CIRCUMCISION AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST
By Ted McDivitt
In the article entitled, “THE CROSS OF CHRIST AND ITS ACCOMPLISHMENTS” I mentioned that the cross of Christ was not foundational to the message being heralded to those of the circumcision—the Jews. This was true during our Lord’s earthly ministry as well as the ministry of the Twelve throughout the book of Acts. This is a major distinction between the message of the Lord and the Twelve to that of the Apostle Paul and his ministry for the Gentiles. The cross of Christ is most fundamental to the evangel that Paul received from our resurrected, glorified Lord. Whereas the former article focused primarily on the accomplishments of the cross of Christ specifically brought forth in Paul’s epistles, in this article we will focus more on the message that was being proclaimed to the circumcision.
CHRIST CAME AS THE SERVANT OF CIRCUMCISION
In Rom. 15:8 Paul writes, “For I am saying that Christ has become the Servant of circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises.”
The patriarchs include Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but Christ also had the kingly aspects of David. The point is—Christ did not come to begin the church the Body of Christ. He came to confirm the promises to Israel. This fact really becomes evident when we consider the encounter with the Canaanitish woman in Matt. 15:21-28. This woman (being a non-Jew) approaches Jesus yet He ignores her. The disciples want Him to grant her request yet Jesus tells her that He “was not commissioned except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24). This was His publicly stated purpose. Then He tells her “it is not ideal to be taking the children’s bread and to be casting it to the puppies” (v. 26). In other words, at that time, while conditions were still of circumcision (Israel’s covenant relationship to Yahweh), it wasn’t ideal to be giving Israel’s blessings to the Gentiles (here referred to as puppies). In that prophetic program (the administration of Law) Gentiles were blessed “only when they realized their position of subservience to the nation of Israel” (“UVB” note # 491).
Thus, when the Canaanitish woman says, “Yes, Lord! For the puppies also are eating of the scraps that are falling from their masters’ table” (v. 27) it is evident that she understands her inferior place to Israel and is not wanting equality. It is at that time the Lord grants her request.
This event with the Canaanitish woman coincides with the commissioning of the Twelve apostles in Matt. 10:5-8. Jesus commissions them saying, “Into a road of the Gentiles you may not pass forth…Yet be going rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Now going, herald, saying that ‘Near is the kingdom of the heavens!’”
It should be noted here that the Lord Jesus was not uncaring for the Gentiles, but under the prophetic program the Gentiles were to be blessed through the intervening agency of Israel. Israel prophetically was to be God’s servant in which the rest of the families on earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:17-18; 26:4; 28:14; Isa. 60:1-3; Zech. 8:21-23; Exo. 19:3-6; Isa. 41:8; Isa. 61:6; Psa. 106:7-8; Josh. 4:24; Ezek. 36:22-23; Isa. 52:9-10; Jer. 4:1-2; Psa. 68:29). The rest of the nations would come to know God through Israel’s obedience and blessings. The only way the nations were to receive blessings and have a relationship with Yahweh was by coming through Israel. The Old Testament pattern for Gentile nations’ redemption is through Israel.
In the book of Isaiah there is much written about Yahweh’s servant. David, Israel or Jacob (the nation) and Messiah are all referred to as “My servant.” For example, in Isa. 37:35 David is the servant. In Isa. 41:8, Israel is the servant. In 42:19, the servant (Israel) is blind. Some other verses in Isaiah referring to Yahweh’s servant are Isa. 49:3, 5, 6; 52:13 and 53:11. Some of these verses the servant is Israel and others refer to Christ.
What happens in the Old Testament is that the nation of Israel is chosen to be Yahweh’s servant to be a light to the Gentiles—to open eyes—yet instead Israel fell short of God’s calling and became blind herself. Israel was to heal yet she became broken, she was to be exalted, yet she became the least. Because of her disobedience, instead of the blessings of Deut. 28 coming on Israel, the curses of Deut. 28 came upon her culminating in her exile into captivity. Consequently Israel herself was in need of a servant.
