Law of Moses

Challenging Covenantalism: The Future Of Israel According To Daniel.

We have been considering the false claims of Covenant Theology. The assertions are summarized as follows:

  • God made a covenant with Adam.
  • God made a covenant with the elect.
  • God made a covenant with Christ.
  • Israel, as a national entity, is subsumed by the church, the true Israel.
  • All of history will be consummated into the eternal state apart from a Millennial Reign of Christ.
  • All of Scripture, but primarily the prophetic portions, are subject to a “type and shadows” hermeneutic.
  • The actual covenants of Scripture, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New mostly, are simply expressions of the asserted Covenant of Redemption and, therefore, are of lesser importance.

These assertions, as demonstrated beforehand, are false. The assertions are based primarily upon a contrived philosophical belief system using passages of Scripture shaped the way they want. I am glad that Covenantalists support the dire need for sound hermeneutics. I just wish they would extend that to these issues.

At this point, I want to take a bit of a break and work on a subject that will be helpful to our discussion concerning the future of Israel. It also ties the covenants discussed beforehand together. Further, this discussion will demonstrate for us a hermeneutic that is sound and supported by the Lord Himself.

We are going to discuss Daniel’s Seventy Weeks’ vision as interpreted to him by Gabriel. The passage is found in Daniel 9:24-27. This little section is so very intense in its information and intense in its implications, that it deserves treatment in this discussion. It concerns God’s timetable for Daniel’s “people and [his] holy city” (Daniel 9:24).

Daniel 9:24-27

24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.

25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Daniel is in Babylon. He has been there since the first deportation to Babylon in 605 B.C (Daniel 1:1). Daniel was approximately 15 years old when deported. He would go on to become learned in the literature and language of the Chaldeans (1:4) along with his friends. After three years of education in the Babylonian culture, they would become personal servants to the King Nebuchadnezzar (1:5).

In the first year of King Darius’ reign, Daniel had the Torah and other portions of the OT writings before him, including the writings of Jeremiah, who prophesied just prior to and during the initial years of the siege of Babylon (see Jeremiah 25:3; 32:24ff) against Jerusalem. Daniel, being broken over the condition of his people and his city, goes back to the books of the Law in order to understand what will happen with Israel. He notices in Jeremiah that the judgment of God is for seventy years-one year for each Sabbath-year they refused to follow (Daniel 9:2; cf. Jeremiah 25:11,12; 34:12-17). Calculating from the original siege 70 years, he realizes that framework of time is coming to an end. The year of Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege was 605 B.C. Seventy years from that arrives at 535 B.C. Daniel wrote this prophecy in 539 B.C. (see 9:1-2). Thus, he was nearing the end of the seventy years’ exile to Babylon. It is also historically accepted that Daniel died just before the return of the exiles. Thus, he prays to God concerning his sins and those of his people Israel. They have sinned, committed iniquity, and acted wickedly (9:5). He asks that God forgive them and consider their desolate condition (9:16-18). For His name’s sake, Daniel begs that God take action for the restoration of His people and His city (9:19). In the midst of his prayer, Gabriel attends to Daniel and teaches him what God will do with His people and His holy city.

This prophecy gives us the comprehensive picture of the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. It is vast, detailed, and accurate. Gabriel says, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city.” Remember, Daniel’s prayer was concerning God’s people and holy city (9:19). So, in response to that concern of this saint, God gives him understanding about the decree. This decree is about Israel, the nation, and the holy city, Jerusalem. It is not related to the Gentiles specifically. However, as we determined with the covenants, what happens to the nation of Israel alters the entire planet.

One note here concerning hermeneutics of this passage. Just like Daniel could read the prophet Jeremiah and understand “seventy years” as “seventy years” and not seventy ages of time or some indeterminable amount of time, so we too must see these numbers in Daniel 9:24-27 as exactly what the natural reading of the text demands-literal, plain, precise, non-figurative language.

