John Ritenbaugh, re-iterating that internal evidence substantiates the high probability that the Apostle Paul authored the Book of Hebrews, stresses that Christ's ultimate goal is to bring the entire creation under the Father's subjection when God will be all in all. The recipients of the book of Hebrews consisted of converts from Judaism suffering estrangement from family and community, excommunicated from the temple. The etymology of Hebrew denotes someone who has "crossed over" a boundary (such as a river) and by extension connotes moving from one idea cluster to another (such as carnal to spiritual- requiring living tenaciously by faith), as demonstrated by our Patriarch Abraham. The intended audience of Hebrews was not exclusively descendants of Judah, but those who were called by God the Father into the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) which would include a large influx of gentiles. Because the Israel of God has departed from cultural expectations from both Jewish and Gentile communities, they suffer intense persecution. The Jerusalem Church, the headquarters congregation, had to meld the gentile and Hebrew elements together, deciding whether things like circumcision were still mandatory. The solution was to concentrate on the things Christ taught by example to the Apostles, granting the ability to apply God's law in gray areas as well as clear black and white distinctions. The New Covenant requirements outlined by Christ demanded that God's Called-out -ones must learn to worship in "spirit and truth" without the 'security' of a brick and mortar temple. The sacrificial system of the Old Covenant has not been done away but will re-instated during the Millennium for those who failed to learn its purpose the first time around. For God's called-out ones, the sacrificial system has certainly not been done away, but requires a living sacrifice of lifetime service, yielding to Christ's words and example.
David C. Grabbe: "And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a [singular] sin offering." This instruction is unusual, for the ordinary sin offering consisted of a single animal. Why did God command two animals as the sin offering for the nation on the Day of Atonement?
Charles Whitaker countermands some Protestant commentators' attempts to equivocate the real intent of Hebrews 10:9 by wrongly asserting that Paul therein contends that the Law (or, according to some, the Old Covenant) has been done away. The thrust of this passage, however, is that God has set aside the system of animal sacrifices (which never did atone for sin), allowing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (which did atone for sin) to displace the previous system. In Hebrews 8 and 9, Paul indeed writes of the Old Covenant (Diatheke), saying it is disappearing (though not yet vanished away (Hebrews 8:13). Hebrews 8:13, referring to the Old Covenant, does not contradict Hebrew 10:9, which refers to a system of animal sacrifices. The unfortunate ambiguity of the King James Version can be cleared up by looking at any number of more modern versions.
John Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that most professing Christians are aware of the New Covenant, cautions us not to fall prey to the insidious error that much of the Protestant—especially the evangelical—world teaches. The error lies in misconstruing the significance of the New Covenant as a 'free pass into Heaven' without paying attention to the Law which, detractors almost universally claim, has been done away. Protestants ignore the description of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:10-11, where God says He will "hard-wire" His Law into peoples' minds after a thoroughgoing transforming and renewing of those minds during sanctification, demanded as a part of our living sacrifice. Acceptance of the terms of this New Covenant may appear as insurmountable hurdles to the carnal mind. We are required to give up anything (family, esteem from friends and associates, fame, wealth, etc.) which conflicts with our loyalty to Jesus Christ and God the Father. We are obliged to soberly count the cost before we leap, realizing we have formidable enemies (both spiritual and physical) to conquer as well as continuous obstacles to overcome, for which we will need prodigious quantities of God's precious Holy Spirit. Like the apostle Paul, we must be willing to forego any attractions to fame, prestige, or influence if they conflict with God's divine purpose for us, considering these previous desires rubbish. Sanctification is not passive, but it is a rigorously active process in which God requires our full participation, yielding to His molding. We must put God before family, friends, and self. God will not create our spiritual character by fiat; we must be thoroughly involved in the process, keeping and meditating upon His Holy Law, making it our first nature instead of our second nature. We must look before we leap, but we must leap in the right direction and at the right time, setting our minds on things above, walking in the spirit and not in the flesh.
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.