However, in the midst of all this hopelessness, Israel is given a message of hope in a promised Servant. Someday Israel will be restored and will fulfill her role in being a blessing to the nations, but first she has to be delivered herself. This is why we read in Rom. 15:8 that “Christ has become the Servant of circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises.” The servant changes from Israel as a national entity to an individual out of Israel. The Servant individual then (Christ) comes to Israel instead of the Gentile nations because prophetically the Gentile blessings come through God’s holy nation—Israel, a royal priesthood (Exo. 19:6; 1Pet. 2:9)—“the whole nation being a priest with respect to other nations, as the tribe of Levi for Israel (Isa. 61:6; 66:21)” (Dr. Bullinger’s note for Exo. 19:6). Israel’s story now will be written through this individual suffering Servant. In a sense, Jesus became a Servant of a servant, He became the lowest slave. Yet He will bring restoration to Israel and this will ultimately be achieved through His sacrifice (Isa. 52:13-53:12). He became the sin-offering for the nation. Little did the Jews know that by crucifying Christ, they were bringing about His victory and subsequently their victory (1Cor. 2:6-10).
THE CROSS OF CHRIST WAS NOT FOUNDATIONAL TO THE MESSAGE TO ISRAEL
In looking back we understand that Christ became the suffering Servant for the sake of us all. We understand that His becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8) is the sole basis of redemption for the entire human race and the angelic realm. The starting point in the evangel that Paul proclaimed to the Gentiles is 1Cor. 15:3-4, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day according to the Scriptures…”
Nothing is more fundamental to our faith than the cross of Christ, yet Christ did not begin teaching His disciples that He was going to be killed until late in His earthly ministry. The message was “Repent! for near is the kingdom of the heavens!” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 7:21; 10:7). Even after Christ died and was resurrected, the Jews coming together, asked Him, “Lord, art Thou at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Foremost in their minds is that Christ has been resurrected so now perhaps He will restore the kingdom to us. Then in Acts 2, Peter briefly announces Christ’s crucifixion (v. 36) but he does it in a way that lays guilt upon Israel and now they have to repent and be baptized in the name of the One they had killed (v. 38). Only then could they receive the Spirit. Likewise in Acts 3:13-21 Peter at Pentecost uses different words but the message is the same. He emphasizes the point that Israel killed “the Inaugurator of Life,” yet God rouses Him. Therefore they are to repent and turnabout for the erasure of their sins so that seasons of refreshing should be coming from the face of the Lord (v. 19). “Seasons of refreshing” is the goal, much like “the kingdom of the heavens” was the goal before Christ’s death.
Notice there is nothing said about what Christ accomplished on the cross as we read throughout Paul’s letters. At the end of the Gospels Christ’s death, entombment and resurrection were facts, but no one understood the significance of His death as the Apostle Paul was given to understand. When Peter announces the Lord’s death he brings about Israel’s guilt for they were the ones that caused the crucifixion of Christ. Yes the Romans were the ones who actually carried it out but the Scriptures are clear that the Israelites were the ones who had Him crucified (Acts 2:36; 3:15; 1Thess. 2:14-15).
Before our Lord’s death Pilate gave the Israelites an opportunity to free Him, but instead they chose the notorious criminal, Bar-Abbas. In relation to Jesus, “the entire people said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children’” (Matt. 27:25). The irony is, though the Jewish people in a negative way were saying, “His blood be on us and our children,” unknown to them, in a most powerful way the blood sacrifice of Christ becomes the basis for all their future blessings. Similarly, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, the chief priests with the scribes and elders, scoffing, said, “Others he saves! Himself he can not save!” (Matt. 27:41; Mk. 15:31). They didn’t realize it, but they could not have uttered a more precious truth.
