Why can't Ezekiel 37 be literal?


(Terrell Allison) #1

Hi everyone,

I ask this question because of my study of Revelation. After the resurrection as described in Revelation 19, the harvest of the wheat and tares, it would appear that no one is left on earth, other than those in the grave who did not belong to Christ. The millennium occurs (Sabbath day equals a thousand years), and then the second resurrection occurs. The dead in the ground are raised, but it doesn’t say to where. I assume to earth, since after the harvest no one would be alive on the earth. The tares were burnt up. Revelation 19:21 says the remnant were killed.

Ezekiel refers to Gog and Magog at the time of the bones coming back to life. Revelation 20:8. It appears to be another whole age.

What are your thoughts?


(SeanO) #2

@tttallison This is one of those questions that would take a few hours to even begin to answer in my opinion.

I encourage you to listen to Steve Greggs commentary on the relevant passages in Ezekiel and Revelation.

I am not endorsing Gregg as being correct about everything, but I think he will help you think through some of your questions. And I always find him helpful.

http://thenarrowpath.com/verse_by_verse.php

In addition, Steve has a radio show five days a week that you can call into to ask questions and you can almost always reach him. He has replied to my e-mails as well.


(Terrell Allison) #3

SeanO thank you for your reply.

I am interested in whether you believe Ezekiel 37 is an allegory or literal. I appreciate commentaries, but only after thoroughly examining the Word. First determine what the Word appears to be saying, and then one can examine commentaries to see how they line up with scripture. Most commentaries contain error, while the Bible never does.

Brother in Christ
Terry


(Carson Weitnauer) #4

Hi Terry,

Thank you for this interesting question. It is good to be examining the Scriptures together!

Before answering, could you help me understand one thing? If I study the Scriptures and determine they appear to be saying “X”, then we have two things, right? At that point, we will have what the Scriptures say and we will have my interpretation of the Scriptures.

We agree that what the Bible says does not contain any error. But, my interpretation of the Scriptures may have error.

If we then go and read a commentary together, we will have four things:

  1. What the Bible says
  2. My interpretation of what the Bible says
  3. What the commentary says (another person’s interpretation of the Bible)
  4. My understanding of what the commentary says.

Again, only #1 will be without error. The next three items may contain error.

Does this make sense? Are we in agreement? I earnestly want to understand the truth of the Bible, as it is God’s word to us, but I also see no way to get around ending up with our interpretation of the Bible, which may contain error.


Was there a reason for Job's suffering?
(SeanO) #5

@tttallison Concerning Ezekiel 37, I would tend to agree with the following statement.

“The link with Ezekiel is confirmed from the parallel in Rev. 21:3, where Ezek. 37:27 is quoted more fully and is immediately followed in 21:4,6b by the same OT allusions found in 7:16-17. Yet again, the innumerable multitudes of redeemed in the church are viewed as the fulfillment of a prophecy concerning Israel’s latter-day restoration. The application of Ezek. 37:27 to the church is striking because Ezekiel emphasizes that when this prophecy takes place the immediate result will be that ‘the nations will recognize that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel , when my sanctuary is in their midst’ (37:28). Therefore, Ezekiel 37 was a prophecy uniquely applicable to ethnic or theocratic Israel in contrast to the nations, yet now John understands it as fulfilled in the church” (440).

Taken from: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/the-church--israel--and--replacement--theology---part-iii

I would like to note, using the figure below, that all theology is commentary. Your and my belief as to whether or not Ezekiel 37 is allegorical or literal is, in fact, our commentary - our theology. Theology is not Scripture - it is an attempt to understand Scripture.

So while I agree 100% that Scripture is always right and commentary may be wrong - I disagree in that I think studying commentaries is necessary to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

I do not think God provides a way to shortcut hard study in understanding His Word - though I would say that there are parts of Scripture that are plain to understand.

