THE OLD TESTAMENT
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES

THE PROPHETS
Jeremiah and Ezekiel
The New Covenant, The Spirit, and The New Age
(Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:1-48:35)

. INTRODUCTION

It is getting close to 605 BC, and disaster is about to fall on Jerusalem. For the past 13 years the southern kingdom of Judah has been experiencing a revival unparalleled in the past 800 years of her existence as a nation. The best king ever to grace the throne of Judah, Josiah, has led the nation into a great revival. The Passover he conducted was said to have surpassed any other Passover since the time of Joshua 600 years earlier.

The future seems bright for the southern kingdom of Judah. Yet the light that is shining is merely the rays of the sun breaking through the dark storm clouds; the rays are definitely temporary. God is intent on disciplining Judah. Ever since the time of Solomon she has dabbled in idolatry. With the coming of Josiah's grandfather, Manasseh, things have hit rock bottom. Manasseh led the nation in worshiping the gods of all the surrounding nations, even going so far as to sacrifice some of his own children to the god Chemosh. God has had it. He is going to destroy the nation and send off many of the Jews to Babylon in exile. Even though the Jews will maintain their racial, cultural, and religious identity, they will cease to exist as a nation. The land of Israel will become nothing more than a remote outpost first in the Babylonian empire, then in the Persian empire, the Greek, Roman, and Muslim empires. (Only for a brief span of time from 165 BC - 63 BC will she re-emerge as an independent nation. After that though for 2011 years she will be dispersed among the nations.) In spite of Josiah's efforts, he cannot avert God's wrath. His efforts mainly have only one effect: God decides to bring the judgment upon Judah only after Josiah dies.

Well Josiah has died, being killed in battle by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco (609 BC). Ruler after ruler will ascend the throne of Judah, none following the lead of Josiah. Instead they turn back to idolatry and seek their refuge in alliance with foreign powers. As a result the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar invades Judah/Jerusalem 3 times: 605 BC, 597 BC, and 586 BC. Each time he deports the finest of the noble youths to Babylon, among whom are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The last time he invades Judah (586), Nebuchadnezzar completely destroys the city and the temple,

It's all come to an end. This tremendous experiment God has conducted with Israel has ended in failure. What started out with so much promise with Joshua and the conquest of Canaan has ended disastrously. The once mighty kingdom and the glory of the Jews, the Temple, now lie in ashes and ruin. Is it all over? The nation is lost; however, not all is ended. Why? Because at this time emerge two of the greatest prophets in Israel's history, the prophet Jeremiah and the prophet Ezekiel. Jeremiah will minister to Judah up until the time the Babylonians finally destroy the kingdom once and for all, while Ezekiel will minister to the Jews while they are in exile in Babylon. From these 2 prophets we realize that the people of Israel do have a hope. Whereas the old system has failed, God has not failed. Whereas they have forgotten God, God has not forgotten them. Something new is about to emerge, something far more wonderful than they had ever experienced before. This new thing will NOT fail.


JEREMIAH: THE NEW COVENANT

For the past 800 years the Law has played a dominant role in the life of the Jews. Whereas some mistakenly thought that the Law would produce righteous living in the lives of Godís people, the last 800 years showed that this is exactly what did NOT happen. Right off the bat when the people were given the Law, they responded immediately by crafting a golden calf and worshiping it instead of the Lord. The Law simply had not worked. Not that it was ever intended to work. Its primary function was merely to define for people sin so that they could see what it was that was killing them. Jeremiah saw the inadequacy of the Law and realized that its days were numbered.

A new day was coming though in which the Law no longer would play a dominant role in the life of Godís people.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 "'Behold days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a ______ _________________ with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the _____________ which I made with their _____________ in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of ______________, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,í declares the Lord. 'But this is the _____________ which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law _______ them and on their _________ I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be My ______________.'" . . . Jeremiah 34b: "for I will _______ their iniquity, and their sin I will ______________ no more."

The Law basically failed to make us righteous because it was EXTERNAL to people. It was written on tablets of stone which are outside a person. Something new was needed to change the hearts of God's people, something new which was inside the person, not outside him. Ezekiel informs us of what God is going to do to change the heart.


