It is easy because it relieves the
Bible student of the trouble of searching for the meaning and application of
But, coming to the special case in hand, which is illustrative of many
others, we are bold to say, and undertake herein to show, that there are
insurmountable objections to the view that Ezekiel's temple is for Millennial
To begin with, there is no proof that, even if Israel does indeed
occupy the land of Canaan again as an earthly nation, they will restore the
ancient system of temple-worship, either according to the plan shown to and
described by Ezekiel, or according to any other plan. On the contrary, we
maintain that the Scripture plainly forbid that supposition. For it was by
God's own hand that the ancient system of worship was abolished and
obliterated; and the obliteration thereof was for reasons so closely connected
with the redeeming word of the Lord Jesus Christ, that to reestablish it again
would be to dishonor to that work and its results.
Furthermore, the sacrifices of animals was a strictly temporary
appointment, belonging to an economy which "made nothing perfect." Moreover,
we have shown in a previous chapter that the entire system - temple, altar,
priesthood and all - was but a "shadow" of that which was to come, "a figure
for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices,
that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the
conscience"; that God had "no pleasure" in them; and that they were completely
and forever abolished by the "One Sacrifice for sins" offered by the Lord
Jesus Christ "once for all" (Heb. 7:18,19; 9:6-10; 10:1-9). For it was not by
the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman armies in A.D. 70,
that the Jewish system of worship was overthrown, but by the Sacrifice of the
Lamb of God on Calvary; and it follows that, so long as the merits and
efficacy of that Sacrifice endure, there will be no room in God's universe for
any other. It is most needful for us to recognize and to hold fast to the
truth that the "old covenant" and everything pertaining to it - sanctuary,
altar, priesthood, feasts, sabbaths, and especially animal sacrifices - have
been completely and "forever" done away. Surely the words in which this truth
is declared are plain, and the reason for it is clearly manifest. For the
Spirit says expressly: "He taketh away the first" - the sacrifices of the law
- "that He may establish the second" - the true spiritual worship of the
heavenly sanctuary, based upon one Sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb.
10:8-12,18-22). And the words "taketh away," and "establish," signify
something eternally accomplished.
But let us turn to the prophecy of Ezekiel with the object of learning
what the record itself has to tell us of the purpose for which the vision was
First we would point out that, in the sixth year of Jehoiachin's
captivity, that is to say, while Solomon's temple was yet standing, Ezekiel
had a wonderful vision in which he saw
the glory of the Lord departing from
the house (8:1; 10:18). The vision of the new temple was 19 years later;
for Ezekiel is careful to record that it was "the fourteenth year after that
the city was smitten" (40:1,2). To this we will return. At present we wish
only to point out that the most conspicuous features of the temple shown in
this vision are the various appointments for the slaughter of animals, and for
offering the same upon the altar, sprinkling their blood, etc. Thus we find a
description of the tables, eight in number, for slaying the burnt offerings
and other sacrifices, and upon which "they laid the instruments wherewith they
slew the burnt offering and the sacrifice" (40:38-43). Therefore, in the clear
light of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of all Scripture pertaining to the
Sacrifice of Christ, it is impossible to place this temple in any dispensation
subsequent to Calvary.
But an attempt has been made to avoid this objection and to make
possible the locating of Ezekiel's temple in the Millennium, by saying that
the sacrifice of animals in that era will be only for a "reminder" or a
"memorial" of the former days. But this is a very weak effort of the
imagination. For what warrant have we for supposing that God would require any
memorial of those sacrifices which, even in the time when they were needed, He
had no pleasure? And how preposterous is the idea that He would require the
slaughter of innumerable creatures merely to revive the memory of those other
defective sacrifices which could never take away sins! Surely they who advance
this idea have forgotten the Scriptures which they all apply to the
Millennium, and which says, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy
mountain" (Isa. 11:9).
