Chapter 7: ‘Begin at My Sanctuary’
Chapters 8 through 11 in Ezekiel are all one vision. I believe it is one of the most important visions in the Bible for us in this end time. It talks about the failure of God’s Church in some striking detail. It also tells us how we can conquer the god of Ezekiel 28.
If we are to understand these chapters, we must do some spiritual digging.
“And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell there upon me” (Ezekiel 8:1). Here are some very religious people. In fact, this is a vision of God’s Church in the end time. This prophet was transported right into our times, in vision. He saw and explained it all, so we don’t have to be in the dark about what has happened.
“Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber” (verse 2). Ezekiel immediately brings the God of chapter 1 into the picture. That is what this is all about—always keeping the God of Ezekiel 1 in the picture! When we do that, everything becomes very clear. As powerful as the devil is, we have far more power on our side. It is as if God is telling us, Don’t get discouraged or depressed. Yes, horrible things are happening in the Church, but that doesn’t mean I’m far away! Only lukewarm people think that. Realize that I am right here!
This is not something of this world. This is the great power of God demonstrated! God wants us to pay close attention.
As this vision proceeds, it isn’t long before we see that things are terribly wrong. “And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy” (verse 3).
God is jealous—and rightfully so! After all, this is His Bride, and she is getting involved with idols! But here in Ezekiel 8 is a counterfeit, an “image of jealousy.” This verse shows what Satan has done in God’s Church and how God responds. Satan comes across looking like God—“the image of jealousy”—to many people. And God is very angry about that! Soncino commentary says of that last phrase in verse 3, “the image of outraged, [evil] authority [Satan], which provokes Him [God] to vindicate His exclusive rights.” God has rights. Those rights are being violated by a devil doing all he can to destroy God’s people. And God’s very elect stand up and claim those rights for God!
2 Corinthians 11:14 shows that Satan comes as an angel of light. Most of God’s people in this end time have bought that deception! Image is from the Hebrew cemel, which can be translated idol (2 Chronicles 33:7, 15) or figure (Deuteronomy 4:16). It is a counterfeit of God! That’s why God hates it so much! This is the kind of dangerous being that we have to fight.
When the word temple is used in the New Testament and in end-time prophecy, it refers to God’s own Church! (Ephesians 2:19-22). If we are to understand these end-time prophecies, we must remember that temple is referring to God’s Church—not a false church of this world.
In verse 3 of Ezekiel 8, the inner gate means the gate of the inner court. The inner court is where the priests served in the temple. The laypeople, or members of the congregation, were in the outer court. So the inner gate is referring primarily to God’s own ministers today.
The Image of Jealousy
The vision of Ezekiel 8 and 9 is about Christ and His wife—God’s Church—with the main focus on the end time. In Ezekiel 8:3, Christ is being provoked to jealousy because His Church is committing adultery with another god like Tammuz (verse 14). Christ gets jealous when His wife turns to another god—Satan, “the image of jealousy.” Christ is very jealous when His wife, or the Church, commits adultery! (The vision of Ezekiel 16 is also about Christ and His wife, with the main focus on the end time.)
In Bible prophecy, a woman is a type, or symbol, of a church—including true and false churches. Christ wouldn’t be jealous over a worldly church! But He is jealous over His own wife, or Church, just as a man is often jealous over his own wife but not over other women.
The very fact that Christ is jealous tells us this verse is referring to His wife—the Church of God—not a false church. God’s own Church is sinning and provoking Christ to jealousy. A man gets jealous if his wife turns to another man in lust, and Christ gets jealous when His wife turns to another god! Christ wouldn’t be jealous if this church wasn’t His Bride—His own Church! And she is turning to another god. She is committing spiritual adultery.
False religions of this world have never been God’s Bride. He is not jealous of them. He is only jealous of His own Church that is turning its back on Him!
“And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain. Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry” (Ezekiel 8:4-5). Look at this spiritually: This evil image of jealousy is blocking the way of the Philadelphians into God’s own Church!
