In Ezekiel 37, the prophet describes a vision where he is set down in the middle of a valley filled with very dry bones. The Lord GOD (Adonai Yahweh) commands Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones and to call the bones to come together and then to come to life. As the prophet speaks to the bones, there is a great rattling as the bones begin to come together and then sinews and flesh and skin grow onto the bones. It is one of the most dramatic visions in the Scriptures. So there they are, a vast number of bodies lying in the valley where there were only bones before. There is, however, still a problem. At this point “there was no breath in them.”
Then the Lord GOD tells Ezekiel “to prophesy to the breath (ru-akh)” so that “these slain . . . come to life.” When Ezekiel prophesies, “the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezekiel 37:10).” So at the end of this startling vision, which is a foreshadowing of the final resurrection, we see an exceedingly great army full of the breath of God and ready for battle. Here is an army both frightening and impressive, ready to wage war and to do battle.
Now what is lacking? What does this mighty army of battle-ready warriors need? An exceedingly great army must have an exceedingly great commander to lead them into battle. This army needs a valiant general to take them into the fray. But where can this vast army of fearless warriors who have been raised up for the purpose of waging this great battle find a commander who is worthy? Where is the conqueror who can lead the army of God?
O, but the answer is obvious, for we have seen Him throughout the Scriptures. There is only one who is worthy to lead the army of God, only one Name that is above all names and only one Warrior who cannot be defeated. In Exodus 12 He is the LORD who Himself executes judgments on the Egyptians. After crushing Egypt and humiliating all the false gods of the land by sending plague after plague, He finally smites the first-born of every house that is not covered by the blood of the Passover lamb. In Exodus 15:3 we read that “the LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His name” and this same warrior has destroyed the Egyptian army and has left them dead on the seashore. Yes, you know who this warrior is. In Joshua 5, as the nation of Israel prepares for the battle of Jericho, Joshua encounters “a man standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand.” This is the captain of the host of the LORD and Joshua falls on his face in worship and in fear before him. This “man,” this captain of the host of the LORD, is none other than the angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, the conquering warrior of God. This captain is the one who will command the great army of God. O yes, we know who He is! In 2 Kings 18-19 the Assyrians bring their huge army into Judah and Sennacherib their king sends his ambassadors to Jerusalem to taunt King Hezekiah and to reproach Hezekiah’s God. The fact is that Hezekiah is completely outmatched by the Assyrian horde, so the king cries out to the LORD, the God of Israel, to help him and to vindicate His great name against the reproaches of Sennacherib and his ambassadors. Through the prophet Isaiah the LORD vows to destroy the Assyrians and to send Sennacherib back where he belongs. That night the LORD sends His mighty commander, the angel of the LORD, to execute His judgment and the angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, kills 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. This is the conqueror who will lead the army of God to ultimate victory. This is Jesus Christ, the great commander of the host of the LORD.
Where else do we see our dread Champion (Jeremiah 20:11) waging war and conquering His enemies? Jesus’ fiercest battle and His most glorious victory occurred on Calvary’s tree, when our chosen Champion took on all the forces of sin and hell and death and forever vanquished the terror of the grave and the wrath of God against sin for those who trust in Jesus (Hebrews 2:14-15; John 19:30; Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8). Jesus is the fearless warrior who overwhelms all His enemies and vanquishes all His foes and leads His reborn warriors into the gospel fight.
When will we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the visibly victorious conqueror? The eschatological passages of the New Testament clearly declare that when Jesus returns at the end of the age He will come as an awesome judge, “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 1:8).”The glorified Jesus “will slay (the man of lawlessness) with the breath of His mouth and bring (him) to an end by the appearance of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).” Jesus Christ is God’s chosen Champion! The final picture of the conquering Jesus is given for us in the magnificent passage in Revelation 19, starting in verse 11. The one who is called Faithful and True comes on a white horse and “in righteousness He judges and wages war.” Here is the great commander, the conquering Champion coming for the final battle. Notice also that “the armies which are in heaven (remember Ezekiel 37:10), clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses (19:14).” This is the fulfillment of the resurrection of the “exceedingly great army” of Ezekiel 37, when this great army roars into the final battle following their glorious Conqueror, a battle in which the Lord Jesus strikes down the nations and rules them with a rod of iron (the LORD’s anointed of Psalm 2), and in judgment “treads out the wine press of the fierce wrath of God the Almighty (19:16).”
Thus the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 is a vision of the final resurrection when all the redeemed of the Lord Jesus Christ will be raised to glory, an exceedingly great army, and will follow their great Champion, Jesus Himself, into the final battle and usher in the kingdom of God with men. Jesus is the only One who is worthy to lead this army and He will be the conquering Commander.