“For freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1 NRSV).

The prophet Ezekiel gives a lengthy and detailed description of a temple which was still to come.  Even up to our time this temple has not been seen.  Consequently it is thought by Dispensational Premillennialists to be still future.  In fact, at various times I’ve heard Dispensationalists saying that all the accoutrements of this future temple – the furniture, curtains, priestly vestments, and all the assorted bits and pieces which are essential for a working temple, are being prepared by the Jews so that when they build it, it will be ready for immediate furnishing. 

But it is not merely a temple that is to be rebuilt, according to the Dispensationalists.  The whole Jewish Old Testament sacrificial system, with its animal sacrifices for sin and restored Levitical priesthood is at the heart of an earthly empire centred in Jerusalem and ruled by Jesus Christ for 1,000 years; a period known as the Millennium.  Prior to this, every Christian (the Church) on earth will have been taken away by Christ at the “Rapture”, a mythical event in which he comes with his angels to fulfil this purpose, and which happens in the middle of a mythical period known as the Great Tribulation.

In fairness to Dispensationalists, it must be said that they didn’t invent this temple and its OT sacrifices; it is described in minute detail in the last eight chapters of Ezekiel’s prophecy (Ezek chs 40-48).  In his vision, Ezekiel was taken from Babylon to Jerusalem where he met a man.  This “man” instructed Ezekiel to see and focus on what was to be revealed to him and declare it to “the house of Israel” which was in captivity in Babylon (40:1-5).  The following points are what he saw:

  • a temple with precise and detailed description and measurements (40:1-38)
  • Within this temple were tables “on which [were] the burnt offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering” (40:39-43)
  • Of the altar, the man told him, “This is the table that stands before the LORD” (41:22)
  • Outside the inner gate were chambers for the singers, and “for the priests who have charge of the altar; these are the descendants of Zadok, who alone among the descendants of Levi may come near to the LORD to minister to him (40:45-46). 
  • These chambers for the priests were “holy chambers, where the priests who approach the LORD shall eat the most holy offerings; there they shall deposit the most holy offerings – the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering; for the place is holy” (42:13)
  • The priests were not to leave the holy place to go into the outer court, but were to leave their garments in the holy place “for these are holy; they shall put on other garments before they go near the area open to the people” (42:14) Inside was the tabernacle, which was “the most holy place” (41:1, 4)
  • “…and the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (43:4-5).  He told Ezekiel that this is “the place of my throne….where I will reside among the people of Israel forever….Now let them put away their idolatry and the corpses of their kings far from me, and I will reside among them forever” (43:7-9). 
  • God then told Ezekiel, “…you shall give to the Levitical priests….who draw near to me…a bull for a sin offering.  And you shall take some of its blood, and put it on the four horns of the altar….thus you shall purify it and make atonement for it.  You shall also take the bull of the sin offering, and it shall be burnt in the appointed place belonging to the temple, outside the sacred area” (43:19-21). 
  • On the second day a goat was to be offered following the same procedure as with the bullock (43:24). “For seven days you shall provide daily a goat for a sin offering; also a bull and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided.  Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it…from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer upon the altar your burnt offerings of well-being; and I will accept you, says the LORD GOD” (43:25-27)

This is not the language of memorial sacrifices, as I discuss later, but very definitely of sacrifices for sin in order to be purified and made acceptable to the LORD. 

Animal Sacrifices Can Never Take Away Sin

In answer to a question I asked an Independent Baptist pastor (which was “How can animal sacrifices for sin be reinstituted during the Millennium when Christ died as the Lamb of God to take away sin?  Isn’t this a denial of the Gospel?), he replied: 

“I would answer that the animal sacrifices of the Millennium will be the Jewish equivalent to a New Testament believers’ Lord’s Supper. Every animal that was slaughtered prior to Christ pointed to the coming Lamb of God. It pointed in a powerful visible object lesson to blood sacrifice as the only way to be right with God. This is true from the first animal slain to provide coats to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness (which came from the Fall) all the way up until the cross.  There was one unified thundering response to the question of how a sinful man could be justified: Blood! Then Christ came and fulfilled the picture of all these animal sacrifices. Once the Kingdom is finally established, the daily sacrifices will be a daily reminder to everyone of the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our sins. It will be ‘this do in remembrance of Me.’”.

However, the text doesn’t say that the animal sacrifices are memorial; it doesn’t even suggest it.  It clearly says the opposite – that they are real sacrifices for real sins.  For example, it calls them “the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering” (Ezek 42:13).  In chapter 43 there are various animals to be sacrificed as burnt offerings and sin offerings (43:18-27); “…and I will accept you, says the LORD GOD (43:27).  And the whole system is Old Testament i.e. Old Covenant, from the temple, the animal sacrifices, the Levitical priesthood, the altar, the blood, the furniture, to the clothing required for the priests; and all the other requirements are straight out of the Law (see Ezek ch 44).  This whole passage defies and denies everything that Christ accomplished by his once-for-all sacrifice of himself, and is blasphemous if applied to the Millennium. 

