“Waters To Swim In”
Ezekiel tells us in the opening verse of his prophecy, “the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” He then proceeds to tell us how he saw visions of God and his glory. When he gets to the final section of his prophecy (chap. 43), a Man stood by him, whom he heard speaking out of the house of God, as the glory of God filled the house, the place of his throne. His voice was as the voice of many waters; and Ezekiel said, “the visions were like the vision I that saw by the river Chebar, and I fell upon my face” (43:3). Between the first vision and the last, he had seen visions of God in all his works. When he comes to the end of his prophecy and beholds the glory awaiting us, looking back over all God’s wondrous works, he declares that the love of God for us in Christ is like “waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over” (47:1-5).
God’s elect shall never pass over the river of his immutable, everlasting love. It is as immutable as it is free. It is as unquenchable as it is unpurchasable. God’s elect cannot perish. Redeemed sinners cannot be damned. Once called by omnipotent mercy, saved sinners cannot be lost again. Every chosen, redeemed sinner, every sinner saved by God’s almighty grace shall forever swim in the infinite length, infinite breadth, infinite depth and infinite height of the waters of his love!
Any vision we have of God begins with the vision of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can never see the glory of God anywhere until we have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ. That is where John’s vision in Revelation began. That is where Ezekiel’s vision begins (chap. 1). And that is where our vision must begin. We do not have to read far until we see this. First, the prophet tells us he saw “a great cloud and a fire infolding itself” (1:4). Then he saw our Lord personified in four living creatures (vv. 5-14).
These living creatures (the same that Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6 and John saw in Revelation 4) are clearly representative of gospel preachers. But there is in them a beautiful, instructive, clear picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, too. Ezekiel saw the cherubim who ''had the likeness of a man'' (v.5). Each had four faces: the face of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. Wherever cherubim are mentioned in the Bible, they are either guarding or declaring the holiness of God. And where but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the holiness of God more fully displayed and declared?
He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King who has the right to reign (Gen 49:10). Like the beast of service, the ox, he is the Servant of Jehovah. He said that he did not come to be ministered to, but to serve, and to ''give His life a ransom for many'' (Mat 20:28). He is a Man, the Word made flesh, dwelling among us (John 1:14). He is, therefore, the perfect man.
Beyond that, He soars higher than any other, and like the eagle, He looks directly into the face of God with unblinking eye. This is because He is more than perfect man. —He is God manifest in the flesh. ''In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God'' (John 1:1).
Ezekiel's vision of the Lord prepared him for his ministry, as a living creature sent to proclaim God’s Word to perishing sinners. Throughout the Book, this phrase appears repeatedly, “the word of the Lord came unto me.'' This was his authority, and its recurrence may form the divisions of the book. Another phrase that occurs frequently is, ''they shall know that I am Jehovah.''
Then, he saw Christ on his throne, the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords, ruling over all things, just as Isaiah did before him and as John did after him. The “Man” upon the throne (1:26) can be none other than the only-begotten Son, the representative of the invisible God. We recognize in this vision the prophetic announcement of our Lord’s incarnation. The details of the vision seen by the captive on the banks of the Chebar correspond minutely with the details of the vision of the captive in the isle called Patmos.
Over eighty points of similarity may be found between the two books of Ezekiel and Revelation. As there is no doubt who is designated by John, we cannot but recognize in the vision of Ezekiel the glory of God in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
· Both Ezekiel and John saw “a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne” (1:26; 4:2).
· They both saw the rainbow, the token of the covenant. They both saw the “terrible crystal” of the purity of God’s presence, which nothing can evade. To Ezekiel it appeared as a firmament; to John as a sea of glass (1:22; Rev. 4:6).
· They both had a vision of burning lamps of the fire of God’s Spirit, and of the four living creatures, whose sound was as the sound of many waters (1:24; Rev. 19:4-6).
· To both was given, by the One encircled by the rainbow, the roll of a book, which he was commanded to eat, and then go and prophesy (Ezek. 1:28; 2:1, 8-10, 3:1-4; Rev. 10:1, 2, 8-11).
