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The Old Testament God != The New Testament God?
August 29, 2007 5:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm working my way through the Bible. At the moment, I'm towards the end of Numbers. The past few books have been very heavy with detailed instructions on the various blood rituals God requires of his people — which animals to sacrifice, what manner to do it in, and lots of blood-splashing on the sides of the tent.

I asked a Christian friend of mine about this, because, basically, I was wondering why these various intricacies of blood rituals weren't brought along through the history of Christianity. Catholicism doesn't require that pigeons or bulls be sacrificed in a certain way to appease the Lord, and, as far as I know, I don't believe it really ever did. I found her response rather fascinating: she said, "That's not Christianity." She then went on to explain that Christ changed much of the edicts that were laid down in the Old Testament, as sort of a reinvention of the religion. I'm wondering if people could elucidate on this. Is this a unique theological theory, or is this common Christian doctrine? If the latter, what prevents that from being applied to Old Testament dogma that is considered central to Christianity (I'm thinking specifically of the Ten Commandments)? If it's just a theory, then what are the more conservative, Bible-is-quite-literal Christian denominations' response to the question of the inconsistency of why these blood rituals (splashing blood around the tent; if x happens burn two pigeons on the altar; if y happens sacrifice a bull; being stoned to death for certain infractions; etc.) can be ignored but everything else is to be taken literally — since they believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible? How does the everything-literally-happened variant of Christianity resolve the "two Gods" issue of the OT and NT being very different in their very essences?
posted by WCityMike to Religion & Philosophy (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
To put it at it's most succint, Christ himself actually was the blood sacrifice which made it unnecessary for any further such offerings.
posted by dersins at 5:42 PM on August 29, 2007


(That is to say Christians have been "washed in the blood of the heavenly lamb," which negates the necessity of further blood sacrifice.)
posted by dersins at 5:45 PM on August 29, 2007


Finish the book and then ask the question if you don't think that the New Testament has answered it for you already.

You're asking why something from the beginning of a really long book doesn't exist after the end of the really long book, but you haven't finished the book. It's like asking why Star Wars fans always say Darth Vader is Luke's father when you've just seen Episode IV, but haven't watched Empire Strikes Back yet.

Now, granted, you won't find all your answers in the text of the Bible itself, but you also won't find them from just some random friend or from AskMetafilter, either. If you want to know the reasons for practices of various Judeo-Christian religions in the context of the text of the Bible, you'll have to study the history and theology of each of those religions. Nobody actually takes every word of the Bible literally. I repeat: Nobody. And, as you're no doubt discovering, much of the Bible is pretty clearly intended on its face to be taken as allegory or symbolism. Just wait until you get to the New Testament and start reading all the parables that it says Jesus used to illustrate his points.

By the time you've read enough to understand it, you'll probably be able to answer the question better than anyone here can.
posted by The World Famous at 5:48 PM on August 29, 2007


The idea that Christ ushered in the "new covenant" is pretty common in mainstream Christianity (Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Methodist churches I've attended). The idea is that the old testament folks were fulfilling the old covenant with God when sacrificing pigeons, etc. - Christians have a different covenant with God.

That said, there are a lot of disagreements over which parts of the Bible are essential to Christianity and which historical artifacts that can be disregarded.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:48 PM on August 29, 2007


Theoretically, Christians believe that they're part of God's new covenant - the old one required you not to wear clothes made of certain kinds of fabric and to circumcise your baby boys, the new one has different rules.

I know that there are certain fringe sects (I mean no judgment with that word) who believe in a kind of hybrid, and for instance celebrate Passover and shun Christmas, and keep kosher. But I think that's a pretty unique situation.

People I consider theologically thoughtful Christians have answered my version of this question with Matthew 22:35:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:54 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


There are a few answers here, and I really don't have the materials at hand to provide links but your friends explanation is generally the most commonly stated one. Christians (I don't count myself as one) believe that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross covered Christians for the times after he lived.

Many questions of theology were answered by early church fathers and councils, including which texts would compose the bible. Many Christian beliefs were adopted based on the rulings of these councils some of the more bizarre and paradoxical belief systems that Christianity evolved came from the need for factions to make compromises on doctrine.