EZEKIEL: THE SPIRIT AND THE NEW AGE

The Spirit

Jeremiah prophesied earlier that the old system simply did not work because it was EXTERNAL to man. All the laws Moses had given the people failed to change people's behavior because it did not get at the root cause of man's problem, man himself. Jeremiah tells us that God is going to change us INTERNALLY by writing His laws on our hearts; he just doesn't tell us how. For all practical purposes Ezekiel picks up where Jeremiah left off; he informs us how God is going to change us internally.

Read Ezekiel 36:26-27 and answer the following questions:

  1. What will God remove from His people?
  2. What will God give to His people?
  3. Who will He use to do it?
Many times in the Bible the term "flesh" has a negative meaning; it normally symbolizes the man who lives apart from the Spirit of God. In this passage, however, "heart of flesh" is in contrast to "heart of stone," that is, it is soft instead of hard.


The New Age

This new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah and the giving of the Spirit are not simply just a tweaking of the way God has been working for 800 years. Rather there are major changes in the works. In accordance with Isaiah, Ezekiel teaches that these changes will be part of a new age that is about to dawn in human history. The following sections list some of the major changes and events of this new age.


The New Ruler

Except for a few rulers (David, Hezekiah, and Josiah) the rulers of Judah have failed the nation of Judah miserably. As a result God is going to raise up a new ruler for His people. According to Ez. 34:24 who is going to be the new ruler/prince in this new age?

This is NOT the historical figure; rather the ruler is going to be like the historical figure. Moreover, this new ruler will be the descendant of David God promised to send Judah (2 Sam. 7:6-18).


A Great Event

One of the distinguishing characteristics of this new age is the resurrection. What happens in Ez. 37:1-14 which points to the resurrection of God's people?


Who will God use to raise people from the dead (37:14)? Notice again the emphasis on this Person.



The Major Battle (38:1-39:29)

In this new age righteousness will reign upon the earth. The righteousness does not just happen. Rather a great conflict occurs between the forces of good and evil, between God and the forces of darkness. The main opponent of God is found in Ez. 38-39. Who is God's opponent according to Ez. 38:1?

Where will God bring Gog/Magog in those days? Who will Gog war against (38:16)?


What will God do to Gog in those last days (38:22)?


It's kind of ironic that many Christians roll their eyes when they hear about the war of Gog and Magog against God and His people. To them this whole affair seems rather naive and prehistoric. Yet God has programmed us so that we should be prepared for such an event. Think back on some of the most popular movies of all time, and you will see that the ultimate conflict between good and evil definitely strikes a nerve with people: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, just to name a few. The reason these movies and others like them resonate so much with us is that they have tapped into the truth.


The New Temple (40:1-48:35)

Finally, because the temple during the reign of the kings failed to make people right with God, God is going to raise up a new structure. Where does God take Ezekiel to see the vision of this new structure (40:2)?

A man appears to Ezekiel. What is he holding in his hand (40:3)?

What does this man do with the measuring rod (40:5-6)? (He does it to the rest of this structure as well.)

At this point Ezekiel describes the new Temple. It is far more massive than anything Solomon or Herod the Great built. Notice 3 more features about this enclosure. Read the following verses and describe these 3 features within the Temple walls:

  1. Ezekiel 43:2, 4, 7: ___________________________________________
  2. Ez. 47:1-5: ___________________________________________
  3. Ez. 47:7: ___________________________________________


THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES

While Jesus was on earth, His opponents really took Him to task because they believed that He was destroying the Law of Moses. Little did they realize that instead of destroying Moses, Jesus was actually continuing and expanding the themes of the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. (In fact in John 3:9 when Nicodemus tells Jesus he just can't understand the new birth of the Spirit, Jesus rebukes him: "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?" The problem was that Nicodemus like the other Jews of his day was fixated on Moses. The Jews did not see that God had developed and expanded in the Prophets what He had taught in the Law of Moses.) In having a problem with Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders were actually having a problem with these major prophets. It is in Jesus' life and ministry that we see the fulfillment of the prophecies of these major prophets.


Jeremiah's Prophecy of the New Covenant

First, Jesus claims that His death on the cross is the blood necessary to trigger the covenant prophesied by Jeremiah. According to Jesus the wine in the Lord's Supper symbolizes what (Matt. 26:28)?

How do we know that Jesus is referring to Jeremiah's covenant though? Maybe He wasn't; however, the early church thought so. When the author of Hebrews speaks about Jesus' covenant, what passage does he quote (Heb. 8:8-12)?

