The Sacrificial System After Christ's Return
One of the more puzzling aspects of the commanded observances and festivals that will be practiced after Christ returns is the animal sacrifices which will be performed at a new temple in Jerusalem.
The following study is in no way meant to answer all of the questions that could be asked concerning the sacrificial system after the return of Christ nor is it meant to be a detailed analysis of this system, because the scriptures leave out too many details to do this. This study is only meant to be an overview of the subject that will show the logic behind the use of the sacrificial system of worship after Christ's return.
After Adam and Eve's fatal mistake in the garden of Eden, God instituted the sacrificial system through which humans could maintain a relationship with him and be taught how the redemption of humanity would be accomplished.
The following study is meant to show that the overall plan of God the Father and Jesus Christ for the redemption of humanity through the use of the sacrificial system has not changed from the time of Adam and Eve and will not change as long as there are humans who need to learn the lessons that are taught through it.
THE GATHERING OF ISRAEL
The Creator God brought the Israelites out of Egypt because he had a job for them to do and a purpose for their existence as a nation. These people were called to be a nation of priests who would represent God and his plan for the salvation of humanity to the world by practicing his religion to perfection.
After Christ's return, the descendants of Israel will be brought to the land of their inheritance. There, they will be formed into a world power to fulfill their national destiny. During this future age, the nation of Israel will again assume its responsibility of being an example of God's way of life to the world, and the city of Jerusalem will again become the focal point of the worship of God when Jesus Christ administers God's government and religion to the nations of the world in an effort to convert humanity to the ways of his Father. See Deut.30:1-6; Mic.4:1-7; Joel 3:16-21; Zech.8:1-3.
Chapters 40-48 of Ezekiel contain the most detailed prophecies concerning the new temple and sacrificial system that will be established within the nation of Israel sometime after the beginning of Christ's rule.
While researching Ezekiel's prophecy of the future temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices, it is very important to know the meanings of the words 'sin-offering' and 'guilt-offering' and the word 'atone', because these words clarify the reasons for animal sacrifices.
The Sin Offering
In most English translations of the scriptures the word 'sin-offering' is translated from the Hebrew word 'hattat', which appears many times in the Old Testament and alternates in meaning between 'the reality of disobedience to God', 'sin-offering', and 'the means of removing guilt and penalty' (i.e., atonement/expiation of sin).
In order to understand the reason for giving a sin offering we must first define what sin is:
"Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1.Jn.3:4 KJV).
"All unrighteousness is sin" (1.Jn.5:17 Para.). See also Rom.14: 22-23; Jms.2:10; 4:17.
Sin is the violation of the physical and spiritual law of God; sin is lawlessness. Sin is any deviation from God's righteous laws, precepts, and principles that define how people should live their lives and worship God. Therefore, 'sin' is any deviation from the physical or spiritual law of God.
Because the word 'hattat' (sin-offering) is used in relation to both the purging away of physical and ceremonial defilement and the expiation of physical and spiritual sin, the exact reason for making each sin-offering must be determined by the context of the specific animal sacrifice that is to be offered in atonement.
In most English translations of the scriptures the word 'guilt-offering' is translated from the Hebrew word 'ashem', which has to do with the expiation of a physical or a spiritual violation of God's law for which there is a punishment or penalty that must be paid for the violation of the law.
The Hebrew word kippurim was translated into English as atone. This word and its cognate verb forms are applied to the purging away of ceremonial and physical defilement, as well as the setting aside of the penalty for physical and spiritual offenses.
The purpose of atonement was the same for each type of sin, whether it was for physical and ceremonial defilement or for physical and spiritual sins. The goal was to keep the tabernacle/temple and the Israelites in a condition of sinlessness in order for God to dwell among them and commune with them.
The word (kippurim) contains the concepts of both the method by which something is done and the result of doing it. When an atonement was made through the sacrificial system (the method), the breach between God and man was healed (i.e., the result of sin was removed). God and man were then in harmony (the result). Therefore, the sacrifice of animals as an atonement for sin was required to restore and maintain the relationship between God and man.
Holy Things—Ezekiel's Prophecy
"And he said to me, The north chambers, and the south chambers which are to the face of the separate area, they are holy chambers, where the priests who approach to the Lord, shall eat the holiest of the holy things. There they shall lay the holiest of the holy things, even the food offering, and the sin offering, and the guilt offering; for the place is holy" (Ezk.42:13-14 Para.).