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All of this said in love and @CarsonWeitnauer’s explanation may be a bit clearer :slight_smile:


(Terrell Allison) #6

Carson you are absolutely right, we can always be in error. No one person is entirely right about everything. God wants seekers of Him. The Bible is a puzzle for us to place the pieces. Our understanding and relationship increases as the pieces are properly placed. When putting a puzzle together we often try to insert the pieces in the wrong place. Our object is to place the pieces in the right place, and then the puzzle begins to form a perfect picture.

Terry


Was there a reason for Job's suffering?
(Terrell Allison) #7

SeanO

Your answer then is that Ezekiel 37 is an allegory. For many years I looked at it as an allegory, but have since changed my opinion. Taking it literally has answered many questions I long wondered over. One key, I believe, is the sequential order of Revelation 19 and 20. If we find the resurrection of the Church in chapter 19, who is left? No one. We are told the tares will be burned and the wheat placed in the barn. Peter says one day is as a thousand years when he references creation. That would make the seventh day the thousand years of rest. If the resurrection occurs, and then a thousand years of Sabbath, who is the group that appears afterwards when Satan is again released. I would suggest it is those of the second resurrection along with a literal group of Israel from Ezekiel 37.

Just an opinion. The two kingdoms of Israel have not become one, at least not literally.

Christ is all in all.

Terry


(SeanO) #8

@tttallison I am glad that you feel you are making progress in your understanding of Revelation. I expect to be on that journey for the whole of my life.

Important in understanding my interpretation is that I believe that Revelation tells the same story twice in chapters 6-11 and 12-19, so that 20 is not sequential with the prior chapters. This approach has made the most sense to me of the ones that I have read.

Below is my understanding of the structure of Revelation.

Revelation appears to have two book ends – chapters 1-3 and 20-22. Chapters 1-3 are prophetic messages to actual churches in the first century warning them of the judgment of God upon them and chapters 20-22 are a retelling of Christ’s victory and a metaphorical depiction of the Church that looks forward to a new heavens and new earth.

Chapters 6-11 are a description of the time between Jesus’ death and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Chapters 12-19 are a retelling of the same period of time, but zoomed in on the Jewish war. That these two sections are a retelling of the same story is evident from the fact that both end with a very similar benediction, they both contain the 144,000 and they both contain the 42 months / 1,260 days from Daniel chapters 7/12. While Daniel’s 70 weeks ended when the Gospel was opened to the Gentiles, the prophecies concerning the end of the Jewish covenant were not fulfilled until the Jewish war and destruction of the temple, which Jesus predicted.

Here is my understanding of chapters 20-22:

Chapter 20: Retelling of Christ’s victory on the cross and then continue forward from chapters 11/19, which both conclude the destruction of Jerusalem and ushering in of the Church as God’s temple / bride. John sees Satan bound up so that he could not deceive the nations, a symbolic representation of the power of Christ’s sacrifice over Satan’s deception. The “first resurrection” refers to the resurrection of Jesus Christ “the firstfruits”. [1 Corinthians 15.20] Hence, the righteous dead (Rev. 14.13: “blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on”) are described as “sharing” in Christ’s resurrection and rule, in perfect correspondence to Paul’s statements in his letters. [1 Corinthians 15.22; Ephesians 2.6; Colossians 2.12-13] The “thousand years” are symbolic of the era of the Church, and the beginning of the “thousand years” corresponds to the Kingdom of God being established upon the world [Luke 21.31-32; Revelation 11.15], marked by the destruction of apostate Israel. [Matthew 21.33-46] The number 1000 is a symbolic numeral for “completion”. Thus, when the “thousand years” come to their end, the plan of God will be brought to completion. Satan will be released from his binding, bringing about a great deception. The enemies of the world (symbolized as “Gog and Magog”) will attempt to destroy the Church (symbolized as “God’s holy city”), but they will be prevented by the Second Coming of Christ. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. Christ will sit upon his throne, and he will bring about the resurrection of the dead. All of mankind (and angels) will be judged. John sees the wicked cast into the lake of fire. Finally, John sees Death itself destroyed by Christ. After the resurrection, the final judgment, and the defeat of Death, Christ delivers the Kingdom of God up to the Father in order for it to be consummated. [1 Corinthians 15.23-28,54-55]

