David Grabbe focuses on a facile but errant slogan reflecting a Protestant heresy: "The Sabbath is the sign of the Old Covenant; the Holy Spirit is the sign of the New Covenant." The intended implication is that the Holy Spirit replaces the Sabbath. We should bear in mind that Pentecost—celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit—requires the meticulous counting of Sabbaths, and is itself an annual Sabbath. Those who subscribe to this catchphrase ignore the truth that God made the seventh-day holy during creation week; it occupies a central location amid God's Ten Commandments, in effect until Heaven and Earth pass away. Peter, at Pentecost assured his audience that repentance would be given to those who repent of breaking God's law (which of course includes His Commandments). Millennial prophecies make it clear that the Sabbath will remain in effect in perpetuity. Those false teachers who claim God has done away with or changed the Sabbath are implying that God is inconsistent, blessing "New Testament" Christians for violating the Sabbath, while destroying their ancient forefathers for doing the same thing. It is wrong to call the Sabbath the sign of the Old Covenant. The Sabbath is a reminder of God's creative power, a sign of identification in both physical and spiritual Israel, and a sign of sanctification. If we cast off this sign of sanctification, we will return to the way of life from which we have been freed. God's called-out ones must be cautious about clever one-liners spouted by liars dedicated to deceiving God's elect.
David Grabbe, observing that a future Millennial temple (described in Ezekiel 40—48) will contain some elements of the Old Covenant, including animal sacrifices and Levitical priests, examines the apparent contradiction concerning the new Melchizedek priesthood described in Hebrews 7:11. In the resurrection of ancient Israel, largely a rebellious, stiff-necked people, the Levites will finally come face-to-face with their iniquity (Ezekiel 44:10-14) and be ashamed of leading the people astray. Christ will commission them to complete what they did not complete before the demise of the temple. David, realizing that God preferred a penitent heart rather than sacrifice, nevertheless had no problem offering a burnt offering and a sin offering, and Paul had no problem offering a sin offering, even though he was under the New Covenant. God's Church to this day keeps rituals, even though the symbol in no way equals the substance they represent. In the Millennium, as we assume our roles as priests and kings, having been called under the New Covenant, we may have residual squeamishness about watching Levitical priests perform animal sacrifices, but we will learn that the Ezekiel vision has a specific niche in God's overall plan for mankind's learning about Christ's sacrifice for all of mankind.
John Ritenbaugh, reminding us that the Church is unique in that it does not believe God's Law has been done away, warns that the governments and culture of the offspring of Jacob suffer from a dearth of leadership, dramatizing the observation of Ralph Waldo Emerson that "an institution is but the lengthened shadow of one man." The book of Isaiah was written in Judah, castigating the people for their lack of leadership, but the book of Ezekiel was written to the House of Israel, long after the Northern Kingdom had gone into captivity, intended for the modern nations of Israel. Individually, we must become leaders in our own families, protecting them from the curse and scourge that is already falling on our nation. We have the solemn obligation to fear God, to refrain from being hypocrites, and to thoroughly repent, allowing ourselves to become pliable clay in God's hands. In this context, we must: (1) establish that the covenants are a gift from God, designed for our freedom, (2) understand that a covenant is a legal agreement between us and the unseen God, (3) understand that the covenant is not cold and legalistic, and (4) understand the Covenant was offered by the True God, who has never failed in His obligations. The New Covenant, promised in Hebrews 8:10 for the entire nation, has commenced as a forerunner in the Israel of God. As Christ's affianced Bride, God's called-out ones must not emulate the example of physical Judah and Israel, who shamelessly committed adultery (which is spiritual pornea—absorbing Pagan idolatrous practice), but must remain chaste in the keeping of the Covenants. Breaking God's covenant is the equivalent of adultery.
At some point in the near future, the modern descendants of Israel will learn of their true identity—and have to face the consequences of that knowledge. Using the prophecies of the Second Exodus, David Grabbe reveals that God will do what is necessary to bring Israel to the spiritual condition and the physical location that He has purposed for her.
The fact of a Second Exodus that will far eclipse the Exodus from Egypt is generally understood by Bible students. The timing of this great migration, however, is more elusive. David Grabbe points out the Scriptural markers that narrow the time frame to a specific, significant prophetic event.
Though God provided the descendants of Abraham with every physical advantage, Israel still failed to keep the terms of the covenant they made with Him. However, as Richard Ritenbaugh brings out, God withheld one necessary, spiritual ingredient—the key dimension that makes the New Covenant work.
