CHRIST IN THE EARTH AGAIN
. . . Continued . . .
CHAPTER FIVE: The Glorified Land of Promise
The prophecies quoted in the foregoing chapter clearly disclose to us the reason why the land promised to Abraham should be considered "a heavenly country" in the day of its glory. But it was reserved for the vision of Ezekiel to give us those particulars that inform and satisfy the mind as to the form and shape of things in practical detail. The whole land is theirs, Abraham's and Christ's, but there is a method in the inheritance. Necessarily prominent are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom many-mustering co-heirs from the east and the west and the north and south, shall see (Luke 13:28). Above all, they "see the King in His beauty" -- (Isa. 33:17) -- the Branch raised unto David who shall execute judgment and justice in the land (Jer. 33:15): for "the Lord (Jesus) shall be King over all the earth: in that day, there shall be one Lord and his name One" (Zech. 14:9). But these are general aspects. What are the details? There must be details in every actual thing. It is only sentimental dreams that have no details. The details in this case are supplied.
CHAPTER SIX: A New Constitution
First of all, the glorified land of promise is apportioned in parallel strips among Abraham's seed after the flesh. No one will call this in question who believes the Ezekiel prophecy: "This is the land -- the frontiers and divisions having previously been indicated -- which ye shall divide by lot unto the tribes of Israel for inheritance, and these are their portions, saith the Lord God" (Ezek. 48:29; see whole of chapter: also chapter 47:13-23).
Secondly, a central portion out of thirteen equal portions into which the land is divided is dedicated wholly to the Lord, as "an holy portion of the land," an offering to the Lord, in length from east to west as one of the other parts (Ezek. 48:8).
Thirdly, the middle part of this holy portion of the land is cut out, reserved, separated, or sanctified as an oblation to the Lord, forming an exact square of 25,000 lengths of the reed that was in the hand of Ezekiel's guide, which measured about 11 feet (48:20; 40:5). Reduced to English measurement, this square, speaking approximately, is about 50 miles in length each way, and contains about 2,500 square miles.
Fourthly, this land-offering of 2,500 square miles is divided into three sections -- two of equal area, and one having an area equal to half of either the other two. The first, containing 1,000 square miles is reserved for the sanctuary and for residences of the Sons of Zadok, "the ministers of the sanctuary that come near unto the Lord" (45:3, 4; also 48:10,11). The second, also containing 1,000 square miles, is reserved for the second class of priests, "the Levites that minister to the house" (45:5; 48:13). The third, containing an area of 500 square miles, is assigned to the city (verse 6). The city is a square, and stands in the centre of this assigned area, occupying its full extent north to south, and measuring nearly ten miles each way (45:6; 48:15, 30, 35). On each side of the city stands 200 square miles (in all, 400 square miles) of the assigned area, east and west; which is appropriated to market gardens for the supply of the city (48:18).
Fifthly, east and west of the whole square, which contains these three several sections, lies an immense tract of country, on the same measurement, north and south, as the square, but extending to the Mediterranean sea coast on the west, and as far east as the covenanted land may reach (the eastern border of which is defined as comprehending Damascus, Gilead by Jordan, and ending in the east sea -- Persian Gulf? -- Ezek. 47:18). The exact size of this territory is not stated, but it must contain at least ten thousand square miles, which is allowing for its being only four times the extent of the natural square, and it must be much larger than this. The southern border of the whole land is as far south as Meribah Kadesh (Ezek. 47:19; Num. 17:14). Now if a line can be drawn from Meribah Kadesh, which is one journey northwards from Ezion Gaber (Num. 33:36) -- and it must be a horizontal line, for the portions are horizontal east and west, the line will strike the head of the Persian Gulf, and answer exactly to "the eastern sea" as the southernmost point of the east border. The applicability of such a line to the Dead Sea is out of the question. Such a boundary would take in vast regions which are now desert, but which then will "rejoice and blossom as the rose" -- for "I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle and the oil tree: I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine and the box tree together" (Isa. 41:19). This would give enormous lateral extension to the holy portion of the land, and give an area much more likely to be 50,000 than 10,000 square miles: but call it only 10,000 square miles of Paradise.
To what purpose is this magnificent domain applied? The answer is "the residue (one the one side and on the other of the holy oblation) shall be for the PRINCE" (Ezek. 48:21), "MESSIAH THE PRINCE" (Dan. 9:25). What a splendid matter of detail is this! It is no speculation. It is a matter of revelation. It is what the whole scheme requires. The tribes have their portions in the land; the priests of all grades have their portions; the city has its portion; and the Son of David, whose name is exalted above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow -- shall he have no "portion in the Holy Land when he chooses Jerusalem again?" (Zech. 2:12). Shall he be the heir of the vineyard and have no possession therein? (Matt. 21:38). Shall he sit on the throne of David and have no place in David's land? (Isa. 9:6-7). Shall he be the King over all the earth and have no abiding place among his loving subjects?