“He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel [spiritual Israel, God’s Church] committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? …” (verse 6). So much evil went on in the sanctuary, it simply drove God out from being able to dwell there. If we don’t fight for God’s rights, then He just allows that fallen archangel to conquer God’s own Church.
God goes “far” from His sanctuary—a type of His Church. He couldn’t tolerate such ghastly evil. God leaves because of the abominable image of jealousy!
So we see it was prophesied that God would actually leave the physical location of His Church in this end time. So it is not strange for God’s faithful people to leave with Him! It is strange that some of God’s people don’t leave the Laodicean Church with Him!
This is the way it happened in the Ephesus Church (Revelation 2:5). It’s nothing new for us to have to do the same—leave the physical presence of a sinning church. This has happened throughout the history of God’s true Church! (Read The True History of God’s True Church for proof.)
As God’s people turn away from His truth in this end time, God leaves the physical location where He once resided with them. This is a tragedy of staggering magnitude! What is a church without God’s leadership? It is a church headed for disaster.
In Revelation 2, God removed His lamp from the Ephesus era. He did the same thing today to the Laodicean era—because of its abominations! Yet many think God wouldn’t do this. The Bible says otherwise.
Where did God go when He left His sanctuary in this end time? He removed His lamp to another physical location where He then started revealing Ezekiel and other prophecies to the people who didn’t leave God spiritually—but who did leave the Laodicean Church along with Him!
Who understands Ezekiel? Who has new revelation published in books and booklets on all the major and minor prophets? We have these and other prophetic books that tell us what is happening today. That is where you will find God’s sanctuary.
God went far away from His temple because of the evil. If God goes far away, His people ought to follow! People may think they can take on Satan by themselves, but they are terribly wrong. If Church members want to be casual in their religion, they will not last long. These verses show a takeover by a very evil being! The people were acting “to drive me far from my sanctuary,” says the Revised Standard Version, and God is allowing that to happen.
Could there be anything worse than that? Ezekiel 8:6 concludes, “but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.” The evil just keeps getting greater and greater. I want to show you why, and how we must deal with it.
Abominations in the Temple
“And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door” (Ezekiel 8:7-8). God wants us to fight for Him and vindicate His rights, but it is going to involve some digging. We must do our part. The more we dig spiritually, the more God will reveal to us individually and collectively.
We must look at these verses spiritually.
The door of the court here is the door to the inner court. That is where the priests were and where the ministers are today. These verses are specifically addressed to the ministry of God that is committing these abominations.
“And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about” (verses 9-10). Let’s not be naive. One third of the angels became demons. Where are they today? If you take a close look, you will see all kinds of creeping demons and abominable beasts right inside God’s Church! You can see that only if you look at it spiritually. God must reveal this to you.
This is the horrifying spiritual picture of God’s Laodicean Church today. It is filled with creeping things, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel! It is a demon fest!
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says the root word for idols in verse 10 has “the basic meaning … to sever.” Idols sever you from God. “It connotes a violent severance from a former way of life. It refers more generally to death or destruction” (ibid). The Laodiceans don’t see it this way, but that is what God is telling them: You have severed yourself from me! You are following Satan and his demons!
That same source says creeping things refer to “a reptile, reptiles or whatever creeps upon the ground”—like serpents and crocodiles. This is an ugly picture! This was God’s Church! You have to view what has happened there the way God does.
Verse 11 continues: “And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up.” There are 70 elders in this ruling body. That means the top leaders in God’s Church.
There were 70 elders chosen to be the most exalted leaders when God led the physical nation of Israel (see Exodus 24:1). But here in Ezekiel 8, God is discussing the spiritual nation of Israel—His Church.
Numbers 11:16 states, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.” Anciently, 70 elders had meetings with God! The number 70 is God’s way of revealing that these end-time elders also had meetings with the true God! But then they betrayed Him and turned their backs on Him. God used this number 70 for a very special reason. He is telling us these are His own ministers going astray! It is a revealing sign!
God speaks in coded language. Then when the time is right, He breaks the code. God reveals all of His truth. We can’t discover it for ourselves (Amos 3:7).
The word ancients in Ezekiel 8:11 means spiritual elders in God’s Church.