But the passage itself completely refutes this idea; for it plainly
declares that the sacrifices there specified were not at all for a remembrance
or a memorial, but were for the very different purposes of sin offerings,
trespass offerings, peace offerings, etc.; also for cleansing the house,
making reconciliation both for the princes of Israel and for the people, and
the like. All the five offerings of the levitical system are mentioned by name
(40:39, 42:13, 43:27; 45:17; 46:20); and provision is made for sprinkling the
blood of the sin offering upon the corners of the altar, upon the posts of the
house and court in order to cleanse them (43:20; 45:18,19). In a word the
sacrifices are the levitical sacrifices, and they are expressly declared to be
for the identical purposes thereof. Hence it is impossible to locate this
temple, as an actual structure (apart from the spiritual signification
thereof), in any other era than that of the law.
THE PURPOSE OF THE VISION
What then was the immediate purpose of this vision? We think this
question admits of a simple answer in the light of the passage itself and that
of other Scriptures.
Ezekiel prophesied during the captivity. That captivity was to be of
seventy years duration, as predicted by Jeremiah. At its end the captives were
to return and re-build the city and the temple. This new temple was to serve
as the sanctuary of God until Christ should come. God's plan had always been
to give to His people the exact pattern of the sanctuary they were to build
for His Name. To Moses He had shown the pattern of the tabernacle, giving him
at the same time the strictest injunctions to make every detail in exact
accordance with that pattern. Likewise to David God had revealed the pattern
of the temple which was to be built at Jerusalem, with all its appointments,
vessels of service, etc. "All this," says David, "the Lord made me understand
in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern" (1 Chr.
And now again a house was about to be built for the Name of the Lord
in Jerusalem. Therefore, having in mind His invariable method in such case, we
should expect to find at this period a revelation from heaven of the pattern
to be followed in the building of that house. And just here we do find the
revelation from God of the completed pattern and appointments of a temple,
with directions to the prophet to show the same to the house of Israel.
Furthermore we find that even as Moses was admonished to make all
things like unto the pattern shown him "in the mount," so Ezekiel was taken to
"a very high mountain" where this pattern was shown him; and he was bidden to
set his heart upon all that should be shown him, and to declare all he should
see to the house of Israel (40:3,4; 44:5).
Again, as regards the ministers of the sanctuary, it is strictly
commanded that the priests are to be Levites of the sons of Zadok (45:15);
which proves that the whole system was not for an era when the priesthood of
Aaron was not as yet abolished.
Furthermore, special instructions are given in this vision regarding
"the prince." Now it was only after the return from Babylon that Israel was
subject to a "prince," as Zerubbabel in the days of Ezra, and the Asmonaean
princes at a later day.
Finally, this vision contains instructions for the reallotment of the
land, corresponding to the instructions given Moses and Joshua at the first
occupation thereof. This provision embraces the whole twelve tribes of Israel.
For it should be noted that in the land of their captivity Israel and Judah
were commingles; and from that time onward the distinction between the ten
tribes and the two no longer exists. Thus Ezekiel was sent to "the children of
Israel," to "the house of Israel," and as in several passages to "all the
house of Israel" (11:15; 20:40 &c.). Likewise Daniel confessed for "all
Israel" and prayed for his "people Israel" (9:11,20); and those who returned
with Ezra were "all Israel" (Ezra 2:70; 8:25; 9:1 etc.). And this continued to
New Testament times, when Peter makes his proclamation at Pentecost to "all
the house of Israel" (Ac. 2:36); Paul speaks to Herod Agrippa of "our twelve
tribes" (Ac. 26:7); and James writes to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad"
(Jam. 1:1). This effectually disposes of all speculation regarding "the lost
ten tribes," and particularly of the delusion of Anglo-Israelism.
WAS THE PATTERN SHOWN EZEKIEL FOLLOWED?