"The prince's portion," is the answer. A stately realm in the land of promise, stretching far enough east to embrace the original garden of Eden, whence the first Adam was expelled, is assigned to the last Adam, as the palace of his glory on earth, the retreat of his loving communion with the Bride, the Lamb's wife.
This revelation by Ezekiel is a necessary supplement to the general declarations of the Lord's proprietorship of the earth, for we should not otherwise know the mode of his personal adjustment to that proprietorship in the day of his glory. The mere intimation that God would establish a kingdom; that Christ would be the head of that kingdom, and that the kingdom would primarily be the ancient kingdom of Israel restored, would have left the mind in somewhat of a haze as to the personal relation Jesus should sustain to such a state of things. There would necessarily have been more or less a sense of anomalousness in the Lord of Glory taking part in the ways of mortal life. But all feelings of this kind are dispelled in the presence of an allotment, not only of a holy portion of the land, but of a portion for the prince containing over 10,000 square miles. Such an immense area, laid out in the paradisaic beauties of Eden, is a suitable privacy for the once-crucified king of all the earth.
Though rebuilt "as in the days of old," the fallen house of David will not be built upon the same plan. It will be a new and more glorious edifice in every way. There will be a change in the law and a change in the administrators thereof, though certain elements in the old law and a certain ingredient in the old administration will be retained. This is the testimony: "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (Jer. 31:31).
CHAPTER SEVEN: The New Priesthood
Jesus identifies himself and his work with this new covenant, in saying at the breaking of bread, "This is the new covenant in my blood shed for you" (Luke 22:20). Paul places Jesus right in the kernel of it in saying: "He is the mediator of a better covenant which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. But finding fault with them, he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant," etc. (Heb. 8:8).
The setting aside of the old covenant for this new covenant, involves the introduction of a new priesthood. This is Paul's argument in Heb. 7:15: "After the similitude of Melchizedek, there ariseth another priest who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life . . . There is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." "The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also in the law." Christ is the high priest of the new covenant, as Aaron was of the old. His office is first employed in the development of "his own house," "whose house we are, if we hold fast, etc." (Heb. 3:6). When they are developed, they are changed to his glorious state, and incorporated in his priesthood as the sons of Aaron were under the law of Moses. The become "kings and priests unto God," in which capacity they are to "reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10). They are a royal priesthood now in a preliminary sense, offering the incense of praise and the sacrifices of a spiritual service (1 Pet. 2:9): but their "manifestation" as kings and priests unto God (Rom. 8:19; Rev. 1:6). is reserved for the day of power and glory when they shall, with Christ, judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2) and reign with him (2 Tim 2:12).
God Himself says to them: "Ye shall be named the priests of the Lord, and men shall call you the ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves" (Isa. 61:6). This language is not addressed to Israel after the flesh except in so far as they form the outer fringe of the true Israel "to whom the promises are made." The words are addressed to the true Israel who, in all their generations, wait for the consolation of Israel, and arise from death at the Lord's coming to see and share it (Isa. 64:10, 13; Mal. 3:16, 18). This is evident from the introductory verses. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me" (that is, Christ, as Jesus declared in the Nazareth synagogue -- Luke 4:18, 21) "because He hath anointed me to . . . comfort all that mourn . . . to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Jesus settled the application of these promises in his words to the disciples: "Blessed are ye that mourn, for ye shall be comforted. Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh" (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21).
It is of the saints at the resurrection, therefore, of whom it is written: "Ye shall be named priests of the Lord, and men shall call you the ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves." Why are they to be "named priests," and called "ministers?" Because they are to be so: "priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:6). Here, then, is an immortal order of priests having to do with men. As it is added, "Their seed (that is, their sort, their kind, even the seed of Abraham which they are -- Gal. 3:29), shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are THE SEED WHICH THE LORD HATH BLESSED" (Isa. 61:9).
But as Aaron and his sons had the tribe of Levi placed at their disposal for the service of the tabernacle (Num. 8:19), so the mortal Levitical order are placed at the disposal of the Melchizedek king-priest of the new constitution and his sons (for the brethren of Christ are also considered as his children -- "I and the children which God hath given me.")
This is a feature made visible in "the ordinances of the house," shown to Ezekiel in vision. In this vision there are two orders of priests. The one -- the lower order -- is described (chap. 40:45) as "the keepers of the charge of the house," and the other as "the keepers of the charge of the altar" (verse 46). That there is a much greater difference between them than would at first sight appear from this description is manifest from the definition of their duties, and the explanatory comment with which the definition is accompanied. Of the one -- the lower order -- it is said, "They shall not come near unto me to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things in the most holy" (Ezek. 44:13). Of the other, the first order, it is said, "THEY SHALL COME NEAR TO ME to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God. They shall enter into my sanctuary and they shall come near to my table to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge" (verses 15, 16).
