Ezekiel 37

The imagery of this chapter is unsettling. In fact, some believe that this passage indicates the coming of yet another holocaust. But, I completely disagree.

The Very Dry Bones – An Allegory

Let’s go through the chapter and see what it says.

1 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”

Ezekiel 37:1-3

The word picture here is powerful. Dry, sterile death. Hopelessness. Utter and absolute destruction, except for one thing…

There are at least bones, and these bones are not broken. There is a remnant of what once was, and that remnant still continues on. And God is going to use what is there (those dry bones) to build again.

Furthermore, to believe that this passage indicates a kind of holocaust would require us to throw out so much that is positive about the return of Israel to her land. Yes, it is true that Zechariah 13:8-9 speaks of two thirds of Israel dying, but it is ‘only’ two thirds. A third survive.

In this valley of ‘dry bones’, there are no survivors. There is no life. Therefore, it should be clear that God is communicating to us with allegorical imagery.

Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” ’ ”

Ezekiel 37:4-6

God is going to take what is almost destroyed – almost eliminated – and make something new. God is going to reanimate what was lifeless and scattered. And, He speaks to the lifeless, even though they cannot hear.

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

Ezekiel 37:7-8

Now, after Ezekiel speaks, we see the bones transformed. They are now recognizable as people. They are no longer dry and sterile. If we were looking out through Ezekiel’s eyes, they’d probably seem to be asleep.

The Holy Spirit Enters Them

Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the [a]breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ’ ”

Ezekiel 37:9

I don’t think that it’s an accident that the word for wind (ru-ach, with ach pronounced like Bach) is the same word for spirit. Furthermore, there is the Hebrew word ‘el’ before the word ‘ruach’. God commands Ezekiel to tell el ruach to come from the four winds and give life to the bodies.

El ruach?

God (el) of spirit (ruach)?

Well, in Hebrew el can also be another way to say the word the. The word ‘el’ is used throughout the Bible as the definite article, the. But… it really COULD be referring to ‘God the Spirit’, or as we refer to Him – the Holy Spirit. We certainly know that there can be no spiritual life without the Holy Spirit. But, at the same time, I believe that it is wise to be cautious when addressing metaphors.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how we interpret this usage of the word ‘el’. It should be clear to all of us that God gives them spiritual life and that the Holy Spirit lives inside of them. That, after all, is salvation.

10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and [a]breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord.’ ”

Ezekiel 37:10-14

These Are Physical Children Of Jacob

If you can read THAT and believe that all the references to Israel in Ezekiel are to THE CHURCH… well …I can only assume that you either don’t have the Holy Spirit, or aren’t listening to Him.

Can these references to Israel be more plain?

I mean, you would have to believe that all Christians, everywhere have died and gone to a place where ‘our hope is lost’. And, that is patently NOT the case. When a Christian dies, he or she goes to a place of hope and paradise. So, this CANNOT be an allegory for Christians.

Seriously folks, get a grip and start paying attention to the Holy Spirit.

What This Metaphor Cannot Be

In fact, let me take you through a bit of simple reasoning. I will show you what this metaphor cannot be, which will leave us with what it MUST be.

We see graves mentioned – and an opportunity to take this passage far too literally. So, let’s look at these graves.

Are they real, honest-to-goodness graves?

No.

They cannot possibly be real graves with dead people in them. This is a metaphor, one of many, many metaphors in the bible.

Let me make it more clear:

God is not going to bring the Jews back to their land, only to kill them so that He can bring them back to life again. We do not see an example of this, anywhere else in the Bible.

Remember that the Bible is consistent. If something doesn’t happen anywhere else in the Bible, you need to think again about your interpretation. This is a basic tenet of Biblical interpretation.

Let us also remember that Chapter 37 happens in context with Chapter 36. Here is what the previous chapter says:

24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Well, when we read this passage alongside chapter 37, it’s clear that chapter 37 cannot be referring to another holocaust. It’s a metaphor.

To illustrate my point, look again at the verses above (Ezekiel 36:24-28). This also must be a metaphor, otherwise we’d have to say that when God brings the Jews back to Israel, they will all get rained on and have open-heart surgery.

To take that passage as literal, is to make the Bible completely ridiculous.

So, if Ezekiel 36:24-28 is a metaphor, then the ‘dry bones’ in chapter 37 is a metaphor – but, a much bigger metaphor.

The fact is, the ‘Vision of the Dry Bones’ is a retelling of what happens in verses 24-28 of the previous chapter – except, in this case, God is emphasizing the CHARACTER of Israel’s exile.

These graves are Israel’s exile. And, God sent Israel into exile because, when they were given a choice between spiritual death and spiritual life, they chose spiritual death – just as many Christians appear to be doing today with their turn towards worldliness.

But here, in Ezekiel 37, the Children of Israel get a second chance. And, God is a God of second chances.