A lot of your bible-based churches accept the early Christian Church as a "true Christian church" - and accept the councils and early church fathers. These churches also believe that the Christian church lost its way around the time of Calvin/Luther. To understand this version, you must keep in mind that the churches which evolved from the "reformation" do not consider themselves "protestants", they consider themselves the heirs to Christ and St Peter's church, not a separate entity.

In other words, the split between Catholic and Protestant, took place after most questions of Christian theology were solved and most Christian practices up until the reformation were believed to be true. Martin Luther always stated he was trying to fix the church, not build a new one.
posted by Deep Dish at 5:55 PM on August 29, 2007


you are not the first person to ask this.

ianac (i am not a christian), but i believe dersins has it right about christ being the final sacrifice. the animals replaced the blood sacrifice of isaac by abraham, which, by christian doctrine, culminated in the ultimate sacrifice of christ.

as for the conundrum that is fundamentalist christianity (or, for that matter, fundamentalist anything)--one could go on and on. there are varying degrees of fundamentalism, even, and each one has its own doctrine. a lot of it boils down to conservatism tempered by varying degrees of practicality. it's a commitment to preserve the word of god in as intact a form as is possible. groups disagree to what extent this is possible and/or praticable.

i agree with the above that you should finish the book first. then try to find a good book on christian history.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:07 PM on August 29, 2007


This is not really an answer to your question since it's not the rationale that Christians use, but in Jewish thought the rationale for no longer offering sacrifices is that the sacrifices were supposed to be made only in the temple of Jerusalem, and that temple no longer exists.

Deuteronomy 12:13-14
Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt-offerings in every place that thou seest; but in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt-offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.

So the practice of not making offerings can in fact be seen as consistent with a literal reading of the Old Testament.
posted by phoenixy at 6:10 PM on August 29, 2007


Jack Miles' books "God, a biography" and "Christ, a crisis in the life of God" talk about the character of God and how it changes through the old and new testaments. But he takes it from a literary, not a believer's viewpoint.
posted by DarkForest at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2007


Hebrews 10:1-10

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.' "

First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second.

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

posted by The Deej at 7:20 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Previously, on AskMetafilter: Why don't Christians keep kosher?

That thread doesn't address your precise question about blood rituals, but it does give examples of how Christ changed the rules.
posted by jewishbuddha at 7:26 PM on August 29, 2007


The second covenant is part of the answer.

However, the reason Jesus' fulfillment of the second covenant effectively null and voided the laws of the Torah is in large part due to St. Paul's work during the the Council of Jerusalem. Over a series of meeting and letters, it was basically decided that Christians didn't have to follow the laws of the OT, with the chief dispute being stemming from circumcision. Subsequent generations of Christians took their cue from their elders (chiefly, James, Paul, and Peter) to decide that following Jewish law wasn't necessary.
Most of these decisions take place during the NT book Acts of the Apostles immediately following the Gospels.
posted by jmd82 at 7:27 PM on August 29, 2007


You might be interested in David Plotz' 2006-2007 Blogging the Bible series on Slate (MetaFilter post). He did the whole Tanach (Old Testament).

Not only do the portrayals God seem different in the Old and New Testaments, but God exhibits different personas at different parts in the Old Testament, partially because the Old Testament was written by different people over a long period. What people needed from God was different at different times.

I'm thinking specifically of the Ten Commandments

Which Ten Commandments? There are Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish takes on the two versions in the Bible. (There are also similar passages in the Koran.)

what are the more conservative, Bible-is-quite-literal Christian denominations' response to the question of the inconsistency

Cognitive dissonance. They like to cherry-pick things from the Old Testament that support their bigotry, but ignore other parts.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:29 PM on August 29, 2007 [4 favorites]




A rather interesting (and pretty short!) read is C. Jung's (yes, the psychologist guy) Answer to Job.
posted by Jacen at 8:01 PM on August 29, 2007


Lots of rather... err... interesting perspectives in this thread.

Why do Christians not make sacrifices anymore? Because, quite frankly, that would be blasphemous to us. Jesus is the final blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. For instance, consider:
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." –1 Peter 2:24
Then there is the issue of "cherry picking" Old Testament commandments. I like those people that say Christians shouldn't eat shrimp because of the command against shell-fish. This argument actually shows a great deal of ignorance of Christian doctrine.