In support of the binding of Satan occurring through Jesus’ ministry, consider John 12:31 – “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”

Chapter 21: John sees the New Jerusalem, a symbolic representation of God’s perfect Church with imagery drawn from Ezekiel’s description of Eden and Ezekiel’s temple. [Ezekiel 28.13/40-48] This beautiful bride is contrasted with the previous harlot who prostituted herself with the beast. Whereas the priestly garments of the Old Covenant had 12 different stones, each with a name of one of the 12 tribes engraved upon it [Exodus 28.17-21], John sees the New Jerusalem built on a foundation of 12 different stones, each with a name of the one of the 12 apostles engraved upon it. Since the New Jerusalem is the Church, it has no temple within it, because the Church is the temple of God, and God resides within the New Jerusalem. In fact, just as this city is a cube – the holy of holies in the OT was a cube – 15x15x15 feet for one man – now much larger for all the saints. John sees that the wicked are not allowed into the New Jerusalem, corresponding to the fact that only those who believe in Christ and repent of their sins become members of the Church, which is the Body of Christ.

Chapter 22: John sees the river of life (Jesus’ salvation) flowing from the throne of God and of Jesus. He also sees the tree of life (eternal life) bearing fruit each month, corresponding to the Church’s growing numbers over time. He states that the tree’s leaves are “for the healing of the nations”, corresponding to how the gospel of Jesus Christ brings healing to mankind. John states that only the “those who wash their robes” [in the blood of Jesus: Revelation 7.14] may enter the New Jerusalem, corresponding to the fact that only those believe in Christ and repent of their sins become members of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. The New Jerusalem, as depicted in Revelation 21-22, is a present reality for the Church [Galatians 4.22-31; Hebrews 12.22], made real by the sacrifice of Christ, but it also awaits perfect fulfillment at the Second Coming.

I am always open handed in learning more - it is a very complex book.

The issue of Israel and the Church is another topic that would take a few hours to really discuss with integrity. I hope the above is helpful for you in understanding my perspective.


(Terrell Allison) #9

SeanO
We both seem to be working in the same direction with some similarities and some differences. I started with the millennium as the main reference point.

Revelation 6 and 7 pre-millennium. Revelation 8,9,10, and 11 post-millennium. Revelation 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19 pre-millennium. Revelation 20 the millennium, and the post millennium.

The 144,000 are the firstfruits. It is my personal opinion that they were the Saints that were resurrected at the time of Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 27:52). Isaiah 56:5 says the eunuchs who pleased him will be given a position above the sons and daughters. In Revelation 14 immediately after the 144,000 are presented for the second time the Gospel is preached in all the world. That occurred right after Pentecost.

I would have a problem calling the resurrection of Jesus the first resurrection in light of Revelation 20:4 and 5. If Jesus is the first resurrection are we of the second resurrection? And if so will death have power over us? Maybe I am misunderstanding.

I am not endorsing the Talmud, but it does say there will be two thousand years of chaos, two thousand years of law, and two thousand years of the Messiah. And then a 1000 year Sabbath. And then a new age. This fits with Peter saying that a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day in referencing the creation. Six days of creation and one day of rest.

There are many verses referencing Israel that are hard to place in light of history. If there is a new age for Israel, then there would be no need for replacement theology. Perhaps those bones are really going to be resurrected.

Brother in Christ,
Terry


(SeanO) #10

@tttallison I am glad you are studying Revelation! I think it is a fruitful and lifelong process. Some people simply give up on it because it is a difficult book, but I think that is a mistake. So I applaud you on undertaking the journey! It has certainly been a rich one for me.

Regarding 2 Peter 3:8-9, I think it is important to remember the context. If we read it - “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

The purpose of Peter comparing a day to 1 thousand years is not so that we can use it as an interpretive framework for any other part of the Bible, but rather so that he can comfort those who are enduring terrible things. Peter could have replaced 1000 with 10000000 or 1 billion or 1 trillion - the point was simply to comfort those suffering with the fact that God is allowing them to suffer that others may come to know the Lord. So it is my belief it is an exegetical error to use this passage to convert 7 days to 7 thousand years.