David Grabbe, reiterating that the focus for the Day of Atonement is on national, unintentional transgressions, points out that the preamble for the Day of Atonement instructions leans on the failure of the Aaronic priesthood. The sacrificial system—including the ceremony of the two goats—was added to the Abrahamic covenant because of transgressions. The Day of Atonement is 187 days into the Calendar year, possibly the same day Moses came back from Sinai the second time with a radiant countenance, giving the Law to the people a second time, making it clear that transgression of the law brings death. Israel's works had nearly condemned the nation to obliteration. The only work that could be performed was by the high priest and the man who led away the azazel, reminding us that only God can purge sins. The fasting reminds us of the three consecutive times Moses fasted. The effect of Christ's work is that we are reconciled, at one with God. The symbolism of the cleansing of Joshua's filthy robes in Zechariah 3 seems to replicate the symbolism of the cleansing in Leviticus 16. After the cleansing, the nation is absolved from iniquity. The Day of Atonement represents a bearing away of sin, removing it from the land. The Seventy Weeks prophecy is God's assurance to Daniel that God will intervene, lifting the nation of Israel out of its degenerate state to total reconciliation.
David Grabbe, focusing on the two goats of Leviticus 16, points out that there is not a clear definition scripture for the Hebrew word "azazel." In apocryphal tradition, Azazel is the name of a fallen angel, yet the roots of the Hebrew word indicate a goat of departure, or "going away," "disappearance" or "complete removal." The two goats of Leviticus 16:5 represent one sin offering. Jesus Christ was and is our perfect sacrifice for sin, fulfilling the roles of both goats. The idea that Christ fulfilled the role of one goat, Satan the role of the second goat, is not viable. Because the Bible is consistent in its use of symbols, and because God Himself is consistent, the Bible interprets itself. If Christ fulfilled all the other offerings rehearsed in the Book of Leviticus, the offering of the second goat, the one rehearsed in Leviticus 16, would be a major departure from all the others. In the Pentateuch, there were 40 injunctions that the animals selected for offering be without blemish. Because the priest had to cast lots to decide the fate of these animals (indicating that God alone would decide their fates), we know that both these goats were without blemish or defect, symbolism that could not be applied to Satan, as he is totally unqualified to be represented by an unblemished sacrifice. The first goat is a blood sacrifice to cleanse the altar; the second goat is led away and freed (not bound by a chain). In the Scriptures, no one is bound for our sins. The problem of sin is not solved by only paying the death penalty. The function of the second goat will be explained in a future installment.
Charles Whitaker, examining Christ's statement that the law will not pass away until all has been fulfilled, indicates that the Law of God will change only when the preconditions Christ established in Matthew 5:18 have been met. Paul asks and answers the question, "Why do we need the law in the first place?" in Galatians 3:19-25, revealing it was given as a schoolmaster, teaching us what sin is. When the circumstance of sin ceases, what happens to the law? The concept of sin as a reality will be gone at a certain point in time. Has the law changed so far, and if so, what laws? A change in the priesthood (from Aaronic to Melchizedek) has taken place. Centuries before this event had taken place, God had prepared for it. Certain laws did indeed change. Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were forbidden to eat goats, sheep, and cattle away from the altar of sacrifice, even though they could eat wild game anywhere, but after they entered the land they could eat goats, sheep, and cattle anywhere in a non-sacrificial context. Eating blood was still prohibited. In the Millennium, all people will worship God in Jerusalem, but God's called-out ones are invited to worship God in prayer in spirit and truth in His very throne room. This alone we are privileged to do. In changing the rule about the venue for eating goats, sheep, and cattle, God was looking far into the future, realizing the proclivity of mankind to sin, and could envision a time when He would be forced to destroy the altar for centuries. God does not place needless burdens on people.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: We will soon be observing the Day of Atonement. Like Luke in Acts 27:9, we tend to think of this holy day as "the Fast." Afflicting our souls by not eating and drinking for the entire 24-hour period ...