So then, since the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and had Him crucified, Peter’s message in Acts is that they must now “repent and be baptized each of them in the name of Jesus Christ for the pardon of their sins” (Acts 2:38). Only then could they receive the holy Spirit.
However, as I’ve mentioned before, Christ did not begin His earthly ministry by instructing the Twelve of His impending death. Their message instead was to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and proclaim, “Near is the kingdom of the heavens!” (Matt. 10:6-7). It wasn’t until much later that Jesus began “to show His disciples that He must be coming away into Jerusalem and to be suffering much from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be killed, and the third day to be roused” (Matt. 16:21).
Now Peter’s reaction to this news shows that Christ had not previously taught about His death for Peter begins to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Propitious be it to Thee, Lord! By no means shall this be for Thee!’” (Matt. 16:22). Just before the Lord tells His disciples of His death, He asks them, “Who are you saying that I am?” Peter responds—“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 15:15-16). This was a great statement of faith. The Lord Jesus tells Peter that He will be giving him the keys of the kingdom of the heavens (v. 19). So the “Father Who is in the heavens” revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, yet when he is told that Jesus is going to be killed, Peter, the one given the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, could not believe it. He believed that Jesus was the Son of God and was the Christ but he did not believe Jesus was going to die. He had not been given this fact, yet he had been teaching for perhaps a year or more before this.
The other interesting point here is when the Lord told His disciples He was going to die, He added the fact that He would be roused on the third day (Matt. 16:21). Peter and the others could have rejoiced in the fact that He was going to be roused, but it is obvious from Peter’s response that he was only focusing on the first part—the death. It wasn’t easy for the Jews to believe that He was to die, and then later that He had been resurrected.
We see another example of this in Matt. 17:22-23. Jesus repeats what He told His disciples in Matt. 16:21 that He was going “’to be given up into the hands of men, and they will be killing Him, and the third day He will be roused.’ And they were tremendously sorry.”
The disciples’ response shows they were only contemplating His death and had not yet understood His resurrection, for “had they understood His resurrection they would not have been sorrowful” (“UVB” note # 550).
Even after Christ was crucified and roused, when the women came from the empty tomb to tell the apostles that Jesus was alive, they considered “it nonsense, and they disbelieved them” (Luke 24:11).
THE CONTRAST BETWEEN MINISTRIES
Many sincere believers today do not distinguish between administrations, especially the administration of Law that God gave to Moses for His covenant People—Israel and the administration of the grace of God that was given to the Apostle Paul for the Gentiles. Some of these differences have already become apparent in this article. For example, consider the following:
The conditions of Matt. 15 are no longer in existence today. We are not like the Canaanitish woman who could only get the scraps (blessings) falling from her master’s (Israel) table (Matt. 15:27). As Paul writes in Rom. 11:25,
“For I am not willing for you to be ignorant of this secret, brethren, lest you may be passing for prudent among yourselves, that callousness, in part, on Israel has come, until the fullness of the Gentiles may be entering.”
Israel for the time being has been cast aside (Rom. 11:12, 15) as God’s holy nation. Therefore today the nation has no superior place among the other people of the world. God is now dealing with individuals through faith through the evangel that was given to the Apostle Paul.
People in this administration of the grace of God that was entrusted to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-2) do not have to go through Israel in order to have access to God. As Paul writes in Rom. 5:1-2,
“Being, then declared righteous by faith, we may be having peace toward God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom we have the access also, by the faith, into this grace in which we stand, and we may be glorying in expectation of the glory of God.”
To help distinguish between the administration of Law entrusted to Moses and the administration of the grace of God entrusted to Paul is to see that the administration of Law is the “revealed prophetic program” and the administration of grace is the mystery or “secret program.”