The greater abomination mentioned in verse 6 is referring to the majority of God’s own ministers in the end time leading God’s people astray. This is a very ugly abomination! Few horrors could surpass this one! Most of the top leaders in God’s own lukewarm Church are committing abominations in God’s Church—the very highest leadership council!
Even the name Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan (verse 11) has an interesting association. Shaphan was a scribe during the reign of Josiah. This scribe read the text of the newly discovered book of the law to the king (2 Kings 22:8-14). This is also a coded expression revealing that this Church had a good beginning with God’s law. Then Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan, turned away from the law.
This simply means a good beginning and a tragic ending when you apply it to God’s Church in the end time. It started and flourished under Mr. Armstrong. During the 1970s and after Mr. Armstrong died, there was a turning away from God’s law.
This is the same scenario revealed in the book of Malachi, 2 Thessalonians 2, Zechariah 3, Revelation 3:7-20 and other Bible prophecies. Is there an end-time Jaazaniah who had God’s law and then led people away from it? Yes, there is! (see Malachi 2:2, 8).
Ezekiel 8:11 also says that “a thick cloud of incense went up.” Leviticus 16:1-2 discuss the cloud of incense, and God was in that cloud! It is another sign that God is discussing His own people.
The Lord Has Forsaken the Earth
“Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients [elders] of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery [of his perverse imagination]? for they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth” (Ezekiel 8:12). These elders are doing abominable things in the dark recesses of their perverse imaginations, harboring evil in their minds. They believe God doesn’t see them—that He has “forsaken the earth.” Because of their wrong thinking, they are not as close to God as they once were. Their faith is eroding. These are the liberal ministers who were in hiding. Mr. Armstrong’s death opened the way for their thoughts to be brought out into the light.
One of the first doctrinal changes that came after Mr. Armstrong’s death was with the healing doctrine. Spiritually they were saying that God has forsaken the Earth. They couldn’t rely on God to heal them. Those men couldn’t see the God of Ezekiel 1! They had a monumental faith problem, and they afflicted the whole Church with it! Remember how it all started with weakened faith. Allow your faith to weaken, and that’s when Satan can really begin to work on you.
Mr. Armstrong’s successor as pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God (wcg), Joseph Tkach, wrote this: “It is not appropriate to assign various scriptures to Mr. Armstrong or me, personally, as though our leadership were specifically prophesied in the Bible.” That is quite different from what Mr. Armstrong taught! What is he essentially saying? That God has forsaken the Earth!
“In the past, we (and I include myself in this!) have mistakenly assumed that Christ directly guides His Church ….” Those words are essentially saying God has forsaken the Earth! The evangelist who said those words was claiming that Mr. Armstrong and God’s Church had made a mistake in the past. No—in fact he is pushing aside God’s government the same way Lucifer did! As the Laodiceans have rebelled, God has removed His presence, His blessings and protection from them. The problem is, rather than taking God’s absence as correction, they simply say, Well, God doesn’t directly guide us anyway. What a terrible mistake!
Can we see what Satan is doing?
The Philadelphians know that God has not forsaken the Earth! They are constantly led by Him, taught, instructed and guided by Him. God reveals an abundance of new truth to them. They are strong and continually growing stronger in faith. They are childlike enough to love God’s government, and they know it is the only government that will ever work.
If you think the abominations in the temple thus far have been bad, notice what happens next. “Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz” (Ezekiel 8:14). What is this talking about?
For clues, look at verse 16: “And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.” Here are 25 of the top ministers who have willfully turned their backs on God. Let’s see the connection between these two verses.
Who is Tammuz? Nearly every commentary says it is a different god: Osiris, Adonis, the pagan Babylonian messiah, an Assyrian divinity. Lange’s Commentary says it is a hidden or obscure religion.
It is a religion where there are “women weeping for Tammuz.” These are God’s own women weeping for another god. The women of this world have always been following Tammuz or some false god. So this has to be God’s own Church! They are not happy with God and His religion. They want to follow the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), and, like Eve, they are used by Satan to lead the weak men astray!
