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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Persistent Purpose of God # 38

"Behold ... A Man": Everything Is Measured According to This Man

Now the prophecies of Ezekiel, which began with chapter forty. As you read the following six chapters, beginning with chapter forty, you notice that this chapter and this section begins with a new date. When the Prophet Ezekiel gives us a date, it usually relates to a new phase of things. It means that one phase is ended and another phase is beginning. Chapter thirty-nine finishes with what we may call direct predictions, and chapter forty begins with what we may call apocalypse. Here we have a revelation as to the realization of God's purpose. You will notice that the date is given as twenty-five years after the captivity (Eze. 40:1). We know that the captivity lasted for seventy years, and twenty-five years yet to go. That is something that we must keep in mind, because this section is looking a long way ahead. We might ask the question, "Why should this vision be given forty-five years before the end of the captivity?" The answer to that will come in our general consideration as we go on.

Now we cannot go on into this section without facing the problem of interpretation. Probably few parts of the Bible have been more controversial than this part, seeing that there are so many schools of interpretation, and each one has its own view concerning it. So we come to this problem of interpretation. You will remember what we said right at the beginning about principles of interpretation, we said that there are five important principles of interpreting the Bible: 1. The Eternity of God; 2. The Comprehensiveness of Christ; 3. The Interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit; 4. The Final Mention; 5. The Only Real Value is the Spiritual. And we said that those principles apply to the whole of the prophecies of Ezekiel. That is true, but they must be brought, in a very special way, into this section of the prophecies. I would suggest to you that you take that outline of principles of interpretation and just read it over again before we start at chapter forty, because those principles are the key to this section of the prophecies in a special way.

Now about the interpretation of these six chapters. We are going to come on the House of God, and then the river, the inheritance and the distribution of the land, and, finally, the city; and we ask, "How is all this to be interpreted?" We believe that all that is here in this section is just typical and symbolic of something spiritual. We believe that all this was fulfilled in Christ. That all sacrifices were finished in His one sacrifice. That all priesthood was gathered up in and finished with Christ. We believe that all types and figures were fulfilled in Christ. We believe that applies to the sacrifices, the priesthood, and the House of God. We not only believe, but we know that the New Testament teaches that.

Paul teaches us very clearly that the mystery of Christ and the Church was hidden in all the prophets - that mystery was hidden in all scriptures of the prophets. It had been hidden from all ages and generations, but in this dispensation that mystery has been brought to light through the Spirit, and I think  that is the key to the whole situation. What we have in this section of Ezekiel is a system of spiritual principles. It is not a literal temple that ever was, or was intended to be, or ever will be. It is a symbolic representation of what obtains in a spiritual way in this dispensation. That is the only honest and safe way of interpreting these chapters. So we must approach it in that way; and when we have seen that the mystery is now revealed, we see that Ezekiel was saying things which were much greater than he understood.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 39)

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