EZEKIEL 31:1 – 33:33 and REVELATION 3:14–22
This prophetic chapter is given one day before the fall of Jerusalem as noted by the date given in verse 1. In verses 2-9 there is a comparison given between Egypt and the Assyrians. This was spoken to remind Egypt that Assyria was once a great empire. They were able to penetrate lands and take them over. There was the sense of invincibility that no one was able to stop them. This was on its fullest display when Sennacherib made his move against Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah. Remember the brash words of Sennacherib’s mouthpiece that went by the name of Rabshakeh? He epitomised the haughtiness of the Assyrian empire. His mocking taunts struck fear even into the king himself. Isaiah the prophet was a steady hand throughout this assault because the Lord had spoken to him earlier as to what would take place. The Bible speaks of the blessings that comes to those who hear and give heed to the true prophets of God (2 Chr 20:20).
It was God who allowed the Assyrians to have a season of prominence. They are likened to the cedar in Lebanon which were trees of great stature (vs 3). This positioning made them the envy of other nations but in the end it was God that brought them down by the Babylonians. This took place around 612 BC when Nineveh, the capitol city fell. The same Babylonians would also be used of God to bring down the Egyptians who had a similar strain of pride.
The sobering realities of eternal judgement are conveyed in verses 10-18. The Assyrian leaders and those associated with them were not only defeated but were also cast down into the depths of hell. The first few verses speak of their earthly demise and resultant effects upon the land. There will be desolations, famines and destruction everywhere. In verses 15-18 the torments of hell are vividly portrayed. Their once great prominence upon earth is now but a memory that they will carry for eternity as a torment in hell. There are insights here that help us to understand what life after death will be like. There is full retention of memory that will be carried on forever. Can we even begin to grasp what this would be like for a person who lived for themselves, removed from God? They will remember their one time prominence while living upon the earth. They had a season in the sun where they could live sumptuously for themselves at the expense of others. Perhaps this can be best understood when looking at the example of Lazarus and the rich man. In a matter of a day(s) there is an absolute reversal of reality. Lazarus who was a beggar upon the earth is now comforted. The rich man who lived a luxurious life upon earth is now in a place of eternal torment. In his time of luxury he paid no heed to Lazarus. In eternity, the rich man longed for a cool drink of water to help ease the torment of flame (Luke 16:19-31). How things changed so quickly and so suddenly.
The Lord is seeking to remind the Egyptians from the example of the Assyrians but it would be to no avail. What about us; do we have it in us to learn their lessons and seek the mercies of God for our lives and the lives of others?
The Word of the Lord continues to be directed towards Pharaoh in this chapter. There may well be dual applications as seen in some of the earlier mentions of Egypt. There is much we can learn from the 10 plagues that came upon the land in the days of Moses. The plagues were a judgement that came upon Egypt but they were also direct judgement upon the gods they worshipped. The 9th plague of Egypt is similar to the judgement mentioned in these early verses of chapter 32. This was when darkness was pronounced over the land (Exo 10:22). This darkness was so thick that people could not even see one another. It is also similar to what the prophet Joel prophesied in Joel 2:32 where he spoke of the sun being turned into darkness and the moon into blood. The past two years we have seen the blood moons falling upon unique feasts days. We can glean a modern day truth and application from these verses. Isaiah spoke of a great glory that shall come upon the earth in the last days but it’s in conjunction with a great darkness. It is not just a spiritual darkness but I feel a literal physical darkness. Can you see how the 9th plague of Egypt, the prophesies of Joel and of Isaiah can be linked to this chapter? I feel the Lord places much emphasis on the Egyptians with their related prophetic judgements to warn us and help provide us with insights for what is coming in our day.
In verses 9-10 we see the horror that will come upon other nations as they witness the destruction of an empire. It is not just the loss of commerce but it is the fear of what may soon happen to them as they see the desolation of a nation who had such prominence and stature. Let’s try and put this into a modern day perspective. Much of the world today has a disdain for America. Still, how do you think others around the world will feel when they see major cities in America brought to absolute ruin and desolation? This potential scenario is captured in Revelation 18. There will be those who will gleefully rejoice over America’s demise but for the most part there will be a sobering shaking as reality hits the world as to how much things have changed so quickly.