Regarding the Talmud, I am always cautious and it seems you are as well. It is the tradition of men and not the Word of God.

Regarding the 144000 - this is an interesting thought. Could this not be the first resurrection? Revelation 20:4-5 implies the 1000 years comes after the first resurrection - which could be the Church age - though that is obviously begging the question.

Perhaps those bones will be resurrected :slight_smile: My current understanding of Scripture would suggest not. Twice Paul calls the Church the “Israel of God” (Romans 9:6 / Galatians 6:16) and clearly says not all descended from Abraham are Abraham’s true seed, but those who believe (Romans 9:7). Also, if you read I Peter 2 Paul describes the Church as the temple - “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. We are the priests. The Body of Christ is the temple.

I would also say it may not be as hard you as it at first seems to make sense of God’s promises for land to Abraham in the Old Testament. If you carefully compare the boundaries of Israel during David’s reign with the boundaries promised by God, you will realize that they match. The promise was fulfilled.

I also believe it is important to keep in mind the curses of Deuteronomy 28 if Israel chose to disobey God - which they did. And the promise in Jeremiah 33 of a New Covenant - written on the heart.

If there is a New Covenant in Christ’s blood, how can the Old Covenant still be in tact? Is that not the entire point of the book of Hebrews?

Thank you for interacting with kindness and patience on these topics. I enjoy discussing them very much and it is nice that on Connect we can discuss them without division between brothers in Christ :slight_smile:


(Terrell Allison) #11

Sean good afternoon

A question concerning 2 Peter 3:8. I believe the context allows for day=thousand years in reference to the creation since Peter referenced the creation just prior to making this statement. (My question.) Does your theology not allow for the possibility that this is so? Do you believe that the earth is older, or that the days were not 24 hour periods? Just curious since you are so adamant on this point.

Concerning the first resurrection. Are you saying that the first resurrection occurred somewhere around 30-34 AD, and that believers are going to be in the second resurrection? If this is the case then death will have power over us according to Revelation 20:6.

Paul also said,

"I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy." (Romans 11:11)

"For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be , but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15)

"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." (Romans 11:25)

“As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” (Romans 11:28)

(Your question)"If there is a New Covenant in Christ’s blood, how can the Old Covenant still be in tact? Is that not the entire point of the book of Hebrews?"

What about those that died under the Old Covenant? Were they not blinded in part until the fullness of the Gentiles? What if God is going to resurrect those dead bones and fulfil his promises to those he intentionally blinded. If after their resurrection they continue in unbelief they too would be cut off. God definitely makes a distinction between natural branches and unnatural branches.

I am not dogmatically saying this is the way it is. It is only my opinion, and I am often wrong.

Brother in Christ

Terry


(SeanO) #12

@tttallison Good afternoon indeed! The weather here is glorious.

Regarding 2 Peter 3:8, I do not personally think it is attached in any way to the days of creation. I think Peter was using 1000 years simply for emphasis. Peter does say in verse 7 that the heavens and earth will be destroyed and he discusses the flood - but I do not see a connection to the creation days. So, for me, this passage is 100% unrelated to my belief about the days of creation or how long that process took.

Out of curiosity, what in this passage do you think connects the 1000 years to the days of creation?

Regarding Rev 20:6, I stated previously that the “first resurrection” refers to the resurrection of Jesus Christ “the firstfruits”. [1 Corinthians 15.20] Hence, the righteous dead (Rev. 14.13: “blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on”) are described as “sharing” in Christ’s resurrection and rule, in perfect correspondence to Paul’s statements in his letters.

There is the question of ‘where’ the saints rule - this view believes they rule with Christ from Heaven during the Church age. I think this is a hard passage in general to try to put on a timeline in any systematic theology…

Romans 9-11 is difficult to have a short conversation on because the verses you and I listed sound convincing for either side on their own, but it is really the full argument that Paul is making that matters.

Below is part of William Lane Craig’s explanation of the passage - though he was not addressing the issue of Israel and the Church.