Here is a complete contrast. The reason given is still more indicative of a great difference between the two orders. In brief, this reason may be said to be: -- The reward of obedience in the one case, the punishment of disobedience in the other. In the one case, it is thus defined: "The priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near," etc. In the other it is thus given: "The Levites that are gone away far from me when Israel went astray, which went astray from me after their idols, they shall even bear their iniquity.
The full nature of the difference is not apparent in Ezekiel. We are indebted to the further revelation by Jesus and the apostles for a knowledge of details indicated, though not clearly disclosed to the prophets. That one order of priests is immortal and the other mortal, is not stated in so many words, but it is involved in what is said, and it is necessitated by the revelation elsewhere that the High Priest of the new order is the Righteous Son of David, who is to bear the glory, and sit and rule as priest on his throne (Zech 6:13), and that the glorified brethren of "that Righteous One" are to rule with him as kings and priests.
The idea that Ezekiel's statements concerning the sons of Zadok are inconsistent with the fact of their being immortal, is based upon a misleading appearance in the wording of this part of the vision. It is supposed that they are referred to in the regulations concerning marriage (44:22), which are rightly held to be inapplicable to those who shall "neither marry nor be given in marriage" (Luke 20:35). The supposition appears to be favoured by the absence of a distinctly marked transition from one order to the other in the discourse concerning the priests, after the introduction of the parenthetic allusion to the sons of Zadok. Verse 17, by the use of the pronoun "they," appears to speak of the sons of Zadok, who are spoken of in verse 16; but that it is not the sons of Zadok but the Levites that are spoken of in verse 17 and after, is manifest from verse 19, that they shall "go forth into the outer court to the people," which is the office of the Levites, and not of the sons of Zadok, as is plainly stated in verse 11. "They (the Levites) shall slay the burnt offering, and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them, because they ministered unto them before their idols." But as for the sons of Zadok, "They shall come near to me to minister unto me" (verse 15).
Consequently, we are compelled to understand the Levites to be spoken of in the verses in question, which describe duties applicable only to them. That these verses should appear to apply to the sons of Zadok is due to the introduction of a parenthesis at verse 15, which is not formally indicated. Verses 14 and 17 must be read consecutively to get the true sense: "But I will make them (the Levites) keepers of the charge of the house for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein . . . And it shall come to pass that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court (for they shall have charge at the gates of the house, see verse 11), they shall be clothed in linen garments . . . They shall not gird themselves with anything causing sweat; . . . neither shall they take for wives a widow," etc.
The second (mortal) grade of priests being in question in these verses, there is none of the difficulty of sweat and marriage that many naturally feel on the first reading. If the question be asked why the distinction was not more clearly indicated, we can only say it is not the only case where the pronoun is employed with reference to sense merely, and not as the equivalent of a grammatical antecedent. In a similar case in Matthew, Mr. Stern, the Jew, contended it was Simon the Cyrenian that was crucified and not Jesus (see Matt. 27:32, 36). This was, of course, a perverse contention, because the context entirely excludes such an absurdity. Still it had the same ground -- the absence of a clear association of the pronoun. In this other case, the context shows the right application of the pronoun, and relieves the subject of a difficulty that is only seeming.
That there should be two classes of priests is in harmony with the character of the institutions of the age to come. It is a mixed dispensation in which death reigns in a population ruled by immortals; and it is suitable that the mortal element should be utilized in the lower branches of the service. And it is a feature of exquisite moral beauty that the particular form in which this mortal element should appear in connection with the temple service should be the exclusion of a class from the higher grade on the ground of former faithlessness. Yet that the Levites should appear in the service is in harmony with the fact that the kingdom is a restoration. That they should have the drudgery of the service is in harmony with their past history. That the honourable part of direct communion with God should be reserved for the Sons of Righteousness is beautiful.
CHAPTER EIGHT: The Sons of Zadok
On the face of it, it appears a feasible contention that as the degraded Levites are the mortal descendants of a faithless order, so the sons of Zadok are the mortal descendants of a faithful order. But this apparent feasibility becomes an impossibility in view of the supercession of the Mosaic priesthood by Christ, and the testimony that the "priests unto God" in the age to come are the immortal saints. And it is out of harmony with the moral fitness of things; for whereas the degradation of descendants is a fitting retribution for the unfaithfulness of a class, the exaltation of descendants is not the revealed recompense of righteousness. Righteousness is not rewarded vicariously, though sin may be appropriately visited in this way. "The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him; and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezek. 18:20). "The righteous hath hope in his death." This hope is the hope of individual resurrection to "glory, honour, and immortality." As Jesus plainly puts it, "they that have done good (shall come forth) to the resurrection of life" (John 5:30).