Beginning in Genesis with the call of Abram, God’s prophetic program is centered on His covenant People—Israel. Other nations/people are mentioned but only as they are blessed through Israel. With the exception of the Apostle Paul’s letters, this is the focus from Genesis to Revelation. However, after Israel rejects Jesus Christ as their Messiah, the ministry of the Twelve and Stephen’s testimony (Acts 7), God singles out Saul of Tarsus (His greatest enemy at the time) and gives him an evangel which Paul calls “my evangel” (Rom. 2:16; 16:25). Paul could not have received this evangel from any other man because it is a “well message” that had been kept hidden in God. This evangel has to do with “the untraceable riches of Christ to the Gentiles” (Eph. 3:8) and the administration of God that completes the word of God—the secret which has been concealed from the eons and from the generations (Col. 1:25-27).
Unknown to everyone—the prophets of old, the Lord’s Twelve apostles, and even the angelic realm—God interrupts His revealed prophetic program and begins a new program through the Apostle Paul. This new program is not an extension of the former, but involves a people known as the Body of Christ, who are referred to as “a new creation” and the evangel involves new promises not based on the promises given to Israel. Within this administration then, unlike the former, “…in Christ Jesus neither circumcision is availing anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith, operating through love” (Gal. 5:6). “For in one Spirit also we all are baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and all are made to imbibe one Spirit” (1Cor. 12:13). In Spirit we are to be joint-enjoyer of an allotment-people, and joint-body-people, and joint-partaker-people of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser (Eph. 3:6). This is describing the kind of people we as Gentiles have become. The three-fold jointness refers to our union with Christ and with one another (including those who were formerly of covenant yet now are in the same category as the Gentiles). The secret shows there is a commonality among all the members of the family of God, being built on the foundation of the [Body of Christ’s] apostles and prophets, the capstone of the corner being Christ Jesus Himself (Eph. 2:20).
So then, the people of Israel today are not God’s holy People having an exalted position above others. They once held such a position in a previous administration, and when conditions once again will be of covenant, they will hold such a position again. But before that day arrives, God is doing a separate work through the administration that He entrusted to the Apostle Paul involving the ecclesia the Body of Christ. Consequently the evangel currently in existence is “the evangel of the uncircumcision” (Gal. 2:7) in which each person has direct access to God through our Lord Christ Jesus.
THE SIGNIFICANCE AND CONTRAST BETWEEN TWO BAPTISMS
In contrasting differences between the two administrations—Law and Grace—the subject of baptism has to be mentioned. Since much has already been stated concerning this topic in previous articles, I will only mention a few points, some of which were not presented earlier.
First we will consider baptism in relation to the prophetic program.
In Israel’s prophetic program, individuals have to be baptized in water. By the way, the ritual of baptism was not a new practice beginning with John the Baptist, but what was new was who John was baptizing. The water baptism under the administration of Law had its beginning in Exo. 29:1-7. This was a ceremony with Aaron and the other priests. The garments of the priests were washed. This is one of the washings that is translated “baptisms” in Heb. 6:2. The Septuagint actually translates “washings” here in Exodus as “baptism.” So baptism (washing with water) was an Old Testament/Mosaic ordinance for the priests. In the New Testament when John the Baptist comes on the scene, the baptism expands this ordinance to the rest of the nation. For Israel to be a kingdom of priests for the Gentile nations, they need to have a baptism of repentance. In Exodus 29 the washing (baptism) was followed by the anointing with oil. In typology oil is Spirit. The order is always water first followed by the Spirit. Thus the entire people of Israel were to be baptized with water by John and then Jesus would baptize them in holy Spirit (Matt. 3:5-6, 11).
So then, what about our Lord’s baptism by John? Some say since Jesus was baptized with water, then we should too. But why was Jesus baptized? He certainly didn’t have to do it for a cleansing from sin. The answer lies in John 1:31—“…that He may be manifested to Israel” and Matt. 3:15—“for thus it is becoming for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Christ later says that He did not come to destroy the Law with its ordinances or to do away with the prophets, but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17). Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, came to identify with the human race and in particular with the nation of Israel. He came and partook of the same so He would become one with them. Jesus’ baptism inaugurated His ministry and united Him to Israel, though He Himself was without sin. As Isa. 53:12 reads, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”
“’Jesus also was circumcised on the 8th day in the temple and He worshipped at the temple, and He partook of the Jewish feasts, yet are we to do all these things today? It’s important for us to see that we are not under the Law in this administration of grace. Therefore, we are not subject to the water washings of the Old Testament Law” (Adapted from the “UVB” note # 71).
