THE DESIGN AND MEASUREMENTS OF THE ALTAR
How can we prove from the account in Ezekiel that God and man and all the creatures died on the altar, on the cross? How can we prove that the death of Christ was such an all-inclusive death? We can prove this according to the design and the measurements of the altar. The clear details of the altar are a special characteristic of Ezekiel’s vision. In earlier books, the Bible did not speak specifically about the measurements of the altar, but Ezekiel gives us details concerning the altar. (See altar detail.) According to Ezekiel’s vision, the altar has four sections: the base, the lesser ledge upon the base, the greater ledge upon the lesser ledge, and the upper altar upon the greater ledge. The upper altar is also called the hearth of God, the place where something burns for God and by God.
The base of the altar is one cubit high. Since we know that the number one signifies the unique God, we therefore see that God is the base of the altar. This means that the cross was initiated by God. The lesser ledge, which is upon the base of the altar, is two cubits high. Here, the number two signifies not only testimony, but also the second Person of the Triune God. Christ is the second Person of the Triune God as a witness. Because the third section, the greater ledge, is four cubits high, it signifies all the creatures. The upper altar on top of the greater ledge is also four cubits high. This indicates not only the creatures, but also something more. The top of the altar is a square, twelve by twelve cubits. Twelve is composed of either six times two or of three times four. In this case both of the meanings are used. The number four signifying the creature, the number six signifying man, and the number three signifying the Triune God are all here. Thus, God is here, Christ is here, and all the creatures including man are here. God as the base included Christ. Christ included man and all other creatures. When Christ died upon the cross, all the creatures including man and God died there with Christ. This altar signifies the all-inclusive death of Christ: man died there, all the creatures died there, Christ died there, and God died there.
There are many different opinions concerning the death of Christ. An unbelieving Jew may simply say that a man whose name was Jesus, the Nazarene, died there. Some believers in the denominations may say that their Redeemer died there. Some advanced Christians may say that Christ, their Redeemer, and they themselves died there. But I would like to declare to you that not only Christ, my Redeemer, and I died there, but also all the creatures and even God Himself died there. The whole universe with the Creator passed through death. Everything passed through death. By passing through death everything was tested. Whatever could be terminated through death was terminated. We must realize that only God was able to pass through that test of death! I was terminated there, you were terminated there, the whole creation was terminated there! Hallelujah! God was able to pass through the test of death!
The all-inclusive death of Christ was a mingling which brought man into God. In that death God died in man to be released, and man died in God to be terminated. Hallelujah for His releasing and terminating death! In His death we were terminated, and in His death God was released.
The top of the altar is twelve cubits square and is called the hearth. This is the fireplace of God, the place to burn things for God, to God, and by God. It is meaningful that the hearth measures twelve cubits by twelve cubits. This is the first time the number twelve is used in the temple measurements. We have seen the numbers two, three, four, five, six, eight, and ten, but we have not seen the number twelve until this point. The number twelve is the number of the New Jerusalem and is composed of three times four. The number three is the number of the Triune God and the number four is the number of man as the creature. Twelve signifies the Triune God mingled with man. The New Jerusalem will be the consummate mingling of the Triune God with man. The church life today is also the mingling of the Triune God with man.
The Greater Ledge
The greater ledge, which is the section directly under the upper altar, has an edge on either side which measures one cubit. This is why the greater ledge is fourteen cubits wide. The number fourteen is composed of seven times two or ten plus four. Seven is the number of completion, two is the number of testimony, and ten is the number of fullness in perfection. Four, of course, is the number of the creatures. By putting these numbers together we can realize that the creature in fullness bears a complete testimony.
(The Visions of Ezekiel, Chapter 18, by Witness Lee)