Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. Ezekiel 43.1-5.
Ezekiel is in Babylon along with the other exiles from Israel. He has had word from someone who escaped the carnage, that Jerusalem has fallen and is now in ruins (Ezekiel 33.21. The fall of Jerusalem happened in September 586 BC). But before he even received that news, Ezekiel, in vision, had been shown the glory of the Lord leaving the temple by the east gate and departing from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10). Now, however, again in vision, he has the joy of being shown the glory of the Lord returning to the temple by that same eastern gate.
It is a clear prophesy of the coming of the Messiah and has long been understood as such. The only entrance to Jerusalem from the east was through what is known as the Golden Gate which was walled up by the Arabs in AD 810 and has remained closed now for almost exactly twelve centuries. It was the “Beautiful Gate” of Acts 2 but oraia — the Greek word for “beautiful” — was mis-translated by Jerome in the Vulgate as aurea — the Latin word for “golden” — which gave the gate its present name. On the basis of this morning’s reading and also prophecies such as Zechariah 14.4-5, Jews expect that, at the end of the age, the Messiah will come from the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate.
It may be, of course, that although those prophecies will hold good for the last day, the glory of the LORD already has entered the temple through the gate facing east. It may be that this vision of Ezekiel was fulfilled on one level at least when, on the Sunday before he went to the cross, Jesus entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, riding on a donkey, to the cries of “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21.8-10). For although the gate by which Jesus entered Jerusalem is not named in Scripture, it would (given his approach to the city from the Mount of Olives) almost certainly have been this one, and indeed tradition has long asserted that it was.
For three years, the land had indeed been “radiant with his glory” as he taught and healed the sick and brought sight to the blind. When, at Cana in Galilee, Jesus performed the first of his miraculous signs by turning the water into wine, we are told that “he thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2.11). But it was a glory that was hidden from many eyes, and those who could not see it would nail him to a cross just five days after he entered that eastern gate.
The great belief of all Christians, however, is that, as the Creed puts it, “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” What Ezekiel foresaw will surely come to pass.
Amen, come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22.20).