Staying within the Gospels, in Matt. 28:19-20 the resurrected Lord says to His eleven disciples that they are to “disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to be keeping all, whatever I direct you.” In relation to the Jews, the Gentile nations were always considered unclean. Therefore, in order for the nations to have fellowship with Israel, they have to be cleansed—thus the need for the water baptism.
Now we come to Acts 2:36-38. Peter at Pentecost says, “Let all the house of Israel know certainly, then, that God makes Him Lord as well as Christ—this Jesus Whom you crucify!” Peter lays this charge upon the nation of Israel and then in verse 38 he says, “Repent and be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the pardon of your sins, and you shall be obtaining the gratuity of the holy Spirit.”
Notice the pattern—repentance, water baptism, followed by reception of the Spirit. Again, water baptism isn’t being done for a testimony. The repentance and water baptism were requirements for the reception of the Spirit.
Baptism in relation to the secret program
In the prophetic program Christ commissioned His disciples to be baptizing, but the Apostle Paul says Christ did not commission him to be baptizing (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; 1Cor. 1:17). In the “secret program” believers/members of the Body of Christ, are baptized in Spirit and are baptized into “one Body” (1Cor. 12:13). This baptism is not performed by another man. Nor do we have to go through a ritual in order to receive the Spirit. Notice too that we are “baptized into one Body,” not into a priesthood. Upon believing the evangel of our salvation (1Cor. 15:1-4) we receive the baptism of the Spirit. This is the only baptism for this administration of the grace of God. This is why Paul in Eph. 4:1-5 speaks of “one baptism.” The “one baptism” is not of “water” but “Spirit” in which we are baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death (Rom. 6:3). This is true of all who are of the “one Body.”
FURTHER CONTRASTS BETWEEN THE PROPHETIC AND SECRET PROGRAMS
The promises God has given to Israel are terrestrial as opposed to celestial. The Lord Jesus was telling Nicodemus a few of these blessings in John chapter 3. In verse 7—“You must be begotten anew,” the “You” is plural referring to the nation being begotten anew. When Nicodemus asks, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are a teacher of Israel and these things you do not know (v. 10)? Some of the Old Testament passages Nicodemus might have known which would have given him insight into Jesus’ words include Isa. 44:3-5 and Ezek. 36:22-31. Verses such as these “refer to Israel’s future restoration” (Dr. Bullinger’s note). These promises from God are terrestrial as confirmed by our Lord’s words in John 3:12. They belong to the prophetic program given to Israel and coincide with Israel’s ruler-ship on earth (Isa. 62:1-4; 60:5-14; Zech. 14:16-21). As far back as Gen. 12:1-3; 15:7, 18, Israel (through God’s promise to Abraham) was promised the land. Christ as Israel’s king will be given the throne of David and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for the eons (Luke 1:32), yet His ruler-ship (and Israel’s too) shall be over all on the earth (Rev. 11:15; 20:6; 21:24). Paul touches on this aspect of Christ as well for in 1Cor. 15:25 he states, “For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet.”
Members of the Body of Christ will be reigning too (2Tim. 2:11-13) but the difference is, our reign is within our Lord’s “celestial kingdom” (2Tim. 4:17). Within the “secret program” the Body of Christ is not promised to be reigning over the nations on earth, rather, we are to be judging angels (1Cor. 6:3) and being seated together among the celestials, in Christ Jesus, in the oncoming eons, He should be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7). The Body of Christ’s lot is cast in Christ Who is to head up the all—both that in the heavens and that on the earth (Eph. 1:9-10). As members of His Body we are identified with Christ in His work of completing the all in all (Eph. 1:22-23) for the laud of the glory of God (Eph. 1:12, 14).
