Christian Churches of God
Valley of Dry Bones
(Edition 1.0 20060927-20060927)
God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel at chapter 37 referring to the Valley of Dry Bones. This is understood as being the Resurrection of the Dead. However, which resurrection is it and when does it occur, and what does it mean in relation to the Restoration of Israel?
Valley of Dry Bones
The activities of Ezekiel chapter 37 have always been interpreted as concerning the resurrection of the dead. The word used for graves in verse 12 is the Hebrew word qeber (kehber, SHD 6913) and not Sheol. There is a repetition involved, which is held by scholars to include a Resurrection, as well as a Restoration into the land of Israel (i.e. upon the soil of Israel (Heb. ‘admath) (cf. for example Bullinger, Comp. Bible, fn. to 37:12).
Some people have interpreted this text as referring to the Second Resurrection at the end of the Millennium.
The placement of the text in relation to the other chapters of the book shows that it is a generic reference to the restoration of Israel of both divisions, and hence includes the First Resurrection.
The Word of the Lord came to the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34. This text has been examined in detail in the paper Measuring the Temple (No. 137).
God then told Ezekiel to deal with the nations surrounding Israel, and then with the restoration of Israel.
In chapter 35 God speaks against Mt. Seir, or the nation of Edom, who are the children of Esau.
Edom had a hatred of Israel and pursued them in blood. God decided to punish Edom because they had pursued Israel after the time that their iniquity had ended (Ezek. 35:5). They were defeated by Judah under John Hyrcanus and converted to Judaism. They mingled with Judah in Judaea, and the kings of Judaea under the Romans were Edomites or Idumeans. Herod the Great was a descendent of Esau. At the time of Judah’s dispersion Edom allied with the Zealots and preyed on Judah in Jerusalem (see the paper War with Rome and the Fall of the Temple (No. 298)).
Edom was to be made a perpetual desolation and their cities were not to return, and then they would know that the Lord was God. Edom sought to possess the blessings of Israel and Judah, even though the Lord was there (Ezek. 35:10). This was a reference to the desire of Edom to wrest back the birthright that Esau had sold to Jacob. The Lord was there as witness, and was in the land when they sought to take it.
Therefore, God was to judge Edom for their hatred and anger and blasphemy. He was to destroy Edom. His promise was that, when the whole earth rejoices, He will make Edom desolate, both Mt. Seir and all Idumea.
Edom was both in Edom and Judaea and in the trading empires of the Phoenicians.
They will be made desolate when the whole earth rejoices. Thus, even in the restoration to follow, they will remain desolate.
Then, in chapter 36, Yahovah directs Ezekiel to utter the words of Adonai Yahovah.
The nations sought to claim the ancient High Places or the mountains of Israel, which were promised to them (Gen. 49:26; Deut. 13:13; 33:15).
Because the nations swallowed Israel up and made it desolate on every side, and were made a possession of heathens and an infamy to all people, God decided to intervene. This is the same sentiment we see in the Book of Zechariah (see the paper Commentary on Zechariah (No. 021K)).
God then spoke against the heathen nations that surrounded Israel, including Idumea, and pronounced sentence on them.
"And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD. 2: Thus says the Lord GOD: Because the enemy said of you, `Aha!' and, `The ancient heights have become our possession,' 3: therefore prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Because, yea, because they made you desolate, and crushed you from all sides, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you became the talk and evil gossip of the people; 4: therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD: Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains and the hills, the ravines and the valleys, the desolate wastes and the deserted cities, which have become a prey and derision to the rest of the nations round about; 5: therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I speak in my hot jealousy against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who gave my land to themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and utter contempt, that they might possess it and plunder it. 6: Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I speak in my jealous wrath, because you have suffered the reproach of the nations; 7: therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I swear that the nations that are round about you shall themselves suffer reproach. 8: "But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people Israel; for they will soon come home. 9: For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown; 10: and I will multiply men upon you, the whole house of Israel, all of it; the cities shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt; 11: and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
God then pronounced blessings on Israel. The mountains will be blessed and the children of Israel would then soon come home. This is the period in the Last Days at the Restoration.
Israel would be populated and their children will no longer die and Israel would not be bereaved. This is at the end of the period of Holocaust that killed the children of Israel.
12: Yea, I will let men walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess you, and you shall be their inheritance, and you shall no longer bereave them of children.
This period of peace will see Israel no longer killing men and losing its children.
13: Thus says the Lord GOD: Because men say to you, `You devour men, and you bereave your nation of children,' 14: therefore you shall no longer devour men and no longer bereave your nation of children, says the Lord GOD; 15: and I will not let you hear any more the reproach of the nations, and you shall no longer bear the disgrace of the peoples and no longer cause your nation to stumble, says the Lord GOD."
Israel will then no longer bear reproach of the nations, and its priests will no longer cause it to stumble with their error.
