The visions that God gave Ezekiel are among the most vivid in the Bible outside of the book of Revelation. Probably the most disturbing for the prophet occurred in the chapters for today’s reading. Just as he had seen previously at the Chebar Canal, Ezekiel was shown the whirling wheels and the cherubim once more.
(Interestingly, although Ezekiel says they were the same creatures, the face of one in the earlier vision was that of an ox, whereas in this vision it had the face of a human. All the other faces were identical. There seems to be no consensus among scholars as to why the discrepancy; perhaps a later scribe simply copied it wrong, and it persisted in subsequent texts. Regardless, it makes no theological difference.)
The reason for this vision was because of a drastic move on God’s part. From the mouths of many prophets, He had warned the inhabitants of Judah that their disobedience had severe consequences. The prophet reported in Ezekiel 12:1-2:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house.”
This rebellious attitude caused the people to have a veil over their understanding. What they saw and heard made no sense; none of it penetrated their comprehension. Jesus later said the same thing in Matthew 13:15-15, when he described those around Him as having calloused or dull hearts. If that weren’t the case, God would have actually been merciful to heal the people. Then, as in this time of Ezekiel, their despicable ways prevented the Lord from acting as He truly desired. Because of this, He had to bring judgment in order to cause the people to finally awaken and realize their desperate plight in life without Him.
In a series of moves, God showed Ezekiel how His glory was leaving the temple – His very dwelling place. How disturbed the prophet must have been! Because of how God had positioned the temple in Jerusalem in the minds of the people as His house, for Him to depart must have had a profound impact on Ezekiel, this man of God who loved Him more than anything else. But it was necessary. The visions revealed how the leaders in Jerusalem were worshiping pagan entities through idols that depicted the creatures of the earth as worthy of reverence, but not the Lord Himself who had created them. The women honored a goddess of sexual immorality, and the occult things of the east were put high above God (Ezekiel 8). The Lord could not allow this level of abomination to continue.
And so Ezekiel 11:22-23 describes:
Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.
Because God’s glory no longer dwelt in Israel, His protection was gone. Chaos and violence would be the norm as lawlessness reigned.
Prior to all this, no one believed that God would act in such a way. Weren’t the Jews His Chosen People? Wasn’t Israel His Holy and Promised Land? Their thinking that they could do anything with abandon, and the Lord would never punish them, was prevalent. It’s why, when the prophets declared the coming judgment of God, they laughed. They even had a proverb stating: “The days grow long and every vision comes to nothing.” (Ezekiel 12:22)
God went on to declare in Ezekiel 12:27-28 about their indifference and its consequences:
“Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’ Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord God.”
Just as Ezekiel foretold at God’s behest, the prophecies weren’t for a future time; they were ones that He would perform NOW!
Don’t we have the same attitude among those in the church today? Isn’t Bible prophecy disdained and ignored? How much do Christians desire to know about the things to come? When confronted with the rapid approach of the Lord’s return, don’t many dismiss it as something they believed in the 1970s (because of Hal Linsay’s book The Late Great Planet Earth) but don’t any longer? Aren’t they jaded at the thought of Jesus’s imminent coming with many saying that they’re pan-Trib in their belief? In other words, whatever happens, it will all pan out in the end. The hearts of many in the church itself have become calloused and dull. There are few who observe the signs of the times and take heed, even as Jesus warned.
I don’t pretend to know what this means for true believers who dismiss the Words of Jesus, when He said to be alert and keep watching for Him, and they refuse to do so. That’s a command that they ignore, seemingly at some peril, whatever that hazard might be.
However, based on God’s Word, as well as the birth pains that we’re in the midst of, it won’t be long before Jesus does come for His beloved Bride to Rapture us from this world that is not our home. When He does, the Holy Spirit will also be removed. Isn’t that similar to what happened in Jerusalem when God’s glory departed? That act on the Lord’s part paved the way for the inhabitants of the land to face the sword, famine, and pestilence beyond anything they’d imagined. Won’t the Tribulation following the Rapture bring these same disasters upon the unbelieving world?
Yet here’s the amazing second part of these prophecies. God told Ezekiel to tell His people that he would regather them and bring great blessings, as told in Ezekiel 11:19-20:
“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
Someday the entire nature of their relationship with God would change. He would live inside them and they would truly be His people.
When Jesus snatches us out of this world, He will give us glorified bodies. After hiding away in the Father’s house for seven years, we will return with Him to enter the Millennial Kingdom. We will work with Him to execute justice and peace during this 1,000 years when He sits on the throne in Jerusalem. It’s a different future than that of the remnant believers of Israel, but one that will be glorious and amazing.
God has a wonderful future in store for us. Bible prophecy declares this is so. However, before the joy comes the mourning. We must stand fast in the Lord in faith and belief, and through the trials, He will deliver us into a time of delight that we cannot even comprehend.