Question: Augustine used Ezekiel:44:2 as “proof” that Joseph and Mary did not consummate their marriage: “This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it. Because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it” (Ezk 44:2). He interpreted the “closed gate” through which passed the “prince” in Ezekiel:44:2 as a “type” of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Mary is the closed city, and the prince miraculously passed through the closed gate.
Augustine’s “explanation” went on: “What means this closed gate in the house of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that ‘no man shall pass through it,’ save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this: ‘The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it,’ except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of Angels shall be born of her? And what means this – ‘It shall be shut for evermore,’ but that Mary is a Virgin before His birth, a Virgin in His birth, and a Virgin after His birth.”
Response: Augustine’s reduction of the Bible by spiritualizing it has generated all sorts of evil, as has been pointed out in other places [See https://goo.gl/sX8E7f; https://goo.gl/coEYSc]. Proper exegesis of the passage by “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy:2:15) could never honestly allow this Scripture to support the idea of a perpetual virginity for Mary. Only the limited imagination of man as he is influenced by Satan would dare to place unholy hands upon a holy text in such a manner. Matthew:1:25 states plainly that Joseph “knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son...” (emphasis added). Yes, they consummated their marriage, and Mary and Joseph had children (Matthew:13:55-56; Mark:6:3).
What do these verses mean? If one reads the full context of Ezekiel 44, not only does it not support Augustine’s spiritualization of the passage, but it also roughly handles Augustine’s replacement theology, or the false idea that the Lord has finished His dealings with physical Israel. When the Lord Jesus returns to the earth, He specifically does so at Jerusalem, fulfilling the promise to physical Israel that “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew:23:39). In Ezekiel:44:2, Scripture clearly says, “Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.” At His triumphal entry (Matthew:21:1-5) the Lord Jesus came via the Mount of Olives and entered the city by the Eastern Gate. That hardly parallels or suggests a human birth.
History reveals that the East Gate was closed by the Muslims in 810, but it was reopened in 1102 by the Crusaders for the short time they controlled the land. It was Ottoman leader Saladin who had it walled up again after taking Jerusalem back in 1187. The Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent kept the East Gate walled up when he rebuilt the city walls. It has remained sealed since 1541. It has been suggested that Suleiman may have taken this decision purely for defensive reasons. In any case, it has remained that way until today.
So, the gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened. We see the fulfillment of that today. Who hasn’t seen a picture of the blocked up East Gate entrance of Jerusalem, before which the Muslims have placed a cemetery? Muslims learned that Jewish rabbis spoke of the Messiah as a great military leader sent by God from the East. The Messiah would enter the Eastern Gate and liberate the city from foreign occupation. The Muslims sealed the gate and put a Muslim cemetery in front of it believing that such a holy man as the Messiah would not defile himself by walking through a Muslim cemetery, little knowing that they were fulfilling prophecy by doing this! Though the cemetery was placed there to make the ground unclean for the Lord to tread upon, Ezekiel:44:3 tells us, “It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same.”
Acts:1:9-12 states, “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.”
Zechariah:14:3-4 prophesies of the Lord’s return to the earth: “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east....” Ezekiel:43:2,4 tells us, “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.... And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.” The Holy Spirit, which departed from the temple in Ezekiel 8-11, will return as the glory of the “Son of Man,” whose voice is, “...as the sound of many waters” (Revelation:1:13-15). The Mount of Olives faces the Eastern Gate, which will be opened by the Lord at His coming regardless of what man may plan or spiritualize concerning the plain meaning of Scripture (emphasis added).