As watchmen, we are lately so entangled in Ezekiel 38 and 39 (the Gog and Magog war), that we almost forget about the good news relating to the physical and spiritual restoration that was prophesied for Israel.
When studying Ezekiel chapters 34 to 37, there should be no doubt that these prophecies must and will have a literal fulfillment. To allegorize these chapters to support Replacement / Fulfillment theology is not only dishonoring holy Scripture but also making God a liar.
RESTORATION OF THE NATION OF ISRAEL (EZEKIEL 34:10-36:15)
God promised to rescue the Jews in Israel’s future restoration (v. 10). He declared that He Himself would search for His sheep and rescue them from where they had been scattered (vv. 11–12). God promised, “I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land” (v. 13). This prediction of the future regathering of Israel from all over the world is still in progress and will be fulfilled when the coming millennial kingdom begins.
God will especially care for those who are weak or injured and who had been trampled by the stronger sheep and will bring them to rich pastures. He will shepherd them and will serve as a judge “between the fat sheep and the lean sheep” (vv. 14-20).
Central to God’s plan of restoration for Israel will be the resurrection of David as a true shepherd who will serve as a prince under Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (vv. 23–24). This places the fulfillment at the second coming when Old Testament saints will be resurrected (Dan. 12:1–3).
God also promised that this would be a time of peace when the wild beasts will not afflict them, when they will receive showers to water the land, and trees will bear their fruit (Ezek. 34:25–27).
God also promised to keep them in safety, no longer allowing the nations to plunder them, and would deliver them from famine (vv. 28–29). As a result of God’s work in restoration of Israel, “Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD. You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God,’ declares the Sovereign LORD” (vv. 30–31). This will be fulfilled in the millennium (Jer. 23:5–8).
Ezekiel 36:8–36 continues to describe the blessings. She will be restored like a tree producing branches and fruit (v. 8). God will increase the number of the house of Israel, and her cities will once again be inhabited and her ruins rebuilt (v. 10). Even animals will be more plentiful and the land will become fruitful (v. 11). God not only promised that the children of Israel would walk on her ancient land and possess it but also that nothing would deprive them of their children (v. 12), referring to the fact that Israel would be permanently established in her land when her final restoration takes place (Amos 9:15). God declared that never again will the children of Israel be destroyed and suffer taunts from the nations (Ezek. 36:13–15).
THE SCATTERING OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
God reminded the children of Israel, however, of their wickedness and how they were judged and dispersed among the nations because they had sinned against Him (vv. 16–18). God declared that the Israelites would be “scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions” (v. 19).
THE SPIRITUAL CLEANSING OF ISRAEL
God would not restore Israel because she deserved it, but because of His desire to show her His righteousness and His holiness (vv. 22–23). In her restoration God would cleanse her and give her His Holy Spirit: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (vv. 24–27). The Holy Spirit will indwell them in that day, in contrast to the Mosaic dispensation when only a few were indwelt.
In that day when the Israelites again live in their Promised Land, they will belong to God, and God will be their God (v. 28). God will make their grain plentiful and they will no longer have famine (vv. 29–30). When God will prosper them in their day of the restoration, they will think back to their wickedness and know that God has shown them His grace.
The land is described as resettled, rebuilt, no longer desolate but like the garden of Eden (vv. 33–35). This will be a testimony to the nations that God has restored Israel (v. 36). Most important, Israel will know that the Lord is her God and that He has restored her.
This entire chapter requires a future millennial kingdom after the second coming of Christ for its complete and literal fulfillment (Jer. 23:5–8). Just as the prophecies of judgment were literally fulfilled in connection with Israel and the nations, so her future restoration will be literally fulfilled and she will experience the marvelous grace of God.
DIVISION OF THE DRY BONES: THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL (EZEKIEL 37:1-14)
In Ezekiel 37:1–10, the prophet was given a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. The Lord asked him the question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (v. 3). Ezekiel was cautious in replying, indicating that only the Lord would know (v. 3).
Ezekiel then was instructed to prophesy that these dry bones would come to life, that the bones would come together, that flesh would cover them, and finally that they would have the breath of life much like Adam (Gen. 2:7).
Then God spoke to Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live’” (Ezek. 37:9). When Ezekiel obeyed the Lord and prophesied, “breath entered [the bones]; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army” (v. 10).
In Ezekiel 37:11–14, the Lord now interpreted the vision for him. He was informed that the bones represented Israel. Her hopeless, dried condition illustrated her hopelessness of ever being restored. In response to this, God promised to bring her back from death and to the land of Israel. God would put His Holy Spirit in her, and she would be settled in her own land.