What I would like to highlight from Craig’s brilliant analysis is that Paul is addressing the issue of ‘who’ God’s chosen people are and the answer is ‘all who believe’. Paul wants to emphasize - as he did in Romans 1-3 - that all men - Jew and Gentile - are condemned by sin and all may find salvation in Jesus - the True Vine.

Craig’s Exposition

Paul begins chapter 9 by expressing his profound sorrow that ethnic Jews have missed God’s salvation by rejecting their Messiah [= Christ]. But he says it’s not as though God’s word had failed. Rather, as we have already seen, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants” (9. 6-7). Being ethnically Jewish is not enough; rather one must be a child of the promise—and that, as we’ve seen, may include Gentiles and exclude Jews.

The problematic, then, with which Paul is wrestling is how God’s chosen people the Jews could fail to obtain the promise of salvation while Gentiles, who were regarded by Jews as unclean and execrable, could find salvation instead. Paul’s answer is that God is sovereign: He can save whomever He wants, and no one can gainsay God. He has the freedom to have mercy upon whomever He wills, even upon execrable Gentiles, and no one can complain of injustice on God’s part.

So—and this is the crucial point—who is it that God has chosen to save? The answer is: those who have faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul writes in Galatians (which is a sort of abbreviated Romans), “So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3. 7). Jew or Gentile, it doesn’t matter: God has sovereignly chosen to save all those who trust in Christ Jesus for salvation.

That’s why Paul can go on in Romans 10 to say, “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved’” (10. 12-13).

I think one thing that is helpful to keep in mind is that what you would call ‘replacement’ theology, N. T. Wright calls ‘fulfillment’ theology, which is a much more accurate term.

The Church is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel - Christ is Priest, King and Prophet and the Church is His Temple.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. What’s amazing is we are barely touching the iceberg on these wonderful topics.


(Terrell Allison) #13

Sean—Out of curiosity, what in this passage do you think connects the 1000 years to the days of creation?

Peter said the people thought God was slack concerning the coming of the Messiah. Peter then takes them back to the beginning of creation, then to the flood, and then to the end. Immediately following this Peter says one day is as a thousand years. To me it just seem logical that he is referring to the days of creation. There was six days of work and a day of rest. According to the scripture we are somewhere close to the six thousand years of work at the present time. The Jews say it has been 5,778 years since the first day of creation. Gentiles have it at 6,000 or over. No one knows exactly. I agree that this passage does not explicitly say that this relates to the days of creation.

Sean—Regarding Rev 20:6, I stated previously that the “first resurrection” refers to the resurrection of Jesus Christ “the firstfruits”. [1 Corinthians 15.20] Hence, the righteous dead (Rev. 14.13: “blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on”) are described as “sharing” in Christ’s resurrection and rule, in perfect correspondence to Paul’s statements in his letters.

There are two applications to what you are saying. A literal one and a spiritual one. We were not resurrected physically when Christ arose.

Sean—There is the question of ‘where’ the saints rule - this view believes they rule with Christ from Heaven during the Church age. I think this is a hard passage in general to try to put on a timeline in any systematic theology…

Revelation 20:4 says the reign is during the millennium.

Sean—Romans 9-11 is difficult to have a short conversation on because the verses you and I listed sound convincing for either side on their own, but it is really the full argument that Paul is making that matters.

God deals with nations and God deals with individuals. (Job 34:29 When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only:)

Paul stated that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but they are all one. Paul never states that all nations are one. Israel was chosen by God with the foreknowledge of how they would act.

Leviticus 26:43-45 The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.

Brother in Christ
Terry


(SeanO) #14

@tttallison Thank you for taking the time to talk through these very intriguing issues :slight_smile:

I have learned more about your perspective by having the discussion and that is very valuable. I think we are using a fundamentally different hermeneutic and the discussion regarding that method would take hours upon hours even in person. But I have very much enjoyed our conversation.

May the Lord continue to grant us both wisdom as we study His Word!


(Carson Weitnauer) #15

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