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Snapshots of the Kingdom: Ezekiel

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Issue #383June 2020

Snapshots of the Kingdom: Ezekiel

There were three distinguished prophets living at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction at the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem and saw its destruction; Daniel prophesied in Babylon as a captive being trained to be the liaison between Babylon and Judah; and Ezekiel prophesied to the Israelites in exile who lived north of Babylon in Assyria.

We have already seen a snapshot of the Kingdom from Jeremiah’s ministry in Judah. Now we will turn to Ezekiel and his ministry to the former Israelites.

Ezekiel, the Missionary to Exiled Israel

Ezekiel’s prophecy begins with the prophet in Assyria “by the river Chebar among the exiles” (Ezekiel 1:1). Chebar is today called Khabour and is the same as Habor, where some of the Israelites were taken in 2 Kings 17:6,

6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria and settled them in Halah and Habor [or Chebar], on the river of Gozan and in the cities of the Medes.

It appears that the prophet was transported to Assyria by the strange craft described in the rest of chapter 1, which many claim was an alien spaceship. It appeared at the time of Ezekiel’s call to the prophetic ministry in the second and third chapters. So we read in Ezekiel 3:10-15,

10 Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. 11 Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord God’.” 12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a great rumbling sound behind me, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord in His place.” 13 And I heard the sound of the wings of the living beings touching one another and the sound of the wheels beside them, even a great rumbling sound. 14 So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away; and I went embittered [mar, “bitter, vexed, provoked, sad”] in the rage [chemah, “hot displeasure”] of my spirit, and the hand of the Lord was strong on me. 15 Then I came to the exiles who lived beside the river Chebar at Tel-abib, and I sat there seven days where they were living, causing consternation among them.

It appears that Ezekiel’s trip was unexpected and was more akin to being kidnapped. Perhaps he did not even have time to prepare or to say good-bye to friends and family. Further, his calling was to “a rebellious house” that was sure to reject his prophetic words. So his calling was not to his liking, nor was he given a choice in the matter.

When he was dropped off at the river Chebar among the exiles of Israel, he remained in a state of shock for a full week (Ezekiel 2:15, 16) before he could say anything. His experience was quite unique.

Ezekiel’s first prophecy is dated “in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month” (Ezekiel 1:1) after he had been transported to Assyria. This was the 30th year of the 17th Jubilee cycle, dating back to Israel’s entry into Canaan under Joshua. Hence, it is dated 594 B.C., which was also the third year of King Zedekiah, Judah’s last king.

Ezekiel had seen the capture of Jerusalem in 604 B.C., but he was not present when the city was destroyed in 586 B.C. It seems that his primary purpose was to inform the exiled Israelites that Jerusalem was being judged in the same manner as Samaria a century earlier.

No doubt these exiles still had an interest in events happening in the old country. Perhaps some even hoped to return at some point, now that the Assyrian empire had fallen to the new power (Babylon). The news of Jerusalem’s fall, however, would have dashed any hope of returning. Why return to a nation being captured by Babylon?

Strength

The names of prophets (and all prophetic types and shadows) always seem to have something to do with the message they are called to preach. Ezekiel’s name means “God is Strong” or “God strengthens.” The Hebrew word for “strong” is oze. It is the same root as Hezekiah, “Yahweh is my strength.”

So the prophet was told in Ezekiel 3:8, 9,

8 Behold, I have made your face as hard and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. 9 Like emery [shamiyr, “adamant, diamond”] harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house.

Because the Israelites were hard-headed, God chose a hard-headed prophet as well, for he was suitable to the task at hand. (My guess is that He chose Donald Trump for the same reason.) God chose a wise prophet (Daniel) to deal with the wise men (magi) of Babylon. God chose a weeping prophet (Jeremiah) to oversee the destruction of Jerusalem.

We may not always like the personality of those whom He calls, but God certainly chooses appropriately.

Apparently, the ex-Israelites in Assyria put the prophet on house arrest and would not let him speak to the people. Ezekiel 3:25, 26 says,

25 As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and bind you with them so that you cannot go out among them. 26 Moreover, I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be mute and cannot be a man who rebukes them, for they are a rebellious house.