So far as we are aware there is no evidence now available as to the
plan of the temple built in the days of Ezra. Herod the Great had so
transformed it in the days of Christ, though without interrupting the regular
services and sacrifices, as to destroy all trace of the original design. That
question, however, which we cannot now answer, does not affect the question of
the purpose for which the pattern was revealed to Ezekiel.
It should be noted that everything in connection with the return of
the people of Israel out of Babylon was purely voluntary. Only those returned
to Jerusalem "whose spirit God had raised to go up to build the house of the
Lord which is in Jerusalem" (Ezra 1:5). They were not taken out of Babylon as
out of Egypt in a body and by strength of hand. But we know that they brought
with them the holy vessels, and we know that they had, and could have
followed, the pattern shown in the mount to Ezekiel. For God had commanded the
prophet to show it to them, and He gave him also this charge: "Thou son of
man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their
iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all
they have done, show them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and
the goings out thereof and the comings in thereof and all the forms thereof,
and all the ordinances thereof and all the forms thereof, and all the laws
thereof; and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form
thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them" (43:10,11).
The blessings promised to Israel through Ezekiel were like those
promised through Moses, conditional upon their faithfulness and obedience;
and, since they were not obedient, the blessings were forfeited. So we are
left in uncertainty as to what, if anything, resulted from this revelation to
Ezekiel. But as regards the purpose for which it was given, we think there is
no uncertainty at all.
Of course this vision, like all visions and prophecies, has a
spiritual fulfilment in Christ; and this is very apparent, we think, from
That chapter contains the vision of the life-giving waters, which the
prophet saw issuing out from the temple, a shallow stream at first, but
increasing to a mighty river - "waters to swim in, a river that could not be
passed over" (v. 5).
As with respect to Zechariah's prophecy concerning the "living waters"
(Zech 14:8), referred to in a former chapter, so with respect to this vision
of Ezekiel, we confidently submit that the fulfilment thereof is in the living
waters of the gospel; which began, on the day of Pentecost, to flow out from
the Temple at Jerusalem. Our Lord uses the expression "rivers of living
water," in John 7:38; and the meaning of the expression is given in the next
verse: "But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should
receive." This explanation controls the passage we are considering. This will
be apparent from what follows.
WHERE DID THE SPIRIT DESCEND AT PENTECOST?
For the purpose of a better understanding of the foregoing prophetic
vision of Ezekiel, and because, moreover, the events of the day of Pentecost,
recorded in Acts 2, are of the greatest significance, it is a matter of much
interest to ascertain just where, in the city of Jerusalem, the disciples were
assembled at the moment when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
Some may wonder that there should be any question as to that, seeing
it seems to be generally agreed that the gathering place of the disciples was
the "upper room". Indeed it is often positively asserted, as if it were a
recorded fact, that the upper room was the "birthplace of the Church". But the
truth is that the record affords no warrant at all for the idea that the
disciples were in an upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them, or that
the upper room mentioned in Acts 1:13 was ever their assembling place during
the ten days of their tarrying in Jerusalem, in obedience to the Lord's
command, while waiting for "the Promise of the Father."
All that is said concerning the "upper room" is, that the apostles,
after witnessing the Lord's ascension from Mount Olivet, returned to Jerusalem
and went to an upper room, where Peter, James, John and the other of the
eleven apostles were lodging. Acts 1:13. What appears from the record, and all
that appears, is that those Galileans, during their stay in Jerusalem, had
their lodgings in an "upper room". There is no suggestion at all that the
sleeping quarters of those eleven men was also the meeting place of the one
hundred and twenty disciples of Christ who were in Jerusalem at that time.
Still less reason is there for supposing that the morning of the great
Feast-day would have found them gathered in such a place.
