Ready to Vanish

Well after Christ’s resurrection, as the Apostle Paul penned Hebrews (circa 67 CE), God’s temple in Jerusalem, the earthly picture of His heavenly temple with its ceremonial ordinances and sacrificial system, was as functional as ever. (He 8:4-5)

Petra, Jordan

Yet Paul said God’s old covenant with Israel, built around this temple and its priestly activity, was decaying, growing old, and “ready to vanish away.” (He 8:13) Shortly afterward (circa 70 CE), Rome destroyed God’s earthly temple, halting the entire sacrificial system and Israel’s ability to keep this old covenant.

But this wasn’t the first time. Previously, in 586 BCE, Babylon destroyed the temple, similarly disabling the sacrificial system and Israel’s ability to keep God’s covenant. This first vanishing of the covenant lasted for 70 years while Israel was in exile, but it didn’t make either the covenant or the sacrificial system obsolete. Why then would anyone think the second instance did? The true temple in heaven, after which the earthly counterpart was modeled (He 9:24), has never missed a beat. (Re 11:19)

One reason might be that, when left to ourselves, we’re innately disposed to hate God and His law (Ro 8:7), jumping at any excuse to dismiss His way as irrelevant or obsolete. (2Ti 4:3)

The cross of Christ didn’t displace either the temple or its sacrificial system; animal sacrifices have always been God’s way of pointing us to the cross, helping us understand the nature of Christ’s atoning work. (Jn 1:29)

Without this tangible expression of propitiation (1Jn 2:2), enabling us to relate intimately and practically with the concept of atonement, most of us are hindered in our ability our grasp the nature and significance of the gospel; many in Christianity remain alienated from God (Mt 7:21-23), worshiping another Jesus and preaching another gospel(Ga 1:6-7)

Yet even with the temple and sacrificial system in place, Israel missed God’s intent so completely, corrupting and abusing its design so thoroughly (Ro 10:3), that God stepped around them to work His plan for world evangelism another way. (Ro_11:15)

Meanwhile, YHWH’s Heavenly temple still stands, eternally relevant.(Re 16:17) Its earthly counterpart will eventually be fully restored (Re 11:1-2) — there’s nothing in it inconsistent with the gospel.

Torah is holy, just and good (Ro 7:12); it’s God’s moral standard, defining sin and righteousness (1Jn 3:4) so long as Heaven and Earth remain. (Mt 5:18)

God’s temple, His kingdom, and all His laws are amazingly beautiful (Ps 27:4); we do well to seek God in them, keeping His commandments, enjoying them as He intended (Ps 119:111), longing after them (Ps 119:40), and looking forward to their glorious revelation to all Mankind. (Mi 4:2)

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2 thoughts on “Ready to Vanish”

  1. Tim,

    A few thoughts:

    One: I really really liked your following paragraph. True to the core! I especially noted the part about humanity jumping at any so called excuse to dismiss His ways……

    One reason might be that, when left to ourselves, we’re innately disposed to hate God and His law (Ro 8:7), jumping at any excuse to dismiss His way as irrelevant or obsolete. (2Ti 4:3)

    Your next paragraph I could use more explanation on. Are you saying we should continue to sacrifice animals in the temple even if we believe IN Messiah Yeshua. I know your not, but you might clarify a bit.

    The cross of Christ didn’t displace either the temple or its sacrificial system; animal sacrifices have always been God’s way of pointing us to the cross, helping us understand the nature of Christ’s atoning work. (Jn_1:29)

    stephen

  2. Hi Stephen,

    Good question.

    Yes, I actually am saying that we should continue to participate in the sacrificial system when it becomes available again, as it certainly will (Re 11:1-2). Why would God resurrect the temple and the sacrificial system if it isn’t glorifying to Him for us to participate in it? I don’t see anything inconsistent with doing this

    It is clear to me that both Paul and the 12 Apostles continued to participate in the sacrificial system after the death of Christ: they didn’t indicate that they perceived any inconsistency here. Why would they?

    They understood that the sacrificial system, in itself, has never actually saved anyone, or made anyone righteous: it has always pointed us to the sacrifice of Christ, encouraging us to trust in Him, and it always will; our vantage point in time is thus irrelevant.

    Before the cross, animal sacrifices pointed us toward what Christ would do to atone for our sin as if this act were already complete (Jn 1:29), and after the cross these same sacrifices point us back to what Christ has already done as if He is continuing to do it. (Ga 3:1) If this seems contradictory, I expect this is because we’re perceiving the sacrifice of Christ as merely an historical act, when it is in fact a timeless one: it exists outside of time and space. The sacrifices are, I believe, a physical representation of this timeless spiritual reality; they are then relevant so long as there’s a need to illustrate the gospel.

    For scripture, consider the verb tenses in Hebrews 8:4-5: “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” These verbs are in the present tense, post-resurrection (in this present Age of Grace, if you will), describing the current function of the Levitical priesthood.

    So, yes, I reject the idea that the animal sacrifices were a temporary substitute for atonement, to be done away when Christ came. These sacrifices never did take away sin, and they never will; that isn’t their purpose. They are to help us understand and receive the atonement Christ provides, and I think the loss of them in our present-day experience, due to the destruction of the temple, is a big one, leaving a gap we must struggle to overcome as we wrestle out what it means to “receive Christ”, which is to “believe on His name.” (Jn 1:12) Apart from experience with animal sacrifice, offered up in our place on an altar before God to illustrate the redemptive work, we’re disconnected from this propitiatory concept, and I think most of us miss it entirely.

    Would love to know if you agree or disagree, and what your reasoning might be either way.

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