Risen from the Dust
One of the most mysterious sections of the entire bible is the description of the millennium found in the last chapters of Ezekiel. Probably the most puzzling aspect of Ezekiel's millennium chapters is that they describe a millennium in which animal sacrifice is carried out, similar to the rituals of the Old Testament. If the millennium will be a purely spiritual time of teaching, wisdom, and enlightenment (see ch.26 Millennium Nations), then how can there be blood sacrifices going on? Further, if we take these verses literally (as is the habit of some), then we have a millennium that undermines the fundamental Christian belief of Christ crucified as the perfect sin offering, for one and all time.
To understand the deeper meaning of Ezekiel's vision of millennium sacrifice, we must first clear up a common misconception about Christ's crucifixion. Alot of people mistakenly believe that when a person is saved they all of the sudden become a discrete pillar of holiness and righteousness in the world. Such a self-righteous attitude runs counter to everything the scripture teaches us, because individuals can never become sanctified and holy in-and-of themselves. Rather, when a person is brought from darkness to light through Christ, they become a vessel or conduit of his holiness.
We know that Christ offered himself one time upon the cross, for the forgiveness of sins, "Nor yet that he [Christ] should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9.25-26 KJV bible). It is because of the perfect nature of Christ's offering that it does not have to be repeated, and persists unfaded and undiminished forever.
However, through faith we must continue to abide in Christ's sacrifice to be partakers of his triumph over sin and death. Christ continually sustains, purifies, and renews us in exchange for our faithfulness to him, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth [stays] in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide [stays] not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered..." (John 15.5-6 KJV bible). So Christ suffered once, and has risen from the dead, but we should think of the result of his crucifixion as an ongoing cycle in our lives.
As Christians, each transgression is fully and wholly forgiven one time, but we must continually receive from his sacrifice to renew us in our day to day struggles with sin, in a sinful world, "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10.26 KJV bible). This continual "partaking" of Christ is not only necessary in this age, but it will be in the millennium as well, even after the resurrection of the righteous.
Now we can begin to understand what the blood sacrifices depicted in the millennium truly signify. They are representations of the ongoing and unfailing spiritual reality of Christ's crucifixion, and can therefore be thought of as the blood and body of Jesus Christ.
Remember that Messiah was born according to the flesh as a descendent of David, through the nation of Israel. This is why in the millennium, Israel is depicted as bringing forth the produce from their land for the sacrifices at the altar, "Concerning the ordinance of oil, the bath of oil, ye shall offer the tenth part of a bath out of the cor, which is an homer of ten baths; for ten baths are an homer: And one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the fat pastures of Israel; for a meat offering, and for a burnt offering, and for peace offerings, to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 45.14-15 KJV bible). The different sacrifices described here are all spiritual constituents of Christ's perfect offering on the cross, and representative of his blood and body.
God's nation will regularly partake of Christ's perfect sacrifice throughout the millennium, in order to renew and sanctify themselves while teaching and leading the dead (see ch.24 Millennium People). However, the dead ones will only be allowed to partake of Christ's offering, and the resulting forgiveness of sins, if they are received by him in the second resurrection. This is why they are not mentioned in attendance at the millennial assemblies, and while they will enter Jerusalem, they are excluded from the millennial sanctuary, "Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel" (Ezekiel 44.9 KJV bible).
In Ezekiel 47, we are given an in-depth spiritual metaphor that reveals information and details about the millennium. In his vision, Ezekiel sees a stream of water flowing outward from the altar of the temple, and downward into the countryside. Wherever this living water flows the ground brings forth lush vegetation, and there is abundant life, "And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh" (Ezekiel 47.9 KJV bible). However, in the places where the river does not go there is stagnation and the accumulation of salt, which prevents life, "But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt" (Ezekiel 47.11 KJV bible).
To understand Ezekiel's revelation, we must remember that in the millennium, the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11.9 KJV bible). We know that the truth will go outward from Jerusalem and eventually reach to the ends of the world. So in Ezekiel's vision, the stream of living water is symbolic of this downward flow of life-bringing knowledge to the nations. In the places where it goes there is renewal and vitality, but where it does not go there is a barren and lifeless landscape.
God's servants are then depicted as fishermen, drawing from the bounty of the living waters, "And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many" (Ezekiel 47.10 KJV bible). These fishermen are not desiring food, but rather seeking the souls of men from the waters (see ch.27 Children of the Millennium). Jesus uses this same metaphor for conversion when he says, "And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men" (Mark 1.17 KJV bible). God's elect, from the first resurrection, will be drawing from the bounty of souls carried by the living waters.
Ezekiel also describes trees growing alongside the banks of these living waters, that bring forth fruit, "And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine" (Ezekiel 47.12 KJV bible). The fruit and leaves of these trees is not for sustenance of the flesh, but rather for the nourishment and healing of the soul. These trees bring forth fruit according to the twelve months of the year, and are therefore representative of the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel at this time will be a great blessing unto the nations, as they provide them with spiritual sustenance, (see ch.26 Millennium Nations).
The living waters are described as continuing their course eastward from the temple, and ultimately draining into the Dead Sea, "Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed" (Ezekiel 47.8 KJV bible). So the living waters issue forth from the temple, travel across the countryside, and then finish their course at the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is so-called, because its waters have such a high concentration of salt in them that no plants or animals can live there. However, in Ezekiel's vision, he describes the living waters draining into the Dead Sea and healing it, so that it can support life, "...which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed" (Ezekiel 47.8 KJV bible). The Dead Sea is used here to represent the sea of the dead, which is millennial Hades, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Hades] delivered up the dead which were in them..." (Revelation 20.13 KJV bible). So the flowing of the living waters into the realm of the dead (see also ch.24 Millennium People), will help many of them to reject darkness, and seek the Lord before it's too late.
However, there are places where the living waters will not bring forth life, and these places will be given to salt. The salt describes a state of spiritual stagnation and entrapment, similar to what happened to Lot's wife when she looked back at Sodom (Genesis 19.26). During the millennium, there will be many souls who remain encased in deception and lies, because the living water finds no place within them. They will most likely be deceived by Satan when he is released at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20.7-9).
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