John Ritenbaugh, fearing that we may be following suit in the world's religions by focusing on "getting salvation" rather than preparing for service in God's Kingdom, cautions us that we must re-orient our mindset, seeking to grow in the stature of Christ. Many mainstream religions believe that much of the "pesky" rules of the Bible have been 'done away.' We dare not 'do away' anything that is part of God's mind, or we will not be in His image. In judging, one size does not fit all. Some of the Commandments are more important than others, but they are all important. Acts 15 did not give Gentiles exemption from keeping God's Law. The laws of clean and unclean were not done away, but the vision Peter saw was given so that he would not judge Gentiles as common. The "yoke" Peter described in Acts 15:10 was not the Old Covenant laws, but rather Pharisaical regulations which were not a part of the Old Covenant. The Sabbath, Holy Days, and Clean and Unclean laws were not done away; the sacrificial system will be re-instituted for a time in the Millennial setting. We have been commanded to pursue holiness, moral purity, a necessary quality to grow into God's image. The term holy, in every context, does not always mean morally pure, but instead to cut something, or to set apart from the group. The term Greek haggios, however, denotes moral purity, only possible through God's Holy Spirit, enabling us to become partakers of the Heavenly calling, justified by Christ's blood, faithfully keeping the Commandments of God in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Those who have been called now have an advantage over the ancient Israelites, having power to faithfully keep God's Commandments (written indelibly in our hearts), motivated by His Holy Spirit. Holiness encompasses all of what was written in both the old and new covenants.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that it is necessary to cultivate righteous judgment, reminds us that not every law of God is on the same level of seriousness regarding His purpose and that not all things are equal in the framework of the Law. We should never assume that any of God's Laws have been done away, but in some ways are still binding. Scripture cannot be broken, but it can be modified. All of God's Commandments are righteousness; the same things keep happening over and over again throughout the ages. The practice of demonstrating God's agape love trumps all other spiritual gifts. Even though all unrighteousness is sin, not all sins are on the same level for us. We have to develop discernment to think, sorting the important from the marginally important. God wants us to think; understanding leads to wisdom, and wisdom leads to right choices. The two greatest laws (loving God and loving our neighbor) is one law with two aspects. The other laws are still in force, though not on the same level of importance. No law is 'done away.' The first tabernacle and its sacrificial offerings were symbolic of a greater spiritual reality of actively loving God as well as loving and serving our fellow man, as a living sacrifice, following in Jesus' footsteps. Doing righteousness is an expression of love.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting that we have been marking nearly 6,000 years since Abel's offering was accepted and Cain's offering was rejected by God, an event revealing the carnal proclivity for jealousy leading to the first murder, reminds us that the Bible clearly shows that the requirement for the offering was in-force at the time of Adam and Eve. Cain's penalty was banishment from his family. An offering is a gift given to God. Seven times a year, we are required to appear before the Lord with a gift, and not empty-handed. The gift is protocol, opening the door to the King's presence, establishing a relationship. Offerings —gifts—are transactions that bring people together. We are giving back to God only what God has already given to us. The offerings unify the whole group. A quality, acceptable offering involves faith, proper valuation, and righteousness, being cheerfully given with a measure of sacrifice.
John Ritenbaugh states that Atonement is the least looked forward to holy day. The word atonement alters in meaning as we change the context in which it is used. When we parse the morphology, looking at the suffix "-ment" which changes a verb into a noun, suggests the means by which something is altered or changed, we find that atonement denotes the way something bad done in the past can be made good, or the means to which harmony is achieved, making the entire world at one or reconciled with God. Sin has separated mankind from God, forcing God not to listen to them. Man's estrangement is wholly beyond dispute, and totally man's fault. We cannot expect to reconcile to God on our own terms. Man is not God's equal; His sovereignty must be recognized at all times. The context of "covering" in the Old Covenant did not get rid of or purge sins, but merely covered them. The sacrifice of unblemished animals typified the type of life that Christ would lead: sinless. Sadly, our forebears kept these holy days mechanically, not regarding the significance or the meaning of a "sinless" offering. No heart to heart contact was every made with God; no atonement could be achieved if they never repented or changed. Sin could be considered a violation of relationship, brought about by idolatry, adultery, or fornication. When we realize that God alone can forgive sin, we understand that human love in Proverbs 16:6, does not atone for sin, but it allows the person offended the opportunity to protect or safeguard the reputation of the offender. The context of atonement in the New Covenant is to totally purge or wipe away the sins, only possible through the blood sacrifice of a perfect life, namely Jesus.
