We pick up this post where Part 1 left off.
All that we’ve seen in Ezekiel’s vision begs the question: Is this theophany actually a Christophany – an appearance of the preincarnate Christ? It seems so, based on several observations. First, the Bible teaches that no human may see God and live (Exod. 33:20; John 1:18). So the LORD must reveal himself to us in a limited way: a voice, a pillar of cloud and fire, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, or even a man. Ezekiel sees the likeness of a man in his vision, and this is one of the more common ways the angel of the LORD appears.
Even more significant, the apostle John tells us Jesus is the revealer of the true nature of Yahweh: “No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side — he has revealed him.” (John 1:18). Jesus himself tells Philip, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17:1-13 and Mark 9:2-13 declares that Jesus is God in human flesh, which veils the glory of God.
Second, the voice of the LORD in Ezekiel’s vision is described in the same way the voice of Jesus is recorded in Revelation 1:15: “his voice [was] like the sound of cascading waters.” Ezekiel hears the deafening flutter of cherubim’s wings and likens them to the voice of the LORD Almighty (1:24; 10:5; cf. 43:2).
Third, consider that Ezekiel describes the LORD as a human-like figure. We never see the Father or the Holy Spirit depicted in this way in Scripture, and yet the prophet clearly sees the glory of the LORD. This suggests we are catching a rare view of the second person of the Trinity prior to the Incarnation. Harry Ironside confidently notes, “It was the preincarnate Christ that the prophet beheld, ‘the likeness of a Man.’ Now, since redemption is accomplished, the Man Christ Jesus sits in His glorified human body on that throne of the Eternal.”
Even so, we want to avoid being too dogmatic in this interpretation. Mark Rooker shares a more balanced perspective:
It is possible that this representation of God in human form would be particularly appropriate to Jesus Christ, as he alone of the Trinity was manifest in the flesh (Phil. 2:7; 1 Tim. 3:16). Moreover, when Isaiah in his vision saw God sitting on the throne (Isa. 6), John records that what Isaiah saw was the glory of Christ (John 12:40-41). On the other hand, when no distinctions are made with the other members of the Trinity, it may be that all the Godhead is represented in the vision. At the same time, the vision is at least a prelude to the incarnation of Jesus Christ.Mark Rooker
Verse 28 summarizes three important truths about God captured in Ezekiel’s vision. First, the vision reaffirms the nature of God as holy, powerful, and majestic. Second, the rainbow serves as a reminder of God’s covenant-keeping character. And third, the appearance of Yahweh to Ezekiel in exile is an assurance that nothing, including geographic location, separates us from the love of God (cf. Rom. 8:38-39).Continue reading
A Rider from the North
If Isaiah sees the LORD of Armies seated on a heavenly throne, Ezekiel witnesses the same LORD blazing across the skies in a chariot of fire. Chapter 1 of Ezekiel records the most elaborate theophany in the Old Testament, combining clouds, fire, flashes of lightning, and a human-like figure in the company of cherubim. In this otherworldly scene, Yahweh prepares a Judean priest for prophetic ministry and authenticates his message. Above all, this thundering charioteer displays his divine glory, while proclaiming imminent judgment and future deliverance.
Three visions form the backbone for the Book of Ezekiel. In the first vision (chapters 1-3), the LORD appears to Ezekiel and commissions him as a prophet to his fellow exiles. In the second vision (chapters 8-11), the LORDabandons Jerusalem and withdraws his protection in judgment for the people’s idolatry and wickedness. In fact, Ezekiel witnesses the glory of the LORD departing the temple. In the third vision (chapters 40-48), the glory of the LORD returns in connection with the restoration of Israel in the last days. Yahweh’s judgment falls hard, but it succeeds in curing the Israelites of idolatry.
Ezekiel is in exile as part of the second Babylonian deportation in 597 BC. Taken captive with King Jehoiachin and other citizens of Judah (2 Kings 24:10-16), he receives God’s prophetic commission four years later while living at Tel Abib in southern Mesopotamia. His ministry extends perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three years. And while he remains faithful to the LORD, Ezekiel experiences personal setbacks. He suffers a speech impediment that allows him to speak only when the LORD wishes to speak through him (3:26-27; 24:27; 33:22), and his wife dies as an omen of the impending fall of Jerusalem.
The story of Ezekiel contrasts the sovereign power of Yahweh and the frailty of human beings. Ezekiel is called “son of man” ninety-three times in the book, a term that punctuates the prophet’s humanity. In fact, the phrase may be rendered “member of humanity” or “descendant of Adam.”Continue reading