Israel is in exile because they refused to keep the Sabbath Year. It was a part of the Law that Israel would take a year off from farming every seven years in order to refresh the land (Leviticus 25:1-8). Israel refused to do this at least 70 times during their 860 years of existence (Exodus from Egypt, 1446 B.C. to Babylonian captivity/destruction of Jerusalem, 586 B.C.). Because of this, Israel would be in exile to make up for the 70 years that they worked instead of resting from their labors (Jeremiah 34:12-17). The issue was the Sabbath-Year rest. That same motif is used in verses 24-27 as well. Before the exile, the cycle of Sabbath-Year rest was used for calculating their punishment. Post-exile, the Sabbath-Year rest would also be used to communicate their future. So, seventy “sevens,” or “periods of sevens” is in view here. Specifically, seventy periods of seven-year cycles corroborating with the Sabbath-Year rest of the Law. Further, the use of the Sabbath-Year rest as a judgment was spoken of in the Law of Moses. Moses taught in Leviticus 26:34-35

34 ‘Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.

35 ‘All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.

 

Thus, it is completely natural to consider these as seventy cycles of seven-year periods of the Sabbath-Year instruction.

Further, at the end of the 490 years, six things will happen:

  • “To finish the transgression”: to complete the ordained transgressions of Israel.
  • “To make and end of sin”: to stop sin.
  • “To make atonement for iniquity”: to ultimately atone for Israel’s iniquity.
  • “To bring in everlasting righteousness”: to introduce the righteousness of eternity.
  • “To seal up vision and prophecy”: to end these components of God’s plan.
  • “To anoint the most holy place”: to install the most holy permanently.

Thus, the seventy sevens equaling 490 years will exist from the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. At the end of such time, all six of these magnificent actions will be introduced. Obviously, that has not happened yet. We are still waiting.

Next time, we will discover more specifics about the starting point of this 490 year period and what will happen during.

The Sufficiency and Finality of Jesus Christ.

If I had to identify one of the more deadly, and yet more popular, confusions in the church today, it would have to be the issue of what to do with the Mosaic Law. There are some who express the need to continue using the Law for everyday structure of their lives, or for use in the government, or their church. They would say that the Mosaic Law is a binding document and would generate a righteousness that is sorely needed in those arenas. Then there are others who have turned to Jesus Christ and therefore repudiate not only the Mosaic Law, but even Christ’s Law. In fact, they would rather have no commandment ruling over them whatsoever. They are free in Christ, and they plan to live that way. Those who believe that makes you wonder in which Christ did they believe?

However, both of these perspectives are erroneous and deadly. The one is an affront to Jesus Christ’s sufficiency, and the other to Jesus Christ’s authority. Either one will misrepresent Christ, destroy true holiness and godliness, and grieve the Holy Spirit.

What, then, would be the right way to perceive the use of the Law? What is that relationship between Jesus Christ and the Mosaic Law? Are there any clear-cut Scripture passages that teach us these things? Yes, there are.

Paul has a very clear teaching in the letter he wrote to the Colossians that will serve as a comprehensive passage for us. Paul wrote in chapter 2 verses 16-17,

         16      Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—
         17      things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

This particular verse is comprehensive and powerful in what it states. Let’s remember of whom we are speaking. This is the Apostle Paul. His credentials were impressive, at least before man. He was a circumcised Jew at eight days old, according to Mosaic Law, of the nation of Israel, of the Tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Ph.D.-level Pharisee. He despised the church and persecuted it with vehemence. This was Paul. If anyone understood the Law and its demands, he would have. If anyone would have been deluded by “Pharisaism”, it would have been Paul (and he was). He knew and strictly followed the Mosaic Law. When he became a disciple, he then became a scribe who, like the head of the household, brings out of his treasure things new and old (see Matthew 13:52). Thus, when Paul speaks of the food, drink, festivals, or Sabbath observances, he is very capable of comprehending the import of those things. Yet, he still says, “They are shadows.”

What does “shadow” mean? Simply speaking, it is the image cast by an object. So, if the sun is to my front, behind me is my shadow. But is that the sense in Colossians 2:16-17? Some would argue that this shadow/substance, or type/antitype, are merely terms used to accommodate us literarily. That is, in their minds they do not see that the shadow/substance terminology goes beyond a nice way for the writer to refer to something. They do not see it as actual. But for Paul to call the festivals and new moons shadows is no literary figure.

In order to understand this we need to go to Exodus 25:8-9. This is the origination of the truth about shadow/substance. Understanding this clears the air, I think.