Right?

Right!

(Otherwise, you and I are in a LOT of trouble!)

Let’s continue with the rest of the chapter.

One Stick – The Tribes Of Israel Will Call Themselves Jews

Now, this is where God talks about the removal of the tribal identity of the Israelis so that they identify themselves with just one tribe:

Judah (i.e., Yehudah).

Every Levite – those with the last name Cohen or Levi – calls himself a Jew (i.e., from Yehudah). Cohen and Levi are family names that are specifically of the tribe of Levi. Those names cannot be of any other tribe. Yet, every Cohen or Levi will say that they are Jewish, and therefore of the tribe of Judah. Paul in Romans 11:1 and Philippians 3:5 speaks of himself as being of the tribe of Benjamin – yet, throughout his letters, he calls himself a Jew.

Do you find that to be interesting?

I do. What’s more, it is a fulfillment of prophecy.

Here is how God describes this:

15 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 16 “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ 17 Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.

18 “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’— 19 say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.” ’ 20 And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.

21 “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.

Ezekiel 37:15-22

There are few things more upsetting to me than someone who claims to be a brother or sister in Christ – while resolutely demonstrating that they are NOT listening to the Holy Spirit.

Do you understand that the above passage describes the removal of the tribal identifiers from those of the tribe of Reuven, Naftali, Efraim, etc.?

There cannot be anything more clear than this. For those who preach otherwise, I have to put a question mark over your spiritual life. Either you have so much sin in your life that you cannot hear the Holy Spirit, or you are not saved.

It really is that clear.

When the ten tribes where grabbed by the Assyrians, many Israelis lost their tribal identities. Some still held on to them, like Paul’s family – of the tribe of Benjamin. But, most probably had their specific, tribal connections obliterated. After all, it’s hard to hold on to something like that, when you are suffering under terrible conditions. The only thing that they probably kept was the knowledge that they were from Israel.

That is somewhat speculative, and we could go on endlessly about how this might have happened. But, it’s not necessary. We only need to take what God said here as proof.

Only The Ignorant, Sinful Or Unsaved Would Doubt This

Those of you who wish to claim that modern Israel is NOT really Israel… that modern Israel is NOT evidence that God is in the process of completely fulfilling prophecy in the Bible… if you are one of those …then, you should know that I doubt your salvation, or I suspect that there is great sin in your life – unless you are just abysmally ignorant. I have no other way of understanding how you can be so blind to what the Bible says.

To put it another way, no matter how awful you think that the Jews are, it does not change the fact that God has brought Jewish Israel back to the Land of Israel. And, in the very near future, God will bring these people into a saving relationship with Him.

If you oppose ANY of that in ANY way, you need to repent. If you say that the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel is not the work of God, then you are resisting God, and that will not end well for you.

I have seen the bitter fruit of those who resist God, and I have seen their bitter end. I have even warned them, but they wouldn’t listen – and they paid the price for not listening.

The Jews Will No Longer Be Pagan

But, let’s go on:

23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 37:23

As I mentioned in my comments about Ezekiel 36, there really are idols in Judaism. Jews will disagree with me, and I understand that, and why. But, that doesn’t change the fact that they have idols in their heart and idols in their synagogues.

For instance, did you know that they actually worship their Torah scrolls?

When a Torah scribe finishes the last few letters of a Torah scroll, they believe that the scroll becomes alive – that it becomes a living being. And, this is the same mindset of classical idol worship. Where I am now, I see it several times a week in Taipei where they really have idols that they really worship.

Seriously. If you want to see real, honest-to-goodness idol worship, come to Taiwan.

And, the parallels between this idol worship and the idol worship in Judaism are remarkably similar. Furthermore, there is an idolatrous veneration and worship of the great sages of Judaism. And, you can see THAT also here in Taiwan.

Gloating Over Jewish Paganism Is A Sin

Am I gloating?

Absolutely not. I don’t like talking about these things because it gives ammunition to the anti-Semites that call themselves Christian. If you are someone who gloats over the idolatry of the Jews, I believe that you are destined for the wrath of a holy God.

Yes. You heard me right.

In fact, it is difficult for me to believe that such people are saved. Gloating over the idolatry of Israel demonstrates an appalling lack of spiritual understanding. Logic compels me to assume that Christians who are anti-semites are not saved.

No saved person gloats over the unsaved condition of another person. No one. Neither do saved people declare that it is impossible for someone to be saved because of their sinful nature. For ANYONE to declare that the sinfulness of a group of people renders them incapable of being saved… well …you would have to be appallingly ignorant or unsaved.

And, appalling ignorance is your ONLY defense, in my eyes – if you declare that God is not going to save the Jews. Of course, if you claim to be appallingly ignorant, it is time to shut up and listen to those who have been taught of God.

And, most appallingly ignorant pastors are too proud to do that.

