The things of the Spirit are not the same as the earthly. We can gain insight from looking at both the earthly and the heavenly. Once born from above, of the water and the Spirit, (John 3:3-5), we as spiritual beings are not confined to the earthly. God, being Spirit, transcends the earthly confines of time and space. He is eternal. And He exists in an eternal realm. Whether you call it the kingdom of God, the spiritual realm, the prophetic, the revelatory or the heavenly, it is beyond our physical existence and hence, beyond the shadow side.
Acts 7:49 “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?”
In part one we saw that Paul wrote to the Corinthians “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” We talked about how it would be beneficial to have an understanding of the physical Tabernacle/Temple. In part two we are going to look at two spiritual experiences in scripture. The prophet Ezekiel and the apostle John, both had incredibly detailed and spiritual experiences which have some similar qualities. The last place one might expect to see the physical aspect of something is in a highly spiritual experience. Yet with both Ezekiel and John this is the case. both of these recorded experiences give us a glimpse into kingdom of God and convey that there is a spiritual significance to the physicality of the Temple/Tabernacle.
Monotonous Physical Measurements, Profound Spiritual Experience
Ezekiel was taken into a spiritual experience in which he was shown a physical temple. Many believe what he saw into was an aspect of the future millennial/messianic temple or possibly a third temple to be constructed in the earth. Regardless of all the possible prophetic implications, the fact remains that Ezekiel was shown a temple which included physical measurements. The experience is extremely detailed. It is at least as detailed as the instructions given to Moses on Sinai concerning the Tabernacle, if not more so.
Ezekiel 43:1-7 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. While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. He said: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever.
Revelation 4:1-6 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
There’s Seeing and Then There’s Seeing
Job 42:5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You;
The prophet Ezekiel probably had the most in-depth and exhaustive of visions recorded in the Old Testament. Not only did he have incredible visions he was transported by the Spirit of God. He was taken into visions that were not merely a static picture but a living reality albeit spiritual. These visions are more interactive in experience when compared with other Old Testament prophets. For example, in Jeremiah 1 Jeremiah is talking to God and is given a vision.
Jeremiah 1:11-12 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
In Jeremiah’s vision he sees a picture of a tree. He isn’t picking fruit off the tree. He wasn’t snatched by the hair and taken to grove of almond trees. He saw a picture by way of the Spirit. And while Jeremiah’s vision is awesome and full of meaning (a play on words in the Hebrew), Ezekiel’s visions are more like interactive encounters. The prophet Daniel has incredible visions. They have a movie like aspect in that they are scenes which play out before him. The prophet Zechariah also has incredible spiritual encounters in which he is shown amazing visions of a similar nature in that they play out like a movie clip. I am not comparing for the sake of rating one against another. God is the author of these encounters and how He chooses to relay information to His prophets and seers is solely by His discretion. My purpose for comparison is to say, 1- Ezekiel and John had similar spiritual experiences; 2- because of their unique aspect there is much we can take away from these experiences.
Spiritual Experiences in Our Generation
I believe that spiritual experience these days has gone off the charts in recent years, to which I say, hurrah! Back in the day one hardly heard of someone within the body of Christ having spiritual experiences. That was allocated to the mystics of the Middle Ages, the Early Church and nut cases who wore placards and shouted “The End is Near!” on busy street corners.
I got saved during the days of the Charismatic Renewal. I was exposed to meetings in which the presence of God was manifested greatly and the gifts of the Spirit were operating openly. There was spiritual experience yet that experience seemed to be confined mainly to the word gifts. Getting “a word” from the Lord was the norm among Charismatic/Spirit-filled Believers. Prophecy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, tongues and interpretation was the most common of the gifts manifesting during that particular season. It was, however, rare to hear someone who spoke of having a spiritual encounter which involved being taken into a spiritual dimension of sorts. I’m sure it was happening but it wasn’t necessarily talked about among believers as being an aspect of their experience with God. Some spoke of visions but mostly it was a word of some kind.
There are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. There are different ways of working, but the same God works all things in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in various tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who apportions them to each one as He determines.
Then through the 1980’s and 90’s there seemed to be focus on gifts of faith, healing and working of miracles. Not that these things didn’t happen during the 60s and 70s, they did. But during what some refer to as the signs and wonders movement it seemed that God was highlighting these gifts in particular. Tongues and Interpretation was still happening but the focus shifted to the action gifts. Again, during this time one may hear of someone who had a vision. Visions were not necessarily the common experience among believers. If it was people didn’t necessarily talk about it. Vision seemed to be delegated to the few and far between. Men and women who did have visions and other spiritual experiences seemed to be either idolized or rejected by the body. In the circles to which I was exposed the focus was mainly on healing, miracles and faith.
Personally, I was looking for someone who had similar spiritual experiences such as I was having. I looked. I believe it was happening. I also believe that like me, they kept it confined to their prayer closet and didn’t talked about it openly. However, when I did have the courage to broach the subject I was usually met with blank looks or comments like, “Oh honey, those things just don’t happen to common people like us.” I pondered on that since I was having THOSE experiences. I couldn’t help but believe that it someone else was also. I just hadn’t found them yet. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the people who had that response simply meant they were not having that type of experience. Anyway, enough about me.
When what has become known as the Prophetic Movement began to creep into the body of Christ in the 90’s and early 2000’s the concept of spiritual experience slowly became more acceptable by the Christian community at large. Men such as Bob Jones, Rick Joyner and John Paul Jackson, talked about having spiritual encounters. Thankfully they broke through the taboo associated with having and talking about spiritual things among believers.
