THE ORDER OF RECOVERY
According to the record of Nehemiah, the recovery was eventually accomplished, not only a recovery of the temple, but also a complete rebuilding of the city. Ezra records the rebuilding of the temple, and Nehemiah tells of the recovery of the city. The temple signifies the expression of God, while the city signifies the authority or kingdom of God. The city protected the temple; the kingdom is the protection of God’s expression. When Satan through the Babylonians assaulted Jerusalem, they first destroyed the city, then they had the liberty to demolish the temple. The order of God’s recovery is first that the altar must be recovered (Ezra 3:2), then God’s house (Ezra 3:8-13), and finally the city (Neh. 2:18). The altar was the very place where the people could offer and consecrate to God. Even so, today we must first recover the ground of consecration. We must recover a place for the people of God to offer themselves and all they have to God. Following this, we must recover the expression of the temple, God’s house. Then, for protection, we must recover the city. The two books of Ezra and Nehemiah reveal this order of God’s recovery.
At the end of Scripture, in the book of Revelation, we see the city and the temple mingled together as one building. Together they are called the tabernacle (Rev. 21:3). The New Jerusalem, the Holy City, is also the tabernacle of God on this earth. There is no temple in the Holy City (Rev. 21:22), because the city itself is the temple. Today, however, our first need is to recover the altar, then the house, and then the city.
GOD’S RECOVERY IN THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
If we would see a full picture of God’s building, we must also consider the book of Ezekiel. This portion of Scripture has nine chapters (ch. 40—48) dealing with the subject of the recovery of God’s temple. During the seventy year period of the captivity of the Israelites, Ezekiel was shown a vision from God. In the spirit he was brought back to the elevated land of Canaan, where he saw another temple. We must realize that historically, between the time of Solomon’s temple and this temple seen by Ezekiel, another temple was recovered by the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem. The captivity of the Israelites occurred in 606 B.C., and Ezekiel saw the vision of God’s recovery in 574 B.C. The recovery of the temple by the Israelites after their captivity was accomplished in 536 B.C. Ezekiel witnessed a full recovery of God’s building in the spirit. That recovery was begun according to Ezra’s record, but the recovery of the destroyed temple has not yet been fully accomplished. In Ezra’s account of the recovered temple there were no measurements given, but Ezekiel saw the measurements of the temple in his vision. We have previously indicated that in God’s recovery there is always an enlargement. In the recovery of Solomon’s temple there was a very apparent enlargement. But in the records of Ezra and Nehemiah, there is no apparent enlargement. But if we have foresight to see things through to the end, we will realize that this recovery of God’s temple has not yet been fully accomplished. It is still in process. The temple built during Ezra’s time was replaced by Herod’s temple, which was built in forty-six years (John 2:20). The Lord Jesus came to the earth during the historical period of Herod’s temple. But neither the temple in Ezra’s day nor the temple of Herod’s time was the full recovery of the temple Solomon had built. The temple of Ezekiel’s vision, however, is the more than full recovery of Solomon’s temple, which had been destroyed. Most Bible students agree that Ezekiel’s vision was to some degree a prophecy which will be fulfilled in the future.
When we compare the temple in Ezekiel with the temple built by Solomon, we see a further, tremendous enlargement. Here are just a few items of this enlargement: firstly, there is both an outer court and an inner court (Ezek. 40)—two courts. The wall of each court is six cubits thick. Since one cubit is judged to equal approximately one and a half feet, the wall is exceedingly thick. The height of the wall is also six cubits. Thus, a cross-section of the wall would be six by six. In typology this is none other than the Lord Jesus in His humanity. Jesus Christ is the separating wall of the temple seen by Ezekiel. In the wall of the outer court there are three gates, and in the wall of the inner court there are three more gates, making a total of six gates. At each gate there is a threshold in front, then a passageway, and finally an inner threshold. In each passageway there are six little chambers, three on each side. We see already a considerable increase and enlargement over Solomon’s temple. All these items are related to the increased experiences of Christ. At each corner of Ezekiel’s temple there are thirty rooms, in which we may enjoy Christ. Oh, this is exceedingly rich! There are also many items in the inner court which we have not mentioned.
Eventually, Ezekiel takes us into the temple itself (Ezek. 41). Of course, this temple is the same size as the one built by Solomon, but there are many additional attachments. On three sides of the temple are side chambers in three stories, each story having thirty rooms. These chambers portray the fullness of Christ. Then, at the rear of the temple, is another very large building. Oh, how great a fullness! Oh the riches in this temple! Yet we must realize that this is still not God’s ultimate building. The ultimate building of God is the New Jerusalem.
The New Jerusalem is a three dimensional city. It is full and square, twelve thousand stadia square. The stadia, an ancient measurement of length used by the Greeks, is thought to be similar to our length of three feet. The New Jerusalem will be twelve thousand stadia in the three dimensions of length, width and height (Rev. 21:16). By way of enlargement it is overwhelming. The wall alone will be one hundred and forty-four cubits high (Rev. 21:17), or twelve times twelve. All the dimensions are divisible by twelve. There will be twelve foundations, twelve gates, twelve months, twelve apostles, and twelve tribes—many twelves. This number is not constituted of three plus four, but three multiplied by four. It is not merely something of man plus God, but man mingled with God in eternity. This will be the ultimate manifestation of God’s building.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)