THE TEMPLE THE PLACE
There was, in fact, but one place in the city of Jerusalem where
devout Jews, or whatever sect, would have congregated on that morning; and
there was but one place where the events recorded in Acts 2 could possibly
have transpired. That place is the Temple. But it is not upon inference alone
that we base our conclusion; for, after a careful examination of the inspired
records, we venture to say that they contain positive proof that it was in the
Temple that the Holy Spirit came "suddenly" upon the company of the disciples
of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that from the Temple the proclamation of God's
Good News began to go forth to all the world. And we shall seek to show that
it was the outflow of the gospel - "all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20) -
that was prefigured by the vision of "living waters" issuing from the Temple.
Surely it is befitting that so it should have been. For it is in
accordance with all that has been revealed to us of the dispensational
dealings of God, and of the connection between the Old Covenant and the New,
that the first manifestation of the Holy Spirit's personal Presence should
have been in the Temple; that the beginning of the building of the spiritual
House should have been on the site of the material House. Indeed the same
reasons which required that the preaching of forgiveness in the Name of the
Risen Christ should being "at Jerusalem", Luke 24:47, would seem to require
also that it should begin at the Temple. Into this aspect of the matter we
propose to look a little later; but first we would ascertain whether the
inspired record gives any definite indications as to the place where the
wonderful events of Pentecost occurred.
"CONTINUALLY IN THE TEMPLE"
The first Scripture that bears on the matter is the concluding portion
of Luke's Gospel whereof the book of Acts is a continuation, written by the
Luke records the Lord's commandment to His disciples to tarry in the
city of Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high, Luke
24:49. The brief record of this verse does not state whether or not the Lord
designated any particular place in Jerusalem where they were to await the
promised enduement; but the further record given in verses 52,53 of what they
did in obedience to the Lord's commands, supplies this information. For we
read that "they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and
were continually in the Temple praising and blessing God" (Luke 24:52,53).
This passage definitely declares that the Temple was the place where
they assembled for the purpose of waiting upon God in worship and prayer; and
it declares furthermore that they were there continually". Hence we need
nothing further to tell us just where they were assembled whenever we read of
their being gathered during that period, "in one place". We have the emphasis
of the word "continually", which leaves no room for the supposition that
during the ten days following, they were assembled as a company in any place
other than the Temple. This passage alone seems to make it clear that the Lord
had told them to wait in the Temple for the promised enduement.
When, moreover, we bear in mind the fact (which appears both from the
Scriptures and from other contemporary records) that the Temple, with its vast
corridors or "porches", was the regular gathering place of all the various
parties and sects of Jews, however antagonistic the one to the other, it will
be easy to realize that the Temple is just the place - both because of its
hallowed associations, and also because of its many convenient meeting places
- where the disciples would naturally congregate. Edersheim says that the vast
Temple area was capable of containing a concourse of 210,000 people; and he
mentions also that the colonnades in Solomon's Porch formed many gathering
places for the various sects, schools and congregations of the people. In
commenting on John 7 this trustworthy authority says that the gathering places
in Solomon's Porch "had benches in them; and from the liberty of speaking and
teaching in Israel, Jesus might here address the people in the very face of
His enemies." It was, moreover, and this is an important item of evidence, in
Solomon's Porch that the concourse of Jews gathered which Peter addressed in
Acts 3 (See verse 11). Hence there can be little doubt that one of the
assembling places to which Edersheim refers was the "house" where the
disciples were "sitting" when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
When Luke takes up, in the book of Acts, the thread of the narrative
he dropped at the end of his Gospel, he says (speaking of the apostles) that
"These all continued (lit. were continuing) with one accord in prayer and
supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His
brethren." (Acts 1:14). We have here in substance a repetition of what is
recorded in the last verse of Luke's Gospel, namely that, during the ten days
following the Lord's ascension, His disciples were "continually" together
waiting upon God (they "continued with one accord in prayer and
supplication"). The record in Acts omits mention of the place where they so
continued' but that information was not needed, seeing it had already been
definitely stated in Luke 24:52,53. But the evangelist adds the interesting
facts that the women, Mary the mother of the Lord, and His brethren, were with
them. All this, be it remembered, was done by the Lord's express instructions.
