The Altar of Burnt Offering (1)
Updated: Aug 17
Speaker: Reverend Philip Lee
Service: Moriah, 2nd Service
Date: June 7, 2020
The altar of burnt offering, the 19th location in Ezekiel’s temple
Through the man whose appearance is that of “bronze,” God showed Ezekiel 25 different places within Ezekiel’s temple. The 19th place that God showed to Ezekiel inside the temple was the gate facing the east” and “the inner court" (Ezek 43:1, 5). Then God showed Ezekiel “the altar of burnt offering” (Ezek 43:13).
In the last hour, we saw the “gate facing the east" and "the inner court.” Today we will examine the altar of burnt offering, the 19th location within the temple that God showed to Ezekiel.
The Characteristics of the altar of burnt offering
First, Ezekiel’s temple reveals that the altar of burnt offering is right in the center of Ezekiel’s temple, the perfect center. Ezekiel’s temple is 500 cubits by 500 cubits, a perfect square, and right in the center is the altar of burnt offering. Secondly, we know that the altar of burnt offering is in the center of the temple because right before the entire plan of Ezekiel’s temple is mentioned, God defines the measuring standard and what a long cubit is (Ezek 40:5). One long cubit is measured from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger plus one handbreadth. Thus 6 long cubits are equal to 1 rod. However, this measurement standard is mentioned and defined once again right before talking about the altar of burnt offering which demonstrates how important and very central the altar of burnt offering is (Ezek 43:13). This demonstrates that the altar of burnt offering is like a miniature temple.
The structure of the “altar of burnt offering” and its 3 levels
From the base of the altar of burnt offering on the ground to the lower ledge is 2 cubits high and the smaller ledge is 4 cubits high and the altar hearth is 4 cubits high (Ezek 43:14-15). Therefore, the altar of burnt offering has 3 levels: the lower ledge, the smaller ledge, and the top or larger ledge. On the very top of the altar of burnt offering, there are four horns that extend upwards from the surface. From the very bottom to the top, the entire altar of burnt offering is 10 cubits high.
Secondly, we see that the altar of burnt offering has three levels which remind us of “Noah’s Ark.” Noah’s Ark also had three stories (Gen 6:16). The number "3" is related to the three years of the public ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus’ three years of public ministry is consummated through the cross, and the altar of burnt offering also foreshadows that cross. The Apostle Paul said, “I will not boast in anything else but the cross” (1 Cor 2:2). We secretly boast about what we have, but Paul said I will only boast of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who was crucified. The cross is all that is sacrificed and Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb that was sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7). Therefore, when we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others, that is something we can truly boast of for Paul says, “I only know the cross” (Gal 6:14). The Apostle Paul went on to say, “I bear on my body the brand marks of Jesus which is the cross” (Gal 6:17). Do we have that brand mark on our bodies?
The “steps” on the altar of burnt offering
There are a total of 25 steps that lead up to the top of the altar of burnt offering. The Bible does not specifically mention the number of steps, but we can calculate them. The wall all around that separates the outside and the inside of Ezekiel’s temple is 6 cubits long or 1 rod, at the “east gate” (Ezek 40:5). At the “west end,” there is also a wall which is also 6 cubits in height and on top of this wall there is a building on the west side. The level on which this building is established is the same height as the height of the “inner court.” The gate facing east that leads to the “outer court” has 7 steps. From the “outer court” to the “inner court” one will have to go up 8 more steps. Thus a total of 15 steps are needed to go up to the elevation of the inner court which will be an equivalent of 6 cubits high which is the height of the wall, 1 rod. When we divide 1 rod (3.192 meters) by 15 steps, each step measures 21.28 cm. The altar of burnt offering is 10 cubits high. So, when we multiply 53.2 cm (1 long cubit) by 10, we get 5.32 meters. Therefore, 5.32 meters divided by 21.28 cm equals 25 steps which lead up to the altar of burnt offering.
What’s remarkable is that one of the basic numbers of Ezekiel’s temple is the number "25." The number 25 is actually a composition of 24+1. In the book of Revelation, there are 24 elders surrounding the throne of God wearing 24 crowns, but they throw their crowns to God sitting on the throne in the middle (Rev 4:4; 10-11). Thus, the 24 elders’ crown plus God’s crown is 25 crowns. This signifies glorifying God. The priest would go up 25 steps to the altar of burnt offering to glorify God, and we are the priests in the New Testament era (1 Pet 2:5, 9).
Redemptive-historical lesson of the altar of burnt offering
When we look at the altar of burnt offering, it not only has 3 levels, but there is a “base” which is buried underground which supports the entire altar of burnt offering. This word “base” in Hebrew means “bosom.” Therefore, the altar of burnt offering is the bosom of God and we can see that the cross is in the bosom of God. That is the redemptive-historical lesson and message of the altar of burnt offering. Anyone who has this altar of burnt offering and the cross will enter into the embrace of God.
The beggar Lazarus lived such a poor pathetic life, eating what fell off the table of the rich man. However, the outcome of this beggar Lazarus was that he entered into the grace of God which is the bosom of Abraham, which is the kingdom of God (Luke 16:22; Matt 8:11). So let us declare that our God is our only help and let us hold on to the cross continuously so that we can enter into the bosom of God and the center of Ezekiel’s temple.