Israel was punished for its apostasy when it dwelt in its own land, and was dispersed because of that apostasy and idolatry. They were scattered among the nations for the very traditions that the Messiah condemned them, and for which they killed him. They were dispersed and judged for their conduct and deeds. The conduct of Judah, right up until the very last, was an absolute disgrace, as we saw in the paper War with Rome and the Fall of the Temple (No. 298).
16: The word of the LORD came to me: 17: "Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their doings; their conduct before me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. 18: So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood which they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19: I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries; in accordance with their conduct and their deeds I judged them. 20: But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that men said of them, `These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.' 21: But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel caused to be profaned among the nations to which they came.
God decided to restore Israel, not for their sake, and in spite of their heresy and traditions. He restored them for the sake of His Holy Name, which they had caused to be profaned among the nations. That time is now upon us.
Israel is being restored prior to its conversion. This restoration has been largely through the actions of Ephraim since 1916.
22: "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23: And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24: For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.
That gathering is being undertaken now and will continue for some time to come.
They will then be cleansed, given repentance and converted in the power of the Holy Spirit.
25: I will sprinkle clean water upon you*, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26: A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27: And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28: You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
*Note: Knox translation says for verse 25: “And then I will pour living cleansing streams over you….”
Notice that the conversion process involves Israel walking in the Commandments and Statutes of God, as He gave to Christ, and to Moses at Sinai. This obedience is the sense of Revelation 12:17 and 14:12.
God will cleanse them and make the mountains pour forth in their abundance. They will never again be disgraced with famine. In that way they will remember their evil and iniquity.
29: And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses; and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30: I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31: Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds.
God says He is not acting for Israel’s sake, but to confound them, and make them ashamed.
32: It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. 33: "Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. 34: And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. 35: And they will say, `This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now inhabited and fortified.' 36: Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it. 37: "Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their men like a flock. 38: Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they will know that I am the LORD." (RSV)
The nation will then understand that God did it. The waste cities will be filled with men like the flock of sacrifices as at Jerusalem. These people will be dedicated to God in the Holy Spirit. They will leave their traditions like dirty rags, and turn and rend their hearts and be baptised and converted.
The next phase of the Restoration is that of the resurrection at the return of the Messiah.
This section deals with the Dry Bones (vv. 1-14) and the two sticks (vv. 15-28) in Ezekiel 37.
The prophecy of the dry bones follows a sequence:
Then the next phase repeats from 3:
Then the vision is explained (v. 11).
The question and the answer of Yahovah then comes (vv. 12-14).
The Lord now speaks by the Spirit (see also 1:1,3; 8:3; 11:24-25; 40:2-3). The expressions in these texts show the meaning of Revelation 1:10 (see also Bullinger, Comp. Bible note to v. 1).
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. 2: And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3: And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, thou knowest." 4: Again he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5: Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD." 7: So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8: And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9: Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." 10: So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.
The word refers to those slain for the service of God. They are the dead by violent death. The Septuagint renders it tous nekrous, which is distinct from nekrous without the article, referring to those who were once alive. But in this way, with the article, it refers to corpses. Bullinger notes the distinction (in the fn. to v. 9). Compare this text to what Christ was speaking about in Matthew 22:31-32 and Luke 24:5 (cf. also 1Cor. 15:29, 35, 42, 52).
This text refers to the First Resurrection and its place in the administration, and also the restoration of Israel by some miraculous means.
This is the end of the vision shown and the first sequence. These people are the obedient of the House of Israel.
The vision is now explained.
The use of the term “whole house” refers also to the Church, which is the vineyard of the Lord also, as spiritual Israel.
11: Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, `Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.
They consider they are completely cut off but they are not, and their identities and lineages are to be restored.
12: Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. 13: And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.
This miraculous action requires a resurrection similar to the creation of Adam. This is a resurrection similar to that of Lazarus and the elect at the time of the Messiah, when those who came from the graves lived again and died natural deaths, or were killed.
The sequence follows the promise of Yahovah to:
Then comes the promise of the knowledge following on from the act.
14: And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done it, says the LORD.
Here the resurrection involves the placing of the Holy Spirit in Israel. Thus, the conversion of Israel, both of Judah and of Ephraim, is being spoken of here. We now see that explained.
This is also the second Exodus foretold by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 66:18-24).
The Two Sticks
The two sticks are taken to represent the two nations of Judah (with part Benjamin and part Levi) and Ephraim and the ten tribes associated with it. These two are to be joined again after the union was broken as we saw with the prophecy of Beauty and Bands (see the paper Commentary on Zechariah (No. 021K)).
15: The word of the LORD came to me: 16: "Son of man, take a stick and write on it, `For Judah, and the children of Israel associated with him'; then take another stick and write upon it, `For Joseph (the stick of E'phraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him'; 17: and join them together into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18: And when your people say to you, `Will you not show us what you mean by these?' 19: say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (which is in the hand of E'phraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him; and I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20: When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes,
So, they are to be joined in unison in one accord, and they are to be taken from all the lands into which they have been dispersed.
21: then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land; 22: and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.
Thus they will be one nation and one kingdom under one rule. This union is to occur in the Last Days at the coming of the Messiah.