They were of course praying for the promised enduement from on high (Luke
The next verse (Acts 1:15), states that "in those days (of waiting
upon God in the Temple) Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples and said
(the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty)", - and then
follows the account of the choosing of Matthias as an apostle and witness of
Christ's resurrection in the place of Judas. This doubtless occurred in their
accustomed gathering place in the Temple, since they were "continually" there
during those days of waiting for enduement form on high.
In passing we would note how unlikely it is that the disciples, to the
number of one hundred and twenty, should (or could) be using their place of
gathering the "upper room" which served the apostles for sleeping quarters.
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
Thus the day of Pentecost came; and the occurrence of the great
Feast-day would furnish an additional reason why they should be found
assembled in the Temple. The services - the offering of the morning sacrifice
and incense, with the accompanying prayers (in which they would undoubtedly
have taken part) - began at sunrise. This service being concluded, they would
naturally be "sitting" in their customary place; and then it was that
"suddenly" out of heaven came that sound "as of a rushing wind." The words
"they were all with one accord in one place" (compare 1:14) indicate that they
were in their customary gathering place in the Temple. Similar words found at
the end of chapter 2 lend emphasis to this; for we find there the statement
that, after about three thousand souls had been "added" to them, they still
continued with one accord in the Temple (Verse 46). This shows that what they
had been doing as a small company they "continued" to do, still "with one
accord," as an exceedingly large and growing company. It shows further that
the place where they were gathered when the Holy Spirit came upon them must
have been of such dimensions as to admit of three thousand more being "added"
to them; and it need hardly be said that the Temple was the only building in
Jerusalem open to the public, where this would have been possible.
By having before our eye the several statements of Scripture that bear
upon the matter we are examining it will be seen, we think, that there is no
room for doubt about it. These are the statements:
Luke 24:52,53. "And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with
great joy, and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God."
Acts 1:14. "All these were continuing with one accord in prayer and
supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His
This must needs have been in the Temple, since it is impossible that
they should have been "continually in the Temple" and at the same time should
have been "continuing with one accord" in another place.
Acts 2:1. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all
with one accord in one place."
Acts 2:46. "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the Temple."
These passages reiterate that the disciple continued, during all the
period in question, in one place; and the first and last passages quoted state
that the place was the Temple.
From the last passage it plainly appears that, after Pentecost, they
still made it a practice to meet "daily in the Temple", the wording being such
as to show that this was not a new custom from that date, but was the
"continuing" of what had been their custom since the Lord's ascension into
THE SERVICE OF THE FEAST OF PENTECOST
Additional light upon our subject is afforded by Acts 2:1, when heed
is given to the literal meaning of that verse. As rendered in our Authorized
Version it reads "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come." The word
translated by the three English words "was fully come" (which rendering
manifestly does not give the true sense, since a day cannot be more "fully
come" after it has actually come), means literally "was being accomplished."
In Bagster interlinear translation the reading is: "And during the
accomplishing of the day of Pentecost, they were all with one accord in the
What is seemingly implied is that they were, as we should expect, in
the Temple, for the purpose of taking part in the appointed services of the
great feast day. During an intermission in those ceremonies they would
naturally be "sitting" together in their customary meeting-place within the
Temple area. What seems to be impressed upon us by this verse is that, during
the accomplishing of the various ceremonies of the day of Pentecost, the
disciples were not dispersed and mingled with the great crowds of worshippers,
but kept together, and were with one accord in one place - not scattered
about. It can hardly be doubted, therefore, that at the moment the Spirit
descended upon them they were all in one and the place somewhere within the
large area of the Temple, presumably in Solomon's Porch.
Concerning the verse we are now considering (Acts 2:1), Dr. G.
Campbell Morgan, in a letter to the author, said: "Personally, I believe that
the statement that the day of Pentecost 'was being fulfilled' means far more
than that they were observing its ritual. I am convinced that the meaning of
Luke here is that all that was signified by that feast was finding its
With the aid of this comment we can see a great wealth of meaning in
these few words of Scripture.
