“Only the prince may sit in [the vestibule] to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.”(Ezekiel 44:3)
Ezekiel’s vision of the Heavenly Temple provides an example of how things ought to be, yea, how things can be in worship. In Ezekiel’s day, the uncircumcised idolater and the usurpatious priest polluted the Temple, but not so in Ezekiel’s Temple; it rises in spotless holiness and splendid glory, surpassing the beauties of Moses’ Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, the Second Temple, and even Herod’s Temple, so holy and glorious in fact to be fit only for a prince of heaven.
Before he communed with the Lord, the prince waited in the vestibule, sometimes called the porch. The vestibule was a passageway from the outer gate to the inner sanctum. Approximately 35’x18’, the vestibule was beautifully decorated with carved lions, cherubim, palm trees, and human faces. Typologically, Ezekiel’s Temple foreshadowed the Son of God twice incarnate, first, in His fleshly body, secondly, in His ecclesiastical body, the church of the living God. The lone worshipper in Ezekiel’s Temple was the prince, meaning a chief or principal worshipper. The prince personified the fit worshipper and, like the Temple itself, represents the Lord Jesus Christ and the true members of the true church of God. Those who worship God in Spirit and in Truth, as it were, are princes in the vestibule.
As an image of worship, the Temple vestibule was first a place of divine appointment. Shut outside of the locked outer gate, the uncircumcised were forbidden entrance to the vestibule. Only the one appointed by God could pass through the gate to the vestibule, “only the prince.”
The vestibule was a place of preparation. Before the gate opened, and before he entered the vestibule, the prince prepared himself, washing seven times and adorning himself with garments appropriate to worship. From this we learn that the only true worshipper is he who is perfectly washed, as it were, seven times, and thus wholly sanctified, and not only washed, but also properly adorned in the spotless linen of salvation.
The vestibule signified anticipation and expectation. Imagine the prince’s beating heart as he passed through the gate, his spirit quickened in anticipation of worship and expectation of sweet fellowship with God. “I was glad,” said David, “when they said unto me, ‘Let us go unto the house of the LORD.’” Therefore, too, did the prince’s heart rejoice, and the heart of every true prince in Israel, when he contemplates worship of the Most High God. The drudgery of duty is not necessary to move the prince’s feet toward the temple, for his feet are like hinds’ feet, strongly secure upon Zion’s hill and beautifully swift to the Holy Temple; indeed, the prince exults at the prospect of worship in the Holy Temple.
The vestibule was also a place of communion. Once within the gate, the holy prince sat down to eat the holy bread, symbolic of the prince’s spiritual and moral communion with Yahweh. “We took sweet fellowship together,” said the Psalmist. Sweet indeed is the fellowship of brethren who dwell together in unity, sweeter still the prince’s communion with his Beloved.
Finally, the vestibule was a transcendent passageway. Surrounding the prince in the vestibule were earthly heavenly images of heavenly realities—the lion, the cherubim, and the palm tree—carved of cedar and overlaid with gold. The cedar and gold depicted the hypostatic union of Humanity and Divinity in the person of Jesus Christ, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Son of Man, the Ox of Earth, the Eagle of Heaven, and the Oasis of the Soul. Surrounding the prince on every side were eight sacrificial altars on which the holy blood was sprinkled and the sacrificial flesh consumed. These images and altars were not static visions to the prince, but dynamic catalysts whereby he passed through the vestibule to the Most Holy Place, the golden mercy seat and the very place where Yahweh dwelt in fearful solicitude Alone.
Sons and daughters of Israel, where are you, and what are you? Are you yet uncircumcised and unwashed, or are your feet sure and swift upon the mountains to the house of God, your belly hungry for his bread, and your heart panting for worship and fellowship in the vestibule? Are you a beggar and rebel outside the gate, or are you a prince appointed and prepared, anticipating communion with the most High God, and expecting transcendent passage into His very presence?
Arise, O Prince, wash and adorn thyself, enter through "His gate with thanksgiving, and into His vestibule with praise."