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True Principles & Uncertain Details About Prophecy – Part 6

This article discusses the true principles and the uncertain details about the millennial temple.
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So far in this series of articles, we have gone through the Truth to be Received Clauses #17-#30 and the related Doctrines to be Rejected. We have emphasized the principles that we all agree are essential and distinguished them from the uncertain details that we must not impose on others.

As far as the interpretation of prophecy is concerned there are still a few outstanding topics to be discussed:

a. Doctrine to be Rejected #33 about the English being the ten tribes of Israel

b. The Millennial Temple

c. The Continuous Historic and other approaches to prophetic interpretation

The first of these was covered by Brothers Peter Bilello and Peter Hemingray in their Tidings series on the Doctrines to be Rejected.1 I will address the second topic in this article and the third topic in next month’s magazine, God willing.


A few brothers and sisters teach and preach Bro. Henry Sulley’s interpretation of Ezekiel’s temple (Ezek 40-48) in first principle classes, in Sunday School classes, and in public lectures.2 They believe his view is a fundamental part of the truth; it is essentially equivalent to their understanding of the Kingdom of God. To them, those who do not agree with this view do not truly understand the gospel.

In their opinion, those who do not accept Bro. Sulley’s interpretation should not be in fellowship. In contrast, many who agree with Bro. Sulley’s view acknowledge that it is not a first principle. For example, Bro. Roberts distinguished the uncertain details from the true principle concerning the millennial temple:

“THE GENERAL TRUTH—That Christ will build the temple of the future age as a house of prayer for all people.

“UNCERTAIN DETAIL—What will be the size of it? What will be the shape of it? There are no grounds for absolute certainty. There are strong grounds for the view presented by brother Sulley in his temple book: but we should not be justified in making the reception of this view a condition of fellowship. It is sufficient that the general truth is received. Any view that may be entertained as to details is not inconsistent with the general truth.”

The general principle that Christ will build a house of prayer for all people is based on the words of Isaiah:

“For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” (Isa 56:7c);

Jesus quotes this passage when he casts out the money changers from the temple (Matt 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46).

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” (Isa 2:2).

This principle is also related to the promises to David:

“He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” (2 Sam 7:13a).

James emphasized this point at the Jerusalem Conference:

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. (Acts 15:14-17).

On the other hand, it is essential that we do not impose uncertain details on our fellow believers. No matter how confident we may be personally on the interpretation of Ezekiel 40-48, we should not treat it as a test of fellowship.

Even though Bro. Sulley’s interpretation is the traditional Christadelphian view, that is not sufficient to justify making it a first principle doctrine. In fact, to some brothers and sisters it is disturbing that this interpretation is treated with the veneration many give it. Here are some issues that might cause one to have second thoughts about it.3


No Gentiles. Ezekiel explicitly rules out Gentiles worshipping in the temple he describes:

“Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” (Ezek 44:9).

This command contrasts with the temple being a house of prayer “for all nations.” It also contrasts with well-known passages like Isaiah 2:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” (Isa 2:2).

The Sacrifices of Animals. Christ offered himself once for all time, having perfected forever those who are sanctified. No further sacrifices are needed (especially of animals):

For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. (Heb 7:26-28).
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Heb 9:24-28).
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Heb 10:12-14).

To avoid this problem, it is often suggested that the sacrifices associated with Ezekiel’s temple are not efficacious for the forgiveness of sins. But the text itself says otherwise:

“The prince… shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.” (Ezek 45:17).

The word “reconciliation” is rendered “atonement” by many English translations (e.g., RV, NRVS, ESV, NIV, NASB, NET). Beyond this explicit statement, the terminology of sacrifices (i.e., sin offerings, burnt offering, and peace offerings) is used throughout Ezekiel 40-48; if these aren’t for the forgiveness of Israel’s sins, then the language is misleading.

The Priests. The saints are to reign with Christ as kings and priests during the millennium:

“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Rev 20:6; cf. Rev 1:6; 5:10).

The laws Ezekiel gives concerning priests are inconsistent with what we know to be true about the saints in the Kingdom Age.

Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court. Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before. (Ezek 44:21-22).

Priests not being allowed to drink wine contrasts with Jesus’ statement about the Kingdom Age:

“But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt 26:29).

Priests taking wives contrasts with Jesus’ statement about the Kingdom Age:

“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt 22:30).

Priests leaving widows behind implies they die, which contrasts with the saints being immortal in the Kingdom Age:

“To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom 2:7).

Given these inconsistencies, there would need to be two orders of priests in the Kingdom Age, with Christ and the saints being one and those described by Ezekiel being a second. Is there any other evidence for this or is it just an expedient way to maintain the millennial interpretation?

Another possibility. If Ezekiel isn’t describing the Millennial Temple, then what is he describing? One possibility is that he is giving the pattern for the temple that should have been built during the restoration of the nation following the Babylonian captivity.4

If Ezekiel isn’t describing the Millennial Temple, then what is he describing?

If this were the case, it would clarify the issues raised above. It would also explain Ezekiel’s emphasis that these chapters were addressed to the house of Israel, in particular so they would acknowledge their sins:

Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. (Ezek 43:10).
And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations. (Ezek 44:6).5


No matter what the Millennial Temple might look like physically, it is clear that it will reflect a deeper spiritual lesson concerning Yahweh’s dwelling place in the earth. For example, Isaiah tells us where God intends to dwell:

Thus saith the LORD, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isa 66:1-2).

So, Yahweh looks to make his abode in those people who are poor and of a contrite spirit. Of course, this starts with our Lord Jesus Christ and extends through him to the saints:

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works… And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:10, 16-17).

Paul describes the spiritual temple of Christ and the saints.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Cor 3:16).
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Cor 6:16).
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22).

John explains that New Jerusalem, the household of Christ and the saints, in whom God dwells, is the true temple of God in the earth, the glory of God and the Lamb providing light:

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God… And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. (Rev 21:3, 22-26; cf. Isa 60).

John goes on to use an encouraging image taken from Ezekiel 47:

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Rev 22:1-2; cf. Ezek 47:1, 12).

Joe Hill,
Austin Leander, TX


1 “Doctrines to Be Rejected (36) #33 British Israelites,” Tidings, November, 2018, pp. 485-486 (https:// tidings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2018_11_Nov.pdf).
2 Henry Sulley, The Temple of Ezekiel’s Prophecy, originally published in 1887.
3 Besides the issues raised below, there are also problems with Bro. Sulley’s understanding of the architectural design of Ezekiel’s temple. See, for example, Bro. Harry Whittaker, “A Fresh Look at Ezekiel’s Temple” on the Christadelphian Agora website (http://www.christadelphianbooks.org/haw/ ezek_temple/index.html ).
4 See Harry Whittaker’s articles cited in Endnote #3, and Bro. Duncan Heaster’s article, “The Exiles Who Returned” on the Carelinks Ministries website (https://carelinks.net/doc/biblelives-en/108).
5 One reviewer of this article commented, “Ezekiel is told to show the house to the house of Israel, its sum or pattern (Ezek 43:10-11). That was, in itself, a message that was to lead them to repentance and make them ashamed of their sins. I have long wondered if the prophecy was to be about a real, physical temple, or perhaps always as an illustration for leading them to repent. There are several of these in Ezekiel’s prophecy, including play-acting messages to help them to understand that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed.”

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Brother Roberts' thoughts on reigning with Christ, our summons to Christ at his appearing, immortality, the judgment seat, and responsibility.
This series will separate between first principles and uncertain details for prophetic interpretations.
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