That this resurrection, at the coming of Christ to set up the kingdom, includes the faithful of the Mosaic age, we know from Christ and his revelation to John in Patmos; "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets" is Christ's own specification (Luke 13:28); and by his revelation to John, his words are that at "The time of the dead (the sounding of the seventh trumpet), God will judge them, and give reward to His servants, the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear His name, small and great" (Rev. 11:18).
These principles require that the sons of Zadok "that kept the charge of my sanctuary, when the children of Israel went astray," should be individual righteous men of previous generations, and therefore immortal. The difference in the way they are described, as distinguished from the description of the rejected Levites, would indicate this distinction. The degraded Levites are "the Levites that are gone away far from me;" this is a class, a tribe, a whole body of people; but the Levites that are to "come near to do the office of a priest" are "the sons of Zadok that kept the charge of my sanctuary." These are individual Levites selected from the whole body of Levites. Zadok was a faithful priest, but the sons of Zadok -- in the family sense -- are not distinguished for faithfulness above others in Israel's history: but individual sons of righteousness, as contrasted with the sons of Belial, there have always been. There is therefore a sparkle of beautiful analogy in the employment of a family name that should define their class, while actually specifying a prominent member of that family.
The employment of the phrase "the sons of Zadok" to denominate the class to which Zadok himself belongs, and of which he stands as the spiritual prototype, rather than to define literal descendants, is in harmony with the scriptural usage exemplified in the case of Abraham. The Jews were all the seed of Abraham in the literal sense: but Jesus did not recognize them as the children of Abraham. He said, "I know that ye are Abraham's seed, but . . . if ye were Abraham's children, YE WOULD DO THE WORKS OF ABRAHAM" (John 8:37-39). Moral likeness is the ground of kinship. So, the merely literal descendants of Zadok would not be the sons of Zadok in the divine use of these terms. The sons of Zadok are those who have "done the works" of Zadok in the ages of Israel's disobedience.
There is a peculiar force in this description of them. Zadok was a faithful priest; but Zadok is also the Hebrew word for Righteousness. Zadok was the leading priest figure by the side of the king under the typical reign of Solomon. That a word having all these associations and relations should be chosen to describe a class in which the personal Zadok will have a prominent and permanent place; to which the individuals composing it are admitted on the principles of personal Righteousness exclusively; and who are called expressly to stand by the side of the greater than Solomon in the capacity of "priests unto God" in the day of his manifested kingly glory, is one of those dazzling beauties which are everywhere hidden under the surface of things in the Scriptures.
It is an enhancement of this great beauty that the description should be employed in connection with a matter specially calling for it: -- viz., the restored temple service of the age to come. The introduction of a vision on this theme almost called for a definition of the new priesthood in harmony with the temple history of which the Ezekiel temple is a renewal and continuation. The more so, because this new temple dispensation involves the dealing out of what we might call the deserts arising out of the previous one. It had been written: "Then shall ye return and discern between him that serveth God and him that hath served him not" -- that is, "in the day when I shall make up my jewels" (Mal. 3:16-18). The day of the restored Kingdom of Israel is that day.
To Ezekiel is shown the glory of this day; and it was appropriate that the new priesthood of the restored system should be designated with reference to the history of the old. This is done by calling them the Sons of Zadok -- that is, all of the Zadok type. That they should include many Gentiles is no difficulty, since these Gentiles cease to be Gentiles when they are incorporate with the divine polity which is wholly composed of the Zadok type -- all sons of righteousness.
The opinion of some, that the Ezekiel "sons of Zadok" will be mortal, blood descendants of Zadok, is irreconcilable with two things: 1 -- the character of the Zadok priesthood as revealed, and 2 -- the extent of country assigned for their occupation.
It has been revealed that the saints are to be the priests of the age to come. This is the governing element in the question. Nothing must be allowed to clash with this. The Levites, as mere Levites, are excluded on account of the part they performed in Israel's transgressions. The class chosen in their place is a selection from them because of former faithfulness with many new individuals added and incorporate with them -- who though originally aliens, become fellow-citizens with the household of God -- built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (who were nearly all priests) -- and therefore forming one class with "the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok," who stand by the side of the son of David in the glory of the Kingdom. As to the other point, (the idea of a limited literal family of Zadok), is excluded by the number provided for in the Ezekiel distribution of the land. They have assigned to them a tract of country, measuring about 50 miles from east to west and 20 miles from north to south (Ezek. 45:3-4). This is provision for a "multitude that no man can number" -- irrespective of the much more extensive "Prince's portion," in which the Prince will give special inheritance to those whom he delights to honour.