We have noted that the subject of the re-gathering of Israel is one that garners a great deal of interest and debate in evangelical circles. Zionists tell us that the re-gathering to the literal land of Israel began in 1948, and that event was in fact the “Super Sign of The End” (Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times, Harvest House, Eugene, Ore., ). In fact, however, the events of 1948 and following have nothing to do with the fulfillment of prophecy. See my Israel 1948: Countdown to No Where, available here, for a full discussion of this.
We have been examining just a few of the OT prophecies of the re-gathering in light of the New Testament interpretation of those prophecies. The New Testament, Spirit inspired writers understood that those Old Covenant promises were being fulfilled spiritually in Christ. Our next text is the great prophecy of Ezekiel 37:
“And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Just as Isaiah 49, Ezekiel foretold the restoration of the tribes of Israel, the restoration to the Land, the making of a New Covenant. He then adds the promise of the Messianic Tabernacle / Temple. Now, since Isaiah posited the restoration of Israel, the New Covenant and the Land promises in “the acceptable time, the day of salvation,” it therefore follows that those identical constituent elements in Ezekiel 37 likewise belong to “the acceptable time, the day of salvation.” To put it another way:
The restoration of Israel would be in “the acceptable time, the day of salvation” (Isaiah 49).
But, the Messianic Temple / Tabernacle would be established when Israel was restored (Ezekiel 37).
Therefore, the Messianic Temple / Tabernacle would be established in “the acceptable time, the day of salvation.”
This is inescapably true. You cannot posit the identical subjects, elements, motifs and themes at different times. The passages are clearly parallel and foretold the salvation / restoration / re-gathering of Israel. Let’s take a look now at what Paul had to say about both Isaiah 49 and Ezekiel 37.
Remember that Paul preached and taught nothing but the hope of Israel found in Moses and the prophets. And in one remarkable context, Paul quotes both Isaiah and Ezekiel in such a way as to leave no doubt about how he viewed those prophecies. They were being fulfilled in the body of Christ. To help us with this, take note that in 2 Corinthians 3-6 Paul discusses Ezekiel 37 in-depth. In fact, it is my contention that 2 Corinthians 3-7 comprise Paul’s inspired Midrash– commentary– on Ezekiel 37 and the promised restoration.
Ezekiel 37 foretold the New Covenant; Paul discusses the New Covenant. Ezekiel promised the out-pouring of the Spirit. Paul discusses the work of the Spirit in delivering the New Covenant. Ezekiel spoke of the resurrection. Paul speaks of the transition from the ministration of death to the ministration of life. Ezekiel spoke of the Messianic Tabernacle, and Paul spoke of the Temple of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. And he then makes an astounding statement: “You are the temple of God, as it is written…” (2 Corinthians 6:16). Paul, writing to the church at Corinth said they were what Ezekiel 37 foretold!
It must not be forgotten that the church at Corinth was established in the synagogue. The ones who turned to Christ were not only children of God by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), but they were also of the bloodline of Abraham. They were the righteous remnant!
To put it another way, Peter said that the Jews that did not obey Jesus as Messiah and follow him, would be “utterly destroyed out from among the people” (Acts 3:23, my translation). This means that the blood line Jews that followed Jesus as Messiah were the true seed of Israel and were inheritors of the promises. They were the righteous remnant. This is why Paul could say: “Israel has not obtained that which he sought, but the elect has obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Romans 11:7–See my six lesson series on Romans 11:7; Contact me about that audio series). As promised in the Old Testament, the righteous remnant was receiving the promises. This is why Paul could say that the church in Corinth was the promised Messianic Tabernacle promised in Ezekiel.
There really is no escaping the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:16. Paul is unequivocal and emphatic: “You are the temple of God, as it is written” cannot be construed to mean that the church was not what was promised. And Paul had plenty of words at his disposal to say that the church was a foretaste of what was promised, but he did not use any of those words. And, since in the millennial scheme of things the church is nothing even closely resembling what was promised, it cannot be argued that Paul was saying, “you are something like what was promised.” Be sure to read my new book AD 70: A Shadow of the (Real) End? for a full discussion and refutation of the idea that the events of the first century were typological of yet future events. That book is also available on Kindle.
So, Paul’s emphatic declaration, “you are the temple of God, as it is written” demands that the re-gathering / restoration / salvation of Israel was underway. You can’t have a temple without a “land.” And in Jewish thought, you can’t have a temple without a city, the city of Jerusalem. This is why Paul taught that the church is also the “Heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:21f), the “Jerusalem that is above” (Galatians 4), etc.. So, for Paul to assert the spiritual reality of the Messianic Temple and the New Jerusalem forces us to re-examine the idea of “the land.” But that is beyond the scope of this article. We will have more in the next installment.