Cosmetics were a big issue in the wcg. Mr. Armstrong had ruled against the use of them, and then in the 1970s some people convinced him to allow them. In the November 16, 1981, Worldwide News he wrote the article “How Subtly Satan Used Makeup to Start the Church off the Track.” In it he said, “Some of us have weakened. Some of us have been caught off guard. I am human like all of you, and I was caught off guard and, without at the time realizing it, allowed this liberalism to creep stealthily into God’s flock! I now repent of that and the living Christ leads me to do what He inspires me to do to correct it and get this holy Body of Christ back completely on the track.”
The issue was makeup! Remember, Mr. Armstrong said this was the issue that started the Church off track!
At that time, Joseph Tkach Sr. was very supportive of this decision. Even a year and a half after Mr. Armstrong’s death, he wrote this: “Mr. Armstrong restored the rule on makeup with even greater clarity. So it behooves all of us to faithfully support and back this ruling as He [God] has led it to be made” (Worldwide News, June 22, 1987; emphasis mine).
Less than a year and a half after writing that, Mr. Tkach expressed drastically different views on the subject, and changed the ruling. Something radical must have been going on in the Church at the time for him to have had such a drastic, Habakkuk 1:11-like mind change. Again, in the 1970s, that was the issue that started everything on the wrong track.
You may think this is not a big issue. But look at the fruits! In retrospect, we can see that Satan was working on the women, just as he worked on Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is not unprecedented. Now, it is one thing to be weak in faith, and it is quite another to turn away from God! We have witnessed an Adam-and-Eve scenario all over again. And just as it did in the 1970s, it has derailed the whole Church.
The god of this world has great power, and he can apply pressure and make you feel like nobody, when you are actually sons of the living God! This is what happened in God’s Church—this is our pitiful history! Ezekiel is very specific here, when you look at it spiritually and look at the history of the Church. Ezekiel 8:16 shows that it was all happening in the inner court. Families within the Church were upside down.
The families within God’s Church should be quite different from the families in this world! Where do the Philadelphians stand on this doctrine? I can tell you that very early on in the pcg, the cosmetics issue created some division. A decision had to be made. I studied to make sure I really understood what God said about it, and then took a stand. That is what we must do, regardless of the pressures we may face. (For more information on this subject, request our reprint article on cosmetics, “Is Makeup Sin?”)
When Mr. Armstrong put the Church back on track, the women said, “You need to see our view.” Mr. Armstrong responded, “I’m not looking for your view, I’m looking for God’s view!”
This issue is really not about cosmetics—it’s about women weeping and wailing for another god! What does this say about God’s Church? Isaiah 3 talks about the families in Israel (physical and spiritual Israel) being upside down; it even talks about the wanton eyes of the women (verse 16) and about how fashion created serious problems in Israel and even within the Church of God. Ezekiel 23:40 also addresses this issue.
Those women turned to another god! In verse 16 of Ezekiel 8, it talks about 25 men. I would have to believe that, about the time Mr. Armstrong died, there were around 25 ministers, right at the top—Joshua and his fellows (Zechariah 3), we could say—who went along. Then, adding abomination on top of abomination, they turned their backs on God. We can well imagine, at that point, that core group intimidated and threatened the other 45 or so ministers into going along with the rebellion. Altogether there were 70 Adams at the top who weakly just let it all happen!
Ezekiel 13:22 says, “[W]ith lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad ….” Soncino renders that, “You have cowed the heart of the righteous.” That’s what this is about. People are easily cowed and led around like sheep. Look what happened in the Church: Some 100,000-plus people were led astray by 25 of the top men who turned their backs on God!
Those aren’t the type of people God will put at His headquarters for eternity! The very elect will not allow themselves to be led astray. Can you and I be intimidated away from the God of Ezekiel 1? We should be unflappable.
Satan repeatedly follows this pattern. This is the inner temple, where only true ministers are supposed to serve God, and yet we see some women are there having a wrong influence on God’s ministry! It is God’s way of saying women are having a sinful and damaging effect on the Laodicean ministry today! It’s the same trend that affects this world. It is terribly abominable because these leaders had the truth and turned away from it!
