Thoughts On A Millennial Temple.
By J. E. Walsh B. Sc. (Hons), M. Sc.
INTRODUCTION I am sure that everyone at some stage in their life can look back and consider what might have been (If only!) When we consider Ezekiel's vision of the temple (Eze 38-48) 'What might have been', could have been good title for these chapters. If only all the Jews had responded they would have had that magnificent temple. In reality only 50,000 Jews returned to re-build Jerusalem and the temple after the Babylonian exile (Neh 7:66). The purpose of this article is to highlight the certain theological issues which concern the 'unconditional' and 'literal' fulfilment of the promises of God.
Temple Sacrifices To Be Resumed By A Converted Israel?
Some Christians believe that God's promises are un-conditional; that is, that they are not restricted by conditions - that once God has promised something, He cannot retract it regardless of what His people may do. It is the authors belief that this position is contrary to the clear biblical evidence for a number of major reasons:
(1) Both covenant promises and curses depend on the response of the believer. It is altogether possible to break a covenant relationship with God and thereby cease to be the recipient of His covenant promises
'If Christ died once for all and the Jews finally accept Jesus as Messiah, then why the need for animal sacrifices and a priesthood?' [Lev 26:14-16; Deut 28:1, 2, 15; Jer 18:7 -10; Matt 21:43, Acts 13:44-48].
(2) What constitutes an Israelite both in the Old and New Testament is a person who qualifies by their faith and not their ethnicity / geographical location. For example:
(a) Rahab a Cannanite and Ruth a Moabite [cf Deut 23:3] became Progenators of the Messiah (Matt 1:5). Note that the blood line in Judaism is via the mother!
(b) Not all Israel are Israel (Rom 9:6). Since God's children are the children of promise (i.e. they have accepted Messiah to be Jesus [Rom 9:8]). All are children of God by faith in Christ (Gal 3:26).
(c) A real Jew is only a Jew if he is one inwardly (i.e. converted) (Rom 2:28-29).
(d) It is not culture, ethnicity or circumcision that makes up the Israel of God, but acceptance of the Messiah (Gal 6:14-16). Hence their is no distinction between Jew and Gentile with God today (Gal 3:28, 29).
(3) While insisting that God's promises are un-conditional, literalists apply the passage containing details of the 'unfulfilled' temple (cf Rev 21:22) and its animal sacrifices for 'atonement' and its priesthood (Ezekiel 43:19, 20; 45:15, 17, 20], to an unprecedented delayed fulfillment of Daniel's 70th week (the so-called "7 year tribulation") and even on into the millennium.
This thesis presents a major theological problem, since this interpretation calls into question the significance, efficacy, finality and extent of Christ's sacrifice upon calvary. One might be prompted to ask, 'If Christ died once for all and the Jews finally accept Jesus as Messiah, then why the need for animal sacrifices and a priesthood?'. This is a valid question since the book of Hebrews is mainly directed to ethnic Jews who were in danger of reverting back to Judaism [Heb 13:11-14]. The writer goes to great length to show:
(a) Christ's Priesthood is superior to that of the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7 & 8). Specifically to say that the Old Covenant with its sacrifices and priesthood is obsolete (Heb 8:13; Heb 7:19).
(b) Animal sacrifice is of no value (Heb 10:1-18).
(c) If the Jew fails to accept the sacrifice of Jesus (Heb 10:14) and reverts back to Judaism with its animal sacrifices etc. it means only judgment/condemnation for that Jew (Heb 10:26-31). Jewish sacrifices have lost their efficacy, the reality is found in Messiah Jesus!
(d) Also, Believers in Messiah Jesus take on the role of being a Royal Priesthood (of all believers) [1 Pet 2:5, 7-10; Rev 1:5,6]. Their job is to fulfill the Great commission of Jesus (Matt 28:19,20). The people of God are now those who accept Jesus as Messiah (1 Pet 2:10) and the fulfillment of Old Testament Types [Eg. Passover cf 1 Corin 5:7]
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
The primary aim of the devil, I believe is to undermine the validity and true meaning of the cross of Christ. Since it has been shown that a literal/ unconditional approach to interpret prophecy effectively undermines Jesus' sacrifice, how can a Christian accept this interpretation?
It is worthwhile to note the significance of the cross of Christ. Several times during Jesus' ministry the people took up stones to stone him for blasphemy (The law of Moses specified stoning for blasphemy). However, in the end what did the Jews request? Crucifixion! Where the Jews aware of the significance of their request. I am sure they were aware of it based on:
And if any man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day: (for he that is hanged is accursed of God); that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. Deut 21:22-23 (cf 1 Pet 2:24)
Also in their own History, they knew the significance of hanging on a tree (see Josh 8:29, Josh 10:22-27, 2 Sam 21:3). To be hung on a tree was the most shameful thing that could happen to someone. It meant to be accursed of God with no hope of salvation in the world to come. It also meant to be rejected/cut-off by ones Family, Community and Nation (this is very hard to understand by a western individualistic society!). The atonement came not as a result of the physical suffering of Christ. It came as Christ suffered the eternal separation from God for all Humanity. When Christ died, the veil in the temple was supernaturally torn in two (Luke 23:44-45). This signified the end of animal sacrifices and the Levitical Priesthood. The significance of hanging on a tree is summed up by Paul:
'But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness' (1 Corin 1:23 cf Gal 3:13)
My appeal is to those who would read this article, that they may consider carefully the points raised in it. Before accepting any interpretation, would it not be wise to see whether or not the interpretation uplifts or downgrades Messiah Jesus' Life, Death and Resurrection? With regard to God's Promises, God's Word itself gives the answer:
For no matter how many
promises God has made, they are
'Yes' in Christ.
[2 Cor 1:20a]
If animal sacrifices are only 'commemorative' during the tribulation and millennium, then what purpose/function does the Lord's Supper have in the dispensational scheme of things?
May God Bless You As You Read These Words!