The book of Ezekiel is a very interesting book among the prophetical books section in our Bible. Ezekiel was from a priestly family, so he was, in fact, a priest (chapter 1:3). Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah had similar ministries and both books present some prophetical types and point to Israel’s future restoration.
Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem, before the captivity to Babylon, and spoke to the hearts of the rebellious people. Ezekiel, however, prophesied while he was taken captive, as his prophecy started in the river of Chebar (chapter 1:1), which is in Babylon. His ministry was to speak to the hearts of the people that were in captivity, so he was called by God to preach in that foreign country to the Jews who were taken captive. Therefore, Ezekiel was one of the prophets who lived in exile. While Jeremiah lived Judah’s downfall in Jerusalem Daniel and Ezekiel had already been deported to Babylon.
Ezekiel’s prophecies are similar in several ways to Jeremiah in relation to the contents. His prophecies include many pictures and symbols as well. Both recall their sad condition to the people who had deliberately turned their backs against God; both prophesy the downfall of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem’s destruction but also the final restoration in the millennium. In contrast to Jeremiah, Ezekiel arranges his prophecies in clear manner under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who is mentioned on a number of occasions in this book; e.g. chap. 2:2; 3:12.24.
There are certain parallels with Jeremiah’s prophecies despite differences. In contrast to this Ezekiel and Daniel complete and complement one another. Daniel mainly describes the history of the four great prophetic world empires, that is the “time of the nations” (compare with Luke 21:24) whereas Ezekiel describes the events before and after Jerusalem’s treading down. This is the reason Messiah’s appearing (His first and His second coming to this earth) is not described.
Again, if we are going to benefit from a book like Ezekiel, it is good practice to see Christ in this book. Chapter 1 opens with a vision that Ezekiel had, and verses 4-10 describe what the living creatures look like. The faces of man, lion, ox and eagle all represent one of the four gospels in the New Testament. The lion represents the gospel of Matthew – the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ, the rightful King. The ox represents service, which corresponds with the gospel of Mark, the perfect Servant, who is, and always will be, the Son of God. The man represents the gospel of Luke, the Lord Jesus as the perfect dependant man, and finally, the eagle speaks of that which soars above the skies, corresponding to the gospel of John, speaking of the deity of Christ. At the outset we see Christ in chapter 1.
In chapter 1:26 we read, “And above the expanse that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.” This is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. Then in chapter 9 we see a man among the six clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side, another picture of Christ, and we are reminded that only the high priest is to wear the linen (Leviticus 16:4). In chapter 21 Christ is the King who has the right to rule, and in chapter 34 He is the true Shepherd who will deliver and feed His sheep. Then in chapter 40 we read of a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze (speaking of judgment). He also had a measuring rod in his hand. This is another pre- incarnate appearance of Christ.
There are no direct references to Ezekiel in the New Testament. However, there is an allusion to Ezekiel in John 3 where the Lord Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, about new birth. The birth of water and of Spirit is the divine condition to enter into the kingdom of God on earth. Ezekiel had already written that God would gather His people, cleanse it with clean water from their filthiness and from all their idols, put a new spirit within them and put His spirit within them (Ez. 36:25-27). Nicodemus should have known this because Ezekiel was part of the Hebrew Bible, and the Lord therefore asks him: “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”
There are several striking and interesting similarities that exist between Ezekiel and the book of Revelation:
- Ez.1:184.108.40.206 and Rev.4:2-7 – the Throne of God
- Ez. 3:3 and Rev. 10:9-10 – the eating of the Little Book
- Ez. 8:3 and Rev. 13:14 – the image
- Ez. 9:4-6 and Rev. 7:3 – the seal
- Ez. 10:1-8 and Rev. 8:1-5 – the censer filled with fire
- Ez. 38:2 and Rev. 20:8 – Gog and Magog
- Ez. 40 and Rev. 21 – the New Jerusalem
- Ez. 47:1-12 and Rev. 22:1-2 – the River and the Tree of Life
In some respects, we will find similarities that are repetitive, for instance, the description of the throne of God and the four living creatures. In some places the New Testament prophecy goes further than what had been revealed in the Old Testament. We find the earthly Jerusalem in Ezekiel but in the book of Revelation Jerusalem is the heavenly city.
The glory of Jehovah, which is the visible sign of God’s presence with His people Israel, has an important role in Ezekiel. The glory is represented as a cloud that is resting in the sanctuary of the temple (compare with Ex. 40:35; 1 Kings 8:10.11). Ezekiel mentions the cloud in the following references: chap. 1:28; 3:12.23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4.18.19; 11:22.23; 43:2.4.5; 44:4.
When Jehovah rejected His people after they rejected Him, this cloud of glory left the temple and the city of Jerusalem. But the cloud reappears at the end of the book and will dwell in the new temple of the millennium. The cloud has been seen once only during the long interval: it was at the Lord Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount (Math. 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:17).
Ezekiel can be divided into three parts as follows:
- Chapters 1-24 describes the moral and spiritual condition of the people that leads to Ezekiel’s rejection.
- Chapters 25-32 Ezekiel announces the judgments over the neighbouring people and nations.
- Chapters 33-48 presents the prophecy on the return of the nation of Israel as a united nation in the future, and the description of the millennium with the temple in Jerusalem.
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers’ outline of Ezekiel and Arno Gaebelein’s annotated bible notes on Ezekiel, from a website called www.biblecentre.org.