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Shut the Eastgate!

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What does it take for God and People to live face to face?

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Intro

My Wife Laura and I got married almost 10 years ago!
Although separate, once joined in the covenant of marriage we came together as one and have lived in peace, harmony and joy ever since!
Although separate, once joined in the covenant of marriage we came together as one and have lived in peace, harmony and joy ever since!
Now we all know that marriage isn’t all smooth sailing, Laura and I have plenty of past and present problems, and all of our marriages represented here (past, present and future)have their problems, but we all know what and ideal marriage is when we see it right? The husband and wife live together in love, enjoying one another and living self-sacrificially for the sake of building the other up. We know what the ideal is, whether we are married, or not.
Now what if I said, “well I’m married to Laura, but I’m going to live in a different house by choice”? You might start to think, something is not right here?
Then I might say: “oh yeah, I’m married to Laura, but I’m not really going to relate to her. She can do her thing, and I’ll do mine.” Then you would start to think, something genuinely unhealthy is going there.
Next I say: “Well, I’m married to Laura but’m going to chase other women on the side. No big deal, she’ll still be my number 1 relationship, but I can’t be tied down you know...”
You could very rightly beat me over the head for that kind of talk! It’s outrageous! Not least because this kind of attitude actually undermines the whole basis for a marriage!
Next I say: “Well, I’m married to Laura but’m going to chase other women on the side. No big deal, she’ll still be my number 1 relationship...”
The idea that someone, who has entered into a relationship of love and joy, would then separate themselves from the other, live as if they were actually independent, take the other for granted, want the benefits without the restrictions of relationship and even pursue other replacement relationships on the side is utterly ridiculous!
It is actually in opposition the hole point of the relationship. To live that way is to reject the other person, even if you have a certificate and a ring on your finger to say that you are connected.
In that kind of situation, we could rightly say that someone has broken their covenant, broken their promises, and that the other party is entitled to be freed from that relationship. Depending on the circumstances, they would be under no obligation to stay and keep pouring out their love to someone who has rejected them.
Well, that’s how it was with God and Israel. He said “I love you Israel, I’m going to rescue you out of Egypt, we’re going to have a big marriage ceremony at Mt Saini where I’ll lay down the basis of our relationship, who’s obligated to do what, how we relate to one another etc, then we will exchange vows, I’ll move in and then I’ll build you a beautiful house in the land of Canaan and we can travel up together and live happily every after.”
God and his people are meant to live together.
So how can these things be? How can we meet with God, who’s gloriousness obliterates mere humans? How can Christians meet God face to face when even a hint of his glory would send the Prophets of old into shock, falling flat on their face?
God and his people are meant to live together.
Today, we’re in the Book of Ezekiel, where the prophet Ezekiel deals heavily with this idea: that God and his people are meant to live together. Yet, in Ezekiel’s day God’s people are living in a foreign country and God has apparently disappeared.
So, Why does this old story of Israel’s problems matter to us? Well, because their problems are the same problems that we have today as the people of God. God teaches and instructs us today through the example of Israel.
God and Israel should be together in love and joy, yet they are separate.
Israel was meant to be committed, yet they were uninterested in what God asked of them, or having a heartfelt connection to Him.
Israel was meant to be faithful yet they messed around with other gods, while expecting the Lord God to keep his promises to them.
So, Why does this old story of Israel’s relational problems matter to us? Well, because their problems are the same problems that we have today. They were Israel the people of God in the Old Testament, and we Christians are the People of God in the New Testament. God teaches and instructs us today through the example of Israel.
What happened to them serves as an example for us, and it reveals the character of God to us.
Join me as we fly over the book of Ezekiel and look at four key points that will help us answer the question “If God and his people are meant to live together, What does it take for God and People to live face to face?”
One of the Old Testament books deals heavily with this idea. Today we’re going to immerse ourselves in the the visions of Ezekiel. These are epic and grand pictures
But before we can look at the visions of Ezekiel, we need to familiarize ourselves with how people and God have

Our Temple Lost

What is a temple for?
What does “sacred” & “holy”mean?
What does “holy” mean?