First, there is the issue of Theonomy. In a nutshell, if you are a Theonomist you believe that the Old Testament laws should apply today. (Wikipedia seems to have a decent article on Theonomy, but I only scanned it so YMMV)

I am not theonomist, but it is a common position for modern Christians so you will encounter it a lot. But just because theonomists will take law from the Old Testament, doesn't mean that they're "picking and choosing" all of them, they have good and well-established reasons for interpreting the OT the way they do in most cases. (but in some cases I do think that Theonomists are inconsistent, which is why I'm not one!)

First of all, there wasn't just "the Law", there were different purposes for different laws. There were many cleansing laws designed to make people right before God. For Christians, this law has been fulfilled, and like I said above, it would be blasphemous to make a sacrifice for something Christ has already taken care of. These laws are the ones that talk about cleanliness, sacrifices, etc. So that takes care of the shrimp thing, but addressing that even further (I know you didn't bring it up, but it is a common question), read Acts 11:9 where God cleanses unclean food.

Then there is the case of Israelite law. Remember the context of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, etc—God is bringing up a new country, and countries need laws. So pretty much all of these other laws are meant for the Israelite government.

Now this is where I think Theonomists get into trouble and why I'm not one: they think these laws apply to everyone. They think that every country should be set up exactly like Israel was, and I don't think that's the case, and I don't see where God says that. But that's entirely up to interpretation.

My interpretation is that the non-cleansing laws in the OT were not intended to be for every government. Everything that is absolutely immoral and not Israelite-specific was restated in the New Testament, especially Romans 1. (which is where Paul condemns homosexuality, as well as greed, slander, deceit, murder, idolatry, gossip, etc, pretty much everything on the Ten Commandments except, maybe, tenuously, the Sabbath commandment)

So, to recap:
  • Two kinds of laws: redemptive and civil
  • Redemptive law was fulfilled by Christ and it would be blasphemous to carry out these laws because you would not be respecting Christ's sacrifice.
  • Civil laws are the entirety of Israelite civil law.
  • Theonomists argue that all governments should abide by Israelite civil law.
  • Non-Theonomists like me argue that while the civil law contains absolute truth, it also contains other Israelite-specific things they would need. *
* an analogy: while the US law contains absolute morality like laws against murder, it also contains non-absolute morality like the US tax code, or Presidential succession laws.

Apologies for the length, hopefully it was clear enough.
posted by icebourg at 8:39 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


That "Second Covenant" stuff is basically a cover for the fact that Xianity is a Greco-Roman-Persian-(Etc.) syncretistic Mystery religion forcibly grafted onto a Judaic stem. The essences of the religions, their ethics and rationales, and their portrayals of God often differ widely; there are of course some similarities, but you'll find much closer resemblance to Judaism in Islam.
posted by davy at 8:43 PM on August 29, 2007


The Wikipedia article on the Quran will illustrate my last point, especially the "Further reading" section with links to Quran translations. The Quran by the way is also kind of short for a Holy Book.
posted by davy at 8:48 PM on August 29, 2007


OP, it is a good thing to read the book, or more accurately, the translation of the portions of the books that constitute the official scripture of the faith (but not ALL the books that exist). No doubt, some of the problems come from translational issues and widely divergent cultural shifts, not to mention the extremes in time involved.

When you read it as flawed fiction, flawed explanation, mythology, primitive comprehension of a complex world, it is a valuable exercise which should yield a good appreciation of why it is a bad idea to consult it for practical problem solving. Just too many damned contradictions!

Resolving the glaring contradictions alone has occupied some great, if misapplied, minds. If one explores the subtle defects, it takes a truly GREAT mind to engineer enough weasel words to extract something useful out of it.

I started reading it years ago for probably the same reasons as you, and it did more to convert me to athiesm than just about anything except observing fundamentalists.


Asimov's Guide to the Bible
explores the rag is some detail.