This vision gets even worse. “Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these” (Ezekiel 8:15). Think about this. These are prophecies that God recorded millenniums ago. He knew exactly what would happen in the Church and had it all written down. He knew just how Satan would conquer His people. And He knew that His very elect would rise up and fight against that.
Verse 16 shows those 25 top ministers in the inner court, but their faces are toward the east. The entrance to the temple was on the east side. The holy of holies—where God was located—was on the west side! These ministers commit a wanton affront by turning their backs to God! This is the worst abomination of all!
These have to be God’s own ministers who knew God intimately and then turned their backs to Him! They knew the great God “face to face”—and then turned away! This is the most abominable crime in the whole book of Ezekiel!
God is not addressing false ministers of this world in these verses; He is discussing ministers who knew God and turned away. These rebelling ministers think they are changing the doctrines of Herbert W. Armstrong, when actually they are turning their backs on God! A big difference!
The expression “between the porch and the altar” refers to where the ministers prayed to God in the temple (Joel 2:17). That means the prayers of God’s own ministers have become sin! Of course they still pray. But they don’t get through to God, because their backs are toward Him. What a grotesque spiritual disaster!
They Have Returned
“Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose” (Ezekiel 8:17). “Provoke me to anger” really should read “provoked to be bitter or rebel against.” And the older texts correct that last phrase to read “God’s nose.” That’s how it should read. These Laodiceans are taking a branch and sticking it up into God’s nostrils—the area that gives the Church its breath of life. They are trying to cut off the life of God’s Church!
The leading rebels are trying to destroy all of God’s revelation given to Mr. Armstrong and the pcg!
But notice, they have returned to do this. People rebelled and turned away, and then returned to try to cut off the very breath of life in God’s Church! Where is that happening? Might it have had something to do with the court case? They don’t just want all the riches and goods from that formerly great Work of God (about $250 million worth of equipment and property). They returned and got right in God’s face and tried to cut off the life of the Church!
They have become antichrists (request your free copy of The Last Hour).
What a bitter battle we are in the midst of! But God will always let us know what is going on, and He will always give us whatever power we need. We don’t have to worry about judges or armies. We do have to throw down the gauntlet and let them know we won’t take their intimidation! Verse 18 talks about the only power that will make this possible.
There are details in these scriptures that we must understand, or we won’t know how to handle these events. I prophesy that events will get even worse. As the Work gets more exciting, our adversary gets more wrathful. We must know how to combat our enemy.
A Massive Slaughter
There should be no chapter break as we enter chapter 9 because this next chapter gets into the specifics of God’s punishment for what is happening in the temple. God begins to condemn national Israel as well.
“He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar” (Ezekiel 9:1-2). The incense altar was made of solid gold. But here we have the brasen altar, which is where the burnt offerings were slain and sacrificed in the temple. This is a warning to be delivered to God’s Church, as well as to the world!
The context of Ezekiel 9 shows us that these “men” are actually angels who report directly to God (verse 11). So, we see six angels with slaughter weapons standing by the brasen altar about to slaughter, not animals, but God’s own sinning ministers and people! A massive slaughter is about to begin!
Sigh and Cry
“And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:3-4). God puts a mark on those ministers and members who sigh and cry about the abominations committed in His own Church!
Notice the wicked “abominations” in God’s Church spoken of in Ezekiel 8:9, 13, 15 and 17. People say we are bashing the Laodiceans. Actually we are “sighing and crying” about the abominable doctrinal changes! Then we warn them, in love, about the great slaughter on the horizon unless they repent! It is the same slaughter Mr. Armstrong warned us about for over 50 years! God’s people are without excuse.
First of all, God’s loyal people are emotionally moaning over what the sinning ministers have done to God’s own Church! They are also deeply disturbed by what is happening in the nations of Israel, which includes most of the English-speaking democracies of the world.
The words sigh and cry are strong verbs. Sigh is from the same Hebrew word used as groan in Joel 1:18, which talks of beasts groaning, or sighing, because they are starving. The same word is used for people sighing because of starvation in Lamentations 1:11. God also says that “when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2). Mourn is from the same Hebrew word. In principle that certainly applies to the Philadelphians who had to experience the Laodicean changes.