Then they are to cleanse themselves of their idolatry, their traditions and their mysticism.
23: They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
David shall be king over them.
As David has been dead for almost three millennia, we are obviously speaking of the resurrection and the Messiah, the son of David. Under the Christ they will follow the Law of God as it was given to Israel.
24: "My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. 25: They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.
David shall be resurrected, and the Messiah shall be their Lord, and the elect shall be the household of David as elohim (see Zech. 12:8; see also the paper The Elect as Elohim (No. 1)).
Then the covenant shall be renewed forever. Yahovah of Israel will dwell with them, and Yahovah of Hosts will be there through the Holy Spirit, and the Temple shall be the elect, and the Physical Temple shall be symbolic of the Spiritual Temple, which Temple we are.
26: I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27: My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28: Then the nations will know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore." (RSV)
The nations will come to the Holy Land year after year to worship the Lord of Hosts, and they will know that God is there in the midst of them for evermore.
Then, when the Lord has commenced to resettle Israel, and at the return of the Messiah and the gathering of the elect, the war of the Millennium will occur.
The story of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 deals with this war, which is the war of Hamon-Gog (see the paper War of Hamon-Gog (No. 294)).
Ezekiel 39:25 shows that the war commences before the actual establishment of the Millennium and sets off the captivity of Jacob under God, as the whole House of Israel in the Holy Land. The Whole House of Israel also represents the elect. Thus, God uses this war to consolidate and establish Israel as His Holy Nation.
The word of the LORD came to me: 2: "Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him 3: and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; 4: and I will turn you about, and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you forth, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords; 5: Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6: Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togar'mah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes -- many peoples are with you. 7: "Be ready and keep ready, you and all the hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. 8: After many days you will be mustered; in the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land where people were gathered from many nations upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste; its people were brought out from the nations and now dwell securely, all of them. 9: You will advance, coming on like a storm, you will be like a cloud covering the land you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you.
Israel is being established in cities, and the northern nations move against it. The identities of the nations are explained in the paper War of Hamon-Gog (No. 294) and covers both sides of the conflict. Both sides are subjugated, as we will see in that paper.
10: "Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme 11: and say, `I will go up against the land of unwalled villages; I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates'; 12: to seize spoil and carry off plunder; to assail the waste places which are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have gotten cattle and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth. 13: Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its villages will say to you, `Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to seize great spoil?' 14: "Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, you will bestir yourself 15: and come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army; 16: you will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (RSV)
The Great War of Hamon-Gog will occur at the beginning of the Millennium. However, we also know from Revelation chapter 20 that a great war will occur at the end of the Millennium also, before the General (or Second) Resurrection of the dead. Revelation chapter 20 explains Ezekiel chapters 36-39. Ezekiel chapters 40-41 show the Temple system that will be established for the Millennium.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2: And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3: and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.
The restoration begins with the binding of Satan at the return of the Messiah. The elect are resurrected and judgment is committed to them. This is the beginning of the restoration prior to the millennial system.
4: Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5: The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6: Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years.
Thus, the millennial reign of the saints begins the Millennium. That is the restoration of Israel, termed the captivity of Jacob. Christ returns to take captivity captive.
Then Satan is loosed again for the final war at the end of the Millennium.
7: And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison 8: and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9: And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10: and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Thus the War of Gog and Magog is an ongoing battle, both at the end of Satan’s rule and again at Satan’s release. The demise of Satan and the Beast, and the false prophet, are the death of concepts at the end of the seven thousand years of the earth’s systems. The final resurrection does not deal with nations and systems and such matters. It deals with judgment and correction over a shortened period and is called the Great White Throne Judgment. See the paper The Second Resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment (No. 143B).
11: Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.
The Churches of God in the 20th century made a serious error in separating the events of verses 12 and 13, and arguing for a Third Resurrection in order to control the membership through fear (see the paper The Fallacy of the Third Resurrection (No. 166)). However, it is obvious from the logic of the text that verse 13 is simply speaking of those who died at sea as also being resurrected to judgment with those who died on land. Those who are not repentant at the end of this period are refused eternal life and die, and are burned as rubbish in the fire of Gehenna, which was the rubbish pit outside of Jerusalem.
13: And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. 14: Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15: and if any one's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (RSV)
Thus, Ezekiel here speaks of a resurrection both at the beginning of the Millennium for the restoration and at the end. The wars precede the restoration, which goes through the Millennium. The restoration in the wars is designed to establish the House of God in glory forever.
"Thus says the Lord GOD: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? 18: But on that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, says the Lord GOD, my wrath will be roused. 19: For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; 20: the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. 21: I will summon every kind of terror against Gog, says the Lord GOD; every man's sword will be against his brother. 22: With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples that are with him, torrential rains and hailstones, fire and brimstone. 23: So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD. (RSV)
The millennial system is then established and the nations are subjected to the direction and laws of God and they are prepared for the Second and General Resurrection of the Dead, which is preceded by the last war of Gog and Magog.
The end of this process results in the coming of the City of God (see the paper The City of God (No. 180)).