OT Gospel Doctrine lesson 44 - “Every Thing Shall Live Whither the River Cometh”
Ezekiel 43-44; 47
The First Temple
As explained in the previous lesson (43) on Ezekiel, his vision in chapter 1 described the temple of Solomon as a mobile temple that could reach to Babylon where the exiles lived. Jehovah was not only the God of Jerusalem, but had power anywhere his people dwelt upon the face of the earth. Ezekiel will now end his vision by describing the rebuilt temple in the last days.
This temple, as with all temples, is implicitly tied to all holy places ever used by God: the Garden of Eden, Mount Sinai, Noah’s ark, the Tabernacle, the Temples of Jehovah have all been a place of refuge from the storms and evils of the world. They are paradise.
In the recent Temple Studies Group Symposium IV in England, Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker explained that when Ezekiel saw the Garden of Eden as the “mountain garden of the ‘elohim (Gods, sons of God).” This is where God walked and spoke to the man, Adam. This is where Adam learned he was made in similitude of Jehovah, and was the first Adam. Jesus Christ would later be the second Adam, bringing mankind back to the Garden of Eden through the rites of the temple of God. The temple is described as the “mountain of the Lord’s house” by Isaiah (2:2), and therefore represents Ezekiel’s mountain garden paradise.
In the current lesson, Ezekiel sees the future temple. Because of his vision, partially fulfilled in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and Ezra the scribe, exiled Israel would look forward in hope to restoring the temple after their Babylonian exile, and again look forward to building what is known as the Third Temple.
The key to the temple is to bring people back into the glory of God. After the Fall, ancient tradition says that Adam longed for the return to the Garden and God’s presence. He had been placed at the Cave of Treasures, which was below the Garden, yet higher than the wicked who would later dwell in the valley below. Eventually God would give Adam 3 tokens from the Garden to place in the Cave of Treasures: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These treasures would later go from the first Adam, and be given to the second Adam, Jesus Christ, at his birth in Bethlehem. Jesus is the rightful owner of the gifts and tokens given to Adam from the Garden/Temple of God.
According to LDS theology, Moses’ key purpose in bringing the children of Israel to Sinai was not to receive the 10 Commandments, but to bring them a higher law and purpose: to actually take them up the mountain and into God’s presence. He wanted to restore them to the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve talked and walked with God. He sought for them to have the experience he had had with God, seeing him face to face. Yet, they refused to climb the mountain, and insisted that Moses be their eyes and ears before God. In his wrath, God took away from them the higher law and priesthood power, and gave them a lesser law and priesthood authority (Levitical priesthood), which would stay in place until the mortal calling of Christ, who would fulfill the Mosaic Law and replace it with his higher law and power of the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 84:1-27, Hebrews 4-7).
Man Touches God (Michelangelo - Sistine Chapel)
Lehi and Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life speaks of an iron rod that one must hold onto to obtain the Tree of Life. Clearly, the Tree of Life was upon a mount, which would require a rod to assist one in climbing. Next to the Tree of Life were the Waters or Fountain of Life, representing with the Tree of Life the love and salvation of God. Nephi would see in vision that the fruit of the Tree is Jesus Christ and the atonement encourage us to partake of the living waters (1 Nephi 8-15).
In Ezekiel 47, we see that a river flows from under the temple and heals the Dead Sea and the deserts. The Garden of Eden sent forth rivers to the surrounding lands, watering them and healing them from the drought conditions that often beset many areas of the world. Here, the future temple also heals the land with a river that flows from it. There is also symbolism involved here, because the temple also gives life to those who drink from the waters therein. The Garden of Eden was tied to the first Adam. The latter-day temple is tied to the second Adam, Jesus Christ. When we partake of his living waters, particularly those offered in the temple of God, we are given eternal life. Why in the temple of God? Because in the holy and sacred space is where man meets God face to face. Jacob’s ladder/staircase (Gen 28), Isaiah theophany (ch 6), Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 1), and John’s Revelation (1, 4) all tell us about their visions of the celestial throne and seeing God sitting upon it. This is a pattern for all of us.
Paul spoke of our bodies being the “temple of God” (1 Cor 3:16-17). Each of us should seek to make of our own lives a paradise of God, a Garden of Eden. Each of us should seek to arise from the fall of the first Adam, and claim the atonement of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.
In today’s LDS temples, we experience the earth’s Creation, the Garden, the Fall, and the return into God’s presence in the Celestial Room (representing heaven). We symbolize Adam, as he symbolizes Christ. In this experience, we literally practice for the day when each of us will kneel at the throne of God and behold our Lord. The question is whether we shall be like the prophets who entered into the throne room of God’s holy temple, or stayed below like the rebellious Israelites in Moses’ day.
David Larsen’s notes on Margaret Barker’s talk at the Temple Studies Group Symposium IV: http://www.heavenlyascents.com/2010/11/08/the-temple-studies-group-symposium-iv-margaret-barker/
The Conflict of Adam and Eve Against Satan (Books 1 and 2): http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/fbe005.htm