John Ritenbaugh affirms that the sacrificial system of Leviticus typifies spiritual sacrifices which we perform under the New Covenant. Although the slaying of an animal may seem archaic, the spiritual insight is significant. Abel's offering of an animal was acceptable, whereas Cain's offering of the produce of the land was not. With the sacrifice of an animal, we sacrifice a being with which we have established a close relationship. The cutting of the animal's throat typifies the degree of self-sacrifice demanded of us. Our submission to God must take precedence over love for family or anyone or anything else. The Old Testament sacrifices focused more on total commitment and sacrifice rather than on dying.
There must be something to prove we are one with Christ, engrafted as part of Him and in union with the Father and the Son. John Ritenbaugh asserts that that something is the manner in which we conduct our life, and we must be living in conformity to the sacrificial life of Jesus Christ.
The peace, fellowship, praise, or thank offering was the most commonly given in ancient Israel. John Ritenbaugh explains that it represents God, the priest, and the offerer in satisfying fellowship.
Since the church no longer keeps the Passover with the slaughter of a lamb, we miss important and poignant details that could enhance our observance. The author uses a personal experience with two ewes as a springboard to explain greater, spiritual lessons.
Laying on of hands is a strange subject to most, especially to the nonchristian. However, it is one of the church's fundamental doctrines and plays a large role in baptism, healing and ordination.
Many people believe that our sins are the focus of Passover—but they are wrong! John Ritenbaugh shows that Christ, the Passover Lamb, should be our focus. How well do you know Him?
In this sermon devoted to the Night Much to be Observed, John Ritenbaugh asserts that far from being the "pipe dream" of Herbert W. Armstrong as some have disparagingly called it, this event is a commanded part of the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, a time focusing on God's watchful oversight as He delivers us from bondage, continuing His oversight throughout our pilgrimage. Numbers 28:16-17 clearly reveals that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur on two different days. Exodus 12:40 clearly marks this event as a memorial of the covenant with Abraham 430 years prior- again emphasizing God's continuous watchful care.
In this Passover message, John Ritenbaugh observes that the world's religions are in abject bondage to falsehood because they do not observe the Passover. Freedom comes to God's called out ones incrementally from continuing on the way- the relationship between God and us. It is this relationship which is the most important thing Christ has died for. We need to be sobered at the awesomeness of the cost to set us free from sin- how far Christ was willing to be pushed. Immense have been the preparations for our ransom- involving billions of years (Hebrews 11:3, I Corinthians 10:11) and the death of our Savior. Because we have been purchased, we have an obligation to our Purchaser.
John Ritenbaugh distinguishes worldly or carnal scholarship (based upon snobbish, oneupmanship esoteric elitism) from godly scholarship, characterized by an unassuming, childlike unconcern for status, seeking to impress God instead of other people. Using worldly scholarship to establish a late Passover doctrine on the basis of one isolated scripture (II Chronicles 35:10-11) both removes the incident from context and violates the simplicity of Christ, blurring the clear distinction between the original (domestic) Passover from the traditional (Temple) Passover. Unfortunately, reinterpretation and alterations have significantly distorted the meaning of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
Through Acts 1-15, God (primarily through the work of Peter, Paul and James) has removed His work out of the Judaistic mold, creating the Israel of God (the church) designed to spread to the Gentiles. Though certain ceremonial and civil aspects of the law were (for a time) suspended, the Law of God was never suspended, especially as it relates to defilement of conscience or disregarding of scruples that could cause permanent spiritual damage or unwittingly place one in communion with demons. We must always conduct ourselves with the long —term spiritual interests of others paramount on our minds, being sensitive to conscience and scruples of others as we exercise our 'rights.'
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