Our Temple Lost

The book of Ezekiel uses the Temple as the way to tell the story about God and Israel.
Ezekiel was from a family of Priests, and if everything went according to plan Ezekiel would have gone into the family business as a priest when he turned 30. But instead of entering into his trained profession at the Temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel is 1000 or so kilometers away in Babylon, exiled from his homeland.
They are displaced, they are dispossessed, they are driven out.
So here is Ezekiel, the priest with no temple to serve in, and God comes and commissions Ezekiel to speak to the exiled people of Israel to explain why they had been exiled from the land, and what (if anything) God planned to do about it.
So this book is essentially a record of the messages that God gave to the people, but it’s not just a haphazard mishmash of prophetic ravings, it is an ordered account of oracles. When you read the book as a whole you can see a definitive story arc that ties all the pieces together. The primary theme that is used is that of God and Israel living together as shown in the Temple.
# The temple is the place that God’s people met with him. It was the permanent version of the Tabernacle tent structure that God’s presence would dwell in while the people of Israel traveled. The temple is the place where God would live in the middle of the people of Israel and they would worship him, rejoice and meet with him. And God promised to bless Israel and care for them and provide for them.
There was one issue though. God is good. God is perfect. God is utterly holy.
Psalm 20:2–3 ESV
May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
There was one issue though. God is good. God is perfect. God is utterly holy.
But the people of Israel were not Good, Perfect and Holy.
So we have a perfect pure God who desires to live with his imperfect impure people.
Then God says “what we’ll do I we will create a sacred space. A holy area that is free from sin and corruption and everything evil and abominable.”
Then he proceeded to give instructions about it. So, we’ll fence it off and separate it from everyday common usage and keep it only for God. Then create a structure (tabernacle, then temple) where God’s presence can dwell (most holy place) with a buffer to sin and impurity and we’ll create a safe space where God’s appointed people can approach and meet God called the Holy Place. Then outside we’ll have an altar where God’s people can come and meet him, worship and eat a meal with him (but not too close).” That’s all laid out in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and others.
Now all of this elaborate set-up with sacred space and a temple was not because sin and impurity could impact or contaminate God but because the sinful people would not be able to withstand God’s holy presence. In fact a few times when people were sinning right near God’s presence, fire came out and destroyed the people (see Nadab & Abihu).
So the temple provided a place where God’s presence could reside, where God and his people could live in blessing and protection. God and his people are meant to live together.
Problem was, the system never really worked. From earliest days with the Tabernacle there were problems, all of which could be traced back to the underlying problem that God’s presence was in the midst of an impure people. God even threatened to Moses once:
Exodus 33:3 ESV
Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
God’s glorious holiness and perfection will decimate impurity and evil. Yet God and his people are meant to live together.
SO fast forward a couple hundred years to the time of Ezekiel, and things aren’t much better. God had gone up with the people, and they had built the temple and God dwelt there in Canaan with them but things didn’t improve. They remained rebellious, “stiff-necked” as it were. And God said as much when commissioned Ezekiel to be a prophet. He said:
Ezekiel 2:3 ESV
And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.
Israel’s sin against God was an ongoing problem. God had held up his side of the covenant promises, but Israel was obsessed with other gods:
Ezekiel 20:6–8 ESV
On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.’ But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
Ezekiel 20:6-
God even describes Israel as an unfaithful wife, whom he nurtured and clothed and blessed only to have her cheat on him with anyone who came along.
So bad was their sin and evil that they were essentially worshiping foreign gods in the temple, the place for God and his worship. Even the leaders of Israel were worshiping idols. And they thought they could get away with it in secret. But God saw, and he showed Ezekiel this awful truth.
Ezekiel 8:7–11 ESV
And he brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up.
Ezekiel 8:7-
Wow! Even the leaders of Israel were worshiping idols. And they thought they could get away with it in secret. But God saw, and he showed Ezekiel this awful truth.
Even the leaders of Israel were worshiping idols. And they thought they could get away with it in secret. But God saw, and he showed
Eventually, God said enough is enough. He wouldn’t put up with it anymore, so he left. Ezekiel describes what happens:
Ezekiel 9:9–10 ESV
Then he said to me, “The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice. For they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see.’ As for me, my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will bring their deeds upon their heads.”
Ezekiel 9:9
Ezekiel 10:18–19 ESV
Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.
Ezekiel 10:18
So, God had had enough. He had held back, but he would hold back no more. His glory departed from the temple where he had dwelt with his people, and he put the city to the sword. He had lived with their insolence, their rebellion and their abominations long enough.
The people were decimated, the temple was torn down.
God left.
God had given them chance after chance after chance and they kept breaking their promises and living as if God wasn’t their God. God was well within his rights to destroy them. And he did, though thankfully, he preserved a remnant: exiles who would one day return.
Like a rose bush he cut them right back to the barest twigs, so they could burst forth in after winter passed.
Friends it may be hard to envisage this story because it is not a common experience for us to think about temples and God’s presence and God killing large numbers of people. But I want you to know that the God of Ezekiel is the God we worship now.
He is a jealous God. He is a righteous God. He is a just God. He will not put up with sin.
He is loving and kind, pouring out his blessings on people, being merciful and slow to anger. But he will not hold back his wrath forever. For those who want to live as though God doesn’t matter, he will be patient, but eventually he will treat them as they treat him: worthless.
Friends, as humankind we are all inflicted with sin and impurity, we have inherited it from our first parents, Adam & Eve, who rebelled against God and could no longer live in his presence, face to face. They were exiled from Eden, but God has promised that he will make a way, not only for the people of Israel, but for people of every nation to be able to live with him, to be purified by him, to be cleansed and washed to they will never have any shame before God again.
Friends we have lost the Temple of Eden, the Israelites lost the Temple in Jerusalem. But God has plans that will sort out the problem of sin once and for all. His plan for a new temple where God and people can meet will be better and grander than what had gone before. It will be better in every way.
Let’s go with Ezekiel, to see some visions that show us how God will fix the ongoing issues that prevent God and his people to living together.
What was the Temple for?
Why did God’s presence leave the Temple?