Both Moses and David were given instructions from the Lord concerning the construction of the Tabernacle and Temple respectively (Exodus 25:9; 1 Chronicles 28:19). Moses is given these instructions in our passage and it appears that Moses, when given these instructions, understood that he was not building the real Tabernacle. The verse states,

         8      “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.
         9      “According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

The key word here is “pattern.” This term is used Deuteronomy 4:16 to refer to an image of anything for the purpose of worship and veneration. It is also used in 2 Kings 16:10 to refer to a model of a idolatrous altar, but not the actual altar. It is used in Ezekiel 8:10 to refer to pictures carved on a wall. Finally, and more significantly, it is used in 1 Chronicles 28:19 in reference to the “pattern” of the Temple that David received from God. It was something of an architectural drawing of the Temple which God gave to David to give to Solomon to build. None of these instances indicate literary convenience. In other words, it is not simply for convenient literary accommodation that the writers refer to a pattern, or image, or plan. These things actually referred to something with mass; something real.

What is my point? My point is this. Moses was given the pattern of the Tabernacle and he understood, because his was only a pattern, that he was not actually building the actual Tabernacle of God. “There must, (I am sure he concluded), be an actual Tabernacle after which design I am building.” Thus, when God said, “I am showing you a pattern”, Moses comprehended that his was only that, a pattern. It was not the true Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-2; 9:11,12; 10:1). Therefore, all the regulations of divine worship accompanying the Tabernacle were also not the true regulations. That is, they were simply patterns as well. Therefore, the sacrifices, the cleansing, the offerings, the ritual, are all “shadows” cast by the true “substance” in heaven. This is how to conclude then, also, that the regulations of the Mosaic Law are also “shadows” in that they cannot commend us to God because the true Tabernacle has come (and is coming, to sound Johannine). The strictures of Mosaic economy serve their purpose, the revelation of sin. But, they cannot make us righteous. The Law of Moses can demonstrate to us the need for repentance and salvation, but it cannot give us eternal life. They are only shadows. They do not contradict the true Tabernacle and the true Law, the Law of Christ. However, they are not efficacious, that is they cannot do anything for us in actuality. It may be useful for regulating life in the church, as is demonstrated by Paul’s consistent use of the Mosaic regulations in church life (i.e. 1 Corinthians 5:13; 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18; not to mention the myriad of allusions to the teachings of Mosaic Law as in the use of Numbers 30 in 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 and 1 Timothy 5:11-12). But they cannot actually make us members of Christ.

So, when Paul says that the food, drink, festivals, new moon, and Sabbath day regulations are mere shadows, he means that according to Exodus 25:9, those regulations do not actually reach into heaven, where the true Tabernacle is. But, Christ did. His death, resurrection, His life, His priestly work, His prayers, etc. all are performed efficaciously and He has entered into the true Tabernacle and has sat down, not at the doorway of the Tabernacle, but at the actual right hand of the Father. Further, in fact, God the Father and the Lamb are the Temple (Revelation 21:22)!

So, please, don’t let anyone steal your devotion and love for the Lord Jesus Christ by putting you back in the shadows. Worship in the light, as He is in the light.

Preaching Christ From the Old Testament-Jesus And The Law of Moses-pt.5

There are other questions as well that need to be addressed when speaking about the Sabbath and the Christian. Because the Sabbath represents such a foundational and substantial part of Moses’ Law, what you do with the Sabbath regulation, built upon the actual seventh day of creation week, determines how you handle the rest of the Law. It is no easy task to wade through all the issues that are raised when speaking of the Sabbath. Some of the questions that come to mind are: “What about the rest of the Law. Should we obey that too? If we ignore the Sabbath, which God sanctified, do we also ignore the rest of the creation work, e.g. the creation of the man and woman and their respective responsibilities? Did God truly supersede the day that He sanctified? As Christians, are we to ignore the Law completely?”

 

These are just some of the questions that are raised. I would like to attempt a solution to these questions based upon a variety of Scriptures that deal with this subject. It will center around the Christian and the Law of Moses and, I think, will directly relate to this issue of the Sabbath. By the way, when I speak of “The Sabbath”, I am strictly speaking of that seventh day of creation, our Saturday, and never Sunday, the so-called ‘Christian Sabbath.’ It is clear from Scripture that the Lord’s Day, Sunday, has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath for the Christian. Most of the confessions born out of the Reformation (e.g. The Westminster Confession, chapter 21, VII, VIII) erroneously made that assertion and they are incorrect. Therefore, the Sabbath is strictly Saturday.