No wonder Ezekiel was so angry and frustrated. He must have questioned God many times. Why have you done this to me? What is the point of being a prophet without a voice? But the prophet was able to write down his prophecies, so that the word of the Lord might be heard and understood in a later generation.

Ezekiel was prophesying to a generation that had just begun its long captivity. God had blinded the eyes of the people and had caused them to worship false gods, as we see in the Laws of Tribulation. Deut. 28:64 says,

64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.

Most people understand that idolatry brings judgment, but not many understand that idolatry itself is a judgment for the sins of our forefathers. How many generations have blindly remained in idolatry because of the sins of their fathers? It is only by the grace of God that a few eyes are opened to carry the light of God’s word in a darkened world.

Of course, keep in mind that this would be unjust to individuals paying for the sins of their fathers, except for the fact that God has promised to reconcile the whole world to Himself in the end. Even Ezekiel understood this law, for he wrote in Ezekiel 18:20, “The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity.”

How, then, could God visit “the iniquity of fathers to the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations?” (Exodus 34:7). This apparent contradiction is only resolved by the truth of the reconciliation of all things. If any man in any generation has carried the penalty for the iniquity of his forefather, then the promise is to him. Ultimately, all are under the death penalty imposed by Adam’s sin. For this reason, the Last Adam came to reverse all the effects of the sin of the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:22).

The revelation of the reconciliation of all things gives us reason to rejoice in the midst of apparent (and temporary) injustice that is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is yet to be revealed (Rom. 8:18). Neh. 8:10 says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Ezekiel’s name is a promise of strength, that is, “the joy of the Lord.” When we consider the injustice that God allowed Ezekiel to be put through, we can see why he was in need of strength and joy. It appears that the prophet’s own personal journey took him on a quest from bitterness and anger to the place of joy.

His final revelation gives us one of the names of God: Yahweh Shammah, “Yahweh is there.” He is ever present, even in the midst of trouble. No doubt the prophet found great personal comfort in this revelation, which extended also to the lost sheep of the House of Israel during their time of tribulation.

The Strong Branch

Ezekiel 19 gives us a lament for the princes of Israel who had been killed or exiled to Assyria. This lament sets forth a prophetic metaphor of a vineyard that started out to be fruitful and lush, but which ended up with its branches torn away. The prophet pictures the princes as those branches.

Ezekiel 19:10-14 says,

10 Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard, planted by the waters. 11 And it had strong [oze] branches fit for scepters of rulers, and its height was raised above the clouds so that it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches. 12 But it was plucked up in fury; it was cast down to the ground; and the east wind dried up its fruit. Its strong [oze] branch was torn off, so that it withered; the fire consumed it. 13 And now it is planted in the wilderness in a dry and thirsty land. 14 And fire has gone out from its branch; it has consumed its shoots and fruit, so that there is not in it a strong [oze] branch, a scepter to rule.

The “strong branch” was Israel’s monarchy, which had been “torn off” and “withered.” Israel went from being planted in a good land to a broken nation “in the wilderness in a dry and thirsty land.”

This passage is built upon the Hebrew word oze, which is the root of the name Ezekiel. In that this passage is the only place in his prophecy where oze is used, it is the key to the prophecy of his name.

The kings of Israel were idolatrous men who led the nation in the worship of the golden calves built by Israel’s first king, Jeroboam, the Ephraimite. As the holder of the Birthright of Joseph, Ephraim was supposed to be a fruitful bough (ben, “son, bough, branch of a family tree”). Hence, Israel was pictured as a vineyard. But Ephraim had turned to idolatry, and because of this, “it was plucked up in fury.”

The natural branch, being fleshly, lost its strength. By contrast, “a man whose name is Branch” (Zech. 6:12) was to come as the strong and fruitful King of Israel. His coming was to restore both Israel and Judah (Hosea 1:11), to repair the breach between them (Isaiah 58:12), and to fill the face of the world with fruit (Isaiah 27:6).