Our governmental seat of authority is “among the celestials, in Christ” (Eph. 2:6) whereas Israel’s governmental seat of authority is on earth. Our homeland/citizenship has all along existed in the heavens, out of which we are ardently awaiting our Savior (Phil. 3:20). Both callings work together under Christ’s Headship toward the goal of all being brought into subjection that God may be All in all (1Cor. 15:28).
TWELVE APOSTLES/12 TRIBES CONTRASTED WITH ONE APOSTLE/ONE BODY
Another contrast between the prophetic and secret programs becomes evident when we consider where the Twelve apostles and the Apostle Paul are seated. In Matt. 19:28 the Lord tells His disciples,
“…you who follow Me, in the renascence whenever the Son of Mankind should be seated on the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Among other things, this verse shows why the eleven apostles wanted to replace Judas to bring the full number back to the Twelve (Acts 1:21-26). The restoration of the government as stated above is dependent upon twelve apostles, not eleven.
Paul was not qualified for this position for he was not part of Jesus’ ministry from the time of His baptism of John until the day on which He ascended (Acts 1:21-22). In fact, during this time period, Paul wasn’t even a believer in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until after Christ was resurrected and ascended that Paul met the Lord on his way to Damascus and subsequently believed that He was indeed the Son of God (Acts 9:3-22). So Paul was not qualified to be one of the Twelve.
In Matt. 19:28 the promise is that the Twelve apostles will be sitting on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This is the expectation of the Lord’s apostles given to them during Christ’s ministry when He was on earth. This is part of what Paul meant when he stated,
“…even if we have known Christ according to flesh, nevertheless now we know Him so no longer” (2Cor. 5:16).
The Twelve received their expectation from being acquainted with our Lord Jesus according to flesh and the expectation will be fulfilled in the promised land on earth (terrestrial). Paul’s expectation came from the resurrected, glorified Christ when He was in heaven and the expectation will be fulfilled in the promised homeland in the heavens. The former expectation and relationship to Christ belong to the primitive things that for us have passed by. Lo! there has come new things—a new relationship to Christ in which we are now a “new creation” (2Cor. 5:17).
Yet as my uncle John Patterson asked me years ago, “Where is the Apostle Paul’s seat?” As we’ve just noted, Paul’s seat could not be among the Twelve, nor was he an extension of the Twelve in judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Instead, he writes that God “vivifies us together in Christ…and rouses us together and seats us together among the celestials in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). And instead of judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Paul will be among those within the Body who will be judging angels (Cor. 6:3).
As presented in Matt. 19:28, the prophetic program consists of a nation that is made up of twelve tribes. This is again brought forth in Rev. 7:4-8. During the great affliction in the latter days of this present eon, 144,000 will be sealed. Twelve tribes are mentioned. 12,000 out of each tribe will be sealed, thus making a total of 144,000. God’s future government on earth is interwoven with twelve tribes of Israel.
Yet in God’s “secret program,” God is not dealing with “tribes,” but with one singular Body (Eph. 4:4; 1Cor. 12:12-13). The whole idea is there is one entity, not twelve tribes or a nation. The Body of Christ is a living, breathing organism that Paul compares to a literal physical body (1Cor. 12:14-26).
In reflecting on this subject I am reminded of a recorded message from John Essex (the former editor of the “Grace and Truth” magazine printed in England). He asks, “If the cross is so important as Paul suggests, why have others, contemporaries of Paul, ignored it?” By “others” Mr. Essex was alluding to John, Peter, James and Jude. Other than three references in John 19 to the literal cross that Jesus carried and was hung upon, there is no mention of the cross of Christ in John’s writings, including Revelation. There are a few allusions to the blood of the Lamb but the cross is not mentioned. Peter, James and Jude in their letters never mention the cross of Christ. Surely these other men were moved by God to write, yet if the cross was essential to their message, surely they would have spoken of it. Mr. Essex concluded that one major difference between the evangels is the relationship to the cross of Christ, and he further stated “that these men were writing to a people who had not yet come to the cross of Christ.”