Good luck with your project. It takes more stamina than just about anything I know.
posted by FauxScot at 9:42 PM on August 29, 2007


You've been given some good answers, and then some of the typical LOLXIANS stuff that shows up here all the time. The short answer is that Christian teaching is that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice for sins, so that temple sacrifice was no longer necessary. The books of Hebrews and Galatians probably deal with this most clearly, but the idea is scattered throughout the New Testament. And, besides, it's not like Jews are still offering these kinds of sacrifices. The lack of a modern sacrificial system is something Christianity has in common with Judaism, not a difference. Would you say that modern Jews and ancient Jews have different gods?

Even in the OT, the prophets made is clear that there was a deeper moral code that underlay the regulations, a "spirit" that was more important than the "letter of the law." See Isaiah 1:11-17, Hosea 6:6, Amos 5:21-24, Micah 6:1-8. Jesus echoes this prophetic thread in, among other place, Matthew 9:13 and 12:7. What he did taught was an extension of this sort of prophetic theology.

And it's not as though 1st century Judaism was some sort of monolithic entity. In the debates of the day, Jesus tended to side with Pharisees over Sadducees, and the more gracious theology of the school of Hillel over the school of Shammai. There really wasn't much that was completely original in Christianity--a lot of it boils down to which strains of Jewish thought were emphasized.

I've read the Bible a few times, and I think that the whole "God is really different in the OT and NT thing" is way over-emphasized. The OT emphasizes over and over that God's main attribute is his unwavering love, as does the NT, and the NT has some clear teaching about punishment for the wicked, like the OT. The more I read, the more I see the commonalities.

As for the 10 Commandments, they are something of a special case as nine of the ten are reiterated in the NT (Sabbath keeping being the exception), and therefore they continue to carry weight for most Christians as an essential distillation of God's moral ideals. And, anyway, who's really in favor of adultery, covetousness, murder, thievery, lying, and so on? The big ten are pretty easy to buy into, for religious folks of most persuasions.

As far as literally interpreting the Bible, there's nothing inconsistent about someone thinking that God literally required such sacrifices at one point, and that Jesus literally fulfilled such requirements forever in his sacrificial death.

You asked a question that takes a book to answer, but I'll have to be content with just writing this brochure for now.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:59 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Although I strongly disagree with Peter Aletheias about the holocausts of modern Judaism (and I use that term to its original meaning, which is sacrifice); he is right to say that the new covenant of Jesus' resurrection forswore the continuance of ritual slaughter. It is interesting, from a hermeneutic point of view, to look through the Talmud to see how the ritual of holocaust changed over the centuries.
posted by parmanparman at 10:18 PM on August 29, 2007


You've hit on a big point that lots of christians disagree about, even within smaller camps or sub-divisions.

For a helpful summary of the various positions that Christians hold on the relationship between the Hebrew Scriptures and the early Christian writings, you might try a 'counterpoint' style book, like this:

Five Views on Law and Gospel (looks like it was previously published as The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five Views).

Actually, I don't know how helpful it will be, because it's only taking views from Protestant Evangelicals, so you're probably missing out on the mainline/liberal Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox perspectives.
posted by puddleglum at 10:42 PM on August 29, 2007


parmanparman--What exactly do you disagree with? All I said is that modern Judaism doesn't have temple sacrifices. How can you strongly disagree with that? One of us is missing something--probably me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:47 PM on August 29, 2007


The account of Abraham and Isaac is often taken to represent in story form an actual transition from human sacrifice to an animal substitute. If so, human sacrifice is something ancient Jews had in common with other peoples around the world (I'm thinking of Scandinavian bog people, one of the apparent uses of the recumbent stones of Britain, and exposures on Peruvian mountaintops, for a few examples), and it's strange (and very moving for me) to think of the Crucifixion as a singular return to this practice, ending it for all time.
posted by jamjam at 11:01 PM on August 29, 2007


Here's what God has to say about himself, to answer your question a little more directly (of course ref. all the explanation above about Christ's fulfillment, etc.):

"I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." - Mal. 3:6

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - James 1:17

Enjoy finishing the book - there are more tough parts ahead, but its worth it to struggle through.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:37 AM on August 30, 2007


I believe the right answer has been said a few times, but to boil it down.

1)Jesus was the last sacrifice.