The word cry is from the same Hebrew word as groan in Jeremiah 51:52, which depicts wounded people who are groaning or crying. The same Hebrew word is used in Ezekiel 26:15, where people are crying because they are being slaughtered!
These are the kinds of strong emotions in God’s people who “sigh and cry” because of the abominations committed in God’s Church, first of all, and secondarily in the nations of Israel. Only these people who sigh and cry receive a mark and are delivered to a place of safety. God’s people must be moved deeply about the sins of spiritual and physical Israel!
Do we sigh and groan like a starving animal about the Laodicean sins? Do we cry like a wounded person in a bloody slaughter over what is happening to God’s Church?
What is happening in the Laodicean Church is the worst problem on Earth! People are perishing spiritually! (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
We occasionally get letters from people who want to be in the Philadelphia Church of God, but don’t want any fighting or confrontation. These people must repent in order to be a part of the pcg. There is no neutral zone. God has called us to warn the people of spiritual and physical Israel. Almost all of them are about to be slaughtered! God always warns His people. If we really know the Ezekiel slaughter is coming, and we have God’s love, we must warn!
Those who think it is wrong to warn have a self-righteous attitude and little love for the slaughter victims!
“And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men [elders] which were before the house” (Ezekiel 9:5-6). God tells the slaughtering angels to begin at His sanctuary—God’s Church today! These are not words we can take lightly!
The sanctuary was supposed to be the most holy place in the temple. It should be the most holy place in God’s Church. It is a place where the ministry serves. It pictures the very place where God dwells! But in this prophecy, the terrifying punishment begins at the sanctuary. It is the ministry and people of God who have gone astray. The greatest, most abominable sins have been committed in God’s sanctuary, or Church. The ministers receive God’s greatest blessing—or His greatest curses—depending on their behavior.
God only starts His punishment at the sanctuary. All Israel will be punished as never before. Those who receive God’s mark are to be protected supernaturally by God.
The time setting is at the very end. And the story is the same as many other prophecies. God will protect the Philadelphians and will punish the Laodiceans in the Tribulation.
In verses 3-4, God tells an angel with a writer’s inkhorn to put a mark on His saints who remain loyal. God is making certain that all of His loyal people are protected. We can trust God—even in the worst time of suffering ever!
Notice verses 7-8: “And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?” This is a horrifying vision, and it is for our time today!
God will have His destroyer inflict punishment on His Church and on the nations of Israel.
Ezekiel thought God was going to kill all Israel! Before this is over in the end time, many in the U.S. and Britain will think the same thing! No punishment will have ever been so devastating.
“Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not” (verse 9). The word exceeding is translated from the Hebrew expression miod-miod. That means it is doubly vehement! Our cities are full of blood and evil deeds! That is the way God views things.
“And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head. And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me” (verses 10-11). God’s punishment will be carried out.
The Throne of God
Ezekiel 10 pictures God and His fabulous transportation. He reveals clearly that He has not forsaken the Earth, as many believe. By chapter 10, Ezekiel has begun to better understand things. In chapter 1, he called the beings used as God’s vehicle living creatures. In chapter 10, he realizes that they are cherubim (verse 20). As he puts things together, he sees that these beings are just like Lucifer was before he rebelled—they are powerful beings who are helping us in many ways. In Genesis 3, we see cherubim keeping the way to the tree of life. They inhabit the mountain of God (Ezekiel 28:13-14). They serve as God’s chariot. And they cover the throne of God.
Ezekiel’s vision included a view of God’s throne. “Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne” (Ezekiel 10:1).
Ezekiel is connecting the ark, the Ten Commandments and the government of God—God’s throne. That is where everything went wrong in the first place.
Verse 2 talks about coals of fire that will come upon Jerusalem. The nations of Israel will be treated just as Sodom and Gomorrah were.
“Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory” (verses 3-4). This is the brightness of God, and the indescribable glory of the very elect, who reside in the inner court!