Ezekiel’s Vision of the Four Beasts

Ezekiel was looking north when he saw it approaching (Ezekiel 1:4). First he saw the face of a man on its southern side (Ezekiel 1:5). On the right (east) side, he saw the face of a lion; on the left (west) side, he saw the face of a bull; finally, as it approached, he saw on the north end the face of an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10).

Whatever one might say about this, the prophet saw it as a manifestation of “the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28).

The four “faces” were seen again by the Apostle John, who described the four beasts (or living creatures) around the throne in Rev. 7,

7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.

The four living creatures represent the creation itself. The lion is the king of the beasts; the calf (or bull) is the king of the domestic animals; the eagle is the king of the fowls; and the man is the overall “king” who was told to “rule the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

Hence, when the four beasts say “Amen” to the divine plan, recognizing His right to rule (Rev. 5:13, 14), it speaks of the reconciliation of all creation. Needless to say, this “Amen” is not forced against their will. It is an expression of agreement with joy mixed with awe.

The divine plan is not finished until the four beasts say “Amen!” Agreement brings joy and fills us with strength.

Yet Ezekiel was not the first to see this revelation of the four beasts around the throne. Moses saw it, too, for he assigned the camp of Israel to express this revelation. The Ark of the Covenant stood in the midst of the camp within the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle. On each side, the four leading tribes carried banners (Num. 2:2) that each pictured a beast according to its assigned prophecy.

On the east side, Judah’s banner pictured a lion; On the west side, Joseph (Ephraim’s banner pictured an ox, bull, or calf; On the south side, Reuben’s banner pictured a man; on the north side Dan’s banner pictured an eagle.

Jacob’s prophecy to Judah spoke of a lion (Gen. 49:9). Moses called Ephraim “the first-born of his ox” (Deut. 33:17). Reuben’s name means “Behold a son,” and Jacob called him “my firstborn” (Gen. 49:3).

Finally, Dan’s banner was an eagle carrying away a serpent, as eagles are known to do. Jacob referred to Dan as “a serpent in the way” (Gen. 49:17), but the eagle was the main symbol of Dan. Dan’s name means “judge,” and so his banner depicted an eagle’s judgment upon the serpent.

We see this later in Judah’s history when a king of Sparta in Greece, King Areus, discovered from some old written records that his city had been founded by descendants of Abraham. He then wrote a letter to Onias, the high priest in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. It said,

“We have met with certain writing, whereby we have discovered that both the Jews and the Lacedaemonians [Spartans] are of one stock; and are derived from the kindred of Abraham. It is but just, therefore, that you, who are our brethren, should send to us about any of your concerns as you please. We will also do the same; and esteem your concerns as our own; and will look upon our concerns as in common with yours. Demoteles, who brings this letter, will bring your answer back to us. This letter is four square; and the seal is an eagle with a dragon [serpent] in its claws.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XII, iv, 10)

We know from the Song of Deborah that most of the tribe of Dan did not help her and Barak to free Israel from its Canaanite captivity. She thus asked, “Why did Dan stay in ships?” (Judges 5:17). The answer was because the tribe of Dan had not been able to gain its full inheritance on account of the Philistines occupying the plain (Judges 18:1).

Hence, one group of Danites went north, conquered Laish, and renamed it Dan (Judges 18:29). Most of the Danites, however, took to the sea with the sailors of Tyre and Sidon. King Areus apparently discovered that these Danites founded Sparta and that their Great Seal was the picture on the banner of Dan.

That is how we know that the banner of Dan, “Judge,” was an eagle carrying away a serpent, which figuratively represented doing away with injustice and lawlessness.

The Israelites carried banners representing the four beasts around the throne (Ark), This was a snapshot of the Kingdom. Israel’s camp itself was supposed to represent the heavenly scene that John saw in Rev. 5. If the Israelites had indeed been faithful to God, moving from obedience to agreement, they would have been an earthly representation of heavenly truth. However, they failed, making them just a type and shadow of things to come under a New Covenant.

Noah’s Revelation

The earliest clear revelation of the New Covenant and its promise to restore all of creation comes in Genesis 9 in the story of Noah. Gen. 9:8-10 says,

8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.”

