I’ve been reading through a document that was presented to me a week ago on “The Covenant and The Law“, and I’ve been scouring my Bible for truths concerning several points being made in it.
There were three points that were mentioned that the author seemed to think were “givens”: the Priesthood, Sacrificial Rituals & Circumcision are all no longer required. I used to freely spout that off as well, but the past few months I’ve been seriously reconsidering my longheld belief concerning this.
I admit I’m still stumped about Circumcision. I haven’t given up on it yet, but for the moment I’m okay with not having that completely figured out at this point. Regarding the other two, however, I dug deep into the Word this weekend to find out what it has to say about them, and it was very exciting.
WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
First, I start with the underlying premise that Jesus said,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means dissappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18 NIV)
The author of the document finished with these verses, expounding on the meaning of the word “fulfill”, but neglecting to speak on the meaning of “abolish”. His premise concerning this verse was since it was already determined that the three “givens” are no longer applicable, then Matt 5:17-18 “cannot mean what advocates of keeping the Old Covenant law claim it means“. Honestly, I was shocked by this line of reasoning.
Why wouldn’t we want to start with Jesus’ words and then determine the truth concerning controversial matters, rather than drawing a conclusion about controversial matters and making Jesus’ words fit in with our conclusions?
When I personally study Scripture and I have a thought about what something means concerning a matter, I go back and re-read through whole books that touch on that matter to see if my understanding gels or conflicts with it. This helps me to stay in line with the Word. I recognize I can still be off, but at least it keeps me in check from being way off.
Anyway, let’s just for a moment consider the possibility that Jesus meant what he said, when he said he didn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. What about the priesthood and the sacrificial rituals?
NO TEMPLE, NO PRIESTHOOD, NO SACRIFICES
Let me state the obvious. There are no acting priests offering sacrifices in the temple right now in Jerusalem. That’s because there’s no temple there. It was destroyed in 70 AD. However, this lapse in temple worship/ministry is not evidence that the Law concerning these matters is no longer valid or required. It’s just that there is no temple to carry out these requirements from the Law at this time.
Keep in mind there was no temple after Solomon’s temple was destroyed up until it was rebuilt in Ezra’s time, but that did not make the Law concerning temple worship/ministry null and void then either. Those requirements just couldn’t be carried out at that time as well.
Getting back to today. There is Scripture in both the Old & New Testament (Daniel 9:27 & Matthew 24:15-16) that prophesies there will be an end to daily sacrifices and on the wing of the temple the an abomination that causes desolation will be set up. This indicates there will be priests administering sacrifices in the end times. This further indicates to me that these requirements of the Law cannot be done away with yet.
[EDIT 1/16/16: There are some who believe the prophecy concerning an end to daily sacrifice was fulfilled completely when the second temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and that there is no future fulfillment of this to take place. I don’t have a firm stand on this as of yet. I imagine there were those who believed it was fulfilled completely when Solomon’s temple (the first one) was destroyed, but clearly a new temple was built and daily sacrifices commenced again. I suppose there is a possibility for yet another temple to be built, or at the very least an altar erected, and daily sacrifices to continue once again. So for now, I remain open-minded on this subject.]
TWO TEMPLES: IN HEAVEN and ON EARTH
In Hebrews 7-10 we hear about a priest named Melchizedek, and that Jesus is our High Priest “in the order of Melchizedek”. Well, who is that guy?
We don’t hear much about him except back in Genesis 14:18-20, Abraham was blessed by this Priest and presented a tithe to him. He is identified as the King of Salem or Jerusalem. Hmm. This was *before* the promised land became the land of “Israel”, *before* Jacob/Israel was even born, and *before* Abram became “Abraham”. Oh, I forgot to mention Melchizedek “brought out bread and wine”. Wow, where else have we heard about “bread and wine”? Pretty interesting, I must say. So where did this guy come from?
Fastforward a little bit to Psalm 110:4 where he’s mentioned again,
“The LORD (YHWH) has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'”
Oh, I get goosebumps reading this…read the whole Psalm.
It’s It appears to me to be about YHWH talking to our Messiah concerning the end of the age. How cool is that.
Anyway, getting back to Hebrews, the author talks about how Jesus is like Melchizedek. Then in Hebrews 8:1-5, we are told about TWO temples. And this sounded off alarms in my head and all of a sudden it became much clearer.
“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'”
Did you see that? Two tabernacles: one set up by the Lord and one set up by man…one in heaven and one on earth. Did you also notice the author said, “If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.”? The author is telling us that the priests are still offering “gifts” here on earth…even after Yeshua/Jesus ascended and sat down at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in heaven.
Can these two temples function simultaneously? We see that they did at the time Hebrews was written, so why not now?
The document on “The Covenant and The Law” cited Hebrews 7:12 as support for no longer having a priesthood and Hebrews 10:12 as support for no longer requiring sacrificial rituals. The first passage says,
“For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.”
The tense of this verse does not indicate this change of law has already occurred, but rather it simply states a change must be made. The second passage says,
“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
My question is, where did he offer this sacrifice: in heaven or on earth? (Hint: he was
crucified killed on a hill, not on the altar in the earthly temple.) But then, I also want to point out the full context of this verse by backing up a bit in the text.
The author is drawing a parallel between the sacrifices offered by the earthly priests (as prescribed by the Law of God), and our heavenly priest. We’re told in verse 1,
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming –”
(note this is referencing something still in the future)
“…For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”
Verses 3-4 state,
“But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Stop the presses! Those sacrifices prescribed by the law serve a particular purpose…it is not to take away sins, but rather to remind us of them. That purpose has never changed, so why would they end at this point?
Jump down to verse 11, continuing onto verse 12. It says,
“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
The author here is drawing a correlation between the repetitive action of the earthly priests (who were still performing these ritual tasks after Yeshua/Jesus offered his sacrifice) and the single action of our heavenly priest, Yeshua/Jesus. He is not saying, Yeshua’s sacrifice abolished the need for the priests here on earth to perform their duties. No, the need for the priests here on earth still exist…we still need an annual reminder of sins!
“…not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means dissappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
I encourage you to pull out your Bible and read Hebrews 7-10…if you have the time, go ahead and start in chapter 1. But read it with the idea that (1) there are two temples, one here on earth and one in heaven, and (2) Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the Law.
I propose Yeshua/Jesus is fulfilling it both here on earth, and in heaven. When it’s all accomplished, then I’ll consider the possibility that “the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen” may disappear. Until then, praise YHWH, for I delight in His law and meditate on it day and night.
NOTE: Please understand this post describes my understanding of the Scripture at the time of this writing. If you see there is something I am missing in my understanding, please feel free to share it with me in love. I will be glad to hear other perspectives as I seek to remain teachable.