It is this last statement that I have found intriguing. The animal sacrifices were a major part of the Mosaic Law that was given to Israel. Yet we know that these sacrifices only provided temporary cleansing in contrast to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that provided permanent cleansing (Heb. 9:11-14). “We are hallowed through the approach present of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time” (Heb. 10:10). “No person or animal could have had the place on the cross that Christ died. No person or animal could shed their blood for the remission of sins like Jesus was able to do” (“UVB” note # 2482). “The blood of beasts could cover sins, but had no power to put them away, yet it foretold the true sacrifice, and the sufferings which suffice to offset all sins…” (“Concordant Commentary” p. 345). The Levitical priests’ work was never final, thus they could never rest. “In these things the type is in contrast with the antitype, for Christ is seated in the holy of holies as far as His priesthood is concerned” (“Concordant Commentary” p. 345).
Now these things being true, some might ask, “Why then did the Jews continue to offer animal sacrifices throughout the book of Acts? As late as Acts 21 we read of the Jews offering sacrifices. Even the Apostle Paul consented in joining others in this purification ritual. As to why Paul did this, I find the following words from Mr. Knoch very helpful.
“By thus publicly associating himself with this ceremonial it was hoped he would be able to disarm the prejudice against him. Paul’s course in this matter cannot be condemned. Up to this time he became a Jew to the Jews. He could circumcise Timothy, because of the prejudice of the Jews, at the same time making evident that circumcision was nothing. Ceremonial observances were nothing, only as they might be used to conciliate those who clung to them. It is the motive rather than an act which determines what is right and what is wrong” (“Concordant Commentary” p. 214).
Paul, through the evangel of which he was entrusted by Christ, had come to understand that these ceremonial rituals under the Mosaic Law were nothing, yet to the believing Jews zealous for the Law (Acts 21:20) these practices were still necessary. They had yet to learn the truths Paul was given as to what Christ accomplished on the cross. And even though Christ gave these truths to Paul, we never read of Christ telling the Jews that they were to stop offering animal sacrifices.
Furthermore, in the future when Israel goes into the land promised to her through the patriarchs, the temple of God will be built and once again animal sacrifices will be resumed. We know this because the antichrist will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease (Dan. 9:27; 2Thess. 2:3-12). Additional descriptions of the temple in that day and following, including the sacrifices are given in Ezekiel chapters 40-43.
Yet, some will say that all of this is going backwards. The thought is, since we have learned through the Apostle Paul’s letters that these sacrifices were already fulfilled in Christ Jesus, why will these people be going back again to the shadows? I believe the answer lies in recognizing the difference between administrations. For us—belonging to the “secret prophetic program”—to begin these various rituals would most definitely be going backwards. In 1Cor. 10:11 Paul writes, “Now all this befalls them (Israel) typically. Yet it was written for our admonition, to whom the consummations of the eons have attained.”
The point is, what the ends of the coming eons will bring have already been made known in some measure to the saints, in Spirit. But for God’s covenant People—Israel, to be offering animal sacrifices in the future is not going backwards for them because they never did stop offering sacrifices. The reason the types come back again for Israel is so they can learn what they signified. In other words, Israel, like all people, in one way or another eventually have to come to the cross of Christ.
THE TEACHING OF THE CROSS
“Christ died that we might live, and by ‘we,’ we mean creation not just ourselves.
He was cursed in order that we might be blessed.
He was wounded that we might be healed.
He sorrowed in order that we might have joy,
He was despised and humiliated that we might be glorified”
(“U.R.” Vol. 81, p. 161).