Ezekiel 1, the Merkaveh and UFO’s

The first chapter of Ezekiel is a very interesting chapter and it uses what is called “apocalyptic” (meaning to reveal) language. That’s why the Book of Revelation is called the “Apocalypse” because it uses this style of language in Hebrew thought to convey spiritual insight to the reader. It is not hard to understand once you know what these symbols mean and the idioms, phrases and concepts of the biblical festivals and Hebrew eschatology. Because so many who try to interpret these books are unfamiliar with Hebrew thought, there are many misinterpretations that have come forth from apocalyptic writing, and Ezekiel 1 is a “victim” of this error.

To understand Ezekiel 1 there are a few things that need to be understood. First and foremost, this chapter (there are others in Ezekiel) has the purpose of instructing those that have been taken to Babylon in the Exile that God has not abandoned them and that the destruction of the city and the Temple was from him, that Babylon was in God’s hands and his tool to use. It was not because they were abandoned to the will of Babylon, but Babylon was at the will of the Lord, and the people still belonged to him.

This chapter has nothing to do with UFO’s and “flying saucers.” Many people who believe in UFO’s and aliens try to use Ezekiel 1 to prove that Ezekiel saw UFO’s himself, but that is not what is being taught in this chapter. What Ezekiel saw was a “vision of God” (Ezekiel 1.1). This vision is known as “the Ma’aseh Merkaveh” (work of the chariot) and his throne was seen as a chariot (2 Kings 19.15; Psa 99.1; 2 Sam 22.11; Psa 18.10). When the Ark was careiwd it was seen as carrying the throne of God.

The Merkaveh is a supernatural concept described in human terms and cannot be understood literally. Those that don’t understand the deep spiritual concepts here are not equipped to even glimpse at their inner meaning, let alone say they are UFO’s! The theme of the book of Ezekiel is the departure of the Shekinah (presence of God) and the promise of the return of the Shekinah. This vision explains how God, who we can’t see (Exo 33.20) is able to reveal himself to us through his “two arms”: the Son of God and the rushing storm wind of the Spirit (Isa 51.5; Ezekiel 1.4,26). They are sent by the Lord himself (John 14.9). His storm wind, his “chariot” is coming. Will it destroy you or will you bow down before the “radiant man” (Ezekiel 1.26-28) and receive his instruction and be filled with the Spirit of God. 

This is why this chapter is called the “Ma’aseh Merkaveh” or the work or account of the Chariot. The term “chariots of fire” (merkaveh mophtim) comes from this chapter. A “chariot” is a mobile, firing platform in spiritual warfare and it is the “vehicle” by which God’s Kivod (glory) is displayed in creation. So, the term “merkaveh” carries the idea of “movement.”  What Ezekiel saw in this vision was the angelic realm that “supported” the throne of God.

There are two classes of angels mentioned here, the Cherubim (pronounced “keruvim”) and Ophanim and they work as messengers of God, carrying out his will. This brings us to something else that needs to be understood. There are five elements in the physical world and they are time, space, light, mass, and energy. Likewise, there are five spiritual elements called spiritual time (the Sabbath, festivals, etc); spiritual space (The Mishkan and the Temple); spiritual light (The Scriptures, his perfect will); spiritual mass (any being that is implemented to carry out the will of God; the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, angels and even Satan, who in the end carry out the purposes of God) and spiritual energy (the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, angels, Messiah or demons,etc).

This vision in Ezekiel 1 is saying that God’s presence (the Shekinah) would no longer find it’s place among a people that has been so degraded by disobedience and idolatry, and it would return to Heaven (Ezek 10.1-22; 11.22-25) during the exile, his earthly “chariot” had failed him. So, Ezekiel saw the presence of God “leave” (spiritual movement) the Kodesh ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies-spiritual space), then the Temple, then the city and then he watched it ascend into the heavenly realm at the Mount of Olives. This was because judgment was coming upon the Temple and the city and these were going to be destroyed. 

This is the same pattern that Yeshua acted out. He departed the Temple and said he would not be back until the people received him. After the resurrection, he went out to the Mount of Olives and ascended to heaven. Judgment came 40 years later and everything was destroyed by the Romans. Here is an important concept. Spiritual movement does not relate to a measureable distance, like in the physical realm. For instance, “near” means close to or similar to and “far” means opposite or different. So, in Ezekiel 1 the vision of the Merkaveh shows a heavenly spiritual (space) “chariot” (spiritual mass, which are really angels called Cherubim) moving to carry out God’s will.

The “purpose of God” is called “being in the Spirit” and under the control of the Spirit. No mention is made in Ezekiel 1 of what they are carrying out exactly, but what we have is a picture of how the will of God (spiritual light) is carried out by angels (spiritual mass) and the results (spiritual energy) upon man and creation.

Ezekiel 43.1-5 has the account of the Shekinah returning to the city and the Temple after Yeshua returns to earth. Now, why is Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel 10 and Ezekiel 43 important to understand the right way? The departure of the Shekinah that Ezekiel saw did not end the Lord’s relationship to Israel. We see “human hands” reaching out from beneath the Merkaveh (1.8; 8.3) because the Lord desired that they return. The “stormy wind” from the “north” signified the arrival of the Babylonians (1.4) so that the people understood that what happened to them was from God and their misery was not because Babylon was stronger than the Lord. It was his will because of their sin.

This vision was to reassure the people in exile that their relationship with the Lord was not over. The other “visions” given to Ezekiel were prophetic also because these portions of Scripture were read in the synagogues on the festival of Pentecost, or Shavuot and they prepared the people for what was going to happen after the resurrection of the Messiah. 

It was the back-round for what happened in Acts 2.1-13 and the coming of the Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) in power upon another Temple, the believer. They were not waiting for UFO’s, but for what was promised by the Father and what was lost by Adam. The restoration of the Kivod (glory, in tongues of fire), the Shekinah (presence of God) and the Ruach ha Kodesh (the power of God) were all seen in Acts 2, but Ezekiel 1 gave a glimpse into how all this was carried out in the heavenly realm through the vision of the Ma’aseh Merkaveh.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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