MASTER'S SEMINARY JOURNAL

BOOK REVIEW

Messiah's Coming Temple: Ezekiel's Prophetic Vision of the Future Temple


By John W. Schmitt and J. Carl Laney
Grand Rapids : Kregel (1997). 191 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
9.1 (Spring 1998) : 118-120

Here is an entire book supporting a literal realization of details about a temple. The authors argue the naturalness of understanding Ezekiel's description to depict a huge structure rebuilt during the future, earthly, millennial kingdom following Christ's second coming. They correlate this with Israel's regathering to its own ancient land, showing the plausibility of facets Ezekiel portrays in that setting. This they defend against other main interpretations seeing the temple as an ideal never fulfilled, or Herod's temple, or the church as a temple today, or the ultimate New Jerusalem.

Both writers studied under Dr. Stanley Ellisen, former Professor of Biblical Studies at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon. Laney is on the faculty at that seminary now, and Schmitt is the Executive Director of Messianic Temple Ministries. This effort promotes research on biblical prophecy and the temple. Schmitt includes pictures of models portraying the temple as the writers expect it to be, based on details of Ezekiel. These look at several distinct parts of the temple complex and its furniture.

The two see foreshadowing of the temple in the OT tabernacle. They include a short history of the temple concept, a sketch on attempts to rebuild a temple in modern times, and evidence supporting a future literal temple as sensible. If one is looking for a detailed case with evidence brought together for such a view, he will be somewhat disappointed. The work does not collect evidence to convince readers of this view in one place to show reasons for this interpretation, but it strings it out little by little as the writers take up different details, working through Ezekiel's chapters. Some evidence for the view is discernible, but the popular nature of the book seems to keep the writers from opening up many details. As they look at different facets of the details, they do to some degree answer a few common objections to a literal temple in the future.

One example is in their viewing of the sacrifices of this temple as not expiatory and not conflicting with the book of Hebrews. They claim that Christ's sacrifice was the fulfillment of the sacrifice idea, and is unrepeatable. They point out that even OT offerings were not expiatory, but memorials God led His people to enact to point to the only sacrifice, Christ's, which would be efficacious (Heb. 10:4). The future offerings, they reason, will look back to Christ's cross as OT offerings anticipated the atonement He made.

As to fitting details of Ezekiel 40-48 into Palestine, the writers reason, as has often been done, that the land's topography will change because of a massive earthquake (Zechariah 14). That will expand the area for Israel's tribes to have land allotments and all the details to find their place.

Schmitt and Laney survey many details in a way that accords with their literal overall view. The book is highly informative about modern temple movements, i.e., fervent concerns to see the temple rebuilt (60-65). Here as in other chapters they document key statements from relevant literature. They argue that the church will be distinguished from Israel, that the church's rapture will be pre-tribulational, that the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14 are literal Israelites who witness for Christ, and for conversions from all nations through this witness (Rev 7:9 ff.). They posit a thousand-year kingdom after the second coming (Rev 20:1-9), with Jerusalem as the center for people of the nations seeking knowledge from the Messiah in Jerusalem (Isa 2:2-4; cf. Zech 8:20). They cite other passages as well as Ezekiel's in expecting a future literal temple (Isa 2:3; 60:13; Jer 33:18; Joel 3:18; Mic 4:2; Hag 2:7-9; Zech 6:12-15; 14:16, 20-21). They reason that this temple differs in a vast way from the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22, the church today, and other nonliteral views (80-81). Their idea is that sacrifices, as God uses Ezekiel to depict them, serve two primary purposes: (1) to remind God's people of what Christ did in His atoning death [they do not say so, but this tangible expression is as the bread and cup serve as reminders today, not competing with but in concord with the glory of the cross]; and (2) to furnish opportunity for worship to Christ, as in the peace offerings (Ezek 43:27), i.e., as tributes to Christ's redeeming work (118-19).

The work concludes by stating ways that knowing Christ can be a hope that encourages, comforts, motivates, and purifies. An appendix answers questions, then an index of subjects closes the book.

Here is a fairly good survey, with 21 photographs of Schmitt's model, or sketches visualizing different details. It is a very readable survey integrating many aspects of the issue for those already persuaded of a literal fulfillment beyond Christ's future coming. And it can serve to show those opposed to this interpretation many facets to enhance the concept of how such a view can fit plausibly in hermeneutical consistency. Those teaching or preaching on Ezekiel 40-48 can see how a literal view here flows consistently after a literal fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecies of Babylon conquering Judah (chaps. 1-24), his prophecies literally fulfilled in judgments on surrounding nations (25-32), and the literal report of a fall of Jerusalem (33).