Okay, I will now calm down and go on with the rest of Ezekiel 37.

(sigh)

Jesus Will Be Their King – Just As He Is Your King

Now, I like this next verse:

24 “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them.

Ezekiel 37:24

I think that you can probably guess why I really, REALLY like this part.

Who is this David?

Is this literally King David, risen from the dead?

This can no more be King David than the dry bones above could be literal dead people. King David was a man who died thousands of years ago, and is still dead.

Do you honestly believe that King David will be resurrected to lead the people of Israel?

Unfortunately, there are those without the Holy Spirit who make claims like this. It truly grieves me to see such foolishness.

So, for those of you who are actually LISTENING to the Holy Spirit, it is easy to see that this is referring to the THRONE of David, or – more accurately – the one who rightfully sits on it.

Jesus Christ was of the direct lineage of King David. He rightfully could have demanded that Israel acknowledge Him as the rightful heir to the throne of David, while He was on this earth. And, in fact, He did acknowledge His Kingship of the Jewish people. So, this ‘David’ referred to in the passage above, can only be our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This Is Not The Millennium

And no, THIS IS NOT THE MILLENIUM!

Okay, let’s pause here so that I can rant at those who insist that this is during the Millennium.

If you claim that this is during the Millennium, then you are throwing out the salvation of Israel. You are saying that they will spend an eternity in Hell, when they die.

How do I know that?

Let me ask you a question:

How many resurrections are there?

The right answer is two.

Do a search of the Bible for ‘First Resurrection’, and you will find a reference to it in Revelation 20:

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for [a]a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4-6

Now, let me add what Paul says, here:

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen [a]asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who [b]sleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are [c]asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

This is ALSO the First Resurrection.

Who does this encompass?

Everyone who was saved when they died.

Wait. Does this include everyone who was in covenant relationship with God, who died BEFORE Christ came and died for our sins?

Yes.

Let me clarify this by asking you a question. When Christ died on the cross…

…Did He die JUST for those who would come after Him?

Of COURSE NOT!

Christ died for the sins of ALL!

So, when Abraham died, he was IN CHRIST when he died. The same goes for all who died, while in a covenant relationship with God, when they died.

If you need more help seeing this, read the book of Galatians and the book of Hebrews. And please… really, really read it.

So, who is left, after the First Resurrection?

Those who are NOT saved.

What about those who survive to go into the Millennium?

Nope. Not saved.

When Jesus was speaking about giving to the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind, He said:

…for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.Luke 14:14b

So…

How many resurrections of the Just are there?

Just One – the First One.

When will we receive our rewards?

After the First Resurrection.

When is the Harvest and the end of the World?

When Jesus returns (Matthew 13).

Is there any room for that AFTER the First Resurrection?

Sorry. There is nowhere in the Bible that indicates that there is anyone who ‘gets saved’ during the Millennium. Of course, the Millennium is something of a mystery to me. And, God is not constrained by my inability to see how He could save people in the Millennium.

But, remember that the mystery of God is finished (Revelation 10:7) when the Seventh Angel sounds his trumpet.

So, stop it with the whole Israel-is-saved-during-the-Millennium stuff. It shows yet another huge ignorance of salvation and the work that our Lord is doing.

Jesus Spiritually Reigns Over Israel

Okay. Rant is over. Back to our subject:

25 Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.

Ezekiel 37:25

Again, if the ‘dry bones’ is a metaphor and the reference to David is a metaphor, then His kingship over Israel is ALSO a metaphor – a metaphor about a spiritual transformation in which the M’shiach ben David (Messiah son of David) leads Israel.

Again, how could David be the prince of Israel forever?

King David was a man who is recorded as having died of old age. How then could he be Israel’s prince forever?

Yes, you could do some complex acrobatics and try to say that this is a resurrected David and… he was given a new body that doesn’t die, etc. But, you have to use some pretty complex logic to make that work, logic that we have no precedent – or even hint of – anywhere else in the Bible.

What we DO have is a continual reference throughout the Bible of the royalty of Jesus, and how He is the eternal king of Israel – and the world.

26 Moreover I will [a]make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 28 The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” ’ ”

Ezekiel 37:26-28

I know. That reference to sanctuary and tabernacle is confusing. It might even suggest to some that the Law of Moses and the ordinances of sacrifice will return. But, I ask you…

Was the sacrifice of Christ, our Lord and Savior eternal and sufficient, or not?

Read Hebrews 10 and tell me whether God would be pleased with a return of the Mosaic Law. Read Galatians to see if the Law was sufficient, in ANY way. Those who say otherwise are truly lacking in the Holy Spirit.

In the final analysis, I love these chapters in Ezekiel because they are filled with such good news about the future. It shows us that one day, the Jews and the Christians will once again be one family. I look forward to that.

I just do not relish the devastation that comes before it.

[NEXT: Ezekiel 38]

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