The coming of the Holy Spirit took place some little time before nine
in the morning (see verse 15), just long enough for it to be "noised abroad"
(2:6), and for an enormous crowd to congregate. There would be ample time for
this between the morning services and nine o'clock.
On reading attentively the record of verses 1-14 it will be seen that
the events there narrated happened all in one and the same locality; for there
is no change of location. Wherever the disciples were when they began to speak
in other (heteros-different) tongues or languages, and where the astonished
multitude assembled and listened to the first Gospel address ever preached
"with the Holy Ghost come down from heaven," that was the very same place
where the Holy Spirit came upon them.
Concerning the words of verse 6, "Now when this was noised abroad,"
Dr. Morgan, in the letter already quoted, says that this is not to be taken as
meaning that a rumor of the marvelous event was spread abroad; for the verb
rendered "noised broad" in the A.V. "is never used in the sense of a rumor. I
believe the sound as of a mighty wind was heard by the entire city. That being
so, your interpretation as to the place falls in with tremendous naturalness
to me. The devout Jews would, at the hearing of some supernatural sound, rush
to the Temple." In this connection the force of the words of Acts 2:2 should
be specially noted: "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a
rushing mighty wind (or Breath) and it filled all the house where they were
It is important to note that in those days, and for a considerable
period thereafter, the disciples were in "favor with all the people" (Acts
2:48); and hence they were permitted to enjoy, in common with all Jewish sects
and parties, the privileges of assembling for the usual purposes, and as a
distinct company or sect, in the Temple. It should also be specially noted
that no pious Jews would be anywhere but in the Temple on that day. (See Acts
We conclude, therefore, that the material House of God served as the
womb for the spiritual House, and that from it the Church was to come forth,
and soon did come forth. For a little while the two were identified, as the
true spiritual "Israel of God" was, for awhile, identified with "Israel after
the flesh" - the spiritual seed of Abraham with his natural seed. And this is
in keeping with the revealed ways of God.
The letter from Dr. Morgan, from which several quotations have been
given above, was written in reply to one from the author, in which he
submitted this interpretation of Acts II, and asked Dr. Morgan's opinion
thereon. Dr. Morgan stated in reply that the interpretation was new to him;
and he went on to say:
"I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that you are absolutely
correct. Here is an illustration of those of us who desire and attempt to be
the most careful in our study, are in danger of taking things too much for
granted. I certainly have proceeded on the assumption that the 'one place'
of Acts II was the 'upper room' of Acts I. It is as plain as a thing can be
that I have been wrong; and I am very grateful to have it thus pointed out."
THE SOURCE OF THE LIVING WATERS
It is evident that the matter into which we have been inquiring has a
direct relation to certain prophecies, such as Ezekiel 47, referred to above,
where the prophet describes his vision of the healing and life-giving waters
issuing from out of the Temple. IT was explained to the prophet, as we have
already noted, that the water which he saw were to go down into the desert
(which suggests barren Israel), and to go into the sea (which symbolizes the
nations), whose waters should be healed; and the description continues, -
"And it shall come to pass that everything that liveth which moveth,
withersoever the rivers shall come, shall live; and there shall be a very
great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither; for they
shall be healed. And everything shall live wither the river cometh" (Ezek.
It is easy to see in this passage the familiar scriptural figures of
the Gospel, and its life-giving and healing ministry. So we note with interest
that the Temple - the House of God - was to be the source of the stream of
Therefore, we cannot fail to see in this prophetic vision a spiritual
foretelling of the issuing forth of the Gospel for all mankind from God's
appointed center, which broadly was Israel, and more definitely Jerusalem, and
still more definitely the Temple. Other portions of Ezekiel's prophecy have
clearly a spiritual fulfilment in this dispensation of the Holy Spirit, as we
have sought to show.