“This,” said Ezekiel, “was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (1:28). When we read of the “glory of the Lord” in this Book, we see in it the manifested presence of God as revealed in the eternal Son, who, in the fullness of time, “became flesh, and dwelt amongst us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.”
The sight of Christ upon the cross, satisfying the justice of God as our Substitute, and Christ on the throne, as the sovereign Lord accepted in heaven, that brings us salvation. Then it was, Ezekiel says, that the Spirit entered into him, and that then he heard him that spake unto him.
Ezekiel himself portrayed and typified our Savior. In chapter 4 the Lord God gave Ezekiel his message. He sent his prophet to the nation to warn them of wrath and impending judgment. But, in the midst of the warning, he gave a picture of hope. —Ezekiel was required to lie on his side, first on his left for 390 days and then on his right for 40 days. Each of the 390 days represent the 390 years of Israel’s open rebellion and turning to idolatry in setting up the calves at Dan and Bethel. The 40 days on his right side represent the 40 years of idolatry under Manasseh’s wicked, idolatrous reign in Judah. —Ezekiel was required to lie on his side as one man bearing the sins of many, and bearing them to the full extent of their just punishment (v. 4). That is exactly what the Lord Jesus did for his people (2 Cor. 5:21).
In chapters 4, 5, and 6 the prophet declares that God must and will punish sin. Sin must be punished, either in you, or in a Substitute, in a suitable man whom God himself shall send. When we get to the 8th verse of chapter six, the Lord in wrath remembers mercy and promises that some shall indeed escape his wrath through the sacrifice of that Substitute.
These promises find their ultimate accomplishment in the salvation of God’s elect by Christ Jesus, the Lord.
When Ezekiel saw the glory of God upon the mercy-seat, (in the face of Christ—in his Sacrifice) he saw that the God of Glory is a God of absolute, unalterable purpose. In chapters 1-10 he describes the vision of wheels the Lord gave him, which was a vision of God’s marvelous works of providence. God’s providence is like a great piece of machinery, wheels within a wheel (1:15-25). It appears to have many parts, but it is really one (1:16). It always moves in a straight line, according to God’s unalterable, eternal purpose of grace in predestination (Rom. 8:28-30). It is the work of God’s throne, and that Man who sits upon it, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior (1:26), according to the covenant made on behalf of chosen sinners before the world began (1:28). Ezekiel was overwhelmed by his vision. He says, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord! And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one that spake ” (v. 28). He was utterly withered before the glory of God and fell as one dead!
In chapter 2 the prophet seems to be describing his own experience of grace. He was raised, as it were, from the dead. ― “And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me” (vv. 1-2).
Then, the Lord God made him a prophet and sent him to a rebellious people (vv. 3-10). He saw a hand (v. 9), the same hand John saw (Rev. 5), the hand of the Lamb of God, the Man sitting on the throne: ― a hand to help him ― a hand to guide him ― a hand to protect him ― an omnipotent hand ― a pierced hand.
He saw a book (v. 10), the same one John saw, the book of God’s eternal purpose! But God is not done teaching him yet. Look at chapter 3. God required him to eat the book (vv. 1-3). God demands reconciliation. He demands that we bow to his purpose. But we never will. So he did not just tell Ezekiel to eat the book — He made him eat it (v. 2). And when he had eaten it, it was as sweet as honey (v. 3). — Here’s a prophet. —He is a man made strong by God (v. 8). — He is a man who receives all God’s Word into his heart (v. 10). — He is a man moved, motivated by and consumed with the glory of God (v. 12). — He is a man with a burdened, broken heart (vv. 14-15). — He is a man God has made to be a watchman over the souls of men (v. 16). — He is a man shut up to the will and glory of the Lord his God (vv. 22-27).
This same grace is portrayed in the pictures drawn of the deserted, castaway, polluted infant in chapter 16 and the valley of dry bones in chapter 37.
In chapters 7 and 8 the Lord God showed his prophet the end of the matter, the judgment that must come. That which is here spoken to Israel and Judah reaches beyond those rebellious people. It reaches to all the world. The judgment here described speaks of the end of all things, the end of the world. Read the chapters (7-10) carefully. Here four unmistakable facts about the judgment of God are obvious.
