The prophet Ezekiel comes up often in the context of End Times prophecy. Many people are confused by this book if they don’t see it in the full Biblical context of Genesis through Revelation. ◊
One could take a long time to read and study the Book of Ezekiel in the Bible and still end up being fairly confused. It is full of visions and notions that are tied to real and historical places and nations, as well as being loaded with apocalyptic language and references that seemingly point to destructive “end of the world” images found in the writings of other Old Testament prophets and even the Book of Revelation.
People seem to get very excited about End Times prophecy. I know I used to be fascinated by it when I was a new Christian in my youth. I believed that the “Second Coming of Jesus” was happening very soon. In my teens and 20’s I knew people who didn’t want to have children because they didn’t want to bring babies into a world they saw as soon destined for misery and a fiery destruction.
I hedged my bets and got married, went to graduate school, launched a business career, and started our family of 3 children and now have multiple grandchildren.
I’m still waiting for the so-called “Second Coming” but developed a very different perspective on it.
What changed, and it took several years, is that I started reading and studying the Bible myself and stopped just listening to what other people (even well-meaning pastors and well-known authors) told me about these End Times perspectives. I studied all sides and the history and saw the cohesiveness of the Scriptures. I matured in my own understanding of God’s larger story and historical development laid out in God’s Word, the Bible.
It’s actually not as complicated as we might make it if we study scripture in the light of scripture.
Ezekiel in Context
Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. He was born in Jerusalem in 622 BC during the reign of King Josiah, who implemented many Hebrew reforms from pagan practices that had crept into the culture.
Recall that the entire Hebrew nation arose from one man, Abraham (see Genesis 12) around 2000 BC. Abraham was promised by God in a holy covenant that his ancestors would someday and somehow be a blessing for all families of all nations in the world. His son Isaac begat Jacob (later named Israel), whose son Joseph (1 of 12) led the entire family of 70 people to Egypt (see Genesis 37-50). Hundreds of years later, another Hebrew named Moses (see Exodus 1) around 1500 BC, freed his people out of Egyptian slavery and led them to the land promised by God (see Deuteronomy 11:24) which was finally delivered as promised by God (see Joshua 21:43-45) in the 14th century BC.
Then recall that the new nation spread out into Canaan was initially ruled by leaders and “Judges” (see Book of Judges). Eventually, against their better judgment, the people sought to become like surrounding nations with formal kings. God gave them what they wanted and King Saul, King David, around 1000 BC, and David’s son King Solomon were set on the Jewish throne and eventually a spectacular Temple (see 1 Kings 5-8 and 2 Chronicles 2-7) was built.
After Solomon’s demise, so divided and sinful were the Hebrew people that they split their nation into a Northern Kingdom (called Israel with its capital city, Samaria), and a Southern Kingdom (call Judah with its capital city, Jerusalem). Over the next few hundred years, both Kingdoms degraded in culture and pagan practices of worship. The Northern Kingdom (Israel) was destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrian nation. The Southern Kingdom (Judah) was captured in a series of attacks and sieges starting in 605 BC by the Babylonians and ending ultimately in the complete decimation of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 586 BC.
With that context, in 597 BC we find Ezekiel captured and deported to Babylon over 1600 miles away with thousands of fellow Hebrews who were living in Jerusalem. Now at age 30, in 593 BC, he is being called to be a watchman for Israel (Ezekiel 3:17) delivering God’s renewed warnings and prophetic word of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred within a decade.
God’s Promised Blessings and Curses to Israel in Context
The Jewish/Hebrew nation was very different from other nations in that they were given very specific instructions in how to live as God’s people with special rules and laws for upholding their distinction from surrounding pagan nations.
For God had very specific plans to deliver that promised blessing to all peoples and nations. We know now that this blessing was God’s incarnate gift, Jesus Christ, to restore His creation back to Himself.
But God’s plan involved very clear instructions to the Hebrew nation. Way back in the Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy, God’s instructions to them was very conditional upon their obedience:
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God… (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
A list of blessings (see Deuteronomy 28:3-14) follow which are substantial. Almost sounds heavenly! But there is a dire warning of curses that will befall the Hebrew nation if they are disobedient:
However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you… Deuteronomy 28:15)
The list of curses (see Deuteronomy 28:16-68) is staggering.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ in Context
In light of this Biblical historic review, we can see the full context of Israel’s disobedience and understand just how far the Hebrew/Jewish nation had fallen. We can now review the Book of Ezekiel and its prophetic visions, language and imagery that align in stark comparison to the Book of Revelation, another apocalyptic book that again lays out God’s final judgment against another generation of Jews that committed the ultimate act of disobedience to God in their rejection and murder of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1)
This vile act of disobedience culminated in God’s curse fulfilled 650 years later and resulted in that same rebuilt Temple fully destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.
Do you understand Biblical prophecy in light of Biblical history?
He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day.” – Ezekiel 2:1-3