“Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the East, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44: 1-2)
Starting with chapter 40 and going through to chapter 48, the book of Ezekiel closes with a revelation of the Temple that is yet to come, of the restored land of Israel, of the river of Life that flows from the temple, and ultimately of the New Jerusalem defined by the final verse of the book: “the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.” (Eze 48:35). The Temple that Ezekiel is shown is a picture of majesty and perfection in worship described in the terms of the Old Covenant, which was the only frame of reference that Israel had at the time. In his vision, Ezekiel saw the Glory of the Lord enter by the East gate, which is the context of the beginning of Chapter 44 quoted above. No man shall ever enter that Holy place by the gate through which the Lord came into the sanctuary.
However, “Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb 9: 12-13). When that perfect eternal sacrifice of Jesus was accomplished at the Cross, we know that the veil of the Temple – the great curtain that screened off the most Holy Place – was torn in two, from top to bottom. Christ had made a way for us to enter into the Most Holy Presence of God.
The East gate was shut forever to all men, because it was touched with the majestic holiness of God which no man can come near. But now the Son of Man, the first Man of the new creation, has passed through that gate on our behalf. Jesus said: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Jesus Himself has become the gate to the heavenly temple that was closed to all, so that through Him all can have access to the Holy of Holies.
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 19,20, 22)
Jesus talks of coming to salvation through Him; He is the Gate into the holy presence of God. Through that gate those who are saved ”come in and out and find pasture.” As Peter said to the religious leaders in Jerusalem, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) This great salvation that Jesus and the New Testament writers speak about is not just ‘being saved from the consequences of our sin and going to heaven instead of hell’ – although of course it is that- it is feeding (“finding pasture”) day by day in the Holy Presence of God.
The apostle Peter wrote: “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9) By faith we enter that Holy of Holies which is “not of this creation,” and from it we take an experience of the Presence of God that is a reality in “this creation,” because it fills us with “joy inexpressible and full of glory.” That joy in the presence of God is part of the ‘deposit of Heaven’ that is given to us by the Holy Spirit, who is “is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1: 14)
There is no way into the Holy of Holies other than through the gate of Jesus, and having received salvation through Him the Presence of God becomes our daily food, a source of inexpressible and glorious joy. The River of Living Water in the Holy Spirit that flows out of that same Eastern side of the Temple (Ezekiel 47) pours into us, and comes bubbling “out of our hearts.” (John 7:39) The package that Jesus and the New Testament writers call Salvation is not just eternal life in the future, but it’s eternal life bubbling through into the present as well as we experience the presence of God in our daily life. This experience is what God created us to enjoy: when Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” (John 10:10) this is what He means. The “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” is not just a phrase that comes out of our mouths when we “say the grace” together: it is the experienced reality of Salvation; it is life to the full.
If you feel like you are banging on the doors of the Eastern Gate but you do not know this “Life to the Full,” you need to ask yourself if you really do know the one Person who can give it to you. Knowing about Him, and even trying to do what He taught, isn’t enough: you need to be in Him, because He is the gate. And more, much more than that, He longs to be in you. Because when His Spirit is in you, He can bubble out to other people that He loves as well. Don’t let the thief steal fullness of Life from you any longer.