 

As we have seen before, the Law, and the Prophets, and the writings all prophesied that the Messiah was coming. Jesus, speaking with the two on the road to the town of Emmaus, said to them, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. ” (Luke 24:27). Later in the chapter He said, “Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44–45). Jesus affirmed that the OT spoke of Him often and taught through those passages with these disciples. When Jesus did come, one of the first recorded sermons of His, one of the most grandiose, is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5-7. In it, Jesus exposits the Law in relation to Himself, as well as conduct in His kingdom. In fact, this reality of the Law is explained in the Sermon as the foundation of all that is said. Thus, you could say, this Sermon is Jesus’ explanation of the Law of Moses in light of His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ ‘law’ is superior to Moses’, yet does not contradict it, but rather accomplishes the intent, or requirement of that law.

 

When Jesus begins this exposition, He begins it by assuring His listeners that He did not come to “destroy” the Law, but to fulfill it. In Matthew 5:17, the Lord Jesus gives us His teaching on the Law and it relationship to Himself, His teaching and His entire ministry. He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. ”  What Jesus said here is paramount. It is a consummate and far-reaching statement that requires some attention. It may appear to the disciples, the twelve, that because of the impossibly high demands of Jesus’ teaching (i.e. Matthew 5:48), that Jesus was trying to remove the Law of Moses and make it useless, as if it never had meaning. In other words, they might think that Jesus was trying to contradict that law and thus completely destroy it. Why would they think that? Because of how far the Jews had gone in completely twisting and rearranging and reinterpreting Moses’ Law to their own gain. They had taken the Law and made it a tool of their own religion, and not, as it was, the Word from the Lord.

 

However, that is not the case. Jesus did not come to remove the Law as if He were contradicting it. He came to install the Law and to complete its requirements.

 

This reality is seen clearly in the writer to the Hebrews. This writer understood these realities and labored long in explaining them to the hard-to-reach Jews in his writing audience. He makes a statement in Hebrews chapter 7 verse 12 that condenses this reality into one statement. He writes: “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. ” If we just pluck this verse out of the letter, it seems to be saying that there was a change in the priesthood of some sort and that change necessitated a change in the law as well. But, with the consideration of the context, we see that the writer is here speaking of the similarities of the high priest of God, Melchizedek, with that of Jesus Christ. In Genesis 14:17-24, we are introduced to this man, Melchizedek. In that passage, there are a couple components that are critical to understand in order to grasp what the Hebrews writer is saying. First, Melchizedek was a “priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). This is substantial. If he was a priest, who installed him? What was the origin of his priestly order? What family line was he from? Aaron came from Levi (Exodus 2:1; 6:20). Thus, the priestly line which was ordained through the Law of Moses came through the tribe of Levi (Numbers 18:1-7). But, we have no record in Holy Scripture of this man Melchizedek’s family line, or prodigy. So, who was he? We don’t know…and that is the point that God is making. Hebrews 7:3 indicates that the ‘mysterious’ reality surrounding this man is commensurate with the reality of Jesus Christ-he remains a priest forever. He was a priest in Genesis 14. There is no record of his beginning nor ending of his priestly service. Thus, his priestly order was different in quality from the Levitical priesthood through Aaron. The Law appointed the priest from Aaron on down. Further, that priesthood also had multiple priests, and not just one, because each generation saw the death of the previous priest (Hebrews 7:23). However, Christ, being similar in quality to the Melchizedekian priesthood, holds his priesthood for eternity (Hebrews 7:24).

 

Now, in this discussion is a very important concept. The issue in the priesthood is the fact that the priest existed to bring people to God and God to the people. That is, the priest was a kind of mediator who would approach God on God’s terms to perform a religious function, whether atonement, prayers or offerings. He would also represent God to the people in that he would bring to the people God’s Word and judgment on a matter. Further, it would seem incongruous of God to recognize multiple priesthoods. Even Melchizedek was before the Law. Therefore, since we are speaking of that priesthood which God recognizes and has ordained, it must be concluded that there is only one choice between the Levitical priesthood ordained through the Law of Moses, and the Melchizedek-like priesthood of Jesus Christ ordained through God’s own promise or ‘oath’ (Hebrews 7:20-21;cf. Psalm 110). The obvious point of Hebrews is that the ministry of Jesus is superior to the ministry of Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), and Aaron and the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:26-28).

