“…to build Him a house…”(Ezra 1:2b)
God’s glory leaves the temple. It is seen in the form of a man coming in a cloud.
various prophets before, during, and after the exile
Where did God plan for His glory to dwell after Ark of the Covenant went missing?
In a vision, the prophet Ezekiel saw God’s glory in a huge cloud. A man was in the cloud:
“As I looked… a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing…
…there was something resembling a throne…
…high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man… I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD…”
(Ezekiel 1:4, 26-28 NASB)
Ezekiel saw this glory leave the temple and go to a mountain to the east.
“Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple… stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’s house… went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.”
(Ezekiel 10:18-19, 11:23)
What is this “east mountain”?
The Mount of Olives is a ridge of mountains to the east of Jerusalem.
Zechariah, a prophet who encouraged the workers during the rebuilding of the temple, described the return of the LORD on the Mount of Olives.
“In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east… the LORD, my God, will come…!”
(Zechariah 14:4-5 NASB)
Zechariah also said:
“…your king is coming to you… with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey…”
Did God’s glory come to the Mount of Olives?
A few days before His death, Jesus rode on the foal of a donkey down the Mount of Olives, with crowds shouting that He was the King they had been expecting.
(Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19).
(The significance of this will be explored more in Ezra 3, when the temple foundation is placed and the people are shouting.)
After His death and resurrection, Jesus was carried in a cloud, up from the Mount of Olives.
“…a cloud received Him out of their sight…
…two men in white clothing… said,
‘…Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’
Then they [the disciples] returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet…”
(Acts 1:9-12 NASB)
Was God’s glory in the temple a thing of the past? Why build it?
God’s presence did come to the second temple, in the form of Jesus.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”
(Hebrews 1:2 NIV)
Jesus was recognized by a couple people who had dedicated their lives to seeking Him with their whole hearts.
“When the parents brought in the child Jesus [into the temple]… Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’”
(Luke 2:26-32 NIV)
Will God’s glory always be so hidden that only true seekers find it?
The Old Testament prophecies tell about God coming with a glory that all people will see at once — with terrain-altering earthquakes and other signs.
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the LORD you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.”
(Malachi 3:1-2 NIV)
“…In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together…”
(Isaiah 40:3-5 NIV)
Jesus gave a long teaching on the Mount of Olives called the Olivet discourse. It was there that He described to His disciples the destruction of the second temple (which happened in 70 AD). He also described His second coming:
“…as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man… all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”
(Matthew 24:27, 30)
Years after Jesus left, one of his disciples saw this vision:
“’The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’
…Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.”
(Revelation 11:15, 19 NIV)
These prophecies are scary and strange. They sound like a conspiracy theory, or like something out of a sci-fi movie.
The prophet Isaiah said, “Who has believed our message?” (Isaiah 53:1) That’s how it feels to read about these things and describe them. They seem fantastical, even fanatical.
Many of the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled — especially the prophecies in Daniel 9, which predicted:
1) the timing of Jesus’ first coming
2) the timing of His death, and
3) the timing of the destruction of the second temple.
It all happened right on schedule.
If those things happened, I need to pay attention to the prophecies that haven’t been fulfilled yet — because they will happen, too.
Even though I can’t fully understand these things — and they tend to scare me — I still need to be familiar with what is written, so I can recognize what’s taking place when it happens.
It sounds like it will be hard to miss anyway!
If today were my last day on earth, I would:
You know I have skeptical tendencies. Especially when I hadn’t been seeking You in the Bible, it was easy to wonder whether You even existed. Reading the prophecies and then recognizing their fulfillment in history gave me a reason to trust the truth of the Bible. I have no idea how much time is left before Jesus comes again, and it still feels a little crazy to think about it actually happening — earthquakes and apocalypse and all. I need Your mercy and compassion for my inability to wrap my mind around it. I want to be one who is gathered up as a friend, follower, and seeker of Jesus.
For the sake of the Son You love so much, Amen.
What is the Olivet Discourse?