And why were the simple elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, established by Christ himself as a memorial and sufficient for the “church age” and for the New Covenant for 2000 years so far, deemed insufficient as memorials for the Millennial period?   When the simple elements of bread and wine symbolised Christ’s death, and were to be consumed as a church community in remembrance of him, why would he want to re-establish and fully restore a full-on OT sacrificial system and a full-on Levitical priesthood as a memorial of his atoning death?  It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t fit scripture.  Rather, it flies in the face of every aspect of the gospel.  The whole thing is Jewish and Old Testament and Old Covenant.

However, it is not this passage of Ezekiel’s prophecy that is blasphemous – how could any scripture be blasphemous?  It is the interpretation forced upon it that is problematic because, when taken out of its Old Testament context and applied to any period after the death of Christ, it teaches “another “ gospel” (Gal 1:6-9).  Therefore it MUST be spiritualised, as many commentators suggest.  Indeed, Jesus told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up….he was speaking of the temple of his body” (Jn 2:19-21).  And in the book of Revelation, John writes: “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22).  Here Jesus himself spiritualises the temple.

And Matthew Henry comments on Ezek 40:1-4: “From the top of this mountain he saw as the frame of a city, the plan and model of it; but this temple was as large as a city.  The New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22) had no temple therein; this which we have here is all temple, which comes much to one.  It is a city for men to dwell in; it is a temple for God to dwell in; for in the church on earth God dwells with men, in that in heaven men dwell with God”.  In this passage he also refers to the temple which Ezekiel was looking as “the gospel-temple” and “God’s house” i.e. the church.

Thus, the teaching about the new covenant and the heavenly sanctuary shows us that the New Covenant is forever, and that Ezekiel’s supposed millennial temple with its full-blown Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices for sin cannot be taken literally – this is blasphemy and a denial of the once-for-all and finished sacrifice of Christ.  It is unthinkable that Christ, the antitype of the sacrificial system of the temple in the Old Testament, and who achieved full salvation for mankind would, at his second coming to earth, take the Church out of earth, along with the Gospel, and reinstitute the law and animal sacrifices for sin for a thousand years.  This is just not possible and goes against the Gospel, denying Jesus’ sacrifice, claiming that the Gospel was an interruption in God’s prophetic clock. 

Jesus is a Better Priest

Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well….(for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God (Heb 7:11-12, 19).

The Levitical priesthood was established at the giving of the law at Sinai.  Consequently, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, it was insufficient and impermanent.  The Levitical priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins as well as the nation’s; “For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness….” (Heb 7:27-28).

But of Jesus it is written: “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek” (Heb 7:17).  Melchisedek was “…without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (Heb 7:3).

In contrast to the Levitical priests, of Jesus it is written: …but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.  Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them….exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself (Heb 7:24-27).

This is further proof that the Levitical priesthood in Ezekiel’s prophecy cannot be restored in a future age but belongs to the Old Testament era and the Old Covenant.

Jesus Mediated a Better Covenant

Not only is Jesus our ever-living priest, he mediates a better covenant for us.  But Dispensationalists would have us believe that the Old Covenant is to be reinstated after Jesus has removed the Church from earth in a mythical Rapture – not only is the Rapture as Dispensationalists understand it a false doctrine, there is no such term in the NT. 

Built-in obsolescence

The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians and it is all about the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old.  It says “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.  God finds fault with them when he says: ‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (Heb 8:7-8, 13). 

The apostle Paul calls the Old Covenant “the ministry of death” and “the ministry of condemnation”; whereas, in contrast, he calls the New Covenant “the ministry of the Spirit” and “the ministry of righteousness” (2 Cor 3:7-9).  Surely, this passage alone is sufficient to put away any idea of a restored Israel under the Old Covenant? 

Once again, the New Testament shows that the Levitical priesthood and the animal sacrifices in Ezekiel cannot possibly be future.  The New Covenant was established by Christ’s death (Lk 22:20) and is therefore permanent.  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…..in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure…..then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will’.  He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.   And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:3-4, 6, 9-10).

The Insanity of the Doctrine of the Rapture

When speaking of the Rapture, my Independent Baptist pastor friend wrote: “To your next set of bullets, I will answer briefly. Yes, the church will give glory to Christ throughout all ages, world without end. But I wonder if you are assuming WHERE that will take place. It doesn’t say ‘on earth’ yet it sounds like you are adding that. The church will be in heaven giving glory throughout all ages once that rapture takes place. Under this point you also mention that you believe the Rapture is Post-tribulational, if I grasp you correctly”.

In my reply, I wrote: “No, I don’t think you have.  In my theology there is no Rapture or Great Tribulation.  The Rapture, as you call it, is what happens when Jesus returns – ONCE and for all.  When Jesus comes back, the dead in Christ arise and the living are both taken up to meet him in the air, and that is the end.  The wicked are judged and cast into hell and the righteous go to be with Christ forever”.   

 The pastor further stated following my interruption: “I would comment that after the Rapture, there will be hundreds of thousands saved, perhaps into the millions, during the Tribulation. The ones who survive the Antichrist’s persecution will be the sheep, the lost survivors of the Tribulation will be the goats – all described in Matthew 25:31ff. If your interpretation were right, how would you fit 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51ff into the dragnet/wheat and tares scenario?  I conclude that they have to be describing two separate events. There’s just no way to combine them into one”.  

