Before Israel became a nation on 14 May 1948, people said it was impossible. They laughed at the idea that it could happen, and many said the Bible could therefore not be true, or maybe it was misunderstood, or maybe it referred to the short-term restoration of Israel after 70 years of exile.
They were really saying this:
Ezekiel 37:11 ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.
Just that it was said should have been confirmation enough for a modern interpretation—there was always hope during the 70 years of exile in Babylon because Jeremiah had already told the people what would happen.
A restored nation
God had a plan that included a restored nation of Israel:
Ezekiel 37:12-13 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord.
Well, that has happened: both when the exiles returned from Babylon and later, when Israel was restored as a modern nation (in 1948).
A reunified Israel with 12 tribes
But we’re still waiting to see the fulfillment of this next part—the overt reunification of the 12 tribes of Israel; but maybe it has happened, and we would need much better DNA testing than we have to know it. There certainly is one nation and leader, even if the nation’s boundaries don’t yet extend to those prophesied by Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 37:21-22I will gather the people of Israel from among the nations. I will bring them home to their own land from the places where they have been scattered. I will unify them into one nation on the mountains of Israel. One king will rule them all; no longer will they be divided into two nations or into two kingdoms.
The kingdom and a temple
These words are very much in the process of being realised, with Jesus already the shepherd, and the Temple already here. The reference to David and one shepherd indicates that this was not about the post-exile:
Ezekiel 37:24-28My servant David will be their king, and they will have only one shepherd. They will obey my regulations and be careful to keep my decrees. … And I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give them their land and increase their numbers, and I will put my Temple among them forever. I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And when my Temple is among them forever, the nations will know that I am the Lord, who makes Israel holy.”
So what is this Temple? It’s a controversial ting to say, but it’s probably not a physical replacement for the one Jesus said would be torn down (although that could happen too). It’s probably the one He rebuilt in three days, as part of the kingdom of God.
Indeed, when the Pharisees asked Jesus about this kingdom, Jesus’ reply was:
Luke 17:20-22 The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.
It’s the Kingdom of God that is not of this world. It’s in our hearts. And according to Paul:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.