We quote from Ezekiel 36 every week during the service at Restoration Fellowship.
Here it is.
26 Moreover I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the stony heart from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 I will put My Ruach within you. Then I will cause you to walk in My laws, so you will keep My rulings and do them.
28 Then you will live in the land that I gave to your fathers. You will be My people and I will be your God.
I shared this passage supporting a friend’s position in a post on Facebook—I know, first mistake, but I got this response.
“Very important to understand that Ezekiel 36 is not talking about the born again experience but is a reference to the New Covenant after The Judgment. Its wording and conditions are essentially the same as Jeremiah 31 which makes it clear the New Covenant does not happen until after Jeremiah 31:1-30 happens.”
Well, I usually try to avoid getting sucked into these kinds of debates online because I can take so long to type out a careful response, but I just couldn’t let this one go. Here is my response.
--I understand that may be a possible interpretation of that passage, but it’s very important to understand that there are other interpretations of that passage.
First, to say that this passage is referring to some time after the Judgement is an interpretation that the text is not clearly saying. You are saying that, not the text directly. Since the text is not clearly saying one way or the other, we should be open to possibilities, including things like multiple levels or layers of fulfillment.
For example, even Yeshua, in quoting Isaiah when He was in Nazareth to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”, said, “Today this is fulfilled in your hearing” all the while He did not actually finish the sentence with finishes with, “And the day of vengeance of our God”. Clearly that was not the purpose of His first coming. Thus, within the same passage, there were elements fulfilled in His first coming and others that would wait until His second.
Rather than say this work of the Holy Spirt is for the time after the Judgment, I would rather say it describes the role of the Spirit in the Kingdom. I’ll come back to this later.
Second, this does not seem to be the way that the writers of the New Testament understood this or related passages. The coming of the Spirit and the filling/changing/transformation of the person and the giving a new heart is frequently how the apostles talk about our life before Messiah in the flesh, and our new life as a new creation in the Spirit.
Romans 8 comes to mind as the life of the flesh is Hostile to God, vs. 7 “for it does not submit itself to the law of God (Torah)—for it cannot”, but the life of the Spirit is in direct contrast to this as one that for the first time, has the desire and the ability.
I could quote several others to support this idea, but would rather direct you to Acts 2 and Peter’s sermon on Pentecost for an example of a passage that starts out with “And it shall be in the last days…” and includes “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious Day of the LORD comes”—clearly suggesting the time after the Judgment you speak of, and yet Peter quotes the passage from Joel as if it’s happening in that moment, right before their eyes.
In that passage, Peter quotes, “I will pour out My Ruach on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
So even though the passage talks about End Times and the Great and Terrible Day of the LORD—the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and His work in the life of the person was happening at that moment, not some distant day in the future only.
Which leads to third, I believe you are underestimating the person of the Holy Spirt and His role. The Holy Spirit is a person, not an “it” or “power” with a defined role and function in Elohim and in the life of the believer. This function of the Holy Spirit is His function because it is His nature. Time or dispensations will not change who He is or what He does in the life of believer. It’s not as if He enters into a person at the “born again” moment and says, “Gee, I would really like to give them a new heart of flesh, but I guess I have to wait until after the Judgment. I would really like to lead My people to want to follow My commands and obey, but I guess I have to wait until after the Judgment before I can.”
No, these are things He does in His people immediately. We are made a New Creation, we are given a new heart, the process of Sanctification is exactly in line with what the Ezekiel passage says the Spirit will do. He is doing that now in my life and should be in yours and everyone else who calls on His Name.
If that is not enough, then I will come back to the idea that this role of the Spirit, rather than taking place after the Judgment, is taking place in the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not just some future thing, time or place (although clearly there are future elements to it), but rather as Yeshua said in Luke 17:21—"the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Or “within you”.
The Kingdom is alive and active within His people because of the transformation of the work of Messiah and the presence of the Holy Spirit—we, even Gentiles, are made citizens of that Kingdom (Ephesians 2:19) and we are to live in this world, but not of this world as His Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We accomplish this by living by a different way of life that sets us apart from the way the world lives. We live by His Torah, His Instructions, His Laws, whether we are in the physical Kingdom or not—because as an Ambassador—we are a living, walking, talking, bit of Kingdom Territory and Authority, shining His light into the Kingdom of Darkness.
All that to say—Ezekiel 36 describes the role of the Spirit in the life of the believer now because the Kingdom is with us now—not just some day in the future.