1. The judgment of God is always just. ― God swore to pour out his wrath upon this people because they went awhoring after other gods—worshipped Tammuz and the sun in the house of God (8:17-18). No one goes to hell for what Adam did in the garden. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18). Men and women go to hell because they have personally earned the everlasting wrath of God by their own treasonous rebellion against the King of Glory. Eternal damnation, the judgment of God is that which men and women have willfully brought upon themselves. — This will be the very hell of hell. The damned will know that they fully deserve all that they suffer. They will never be reconciled to it. But they will know that they deserve his just and holy wrath.
2. Judgment is preceded by a great separation of grace (vv. 3-6). ― A man clothed with white linen (Christ), with an inkhorn in his hand, was sent to put a mark upon the foreheads of God’s chosen remnant. He commands his angels to hurt not the earth until the 144,000 (God’s elect) have been sealed in their foreheads (Rev. 7; 2 Pet. 3:9). Noah must be in the ark before the rain falls. Lot must be in Zoar before Sodom is burned. God’s elect must be called before judgment falls upon the earth.
3. Judgment will begin at the house of God. — “Begin at my sanctuary” (9:6). — “Judgment must begin at the house of God!” Judgment begins with and is most furious against those who profess to believe God, but live in rebellion against him.
4. Judgment shall be executed by the hands of the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, so obstinately despised by men (10:4-7). ― Up to this point Christ is seen upon the mercy-seat. He is the mercy-seat. But now, he is taken up from between the cherubs. In that great and terrible day, when God no longer deals with sinners in mercy, there will be no mercy! — Hope is gone forever. — “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son!” — Then shall men cry, “Hide us from the face of the Lamb!”
All God’s works, both in the judgment passed upon the nations and in the grace bestowed upon his elect, is but the outworking of his covenant of grace made for us with Christ our Surety before the world began (chapters 20 and 36). In saving us, in bringing us to Christ in faith, he brings us into the bond of the covenant (20:33-34). When his work is completely finished, he will have saved us from all our uncleanness, exactly as he swore in covenant love before the world began for the glory of his own great name (36:23-38).
When the Lord God has finished his work, when his house is complete, when all the tribes of the Israel of God are saved, when resurrection glory has commenced, then we will swim in the waters of his everlasting love, in his glorious presence forever. That is the scene in chapters 40-48. The river flows out of the sanctuary. It was from the south side of the altar, pointing to the place of sacrifice as the source of blessing, ― “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” “a Lamb as it had been slain.” The river rises to the ankles, to the knees, and to the loins here. There it becomes “waters to swim in, a river that I could not pass over.” Our Savior came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. Here it is!
Christ the Giver of Life
Throughout the Book of Ezekiel we see Christ as the Giver of Life. The cherubim, in the vision of the first chapter, were illustrations of the abundant life of his redeemed. The Man clothed in linen, who is the Angel of the covenant, our Great High Priest, sets the mark of life upon God’s faithful ones, that their lives should be spared in the destruction of the city (9:2). His first word to the out-cast infant, which represented you and me, who became “perfect through his comeliness” which he had put upon it, was, “Live” (16:6). His word through the watchman was, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (33:11). His care as a Shepherd is over the life of his sheep (34). He answered his own question, “Can these dry bones live?” with the words, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live” (37:3, 5). Finally, his promise is, “Everything shall live whither the river cometh.”
“Son of Man”
Throughout the Book, God addresses Ezekiel as the “Son of man.” It is part of his wondrous grace that he has chosen man to be his messenger to his fellowmen, instead of choosing angels. The greatest exhibition of this grace is the fact that the Son of God became the son of Man to fit him to be God’s messenger to us. ―“For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham,” in all things made like unto his brethren, that he might be able to help and to save us.
The book closes with the promise of God’s continual presence. ― “The name of the city from that day shall be Jehovah-shammah, The Lord is there” (48:35). When God is with us and we are with him forever in that New Temple in the New Jerusalem, walking in the light of the City Foursquare, then God’s work is done and both he and we shall enjoy his glory forever!