I’ve experienced a number of visions of the years. I have also had a number of encounters. I’ve been taken to spiritual places and shown spiritual things. Sometimes those spiritual things have what seems like a physicality to them. While I do not compare myself to Ezekiel or the apostle John my point is that spiritual experiences are unique but there are some similarities with which those who have had similar experiences can identify. Ezekiels’ experience is much like the Apostle John’s experience which is recorded in the book of Revelation. Because of the similarities we can compare Ezekiel’s experiences with that of John’s. I don’t believe that the type of experience is any a way of measuring what some might deem a degree of spirituality on the part of the believer, but rather simply the method God chooses to convey a spiritual truth. The individual is simply the recipient.
In John’s experience there was what seemed like a physicality to the experience. He uses language such as “I heard behind me a loud voice…” (Rev. 1:10); “I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me.” (Rev. 1:12) “When I saw Him I fell at His feet like a dead man.” (Rev.1:17); “I looked and behold a door standing open in heaven.” (Rev. 4:1) “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold a throne, and One sitting on the throne.” (Rev 4:2) John’s experience continues in this manner throughout. I think you get the idea. There was an interactive quality not too unlike our earthly interactions. He wasn’t just seeing an image. He was an active participant in the experience. Ezekiel’s experience was similar. John was taken into heaven, where he saw the throne of God and subsequent events. Ezekiel was taken to what appeared to be a city, in the land of Israel. (Eze. 40) He was subsequently shown a temple in great detail.
Things Go to Another Level
In John’s experience things went to an entirely different level when he saw the door and was whisked away in the Spirit to stand before the throne of God. He went from being in the Spirit to being in the Spirit. [Rev. 1:10 “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit,”] and then [Rev 4:1-2 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”At once I was in the Spirit,] He was in the Spirit when he saw the Lord Jesus in Revelation 1, and he was taken in the Spirit in Revelation 4. Ezekiel was taken in the Spirit.
Ezekiel 40:2-4 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.”
In both John’s and Ezekiel’s experiences there was a physicality to the experience, or at least it seemed that way. In Revelation 21 John is carried away in the Spirit.
Revelation 21: 10-17 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements.
Ezekiel’s experience occurred during a time of national exile. Israel was taken into captivity to Babylon. John’s experience occurs during a time of personal exile. John was imprisoned for the sake of the gospel not because he had fallen away from God, which was the case with the Babylonian captivity. I believe the timeframe of John’s experience, which is post the crucifixion, and resurrection, along with the atonement and glorification of Christ makes a huge difference in what is conveyed experientially. Even so, I believe there is much to be learned from Ezekiel’s experience.
In Ezekiel’s experience I believe he is seeing into a future event, possibly even into what John later also saw into, but with one major difference. The earthly coming of Messiah and the crucifixion makes a huge difference. I believe John was able to see further (so to speak) because of what had already been accomplished by Christ in the earth through the crucifixion, the resurrection, ascension and Christ having been seated upon the throne. Ezekiel may have been privileged to a Messianic encounter but it predates the work of the cross.
In Ezekiel’s experience he is taken in the Spirit and shown not only the city but the Temple. He gets a picture of the structure and is given instructions concerning the priests, the Levites, the offerings, the feasts, the princes and ministry which flows from the Temple itself, the river which brings healing and restoration wherever it goes. God’s instruction to Ezekiel was to share everything about this experience with the people of Israel. [Eze. 40:4 “Tell the people of Israel everything you see”].
John is told to write down what he saw in a book
Revelation 1:11 KJV Saying, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”
OUR ACCESS IS GREATER
The author of Hebrew writes:
Hebrews 10: 19-22 KJV Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
John’s experience in the spirit occurred after the veil of Jesus’ flesh had been torn and a new and living way of entrance to God was inaugurated. Ezekiels’ experience while awesome and wonderful and full of glorious wonder and heavenly delight could not go as far as John’s because of one simple fact, Jesus had not yet died and opened the way.
A NEW AND LIVING WAY
The good news is that the way has been opened. We have access, access which all the prophets of the Old Testament combined were denied in this earthly life. What once was denied is now open. When once those seeking God were denied access, now all who come are given access. That means that the same kind of experience which John had on the isle of Patmos is open for all of us. The door is open. The way has been made.
I don’t believe John was seeking encounter. I don’t believe John was seeking a vision or an experience. I believe that John was in relationship with Jesus. And in the context of relationship with Jesus, John had experiences with Jesus before and after the cross. Those experiences didn’t end when Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. John’s experience as recorded in the book of Revelation is the evidence that Jesus interacts with His children even though He resides in heaven. While He resides in heaven He also resides within the heart of every believer. He lives in our spirit.
We have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
John 14:22- 26 Judas (not Iscariot) says to Him, “Lord, then what has occurred, that You are about to manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and will make a home with him. The one not loving Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine, but that of the Father having sent Me. These things I have said to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and will bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you.”
While we reside in this earthly world we live as spiritual beings with a physical body. As Believers we house the presence of God just as the Temple or the Tabernacle once did. We are the Temple. We are the Tabernacle of God among men.
Revelation 21:2-4 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
John saw into the day when the city of God, the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ will descend from heaven. That bride houses the tabernacle of God.
Revelation 21:22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
Song of Solomon 2:16 My beloved is mine, and I am his
Song of Solomon 6:31 I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.
Song of Solomon 7:10 I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.
One day the temple will not be physical. Until that day comes we as Believers of Messiah Jesus, are the earthly tabernacle. We are the chosen physical location for the habitation of God in the earth. The physical and the spiritual combined, a place where heaven meets earth, where the Divine meets with the object of His affection, you and I.
Part 3 Separating Soul and Spirit