 

Now, as it relates to the issues that we are talking about, i.e. the Sabbath, we find in this whole discussion the very important concept that when the approach to God has been changed, then the Law itself has been changed, since the priest in the likeness of Melchizedek was not appointed to that position by the Law. The writer states this in Hebrews 7:12. There he writes that the priesthood did in fact change and Jesus Christ has now assumed the role of a priest according to the order of Melchizedek, thus making the Aaronic priesthood obsolete, or better, completed. Remember, we are not talking about philosophical notions here. We are trying to understand how people are brought to God now in this economy on God’s own terms. He has installed His High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; Romans 9:27). And what was the result? What happened to the entire Law of Moses? It was set aside. What does this mean? Hebrews 7:18 says that the previous commandment was “set aside.” That word means that the previous commandment was made invalid in light of the present administration. That is, the present administration in Christ, i.e. His mysterious kingdom (Matthew 13; esp. 10-17), which is defined as that age of salvation (Mark 10:45), only allows for one priesthood and with it, one Law and the Law of Moses is inadequate for this kingdom. Therefore, the Law of Moses has been set aside because of its “weakness and uselessness.” Why? Because “the Law made nothing perfect” (Hebrews 7:19), but on the other hand, Christ is able to offer eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). This the Law could never do, although the problem was not with the Law, but with us (Romans 8:1-4).

 

The religious observance of the Sabbath was a part of Moses’ Law. It was observed encyclically, that is it kept coming around every week, month years and succeeding years. It was more than a simple seventh-day observance. It was the bookends to festivals (Leviticus 23:4-8). A kind of Sabbath was recognized during the seventh month (Leviticus 23:27, 32). It was also recognized for an entire year every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-4), and every 50th year (Leviticus 25:8-22). Thus, the benefit of a Sabbath, or rest from labor, was regulated by the Mosaic Law as a regular observance to Israel. However, now in Christ, that regulation is annulled, rendered ineffective. In Christ’s kingdom, every day is alike (Romans 14:5-6, 14-17). In His kingdom, His Law does not contradict God’s Law given through Moses, it rather fulfills it and accomplishes it and we, in Christ and by the provision of the Holy Spirit, can live out the intent and requirements of the Law. That is, we are able now, by the Spirit of God, to accomplish the intention of the Law of God given to Moses, which is summed up in this: “And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:37–39). Jesus says, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets ” (Matthew 22:40). That is, the Law of Moses is the regulation of love for the nation in relation to God and to man. However, it was unable to accomplish that goal of love because of the sinfulness of the people to whom it was given. However, that was the point. The Law is a proper tool to show people God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness (1 Timothy 1:8-10; cf. Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 3:19-22).

 

As was stated before, Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and not to abolish it. He came to complete it and thus remove it since it was completed by somebody. However, He did not contradict it or treat it with contempt. He upheld it and obeyed it Himself. However, we, as Christians, find ourselves not in Moses’ administration, but in Christ’s. Christ is superior to Moses and Christ’s commandments superior to Moses’, although given by God (indeed, Christ Himself gave Moses the Law that day on the mountain!). But now, Christ has satisfied the sacrifice that propitiated God (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:10). Thus, there are no more religious observances for we who are in Christ. God accepted, once for all time, Christ’s sacrifice and thus accomplish the promise of death for sinners (Genesis 2:16-17; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:12; 10:10). God now only recognizes the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as well as His current priestly ministry of bringing the concerns and needs of men to God. God is not approached by the Law. God is only approached through Jesus Christ, His beloved Son (Hebrews 7:25).

 

One final word on this matter. For those who still have it in their hearts to observe the Sabbath out of love for Christ and cannot quite understand all that is written above, we who are strong should not condemn those dear saints. Rather, we are to bear with them in love and build them up in hopes that they come to full realization of the accomplishment of Christ (Romans 14).

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