In verses 17-20 there is the reminder of what is going to happen to this world at the end of the age. Egypt speaks of the world. When the children of Israel came forth out of Egypt, they were set free from their bondage and their oppressors. It did not take long to see that the world (Egypt) was not yet out of them. They still had an inward longing in their heart for the things of Egypt. This is one of the works of the Cross; to cleanse and remove those inward longings and give us a heart that seeks after the living God. This was the purpose for Babylon to those who would hear and understand what the Lord was speaking through his prophets. It was because Israel failed to obey the instruction of God that they were now in this dilemma. The world system of this day (Egypt) was about to be destroyed. It is but a picture of what will take place in the last days. The difference in the last days is that it will be the end. It is all culminating to a climax.
There is an interesting insight seen in verses 21-23 amongst the kings of empires who go down in to the pit. As mentioned earlier there is the retention of one’s existence in the afterlife. Their sins are remembered and there appears to be conversations amongst the wicked in their fallen state. How horrible are thoughts of an eternity in torment removed forever from God. The shame of the wicked is exposed and constantly trumpeted throughout hell as a reminder of their works in lieu of those who lived honourably. They had their season but it has now passed. Can we somehow come to terms with the privilege and opportunity we have while we yet have breath? Can we catch just a tiny glimpse of the eternal torment of these men so as to spur us on to live uprightly as well as to warn others? Lord, please help us for we need a wake-up call before our season in this life passes by.
The roundup of nations in hell continues with the mention of Edom and the Zidonians in verses 29-32. Ezekiel has been prophesying the Word of the Lord to the surrounding nations from chapter 25 through 32. Each of these nations had a period where they flourished and prevailed. These nations served as antagonists and enemies of Israel. It was God that raised them up to be His instrument of judgement upon Israel as they were being led to their destiny in Babylon. God allowed it because of the sin and idolatry seen in His people. These past 7 chapters have presented the judgements that would now come upon these enemy nations. Their usefulness to God as instruments of judgement upon Israel has come to an end and they are now to be judged. Yes, they may have had a time of prominence but consider their end. It is in the pit. The ultimate illustration was seen in the Prince of Tyre who gave a clear picture of what Lucifer was like. Lucifer was a beautifully created angelic being who had gifting’s and anointing’s beyond measure. He had such high standing and yet in the end he ends up in the pit. This is the warning and message we should take away from this portion of Ezekiel’s ministry. It is worthy of meditation and prayer.
This section now addresses the theme of the Restoration of Israel. It will be covered from this chapter through chapter 39. We can break this section down into 4 parts. They are as follows:
1) Oracles of Responsibility (33:1-34:31)
2) Judgements upon Edom (35:1-15)
3) Restoration of Israel (36:1-38)
4) Visions and Oracles (37:1-39:29)
We can begin chapter 33 by looking at the Oracles of responsibility. The importance of being vigilant and watchful is the subject first addressed in verses 1-6. This thought and theme was covered earlier in both chapter 3 and chapter 18. The primary lesson is that the watchman is to sound the alarm when the sword is about to devour the land. If they know of the enemy advance and do not sound warning the blood of the innocents would be placed upon their hands. This relates to our day by sharing the Good News of the Gospel whenever we would have opportunity. It should be clear to all believers that the return of the Lord is coming soon. The handwriting is on the wall concerning the judgements to come. Are we faithfully alerting and sounding the alarm?
In verses 7-11 we have a repeating of that which was covered in Ezek 18:19-24. The soul that sins will die but their blood will be required at the hands of those who did not sound forth the warning. It must be understood that the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. It is His heart and desire to see all men come to the saving knowledge of Christ. It is clear that all men will not be saved but it is not because God’s ways have been unequal (18:25). It all comes down to choice and the Lord does all He can to help us make right choices. Our role as watchmen is to also give people opportunity to make choices; hopefully the right ones. If we do not speak or warn then we prohibit people the opportunity to choose. Remember, he that wins souls is wise (Pro 11:30).
The truth of one’s righteousness not saving him if he sins is brought out again. A man can live his life as a righteous man and later be drawn into sin. If his sin is not repented of his former righteousness will not save him. This is a reminder of what Jesus said when He echoed these haunting words. “Depart from me for I never knew you.” Can we even begin to understand the absolute horror of standing before the Lord, thinking we are ok only to find out the Lord does not know us? This helps us to understand the importance of good sound doctrine. There are many people in the church who could well be on their way to hell due to teachings that give a false sense of security. On the other hand, you have a person who has lived a life of sin and turns to the Lord in repentance and forgiveness. His iniquity will be forgotten and his life will now be counted for righteousness. The Bible speaks about living in present truth and these examples help to give an illustration what it means.