Although Paul in describing the Last Supper calls this covenant "the NEW covenant," he does not mean it is a covenant new in TIME. That word for "new" would be the Greek word neos (NEH-ahz). Rather Paul uses the Greek word kainos (KYE-nahz) which means new in "kind," not necessarily in time. Paul actually earlier informed us that the covenant Jesus came to fulfill was actually older than Moses' covenant. Which covenant did Jesus actually fulfill by means of His death on the cross (Gal. 3:17)?

Now we see how this covenant though not new in time was new in kind. Although this covenant existed 430 years before Moses' covenant, the Mosaic covenant had practially overshadowed this earlier covenant. Now a new thing is happening. Moses' covenant is being completely done away with; now Abraham's covenant which has been in the shadows is now taking center stage.

Note that Jesus' conflict with the Jews was based on the fact that the Jews were fixated on Moses. Throughout His ministry Jesus brings attention to Abraham (John 8:31-59; Matt. 8:11)


Ezekiel's Prophecies

The Spirit

Ezekiel had shown that the change which occurs within man must be accomplished by God's Spirit. According to Jesus man needs a radical internal change in order to enter this new age God is creating, the kingdom of heaven. Who brings about that radical internal change (John 3:5-8)?

According to Paul the change brought about by the Spirit of Christ is so radical that the Christian actually becomes what (2 Cor. 5:17)?

Whatever else characterizes this new age of the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit is one of its dominant characteristics. The fact that the Holy Spirit played such a dominant role in the life of Jesus is evidence that Jesus is the One who brought in the kingdom of God.


The Great Events of the New Age (the Kingdom of God)

Ezekiel had prophesied that certain events would occur at the end of history which either ushered in the kingdom of God or which made up part of the kingdom of God: the coming prince, the resurrection of the dead, the battle with Gog and Magog, and the new structure. In the table below match the reference in Ezekiel with the reference in Revelation. (Connect the references in Ezekiel with the references in Revelation by drawing a line between them.)

The Resurrection (Ez. 37:1-14)                                             Rev. 21:10

Battle With Gog and Magog (38:1-39:29)                              Rev. 20:7-10

The New Structure (40:1-48:35)                                             Rev. 20:4-5


Notice very carefully that the sequence of events in Ezekiel not only occurs in Revelation; it also occurs in the exact same sequence.

Earlier we saw that in Ezekiel's Temple God's glory had re-entered the Temple. Moreover, this new structure had a river flowing through it with an arbor on both sides of it. Read the following verses from Revelation and see if these same elements are found in the new Jerusalem of God: Rev. 21:23; 22:1; 22:2.

Many believe that the Temple in Ezekiel is to be equated with the New Jerusalem in Rev. 21-22. Some people have difficulties identifying the New Jerusalem of Rev. 21-22 with the New Temple prophesied by Ezekiel. They claim that the New Temple of Ezekiel is actually built during the time of the 1000-year reign of Christ. The only problem with that is this temple in Ezekiel appears AFTER the battle with Gog and Magog, while the battle with Gog and Magog occurs AFTER the 1000-year reign of Christ (according to Revelation).

But can you equate the new Temple of Ezekiel with the Holy City of Rev. 21-22? Yes, simply because they perform the same function. A temple is the place where you meet God. Whatever else is true of the Holy City, it is filled with the presence of the Lord. "However," some might object, "there is no sacrifice in the Holy City of Revelation, whereas sacrifice plays a dominant role in Ezekiel's temple." But what is the primary animal slain in temple sacrifices? The lamb. Well, guess who is the dominant person in this new city? The Lamb of God. In describing the new city, John does not call Jesus by His actual name "Jesus." Rather he calls Him "the Lamb" to highlight the fact that Jesus was sacrificed on our behalf. Moreover, John does not simply call Him "the Lamb" just once; instead he calls Him the Lamb SEVEN times to emphasize the fact that Jesus is THE Lamb whose sacrifice has brought us to God. In other words, sacrifice IS major in the new city of Jerusalem. It's just that this sacrifice occurred over 2,000 years ago.


Conclusion

Paul and the author of Hebrews claim that much of the NT picture of Jesus can be seen the OT; however, there this picture is in shadows. If you look at a person's shadow, you will see a perfect outline of that person's body; however, only when you see the person himself do you see his color of eyes and of hair, his complexion, etc. In the same way the OT has correctly pointed to some amazing events in the future; in Jesus though we see these events crystal clear.