2)Paul was instrumental in advocating the ending of Jewish ritual/Law as part of Christian Doctrine. Much of Paul's work, as you'll learn when you get to his writings in the NT, concerned keeping two forces joined together under the banner of Christianity: A)Christian Jews and B)Christian Gentiles. Often, he would state that the gentiles did not need to follow Jewish law, but he'd also say,"If you're going to be around Jewish Christians, then just be nice and don't offend." Since Christian "gentiles" eventually out numbered the number of Jewish Christians, their path of worship was generally adopted, and one without Jewish law.
posted by Atreides at 9:09 AM on August 30, 2007


P.S. I'm currently working through the NT with mind to go back and read the Old Testament, precisely to avoid some of those legal books at the beginning of this endeavor. ;)
posted by Atreides at 9:10 AM on August 30, 2007


I'm not sure that it's entirely true to say "Jesus was the last sacrifice" without any qualifiers. The earliest Christians all considered themselves Jews, and still participated in the Temple cultus, until either persecution forced them to stop, or until the temple was destroyed in AD 70. (Sorry, my history's a tad fuzzy - I forget what the actual impetus was that caused them to stop participating in the temple sacrifices.)

The point is that the earliest Christians did not have a problem with the blood rituals until circumstances necessitated it. AFAIK, the theology adapted to the reality of the circumstances, rather than arising as an abstract belief.

I highly recommend NT Wright and his The New Testament and the People of God for an excellent, balanced study of the history, theology and literature of Christianity and Judaism in the 2nd-temple period (1st-century BC - 1st-century AD, roughly).
posted by puddleglum at 9:30 AM on August 30, 2007


Lots of theological responses (many from a rather conservative Christian perspective) to your responses here.

However, from a historical / biblical studies standpoint: blood sacrifice ceased to be a part of all 1st century Judaisms (which included those who identified themselves as Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Jewish Christians--as well as the am ha-aretz, the people of the land, e.g., common people) after the destruction of the Temple in the year 70. No Temple = no sacrifice.

The Sadducees, who were the Temple priests who offered the sacrifices [and their retinue] disappear after 70, and we don't have copies of their writings to know for certain all they believed/taught. The Qumran community (Essenes), who believed that the Sadducees were not the legitimate Temple priestly lineage, were also destroyed by the Romans.

The only two Jewish groups that survived were Pharisees and Jewish Christians. Both groups retained the language of sacrifice of the Hebrew Bible, but re-interpreted it to their changed circumstances.

The Pharisees, ancestors of Rabbinic Judaism, retained the practice of heartfelt contrition for intentional sin (which is a key part of sacrificial practice), and sought to live out all of YHWH's commandments in the Torah. The Jewish Christians, on the other hand, understand Jesus to be the replacement of the Torah (the quotation from Hebrews cited earlier shows the reinterpretation that early Jewish Christians were making--it's all through the New Testament, but can clearly be seen in the Gospel of John as well).

The following is from The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan, translated by Judah Goldin (Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 34-35:

"Once as Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai was coming out of Jerusalem, Rabbi Joshua followed after him, and beheld the Temple in ruins. "Woe unto us!" Rabbi Joshua cried, "that this place, the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for, is laid waste."

"My son," Rabban Johanan said to him, "be not grieved; we have another atonement as effective as this. And what is it? It is acts of lovingkindness, as it is said, For I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Hos. 6:6)... What then were the acts of lovingkindness in which he was engaged? He used to outfit the bride... accompany the dead, give a perutah [coin] to the poor and pray three times a day."

Many Christians do believe that "Christ changed many of the edicts that were laid down in the Old Testament," but in Matthew's Gospel (5:17-20), Jesus is recalled as saying,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Recommended book: Bart Ehrman's A Brief Introduction to the New Testament, published by Oxford University Press.
posted by apartment dweller at 1:29 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


To add to the list of books here: 'A history of God' by Karen Armstrong. Among other things she goes into the 'two Gods' issue that you mention in your question.
posted by rjs at 1:40 PM on August 30, 2007


When reading the scriptures, it is important to distinguish between Israel and all the other nations. During the eras of the Old Testament, God only interacted with Israel. So, the law concerning sacrifice pertained only to Israel. The other nations had nothing to do with it. The Old Testament is not about Gentiles (except as they relate to Israel) nor is it for them. This is not to say that we cannot profit from reading the OT. We can, but relatively little of it is applicable to our present life (2 Tim. 3:16).