Me: “As I said, there will be no Tribulation or Rapture so there is no such event that has to fit these two passages into the dragnet/wheat and tares scenario.  The Rapture is simply the return of Jesus so it all happens together, as one event”.  

The pastor: “That turning away from Israel came when He offered Himself to the Jews as King, and they rejected Him by saying, ‘Away with Him! Crucify Him!’. God turned to the ‘nation’ or Gentile churches (which we have over the centuries proved to primarily be. Jews are rarely seen in New Testament assemblies, are they?).  This is all true. At the Rapture, however, that Gentile church is removed and taken to heaven for our Judgment Seat of Christ, where rewards will be distributed. Meanwhile on earth, the nation of Israel becomes the primary entity of God again, and the 70th week of Daniel occurs. By the end of it, the remaining nation of Israel is converted. Both the entity of Israel and the entity of the church have a role to play in the Millennium and in the eternal state afterward. This is seen in Revelation 21:12-14 where both Israel and the church are represented”.  

Me: “Does this mean that there will be no Jews in the church, seeing the nation of Israel is there and alongside the church as a separate entity?  If there are saved Jews in the church during the Millennium, will they be transferred across to Israel so that there are only Gentiles in the church and only physical or national Jews in national Israel?  Why would there be a church in the Millennium when the church has already been raptured?  And what does this ‘millennial’ church do with regard to the Millennial Temple and the sacrificial system?  Do they have separate worship places to Israel, and different ways of doing worship?  Why should the church be involved with a Levitical priesthood and sacrificial system in a Millennial Temple anyway?  Your description of the Millennium is very confusing.  It seems that both Israel and the Church have to do it all over again in the Millennium. 

In the current “church age” Pre-Millennium Israel is rejected and the Church is born and becomes the new people of God (according to you).  But during this period, you say, Jews can still be saved by faith in Christ and the gospel.  They therefore become part of the Church and become one body, and all remember Christ’s sacrifice and atonement together as they take the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper, you say (Eph 2:11-22.)

But then the Church, which consists of saved Gentiles and saved Jews, is raptured away, and all unbelievers are left behind, according to your theology.  But through the Tribulation, Jews and Gentiles who were left behind have a second chance and put their faith in Jesus….or whatever.  But I don’t know what it is that you say they’re meant to put their trust in – is it in the gospel of Jesus slain for sinners?….or do they look forward to a thousand year reign of Christ centred in Jerusalem on earth, and with a new temple and restored sacrificial system with Levitical priesthood, all of which is identical to the Old Covenant? 

If it is Christ’s atonement, why was the previous church raptured away?  Why didn’t Jesus just leave them on earth?  What was the point of taking the church away only so they could start another church from scratch all over again during the Millennium?   

And why is Israel restored to its former position and way of atonement and worship, as if nothing had happened in between the OT and the Millennium?  Why do they have to have their Old Covenant system with Christ ruling over it, when the Church is there as well, trusting the gospel…? 

If what you say is true, Jesus presides over an incomplete salvation for the Jews and a perfect salvation for the church at the same time….?  When does Israel get the chance to be free of animal sacrifices, in which God takes no pleasure (Heb 10:8)?  The whole of Heb chapters 8-10 speaks of the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, of the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the Levitical priesthood, of the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice over that of animals; and that Christ’s perfect sacrifice was once and forever.  Why is it shunted aside in the Millennium, and Israel left to obey the law, when Peter in the NT said this was a burden which was too heavy for the Jews to bear (Acts 15:10)?  It seems to me, if I’ve understood you correctly, Premillennialism and its focus on Israel is beset with insurmountable problems”


The temple in Ezekiel’s prophecy cannot be a literal, future, building which houses the holy place from which God rules Israel, and a Levitical priesthood, and in which animal sacrifices for sin take place.  This denies the gospel and is therefore a different gospel which is no gospel because it is not good news (Gal 1:6-8).  This would be a major backward step by God, and would restore an imperfect sacrificial system of making people right with him.  This doctrine has God, who was said to be pleased when Jesus made atonement on the cross, and when he found fault with animal sacrifices (Heb 8:7-9), now reinstating that which Christ died to abolish.  It has him bringing Israel back under the law, a yoke and a burden which they were unable to bear (Acts 15:10); and which they will have to bear for a thousand years.  Again, Paul writes: “….the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).

Whatever your theology of the end times, you cannot accept the view that there will be a literal millennial temple with a fully restored sacrificial system to atone for sin, and a Levitical priesthood which performs those sacrifices exactly as they did before Christ came to abolish the Old Covenant and to establish the New Covenant.  You cannot have a thousand year reign of Christ on earth with him presiding over the reinstated Old Covenant which was insufficient and temporary.  You cannot have Christ presiding over a system which brings people into bondage, a system which he gave his life to abolish.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth onto an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made.  Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matt 9:16-17).

“The Scripture quotations contained herein are made from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright, 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.”