Remember, this is all one vision. Before we get to chapter 11, God, through Ezekiel, again gives us a chapter 1-type vision. Verse 19 again talks about Elohim. If we are going to be successful, if we are to have power to face and overcome problems, we must continually keep that God of Ezekiel 1 in the picture! If we don’t, we cannot combat the god of Ezekiel 28—and that is why the whole world is deceived! What power God’s people have if we keep our focus on God. There is unlimited power available to the Philadelphians! This is the solution to all these embarrassing, terrifying problems!
“This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims” (Ezekiel 10:20). Chebar was where he first saw this God in chapter 1, zipping around like lightning. This is more real than anything in this world! And this is the future for man made in the image and likeness of the God of Ezekiel 1! “Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward” (verses 21‑22). In the midst of all the problems and catastrophes, God brought Ezekiel right back to that wonderful vision of chapter 1. And Ezekiel is passing it right on to us. Ezekiel is emphasizing that in the midst of this terrible apostasy, we must keep God in the picture.
In Ezekiel 11, we see a similar problem to that in chapter 8:
25 men leading God’s people astray. “Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the Lord’s house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur [different from the first Jaazaniah, but still an evil man], and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people” (Ezekiel 11:1). We will look at this instance again later in this book. But God repeats this for our benefit. Thousands of people turned away by just 25 men who turned their backs on God and then intimidated the rest into submission! We saw this happen. Now we know in more detail how it happened and how to keep it from happening to us. But God repeats this as a warning to His people.
“Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city” (verse 2). Devise means to weave or plot.
“Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh” (verse 3). Anciently, some of the Jews stayed in Jerusalem and decided to revolt. Some went to Egypt—contrary to the warnings of the prophets—and were all killed. Ezekiel is warning the Laodiceans; and when they go into captivity, many of them will accept this as correction from God. Those who don’t will lose it all, just as those Jews did anciently (see also Jeremiah 29:7).
This should never happen to God’s people. “Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man” (Ezekiel 11:4). Can we see God’s love behind this warning? Can we see God’s love behind the correction that is coming? “Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord” (verse 10). Then they will return to God, and really know Him. In verse 15, God calls them your brethren—our God Family. That’s who they are—we must never forget that.
When the Laodiceans go into captivity, God will not leave them alone. “Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come” (verse 16). God will be a little sanctuary to them. They are His Family, and He loves them and will be right there with them. He is saying, Don’t fear and give up because of the terror. I’ll get you through this if you look to me, repent and become as a little child. Fifty percent of them will believe Him and come through it, dying in the faith and securing a place as part of Christ’s Bride. “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh” (verse 19). At that point they will be childlike—submissive and teachable.
Sidebar: Write It in Their Sight
In ancient Israel’s temple, God had the Israelites build the inner court higher than the outer court. That symbolized the fact that the people in the inner court of God’s spiritual temple today will have a greater reward. We are qualifying for that reward now.
“Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them” (Ezekiel 43:10‑11). This is referring to the spiritual temple. God says there is a measuring going on, and He wants everything measured.
This is clearly a companion scripture to Revelation 11:1-2. God’s spiritual temple—His obedient Church—is being measured. A great part of this occurred with the great falling away of the Laodicean era. When God measured, if any of us became ashamed, turned ourselves around and gave ourselves to God, He then put us in His inner court with the rest of His very elect.
Being measured is an intense process. But if we allow God to do it, then we too can measure spiritual issues. We can prove all things, and confidently know that we’re doing what God wants done. Ezekiel 43:10 in the Soncino commentary reads, “[L]et them measure accurately.” If we are measuring correctly, we know where God is today.
Once the measuring is done, God instructs, “[W]rite it in their sight.” Put it out where everyone can see it—where they too can measure by it. Write it. Who will do this? There is always a work to be done! There must be loyal people submitted to God’s measure who can carry on with these instructions. God’s true Church has a job to do. If God gives revelation, as He did here to Ezekiel, He wants the recipients to write it, publish it, so that all Israelites—physical and spiritual—have a chance to measure themselves by it—so they can keep God’s laws and ordinances. That includes following God’s government and sticking to all the doctrines of the Church.