In this connection we would call attention also to the prophecy of
Joel. Inasmuch as the Apostle Peter quoted from the second chapter of Joel, as
having its fulfilment in the coming of the Holy Spirit, and in those
miraculous events whereby His presence was manifested, it is significant that,
in chapter 3, of Joel's prophecy, there is the promise that "all of the rives
of Judah will flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the House
of the Lord". (3:18). We believe that those who are spiritual will be able to
see in this verse and its context much that is applicable to this present
dispensation, though it may be that the complete fulfilment of this passage,
and also of that quoted by Peter from chapter 2, awaits (or awaited, TD) the
coming again of the Lord from heaven.
"GO SPEAK IN THE TEMPLE ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LIFE"
Further, we have the very significant record of Acts 5:17-25, which
tells us that when the Apostles were released by the angel of the Lord from
the prison into which the religious leaders had put them, the angel bade them,
"Go, stand and speak in the Temple, to the people all the words of this life."
(v. 20). This makes clear, for reasons which we should seek to discern, that
it was in the purpose of God that the gospel-stream - "the words of this life"
- should begin their flow in the Temple. In this we can see the continuity of
God's dealings and the orderly working out of His great plan. Everything
pertaining to the old dispensation centered in the Temple. Therefore, it was
fitting that the new dispensation should start at that place, and move out
thence into the world which it was to overspread.
The phrase "words of this life" is very significant; and it is
moreover, an aid to the right understanding of the passage; for it serves to
elucidate the meaning of the expression "living waters" in the prophecies.
And, finally, the Scripture tells us that, notwithstanding the strong
opposition of the authorities, the disciples ceased not daily, in the temple,
and in every house, to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:40-42).
LIVING WATERS FLOWING FROM THE HOUSE OF GOD
For some time after Pentecost the church continued at Jerusalem, and
seems to have been tolerated, in accordance with the advice of Gamaliel (Acts
5:33-40) until the time of the stoning of Stephen, after which period the
gospel stream spread throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1), the church at
Jerusalem, the spiritual house of God, being thus far its source. A little
later we find another "church" of God at Antioch; for it is written that
Barnabas sought Saul at Tarsus, and brought him unto Antioch, and that for "a
who;e year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people"
(Acts 11:25,26). Here again in "the church" in Antioch we find the Holy Spirit
in full charge; and after a year of teaching inside the House, we see the
living waters flowing out, and producing the results intended in the purposes
of God. For we read at Acts 13:1,2, concerning "the church that was at
Antioch", that "as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost
said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work thereunto I have called
them." And thus, from the House of God, and in the power of the Spirit of God,
the stream of the Gospel flowed out in a new direction, and extended farther
than it had yet gone.
Still later on the gospel was carried into Europe and it came to
Thessalonica - not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and
in much assurance (1 Thess. 1:5). The result was "the church of the
Thessalonians in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1). And this
is declared to be an "example" or pattern for other churches, for the express
reason, as the apostle writes to them that, "From you sounded out the Word of
the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place you faith
to God-ward is spread abroad." (1:8).
A GREAT DIFFERENCE
Our study brings into view a great difference between the Temple -
God's dwelling place in the old dispensation, and the Church - His dwelling
place in the new. In the case of the Temple, sacrifices were brought to it,
blood flowed in it, and incense (worship) ascended from it. But no healing
waters flowed from it. Hence what Ezekiel saw, and what was revealed also to
Jowl and to Zechariah, living waters going out from Jerusalem (Joel 3:18;
Zech. 14:8), was something quite new, and to which the Temple and its ritual
presented no analogy.
Therefore, one of the chief lessons to be learned from the Scriptures
we have been considering is that the "Spiritual House" of this era should be
specially marked by being the source of a freely flowing stream of living
waters, carrying life and health into all the regions round about. And where
this mark is lacking, even when the form of the House is quite correct, the
explanation will doubtless be found in the conditions inside the House.