A message for God's people then and now
Chapter selection below.
The book may be divided into three parts. Its message becomes clearer as we see the situation of the prophet and his people. He is taken to Babylon as a captive, leaving behind Jerusalem and the temple.
A significant thread is knowing the that Yahweh is Lordez0607.
These tell about the destruction of Jerusalem and the sin that made it necessary. Ezekiel began his prophecy in the 5th year of Jechoiachin's captivity ez0102. (593/592). The one on the throne sent the man in linen to scatter fire over the city ez1002.
Here is described the powerful God who will handle the other nations as certainly as he had Israel and Judah.
This last part describes the new exodus when God would bring His people back to the land 2037f. Ezekiel is like Moses, receiving instructions about a coming temple and recording laws for the people. (Remember that the wilderness tabernacle or tent was a small version of the more-permanent temple.) The crisis of chapters 38 and 39 is resolved in the rest of the book with the new temple and ultimately with the New Jerusalem which we see coming down at the end of the thousand years re2103. Or we might say that the faithful who are seen in those chapters avoid the pitfalls described.
How will these prophecies be fulfilled?
Ezekiel wrote long ago. Why haven't his prophecies been fulfilled particularly those beginning with chapter 38 or 40?. Some people reason that Jesus would have fulfilled them if He hadn't been rejected. Because God keeps His word, these people look for a future fulfillment after our present period of grace.
This sounds good to those of us who have confidence in the Scriptures. But it runs into some problems:
A present dispensation of grace followed by a dispensation of kingdom would seem like a time God hadn't planned for, leaving Christianity as of minor importance lu1721, ga0614.
A strong focus on Israel and temple building tends to move the spotlight away from the cross of Christ. He did not isolate Christianity from its Jewish roots mt1616f, jn0539.
The idea that the Jews will rebuild their Jerusalem temple means animal sacrifices ez4517. But such temple sacrifices pointed forward to the Lamb of Calvary. To offer them now would be to deny that He has come he0928, he1010, he1014, ro0325. To say that it would be different for the Jews leaves them with a false gospel ga0108.
The Jews as a nation lost their special place in God's plan. See on re0704b. We are specifically told that those who follow Christ claim the promises of the Old Testament. They are the new children of Abraham ga0328ff.
Prophecies that depend on a human response are conditional jon0310, de3019f. In fact Ezekiel and his people were taken to Babylon for breaking the covenant de2836. The Lord, through Ezekiel had warned his people about the results of breaking the covenant ez2037. And they were encouraged by the promise of the covenant peace ez3425; ez3726. Any promise of returning to the land and building the temple was therefore conditional.
As I see it, no literal fulfillment was intended for the temple description. The people were never told to build it or to follow the other specifications in a restored Israel. The Lord explained the reason for the detailed description. See ez4310 and context. Also see ch40.
If the temple following Ezekiel's plan was to have been built, surely the faithful remnant who returned from captivity would have followed that plan. They would also have divided the land as specified ch45. If the Lord had intended this we would would expect to find a record of His disapproval. We conclude that they did not understand Ezekiel's prophecy as instructions for a literal building and a literal establishing. Ezra described the return of the remnant to the land of Israel and Nehemiah directed the finishing of the work of building. Neither in these books nor elsewhere do we find the specifications of Ezekiel followed.
God described the ark Noah was to build ge0614 and the sanctuary Moses was to construct ex2508. These descriptions, were accompanied by the command to build. As just mentioned, no such order was ever given relative to the temple shown to Ezekiel.
The book of Revelation disagrees with the dispensational understanding of Ezekiel's prophecy. We have noted the correspondence with Revelation 17 and 18 ez26t, which is only a part of the connection.
   So how will the prophecies be fulfilled? Not all is clear, but we need to note one important contrast: Ezekiel was shown the abominations going on in the temple of his day ez08. We could study the evils of the time (which are paralleled in our time) and look for aspects of the temple description which would correct or prevent them.
 1 Whirlwind, living ones, throne 17 2 eagles & vine; king will die 33 God's regret for the lost; watchman
 2 Ezekiel sent to rebellious Israel 18 Responsibility for one's sins 34 Shepherds, unfaithful & true
 3 Speak; Spirit; as watchman 19 Lament for princes 35 Mt. Seir shed blood; desolate 
 4 Siege of Jerusalem demonstrated 20 History of rebellion; judgment 36 Israel blessed and renewed
 5 A sword against Jerusalem 21 Babylon as a sword 37 Gathering - David as king
 6 Judgment against Israel, desolation 22 Unjust princes; none to build wall  38 Persecution, shaking, God judged
 7 The end is coming for Jerusalem 23 Two adulterous sisters 39 Gog destroyed, feast, Restoration
 8 Abominations in the temple  24 Cooking pot; Ezekeil's wife dies 40 The temple 
 9 Judgment of God's people 25 Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philstia  41 More details
10 Glory departs; wheels 26 Tyre desolate; 26TCompare w Rev. 42 Rooms for priests
11 East gate; sword; false prophets 27 Tyre is a ship; lament for her 43 Temple purpose, glory, altar
12 Acting captivity; Visions not fail 28 Origin, career, and end of Satan 44 East gate shut; wicked Levites
13 Woe to foolish prophets 29 Sword against Egypt; Babylon 45 Dividing land; offerings; holy days 
14 Idolatry; result of national sin 30 Egypt will fail; idols 46 Gate open Sabbaths; offerings
15 People given to fire like vine wood  31 Proud Assyria crushed 47 Water flowing out link
16 God's professed people, prostitute 32 Pharaoh and Egypt doomed 48 Tribal territories; city gates

Commentary home
Next book, Daniel