We want to meditate and consider the importance of finishing well. Perhaps the greatest lesson and tragedy is seen in the life of King Solomon. He was a young man who had such an intimate relationship with God in his early years; filled with wisdom, knowledge and untold riches. Through the years he allowed his heart to be snared by women and worldly ways. The Book of Ecclesiastes says it all for how he ended up while conveying the absolute misery of one who has turned aside. We are indebted to Solomon and we need to learn from his example to us. It is wonderful to start well in our walk with the Lord; it is even far better that we finish well. If we are faithful in our work of sounding the alarm and sharing Christ with others we will help position ourselves to live a life of faithfulness and longevity that will ensure our hearing of the Words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
Rev 3:14-22 (Laodicea)
The 7th and final church is that of Laodicea. In this brief summary, we want to highlight a few areas of importance. This church is figurative of the last days. It can be linked to the Feast of Tabernacles which was the 7th Feast that Israel celebrated and also be linked to the parable of the great Net. These linkages help to provide some key insights into the significance of Laodicea. As we study this church and the associated linkages, we will gain a greater appreciation for the 6th Church. The Church of Philadelphia can be linked with the Feast of Atonement as well as being linked with the 6th Kingdom parable of the Pearl of Great Price. Let me try and put it into these words. To the extent we appropriate the truths concerning the Church of Philadelphia will be to the extent we will benefit from the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. Let me try and put it another way. The 7th kingdom parable is the parable of the Net which brought in huge amount of great fish. What would happen if our churches were to be suddenly bombarded with souls coming in? Do we have the needed infrastructure to accommodate such a harvest? Have we allowed God to enlarge our heart through the working of the Atonement message (Feast # 6)? Have we been seeking after the true treasures (Parable # 6) or rather settle for a modern contemporary form of Christianity? One way or the other revival is coming which is typified in the Laodicea church. The question to ask is rather it will be properly facilitated or will it be quickly lost due to little or no preparation. Do we have vision to prepare and plan ahead now like the ant who begins his preparation for the winter during the summer months (Pro 6).
One of the indictments to the Laodicean was that they had to anoint their eyes with eye salve. They saw themselves differently than the way God saw them. How many churches and church leaders suffer from this same problem today? On the surface, all looks well but beneath the veneer, there is mixture and compromise. The Lord introduces Himself as the faithful and true witness signifying that there was an untrue witness being carried out by the church. He also introduces Himself as the beginning of the creation of God. He goes on to make it known that he knows their works and what he was seeing was not encouraging. He saw a mediocre form of Christianity which would not commit one way or the other. Does not this sound like the church at large today? The Feast of Tabernacles (7th Feast) is going to see a mighty ingathering of souls. It will be a season of great glory and joy. It will be a move of God unlike any other but will it last? The key for longevity in being able to survive and thrive in the last days will be dependent on the appropriation and example of the truths surrounding the church of Philadelphia. Do you see the point?
As mentioned earlier the church saw themselves as being rich but in reality, they were naked. The world’s way of assessment would give Laodicea an A+. They had numbers, riches and the overall appearance of success. This resulted in a pride, which only further blinded them from the true picture. The remedy for their blindness was for them to buy gold that was tried in the fire. These speak of the true and hidden riches that God is after. It actually reflects the truth concerning the Pearl of great price. This man obtained the prize by seeking. He was intentional in his pursuit of that pearl. This speaks of vision and being able to see beyond the here and now. The Bible says that it is the glory of God to hide and conceal treasure but the honor of kings is given to those who seek and search out a matter (Pro 25:2). The exhortation the Lord is giving is essentially to be like the merchant man seeking after goodly pearls. There must be a renewed sense of intention in how we approach the things of God. A casual half-hearted response is not going to cut it. The Lord is even more specific. To such people he says he will “vomit” them out of His mouth.
The Lord closes his exhortation by saying that he is standing at the door and knocking (vs 20). He does not force entry but politely knocks upon the door of our hearts. It is up to us to CHOOSE to open unto Him. This is the approach the Lord has been taking throughout this season of atonement. He has been longing for His church to open up before Him, to be transparent and repent. The exhortation in verse 20 is for today while he still may be found. In the end, it is our choice.