What is Ezekiel 40-48 about? Can you explain what his vision is for a new temple?
It is hard to say for sure what Ezekiel’s vision of a new Temple is about. It is clearly not a vision of the Temple that was to be built when Israel returned to Jerusalem (the Second Temple). From all accounts of that temple, which later was added to and became known as Herod’s Temple, it looked nothing like what Ezekiel describes here. That leaves two obvious options.
The first is that this is a Third Temple, and that Ezekiel was seeing something far future. Some Jews say that God will build the Third Temple without human help and set it down on top of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This will start the Messianic Age, also called the World to Come. While I don’t totally discount this possibility, I think there is a better interpretation.
That second option is that what Ezekiel is seeing is not a physical temple at all, but a spiritual one. Perhaps this new Temple is the same as the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22. If so it would most likely represent the church, but possibly represent heaven itself. There are some clear similarities between the two passages that would tend to lend support for this idea.
“And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man’s hand a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and an hand breadth: so he measured the breadth of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed.” (Ezekiel 40:5) “And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.” (Revelation 21:15) While the actual measurements differ, still the measuring angel with a reed in his hand is similar. Since the measurements are clearly spiritual it is hard to compare the differences.
“Now the building that was before the separate place at the end toward the west was seventy cubits broad; and the wall of the building was five cubits thick round about, and the length thereof ninety cubits. So he measured the house, an hundred cubits long; and the separate place, and the building, with the walls thereof, an hundred cubits long; Also the breadth of the face of the house, and of the separate place toward the east, an hundred cubits. And he measured the length of the building over against the separate place which was behind it, and the galleries thereof on the one side and on the other side, an hundred cubits, with the inner temple, and the porches of the court.” (Ezekiel 41:12-15) (The Holy of Holies was a perfect cube.) “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.” (Revelation 21:16) (The New Jerusalem is a perfect cube.)
“Now when he had made an end of measuring the inner house, he brought me forth toward the gate whose prospect is toward the east, and measured it round about. He measured the east side with the measuring reed, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about. He measured the north side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about. He measured the south side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed. He turned about to the west side, and measured five hundred reeds with the measuring reed. He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.” (Ezekiel 42:15-20) (A wall that is perfectly square separates the holy from the unholy.) “And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:26-27) (The wall that is a perfect square separates the holy from the defiled.)
“And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.” (Ezekiel 43:2-5) “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 there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 21:23-24; 22:5)
Compare also Ezekiel 47:1-12 with Revelation 22:1-4. Also Ezekiel 48:31-35 compares to Revelation 21:12-14. I know the comparisons are not perfect, but they were written at two different times to two different groups of people, but for similar reasons.
I believe that whatever the New Jerusalem represents (the church or heaven), the Temple of Ezekiel also represents. To me the only way to know what Ezekiel was describing is to compare it to writings in a similar literary style in the Bible, and that would be the book of the Revelation.
I hope this helps a little. Nobody can know for sure what it is about. I would hesitate to pay attention to anyone who said they knew with absolute certainty what Ezekiel was describing.