You ask, "Why...the blood rituals weren't brought along through the history of Christianity."

Jeremiah predicted the coming of a new covenant for Israel (31:31-34). The book of Hebrews, which was written to Jewish believers in Christ, says that when the new covenant was mentioned, the old became obsolete and (as of the first century) was ready to vanish away (8:13). And it did so, together with its sacrifices. Below is a scriptural overview of how that came about. Interestingly enough, it ends with the restoration of the sacrifices in the thousand-year kingdom. I hope that the following will answer your question about the supposed inconsistency concerning Israel's blood rituals, the present situation among believers in Christ, and the future of Israel and the church.

Jesus Christ said that he came only for the benefit of Israel (Matt. 15:24). He was sent to bring the promised kingdom to the chosen nation (Matt. 4:17). The benefits realized by non-Jews during the Lord's ministry are likened to scraps under Israel's table (Mark 7:27, 28). The Gospels are primarily a record of his coming to his people, Israel, and their rejection of him (John 1:11). Again, Gentiles can profit from reading the Gospels, but it is a perilous thing to try to apply their teaching to our lives.

>Dersins< and others have rightly pointed out that christ's death ended the sacrifices--specifically the sin offering and the peace offering. but those were israel's sacrifices. we gentiles had no divinely ordained sacrifices in the first place. so, the fact that they have ended has little to do with us.br>
God heard Jesus pray from the cross, "Forgive them," and answered by sending the twelve disciples, and later Paul, to again offer the kingdom to Israel. This is recorded in the book of Acts. At that time, the sacrifices were still being offered in Jerusalem. Acts is the final scriptural record of the history of Israel. It shows the chosen nation rejecting the disciple's offer of the kingdom just as they had rejected the same offer made by Jesus and John the Baptist. In Acts is seen the transition from God's exclusive dealings with Israel as seen in the Old Testament and Gospels, to his direct dealing with individuals of the Gentile nations (Acts 28:28). The history recorded in Acts ends in about AD 61. In the year 70, the temple was destroyed and the sacrifices ended. However, according to scripture, the effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice did not, and will never, end.

When Israel rejected the kingdom, she was temporarily set aside by God, the sacrifices ceased, the kingdom was put in abeyance, and salvation came directly to the nations (Rom. 11:15). This is revealed in Romans chapters 9--11.

(I'm sorry to be going on so long, but, as I said, this all leads to the restoration of Israel's ritual sacrifices and shows the consistency of God's work.)

The next big event is Christ's second coming. This is, again, primarily for Israel, though the church benefits from it mightily. When Christ returns, the Jews will understand that he is their Messiah and king (Zech. 12:9, 10). At that time, the nation will be reborn as prophesied in Isaiah 66:7-9 (see also John 16:20-22; Rev. 12:1, 2, 5). Jesus described this birth to the Jewish leader, Nicodemus (John 3:3). It coincides with the coming of the new covenant (Heb. 8:6-12), and is the time when all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:36).

Then, Christ will establish a heavenly kingdom on earth that will last 1000 years (Rev. 11:15; 12:10; 20:4), and the people of Israel will finally be the kingdom of priests described in Exodus 19:5-6 (see also 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 20:6). As kings, they will rule the earth in Christ's kingdom. As priests, they will lead earth's inhabitants in worship by means of the restored, uplifted sacrifices in the temple described by Ezekiel (Col. 2: 16, 17; Ezek. 42:13; 45:17; 46:13-15).

It is especially notable that Passover will be observed in the kingdom just as Jesus Christ promised at his final Passover observance (Matt. 26:27-30; Ezek. 45:21-24). Then, the beloved people of Israel will drink the cup of the new covenant. Remembering much more than their deliverance from Egypt, they will memorialize the great deliverance that Christ's sacrifice accomplished, and their minds and hearts will be directed back to the cross.

Meanwhile, those who have believed in Christ in the era between the abdication of Israel and her restoration will be busy establishing the testimony of God’s grace among the celestials (Eph. 3:6, 7; Phil. 3:20).
posted by partner at 4:28 PM on August 30, 2007


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