Our Temple Rebuilt

After many chapters, proving time and again that Israel deserved the punishment that God gave them, the Book of Ezekiel lays out a magnificent picture of the future. Yes, things have not gone well for God’s people, yes he has reduced them to almost nothing, but he has a plan in store for them and a future that will far exceed the past.
In chapter 40 God starts showing Ezekiel a series of visions focused around a future temple. These series of visions forms the climax of the book and shows Israel while they’re in exile that their present circumstances are not the end of the people of God.
For us, we probably don’t appreciate the magnificence of these chapters because building measurements just seem so banal to us. But, it creates a picture of a precise and measured temple that is perfectly proportioned and prepared exactly how God wanted it. Let’s get a taste of this right now in chapter 40:
Ezekiel 40:5–7 ESV
And behold, there was a wall all around the outside of the temple area, and the length of the measuring reed in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each being a cubit and a handbreadth in length. So he measured the thickness of the wall, one reed; and the height, one reed. Then he went into the gateway facing east, going up its steps, and measured the threshold of the gate, one reed deep. And the side rooms, one reed long and one reed broad; and the space between the side rooms, five cubits; and the threshold of the gate by the vestibule of the gate at the inner end, one reed.
Ezekiel 40:5-
Ezekiel is taken around with his vision guide and measures all the different parts of the temple. Everything about the temple is precise, it’s just right. Nothing is out of place. It’s square. It’s devoted as a holy space.
You imagine for a moment that you want to build a new house. I know not everyone is excited by the idea, but if you’re invested in building a new house, your dream house, you will know it back to front. You’ll find a good layout, make sure the living areas relate well to the bedrooms. That the orientation allows the winter sun will warm the house, but it can keep cool in summer. You gotta make sure the layout allows for entertaining guests. If you’re building your dream house you will be all over the precise details of room sizes, ceiling heights and color palette.
# It’s a similar story here. The dream house where God’s people can meet God and live with him are being laid out.
Ezekiel is shown a new temple that is bigger and grander than any temple that came before or since. He is reassured that God will create a space where God and man can live face to face.
At this point you might be tempted to think that if Go

Our Temple Sanctified

God is not content to leave his people to languish in exile. Just as God will not put up with Sin forever, he will also not put up with being separated from his chosen people. He will bring them to himself. In fact Jesus says the same:
John 14:1–3 ESV
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
What is special about the new Temple described by Ezekiel?