The king of the birds is the eagle; the king of the cattle is the ox, or bull; the king of the beasts of the earth is the lion; and the overall king at the time was the man, Noah. Here we see the four beasts that represent all of creation, and it comes within the context of God’s covenant “with every living creature.” Later, this is restated for clarity in Gen. 9:14-16,

14 It shall come about when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.

Some have limited this covenant by reading too much into verse 15. They say that God promised never to destroy the earth with a flood, but that He will destroy it later with fire. Such people miss the whole point of this promise, for we see earlier in Gen. 8:21, “and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.” The focus is upon the destruction itself, not upon the method of destruction.

The Four Gospels

Even as the camp of the tribes in the wilderness gave us a snapshot of the Kingdom under the Old Covenant, so also the four gospel writers give us a New Covenant snapshot of the Kingdom.

Matthew presents Christ as the Lion of Judah and the King of Israel.

Mark presents Christ as the Suffering Servant, the Ox or Bull of Ephraim/Joseph.

Luke presents Christ as the Son of Man, the symbol of the tribe of Reuben.

John presents Christ as the Son of God, represented by the flying eagle, the banner of Dan.

Each of the four beasts gives us a snapshot of some aspect of the Kingdom. Hence, all four gospels are needed to see the full picture of Christ and His Kingdom:

Behold your King” (Zech. 9:9).

Behold My Servant” (Isaiah 42:1).

Behold a Man named The Branch” (Zech. 6:12).

Behold Your God” (Isaiah 40:9).

This is Christ, the strong Branch, the Servant-King, and “the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:5). Because of His willingness to die for people, proving His great love for the world, He was worthy of the highest position of authority in all the earth. His is a universal Kingdom. Eph. 1:20-22 says,

20 … He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet.

Cover Letter for June 2020 FFI

Tabernacles Conference
October 9-11, 2020

at
The Clarion Inn & Suites
5335 Central Avenue Pike
Knoxville, TN 37912

This is the same hotel that had been secured for a Passover conference in April. That conference was cancelled because of the lockdown in Tennessee. Hopefully, we will not have the same problem in October. There is an airport in Knoxville, if anyone anticipates traveling by air—and if the airlines are not bankrupt or grounded.

There is no hotel shuttle service. If you do not have transportation, you will probably have to get a taxi at the airport. It is about a 20-minute drive from the airport to the hotel.

Meeting Times:

The conference will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, October 9, 2020. We will set up electronic equipment Thursday evening, assuming that the hotel has not rented out that time to another group. We will break for lunch about noon each day and give everyone at least 2 hours to eat and have fellowship. We will then have two more sessions in the afternoon and one or two more in the evenings.

Sunday afternoon will be a more informal time to allow the Holy Spirit to do His unexpected things without our agenda getting in the way. We have done this for the past few years and have found it to be the highlight of the conferences.

Speakers:

Confirmed speakers are:

Dr. James Bruggeman of Stone Kingdom Ministries

Ron Oja, Doctor of Scatology

Pastor Diane Padilla of Questa, New Mexico

Dr. Stephen Jones of God’s Kingdom Ministries

Rob Corry is yet unconfirmed.

Hotel Reservations:

The hotel has given us the special room rate of $69 per night. (With tax it will come to about $80.) The price is the same for one king bed or two queens. They are all non-smoking rooms with coffee maker, refrigerator, microwave, and free wifi. The hotel also has an indoor heated swimming pool, fitness center, and a business center.

Up to 4 pets are allowed at $25/night. I don’t know if that is $25 EACH or for all pets.

You may call 865-383-1086 for reservations and tell them you are coming for the God’s Kingdom Ministries Bible conference. Or you can book a room online and see pictures of the rooms here:

https://bit.ly/3dZxhWl

If you want to come early or stay later, you may have to call them to make the adjustment and get the $69 rate for the extra day or days.

There are two Clarion Inns in the Knoxville area, so be sure to make note of the correct address at the top of this cover letter.

Restaurants in the Area:

The Clarion has a restaurant and bar and offer free hot breakfasts for those staying at the hotel. There are two more restaurants across the street, including an Applebees. For those with transportation, it is a 5-minute drive to the downtown area, which has many other places to eat.

Hope to see you in October.

Stephen & Darla