The Outer Gate of Righteousness – Our Way to Full Salvation
God makes it clear to us in His Word how important righteousness is to Him. He is righteous and cannot tolerate unrighteousness. This is shown to us by the outer gate of the temple, which is described in the book of Ezekiel.
A Gate of Righteousness
Isaiah 26:9-10 shows us how God deals with lawless and godless people:
“With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.”Isaiah 26:9-10
The Lord God will bring His righteousness to this earth, regardless of whether or not man accepts it. God’s judgment is righteous; He will measure every person according to His divine standard. There is also a standard that we, as believers, must fulfill. Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 5:20:
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:20
The Lord God has set a high standard. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves: do we meet this standard? If we read Psalm 118:19-20, for example, it becomes clear that not everyone can enter the temple of God through the gate. Only the righteous can enter.
“Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter.“Psalm 118:19-20
These verses also show us that the temple is filled with the praise of God. The farther we enter into the temple, the more we will praise Him!
Two Aspects of Our Salvation
The threshold of the gate is 6 cubits deep, with 44 remaining cubits to be passed through in order to enter into the inside of the temple. This is an important picture. The first outer threshold (6 cubits) signifies our initial salvation; everyone who believes in Jesus Christ and thoroughly repents of his sins passes through this threshold. So, everyone who receives the Lord Jesus and accepts Christ’s work of salvation stands at the threshold of the gate.
In this context, it is interesting to note that the threshold is 6 cubits deep. The number 6 is the number of man. When Jesus came to the earth, He fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law as a man, not as God. This is shown by the number 6: who was able to keep God’s commandments among the people at that time? No one, except Jesus Christ. Jesus opened this gate for us by fulfilling the law as a man. Through Him we have been made righteous.
So why are there still 44 cubits needed to enter the temple compound? The gate shows us that there are two aspects of salvation. The first aspect is our initial salvation, through which we receive Jesus into our lives and our sins are forgiven. However, this is only the beginning. Our Christian life consists mainly of what comes after this initial salvation. And this is shown by the remaining 44 cubits. We need a progressive salvation, that is, a deeper, more substantial transformation of our being. Do we already always do the will of God? Are we always obedient and always connected with God in prayer? Experience shows us that we still need salvation in many aspects of our lives. After being born again, we still carry many habitual and even hidden sins with us. Therefore, there are 44 more cubits needed to save us to the uttermost.
Paul also recognized this, which is why he writes in Philippians 2:12-13:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”Philippians 2:12-13
So we need to work out our own salvation. We cannot work out our initial salvation because that comes from God’s grace. However, as we progress in our Christian life, we definitely need to work out our own salvation. And, God will help us if we are willing and cooperate with Him. He will lead us through many trials that serve for our salvation. This can be seen in the gate’s guard-chambers: there are six guard-chambers, three on each side, meaning that as you pass through, you are examined from both sides. Passing through this gate thus describes a process that lasts our entire life. We do not only go through one trial, but it takes several trials for us to be truly saved to the uttermost. This process requires our cooperation with the Lord.
Paul speaks about this in Philippians 3:12-14:
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 3:12-14
This is a healthy attitude – constantly pressing toward the goal. May the Lord remind us all the time that we should always reach forward to those things which are ahead and leave everything else behind in order to reach the goal. We must press on in order to reach the end of this gate by the time our life comes to an end or by the time Jesus Christ comes again (if we are still alive at that time).
Two Thresholds on the Way through the Gate
There are two thresholds in the gate: an outer and an inner one. This is also shown in the following drawing of the outer gate.
Once we have passed through the outer threshold, there is still an inner one. Passing through the first threshold signifies our spirit being born again. The second threshold is needed for the salvation of our soul. Indeed, the ultimate goal of our faith is the salvation of our soul. 1 Peter 1:9 says:
“receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”1 Peter 1:9
The apostles saw the goal of our faith, namely, the inner threshold. This is where our focus should be: to let our soul be saved in our daily life by giving the Spirit room to work within us.
Resurrection from the Dead
We must go on continually in our Christian life and not let ourselves grow stagnant. What comes after the inner threshold? The porch, 8 cubits in depth. The number 8 represents resurrection, because Jesus rose from the dead on the eighth day, the first day of the week. Just as He also rose from the dead, this should also become our reality. Paul describes this in Philippians 3:10-11:
“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”Philippians 3:10-11
Paul had the desire to attain to the resurrection from the dead. He had the way from the outer gate (initial salvation) to the inner threshold and to the porch in view!
May we all reach the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls, and the resurrection from the dead, with the help of the Lord!