“In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. 3 He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. …5 I saw a wall completely surrounding the temple area. The length of the measuring rod in the man's hand was six long cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth. He measured the wall; it was one measuring rod thick and one rod high.” Ezekiel 40:2-3, 5
“The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man's measurement, which the angel was using.” Revelation 21:15-17
The Book of Ezekiel ends with an extended vision in which the prophet is carried to Jerusalem and encounters an angel with two measuring devices in his hand: a rod and a cord. Over the last nine chapters of Ezekiel, the word “measure” (or one of its derivatives) occurs 59 times. These measurements focus primarily on the visionary temple that God is revealing to the prophet, but they extend to the dimensions of the holy city in the center of the land and the extents of the land itself.
The careful measurements the angel does which Ezekiel dutifully records for all future ages of God’s people are a profound mystery. What do they teach us about God, his plans, and his nature? Is there a physical reality behind this vision with its meticulous measurements? Why would God want us to know these measurements?
"Our God is a mathematical God, a calculating God, a meticulous God. Everything has been planned and that plan will be executed."
So many scholars have weighed in on these questions, and it is not possible to give any answer that would finally and conclusively end all debate. But here are some thoughts.
- God has a meticulous plan for all of redemptive history; everything has been carefully thought out and measured out. God is the architect of every aspect of redemptive history and nothing is left to chance. Imagine someone running a construction team clearing a site for a foundation but not having any blueprint for the building that will be constructed. We would call such a person a fool. God is no fool, winging it. Every tiny detail has been measured out ahead of time.
- Though there are clearly symbolic and visionary aspects of these measurements, yet they do point to a physical reality. The people of God will be raised to life in resurrection bodies that are physical. These resurrection bodies will take up space. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Book of Revelation also has careful measurements given for the New Jerusalem. Note: the 12,000 stadia given for the dimensions of the New Jerusalem is almost 1400 miles! Much, much larger than the 25,000 cubits given for the city in Ezekiel’s vision (8 ¼ miles).
- Christians should mentally align the visionary temple in Ezekiel with the spiritual temple described in Ephesians 2 and 1 Peter 2 which represent the people of God. Peter calls us “living stones” and Paul says we are a spiritual temple in which God dwells by his Spirit. If so, the careful measurements of the visionary temple show that each elect person has an assigned place in the walls of the temple… measured out carefully by the meticulous plan of God. He has worked out the blueprint and is now building the temple and the city by the spread of the gospel. When the specifications are met down to the tiniest detail, human history will be consummated.
Our God is a mathematical God, a calculating God, a meticulous God. Everything has been planned and that plan will be executed. When Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14), he was speaking of the eternal dwelling place of Christians. Carefully planned and measured out, Jesus is building it now with living stones quarried from all over the world.