Richard Ritenbaugh affirms that in spiritual matters, as in athletics, those who have mastered the fundamental skills are the best. The fundamentals of the Feast of Tabernacles consists of a harvest image, depicting a massive number of people coming to the truth, while the journey or pilgrimage depicts a time of judgment. We are currently undergoing our period of judgment, preparing to reign with Christ as spiritual kings and priests during His millennial rule, bringing salvation and judgment releasing bands of suppression and bondage, bringing healing, and enabling the wastelands and deserts to reach an Edenic standard.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that if God had accepted the calendar for 1600 years, it would be presumptuous for one living at the end of days to call it flawed. This calendar issue had surfaced during the tenure of Herbert W. Armstrong's apostleship and was thoroughly studied and systematically resolved. God assigned the tribe of Judah to be the caretakers of the calendar (as part of the oracles; Romans 3:2) The real issue in this controversy is faith in God's sovereignty and His faithfulness. The church does not exist in a vacuum, but as a subset of, subject to the ordinances of the Commonwealth of Israel (and Judah), with whom the Covenants were made. The need for precision, consistency and predictability censures any misguided attempts at establishing home made calendars.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the calculated Hebrew calendar reflects God's faithfulness in providing His Spiritual offspring a reliable calendar. To concoct one's own calendar with errant human reason and assumptions equates with the presumptuous way of Cain. Some of the bedrock American values such as competition and individualism, when applied to changing established doctrine and established ordinances, bring an automatic curse of scattering and a seared conscience upon those who do these things. We cannot take the community's laws into our own hands, tweaking them for our own advantage, and still be a good Christian. Challenging the calendar is tantamount to challenging the laws of the Commonwealth of Israel (including its calendar) and challenging the sovereignty of Almighty God.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the entire Old Testament was written with the New Testament church in mind. Certain temporary ceremonial sacrifices, washings, and rituals were set aside when the spiritual reality—such as Christ's sacrifice replacing animal sacrifices and God's Holy Spirit and His Word replacing physical washings (Hebrews 9:18; Ephesians 5:26)—added a spiritual dimension. All biblical law, including the ceremonies, comes from God. Paul never taught any Jew to forsake the Law of Moses, the constitution and civil code, but he did rail against Pharisaical additions for the expressed purpose of attaining justification. Even though a change occurred in the administration of existing law, no laws were done away. Instead, they are written in the hearts of the converted (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16).
John Ritenbaugh uses an analogy of a 1910 automobile as opposed to a modern one. Obsolete doesn't mean, as Protestant understanding would have it, "done away." The fault of the Old Covenant was with the hearts of the people. Christ took it upon Himself, with His death, to amend the fault enabling us to walk in the light, keeping the commandments. Salvation and conversion is a cooperative effort between God and His called-out ones, requiring both a calling and a response (justification and sanctification), a circumcision of the heart, imposing responsibilities on the participants of the covenant. Though the process took a unilateral act of sacrifice on behalf of the Testator to make it work, God demands of us unconditional surrender.
John Ritenbaugh affirms that the New Covenant of Hebrews 8:8 was given to Israel and Judah, not to the Gentiles. God does not deviate from this pattern; Israel is still involved with the New Covenant. It is not the physical nation, but the spiritual remnant (partly composed of grafted-in Gentiles- Romans 11:17-25 and the church or Israel of God- Galatians 6:16) with whom God is working, circumcising their hearts and writing His laws in the recesses of their hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16)
John Ritenbaugh, citing a rather sobering reflective article by Vaclav Havel, observes that although we enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, we understand ourselves less and less; everything is seemingly possible, but nothing is certain. Without the spirit of God, mankind becomes guided by another spirit leading to dreadful destructive sinister consequences- made increasingly more menacing by increased technological capabilities. A person having only the spirit of man is absolutely held in bondage to it. It is impossible for mankind, without God's Spirit (Deuteronomy 5:29) to responsibly use the powers and abilities God has given to him. By yielding to God and using the power of His spirit, we can experience a foretaste of the times of refreshing and restitution which will eventually be made available to the entire creation (Acts 3:19)
John Ritenbaugh warns us that the book of Amos is specifically addressed to us- the end time church (the Israel of God) - the ones who have actually made the new covenant with God. Having made the covenant, we must remember that (1) privilege brings peril- the closer one draws to God, the closer will be the scrutiny, (2) we can't rest on past history or laurels, and (3) we (the ones who have consciously made the covenant with God) must take this message personally. Absolutely fair in His judgment, God judges Gentile and Israelite according to the level of moral understanding He has given them. No human being can escape the obligation to be human, as God has intended — treating other fellow human beings humanely (not as things or objects of profit). Edom's perpetual nursing of anger (harboring bitterness and hatred continually) against Israel is especially abhorrent to Almighty God- a candidate for the unpardonable sin.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that everything about the Priesthood of Jesus Christ is superior to that of the Levitical system, which was only intended to serve as a type (a forerunner, shadow, or symbol) of the access to God that Jesus would later fulfill. As splendid as it was, there was neither provision for the forgiveness of sins nor a purging of guilt in the Old Covenant. The real barrier that separates us from or denies access to God is our guilty and defiled conscience, which cannot be cleared by a repetitious sacrifice of animal blood. Only Christ's voluntary sacrifice (done on a totally moral and spiritual plane) can purge our consciences of guilt. We should remember that unless the sacrifice of Christ transforms us (leading us to emulate Christ's sinless life), we have not really repented. The chief difference between the Old and New Covenants is that the letter kills while the Spirit gives life.
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