A Look at the Millennial Temple
by David M. Levy
director of International Ministries for the Friends of Israel
Although some scholars question the reality of a literal, future Temple, the prophet Ezekiel described it in great detail. He provided its dimensions (Ezekiel 40-43) and spoke of a future priesthood (Ezekiel 44), future worship (Ezekiel 45), and future manner of worship (Ezekiel 46). Three times he declared that God will establish His sanctuary in the midst of Israel forever (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
What will worship be like in the Millennial Temple? It will be similar to Old Testament Levitical worship, yet different. This Temple will be filled with God’s glory (Ezekiel 43:1-5), as in the day of Solomon’s Temple. Only priests from the sons of Zadok will minister there, oversee worship, and serve at the Lord’s Table (Ezekiel 44:15-16).
Both Jewish people and Gentiles will be required to sacrifice animals at the Temple (Is. 56:7; 66:20-23; Jer. 33:18; Ezekiel 45:13-17; Mal. 3:3-4). The Lord will appoint a prince to receive the gifts and oversee the sacrifices used “to make atonement” for the house of Israel (Ezekiel 45:15, 17, 20).
Presented will be burnt, sin, trespass (Ezekiel 40:39), grain (Ezekiel 45:24), and peace offerings (Ezekiel 46:2). The prince will offer sacrifices at “the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and at all appointed seasons of the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 45:17; 46:1). Only morning sacrifices will be offered daily (Ezekiel 46:13).
The feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread will be kept to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Ezekiel 45:21-24). All nations will appear in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles; those failing to obey will be denied rain or receive a plague, as in Egypt’s case (Zech. 14:16-18). The “year of liberty” (Jubilee, cf Lev. 25) will be observed at its proper time (Ezekiel 46:17). However, the feasts of Pentecost, Trumpets, and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) will not be kept in the Millennium.”
The question most people ask when reading Ezekiel 43-46 is, “If Jesus’ sacrifice is the only efficacious, once-for-all sacrifice to expiate sin (Heb. 9:12), why will animal sacrifices that could never take away sin (Heb. 10:4) be offered when Christ reigns?” We know the Millennial sacrifices will not remove sin, just as the Levitical ones could not.
Some scholars believe the offerings during the Millennium will be memorials, similar to keeping the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Christ’s death. They reason that, because Millennial saints will live in an ideal setting where the awfulness of sin is glossed over, the blood sacrifices will visibly remind people that only Christ’s blood can take away sin. Two problems mar this interpretation: (1) Nothing in the text indicates the sacrifices are memorial in nature, and(2) the prophet Ezekiel said the sacrifices are to make atonement.
Consequently, the offerings must be much more than memorials. The word atonement (Hebrew Kippur, Ezekiel 45:15, 17, 20) means “to cover” or “propitiate”. Under the Levitical system, God required sacrifices to atone for sin and to cleanse buildings, the altar (Ezekiel 43:20-27), the Levites (Ezekiel 44:25-27), and the sanctuary (Ezekiel 45:18). Blood sacrifices covered the worshiper’s sins (Lev. 17:11) and propitiated, or satisfied, god under the Mosaic Law.
Animal sacrifices at the future Temple will not be efficacious, but they will be needed to cover the worshipers’ ceremonial uncleanness. Why? Because God will be dwelling on Earth in the midst of sinful people who live in their natural bodies. The sacrifices will ensure that impure people will not defile God’s holy Temple when coming to worship Him.
Sacrifices in the Millennium will not be a substitute for God’s plan of salvation or change the way a person is redeemed. Salvation will be through faith in Christ and His shed blood on the cross. Nor will these sacrifices diminish Christ’s work on the cross (Heb. 10:10). It was Christ’s death, not the Levitical system that made it possible for sins to be removed permanently.