Ezekiel 36:26 Is Not For This Age
We've discussed the New Covenant in several previous posts. To cut to the end, it is not the gospel of grace. It is not the story of our gift of life. Here are links to two related studies if you are interested in a review (for more just search the blog for New Covenant):
The New Covenant in Bullet Form (click on title)
The Law, the Conscience, Sin and Salvation (click on title)
But there is another passage in the Prophets which is often claimed as being part of the current age's good news, Ezekiel 36, the replacing the "heart of stone" with a "heart of flesh" (v.26). But just as with the New Covenant, and as we saw in our comments on Jeremiah 29, this verse and passage are specific to Israel. Yes, we can learn "principles" from the passage (all scripture is profitable), but if we want to rightly divide it, we must look at the specifics.
As with many prophecies, we may have a short term and a long term application (as with the prophecy of a young girl / virgin giving birth in Isaiah 7:14, for example), but both applications in Ezek 36 are specific to Israel. We read this as future as it surely has never been fully fulfilled.
The whole chapter must be read for the full context (really the whole last section of the book), but let us just look at the immediate context for this study. As with the New Covenant passages in Jer 31 and Heb 8, it is clearly given to the nation of Israel and clearly in the future.
I'm going to quote verse 22 through the end of the chapter. Over and over we see this is not a promise to anyone but to Israel and the specifics should further dissuade us from applying it to all believers or in this age:
22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!
33 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’
37 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
How can we take out that one verse and ignore the enormous amount of promises and conditions specific to Israel and the land attached to it? The next verse is often quoted with it, but do we believe this is true of Christians?
I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Let's think about this. If the "heart of stone" is gone and there is now a "new heart," who is doing all this Christian sinning? The robbing of this verse leads to the heresy of "sinless perfection" before our resurrection.
We've already noted that the entire passage (let alone the whole chapter) is filled with very specific promise and conditions which pertain only to Israel, but here in the very next verse we read:
Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
How do we possibly apply that to the present age or to a gentile church?
How about verse 33? Did this happen upon your profession of faith (how about all the promises in this passage)?
On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.
The purpose of this short study is the set the framework for "walking in the spirit [new nature]." That is, when we are regenerated by faith, we are given a new nature, but we still have an old nature. Our conflict is between walking in our new nature versus walking in the old nature (the fleshly, carnal man). It is not between a "heart of flesh" and a now absent "heart of stone." That makes no sense.
If we are to understand how to "walk in the spirit" and even to "worship in spirit" (John 4:24), we must not rest on Ezekiel 36. If we do, we may end up questioning our own salvation or questioning the reality of eternal life when we discover the "heart of stone" (as it were) is still with us. The flesh is still with us. We do not always follow the decrees of the Lord. Sometimes we do very wicked things or have very wicked, selfish thoughts.
The wicked doctrines of Replacement Theology have infected our pulpits, our hymnals, our books, and our doctrines. Let us forsake these things and claim the glorious truths of the dispensation of the Mystery! Our hope is not in the New Covenant and the restoration of a "land," our great hope (for those who will embrace it) is blessing is in the far above the heavens where Christ is seated! We look for him to revealed there, not in his coming in the clouds to his nation, Israel.
This is where we must start our study, emptying ourselves of doctrines and promises given to another people for another purpose. We must follow what God has give for us in this present age.
If you are in Christ, you have a new, eternal nature and an old, carnal nature. If you think the old nature is gone, you are headed for disaster or you are simply deluded by pride. If you know you still struggle in your flesh, then you have understood the first step and should now see that Ezekiel 36 does not apply in this age.
So that let him that thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
-1 Cor 10:12