Our Temple Filled

Next we finally get to . Our temple is filled.
Having painted a picture of this grand perfect temple Ezekiel is taken to the Eastgate so that he sees the return of the Glory of God. Remember earlier, God had left the temple, he couldn’t stand the evil and sin anymore and he did away with the old temple.
Now, in this vision of the future Ezekiel see’s a return of God’s glory to a grand temple. Lets look at that grand entrance:
Ezekiel 43:1–5 ESV
Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
Ezekiel 43:1-
With overwhelming sight and sounds God triumphantly returns to the temple! This is an epic event that heralds in a new age of God’s people being able to meet with God.
God’s back. His presence had gone out to the east, and has returned through the Eastgate, and now he will dwell there in a temple that will never be defiled again.
It’s a glorious future hope that Israel can look forward to. It will be the undoing of their shameful past.
God’s return fulfills God’s promises that he would never truly forsake his people.
But friends, I have to tell you, that the temple the Ezekiel describes has not been built, and if I understand scripture correctly, it will never be built.
That’s right. Its not here so that you can copy down the measurement and draw up plans. In fact if you do that you will see it that the temple has some strangely epic proportions that don’t lend themselves to building.
The visions of Ezekiel, like most prophetic visions, are not trying to lay out a specific literal picture of the future, but rather they paint a picture of what is to come. And in this case when Jesus comes he changes our perceptions of how God and people will meet face to face.
It’s not that there’s no Ezekiel temple, it’s that what Ezekiel is describing is an allusion something even grander and greater than an epic building where God lives.
He is describing the coming of God’s presence, God’s spirit, the Holy Spirit to dwell with his purified people.
God will prepare his people and purify them, sending his Spirit into them so that he can live with them, and they with him in joyful peace and purity. Ezekiel has already alluded to this in several earlier chapters, such as 36:
Ezekiel 36:26–28 ESV
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Then he goes on in chapter 37:
Ezekiel 37:26–27 ESV
I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
God wants to dwell with his people, but in order for that to happen he needs to get rid of what alienates us. He need to excise the sin in our souls. He must cut out the cancer of rebellion, and he does that by filling us with the Holy Spirit, purifying us so that we can live the way he wants us to live, desire the things that God desires and live in the blessing that God has for his own people.
You see Jesus Christ came into the world to do away with sin. He died for sinners, in our place! He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but if we are to take hold of what Jesus has for us we need the work of God’s Spirit inside of us to enliven us so that we can seek God and receive the blessings he has for us.
The problem that divides God and people is our sin, so he will take away our sin and shame to that we can be joined with him.
Through this purifying work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit we are being built into a pure temple.
We are the New Temple.
God’s people is the place where his presence dwells!
Jesus said
Matthew 18:20 ESV
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
then Paul says in ephesians
Ephesians 2:19–22 ESV
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Ephesians
No longer do we need dedicated mountains, and buildings and special altars and tools to meet with God, he is building his Church into the place where his presence will dwell forever!
In the future there is no temple building, and John says so in revelation
Revelation 21:22 ESV
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
He is already indwelling us now by his Holy Spirit to purify us, to lead us away from evil and things that are offensive to God. He is growing and changing us into the perfect temple, ready for the return of God.
He is already indwelling us now by his Holy Spirit to purify us, to lead us away from evil and things that are offensive to God. He is growing and changing us into the perfect temple, ready for the return of God.
This is why we call ourselves Eastgate Bible Church. We want to be the people of the east gate, part of His temple, purified and ready for God to return and dwell with us forever.
What happens at the East Gate?
What is the new temple?
How does God deal with the sin that separates?

Our Permanent Temple

What happens after the glory of God arrives at the temple?
Well firstly, God says “I’m here to stay. This is permanent.” Look with me at 43:6-9
Ezekiel 43:6–9 ESV
While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.
There is no way that God will allow sin back into the temple. What happened last time will not happen here. The people must get rid of anything sinful, anything immoral, anything contrary to God. This time the temple is here to stay. God will never leave his people, and they will give up their earlier ways.
Then, interestingly, Ezekiel is taken back to the East gate in chapter 44. Look at what happens
Ezekiel 44:1–3 ESV
Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.”
Ezekiel 44:1-
The gate that God entered by, is shut. It is no use anymore. God has come in, and he shall never leave. He’s here to stay. God’s presence will stay, forever. The only person who gets to use the gate is the enigmatic “Prince” who identity we will discuss another day (it’s Jesus!).
Having purified his people and prepared a Temple where God and his people may dwell, all is well. It’s permanent. The relationship is reconciled. There’s no strife or division. No argument or cheating. Things are sorted. God will dwell forever with his people, and the holy Spirit will go out, like a river, and rejuvenate the whole world, putting all creation right and making all things new.
Worship between God and his people will be sorted out. And that’s mostly what the final chapters of Ezekiel covers. Now that God is back, and here to stay with his people, they will worship him properly. No more mixed and half-hearted worship. No more scattered people, they will be gathered around the holy temple city and live with the Lord.
The final verse of Ezekiel - a renamed city
Then the city is named in the final verse of the book, capping off the whole theme of the book. The holy temple city it called Jerusalem, or Mount Zion, but here it is given a new name:
Ezekiel 48:35 ESV
The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.”
Ezekiel
The fact that God wells there with his people means that the city is now known by that name. It is called “The Lord is there”. It’s not merely blessed by God, it’s not only a place to worship, but is actually permanently the place where God is.
If you have time later today you should pop over to Revelation and see how
What happens when God comes back to the Temple?
What is the new name of the holy temple city?

What now?

How does this affect the way we live?
We are collectively and individually God’s temple.
If you are a temple of God, then live like it!
Put away every thing that God hates.
Don’t be unequally yoked
Shut the East gate! To call our self God’s church and then live as if God doesn’t matter to us is to say
The take-away: We have been sanctified and indwelt by God, so we must treat ourselves as holy space.
Like the Eden and the temples of old, God will not co-exist with sin and impurity. He either cleanses by destroying what is impure, or purifying it. He destroyed the temples of old and now indwells people, who are purified by Him. We
Like the Eden and the temples of old, God will not co-exist with sin and impurity. He either cleanses by destroying what is impure, or purifying it. He destroyed the temples of old and now indwells people, who are purified by Him. We
“If God and his people are meant to live together, What does it take for God and People to live face to face?”
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