The Lord said, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it,’ declares the LORD” (vv. 11–14).
In biblical interpretation today, many affirm that Israel will never be restored. They share the hopelessness that gripped the Israelites as they were scattered from their land to Assyria and Babylon. Contradicting this hopeless situation, God promised to restore Israel and in the strongest possible terms indicated that He would bring new life to her, and she would be restored as a nation, that she would be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and she would settle in her own land in safety.
The prediction that she would be brought up from the grave is partly symbolic in that the nation seemed to be dead and will be restored to physical life. But it is also to be considered literally, because according to Daniel 12:1–3, at the close of the great tribulation when Christ returns in His second coming, there will be a resurrection of Old Testament saints. Both figuratively and literally Israel will be restored and given new life.
Those who have died and who were saved will be resurrected to share in the millennial kingdom as resurrected saints. The promise that His Holy Spirit would be in Israel goes beyond her experience under the Law, when the Holy Spirit was with her but not necessarily in her (John 14:17).
SIGN OF THE TWO STICKS – A SINGLE NATION AGAIN (EZEKIEL 37:15-28)
Ezekiel 37:15–17. Ezekiel was commanded, “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand” (vv. 16–17).
The situation being addressed was that of the divided kingdom. After Solomon, the ten tribes following Jeroboam became the kingdom of Israel; the two remaining tribes in Jerusalem, Judah and Benjamin, became the kingdom of Judah. The ten tribes were carried off to Assyria in 722 BC, and the two remaining tribes were carried off by Babylon between 605 and 586 BC. The situation where these two kingdoms were divided will end, and as this and other prophecies predict, the two kingdoms will become one nation (cf. Jer. 3:18; 23:5–6; 30:3; Hosea 1:11; Amos 9:11). No fulfillment has ever been recorded in history, and the future regathering of Israel will occur in the millennium.
Ezekiel 37:18–23. Ezekiel was instructed to answer the questions of those who asked the meaning of the two sticks, and he was to tell them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join them to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand” (v. 19).
God then further interpreted this, saying, “I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms” (vv. 21–22). God promised He would keep Israel from defiling herself as she has done in the past, and He declared, “I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God” (v. 23). This will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom.
Ezekiel 37:24–25. As predicted in 34:23–24, so here again the prophecy was given, “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I give my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever” (37:24–25).
Though some have attempted to take this prophecy in less than its literal meaning, the clear statement is that David, who is now dead and whose body is in his tomb in Jerusalem (Acts 2:29), will be resurrected. This will occur at the second coming (Dan. 12:1–3), indicating plainly that the restoration of Israel will be subsequent to, not before, the second coming. This requires Christ’s coming before the millennium or in fulfillment of the premillennial promises. The promise that David would be her prince forever must be interpreted as being fulfilled in the thousand-year reign. Actually, the word forever is a translation of an expression “to the ages,” which may be interpreted as forever or until eternity begins.
Ezekiel 37:26–28. As Jeremiah stated, God predicted here a covenant of peace with Israel that will be “an everlasting covenant” (v. 26). Though announced in the Old Testament, it will replace the Mosaic covenant and will have its primary fulfillment for Israel at the time of the second coming when Israel is restored nationally and spiritually.
Scholars have puzzled over the precise meaning of the new covenant, earlier announced by Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31–34). Probably the simplest explanation is that in dying on the cross, God made possible a covenant of grace for those who would trust the Lord. This covenant of grace is the basis for the salvation of every individual, from the time of Adam to the last person who is saved. It is preeminently illustrated in the present age when God saves the church by grace and the Lord’s Supper commemorates the new covenant. The new covenant as applied here to Israel primarily has a prophetic meaning, which is indicated here as being fulfilled in the peace, righteousness, and restoration that will characterize the millennial kingdom.
At the time of the fulfillment of this covenant, the number of Israelites in the land will increase greatly, especially during the millennial kingdom. A preliminary prophecy that God will provide a sanctuary (Ezek. 37:28) referred to a millennial temple that is described later in Ezekiel (40–48).
God promised to be with Israel and dwell among her in the millennial kingdom (v. 27). This will also be true in the new earth in eternity. The restoration of Israel will be a sign to the world so that the nations will know that it will be accomplished by the holy Lord, who is able to cleanse Israel and make her holy.
(Source: John F. Walvoord – Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times)