Ezekiel experiences a vision in which an angel shows him a meticulously measured temple and city. One of the fascinating aspects of this vision is that we are told exactly how we are to meditate on it:
As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. (Ezekiel 43:10-11)
We are to see the careful measurements and reflect on the rectitude of our lives and God’s church.
Ezekiel’s visionary temple was never intended to be built, but to reflect the spiritual situation at the return from exile, where God planned for Israel to have a greater influence on the spiritual life of the nations. Consider Nehemiah and Esther, the synagogues that appear throughout the Roman empire in Paul’s day, and the Gentile God-fearers in Acts.
Another interesting thing we learn in Ezekiel’s vision is that the angelic-spiritual cubit is one and a half human cubits:
And behold, there was a wall all around the outside of the temple area, and the length of the measuring reed in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each being a cubit and a handbreadth in length. . . (Ezekiel 40:5)
These are the measurements of the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth): its base shall be one cubit high and one cubit broad, with a rim of one span around its edge. . . (Ezekiel 43:13)
In the book of Revelation, John receives a vision of the new-covenant people of God. The dimensions of the new covenant far exceed those of the restoration covenant. But John also emphasizes that the relationship between human and angelic measurements has changed:
He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. (Revelation 21:17)
Why the change? There are a few things we can say about this progression. Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 indicate that man was made “a little lower than” the angels, but that Jesus and his people are now, instead, “crowned with glory and honor,” exercising dominion over the whole world. Under the old covenants, we were under the tutelage of a law delivered by angels, but in Jesus we have now entered into maturity (Gal. 3-4, Heb. 2). Once it was cherubim that guarded the way to God’s throne, but now the keys to the kingdom have been given to the church (Matthew 16:19), and we are enthroned with Jesus (Eph. 2:6, Rev. 20:4). It is even the case that the church will judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3).
What is happening in the new covenant is that heaven and earth now kiss. Today that takes place spiritually every Lord’s day when we stand before the throne (Heb. 12:22ff); one day that will be a physical reality. Earth will be so fully remade after the heavenly pattern that all earthly measurements conform to heavenly ones; the permanent dwelling place of God will no longer be with the angels:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3)