One of the first things mentioned after Ezekiel is given an initial description of the temple in chapters 40 and 41 is that this new temple is a holy place and everything within the confines of this future temple must be holy. God is holy; therefore, he will only dwell within a holy temple:
"For I am the Lord your God: you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. For I am the Lord that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Lev.11:44-45 KJV). See also Lev.19:1-2; 20:26.
The Law Of Holiness
God's very nature requires that all things that come into close contact with him be of the same quality of existence. Any deviation or violation of the laws that govern the interaction with him or his spiritual nature is defined as sin. Sin is simply opposition to the nature and being of God. Therefore, any thing or person that is not in harmony with this law (i.e., does not exhibit a holy and righteous nature) cannot interact with God in his spirit presence without being destroyed, unless God himself protects
the physical thing or person from the power of his spirit presence. See Lev.10:1-9; 16:1-2; Num.3:3-4; 26:61.
"When the priests enter, then they shall not go out of the sanctuary into the outer court, but they shall lay their clothes there by which they minister by them; for they are holy. They shall put on other clothes and shall approach to that which is for the people" (Ezk.42:14 Para.).
Here, we see that the priesthood must wear sacred clothing while ministering before God. This sacred clothing must remain in the temple in order to prevent ceremonial and physical defilement (contamination). This was also required of the priesthood under the first agreement with national Israel while they served in the temple of God.
God's New Temple and Throne
"And the glory of the Lord came into the house, the way of the gate facing eastward. And the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house!" (Ezk.43:4-5 Para.).
Ezekiel's vision of the glory of God coming into the temple and filling it with his presence is reminiscent of the times when God's glorified presence entered the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple that Solomon built.
"And I heard one speaking to me from the house. And standing beside me was a man. And he said to me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, there where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever. . ." (Ezk.43:6-7 Para.).
The God Jesus Christ
When Jesus Christ ascended to the Father after being resurrected from the dead, he was restored to his former glory and status in the God family. He is again an immortal God-being. It is Jesus Christ whose glory and presence resides within the future temple spoken of by Ezekiel. See 1.Cor.15:20-28; Rom.6:9-16; Col.3:1; Rev.1:14-18.
People who worship at this future temple will come before the throne of Jesus Christ who is the mediator between God the Father and humanity. Before he became the Messiah, he was the Creator God and the mediator between God the Father and human beings. After he became the Messiah, he was still the mediator (the heavenly high priest). After he returns to rule the earth, he will still be the mediator (the God of the earth). His function as mediator has never changed nor will it change while there are still humans alive on earth.
"Even the house of Israel shall not defile my holy name any more; they nor their kings, by their fornication, nor by the corpses of their kings in their high places" (Ezk.43:7 Para.).
Here, God speaks of the House of Israel who, shortly after Solomon's death and the division of national Israel into two separate nations, formed their own worship system. God considered this false system a defilement and pollution of his name, because they attempted to worship him through their own priesthood, temple system, and observances.
Why will this never happen again? One reason it will never happen again is that Israel will never again be allowed to go their own way. After the return of Christ, they will be governed by the righteous government of God, which will be administered by Jesus Christ through the children of God who will be immortal spirit-beings. See Matt.19: 27-28; Rev.2:26-27; 19:15.
"In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their door post beside my door posts, and the wall between me and them; even they have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have done. And I consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their fornication, and the corpses of their kings from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever" (Ezk.43:8-9 Para.).
The New Altar
"And he said to me, Son of man, so says the Lord God; These are the statutes of the altar in the day of its making to offer on it burnt offerings, and to sprinkle blood on it" (Ezk.43:18 Para).
Here, Ezekiel is being given an overview of what will be required to purify the new altar that will be used within God's new temple. Notice that the purification process for this new altar is like the purification of the altar of the tabernacle in the wilderness:
"And you shall give to me the priests of the Levites, who are from the seed of Zadok, who approach me, declares the Lord God, to minister to me, a bull, a son of the herd, for a sin offering. And you shall take of its blood and put it on its four horns, and on the four corners of the ledge, and on the borders around. And you shall cleanse it and atone for it. And you shall take the bull of the sin offering, and he shall burn it at the appointed place of the house outside the sanctuary. And on the second day you shall bring a buck of the goats, perfect for a sin offering. And they shall cleanse the altar, as they cleansed it with the bull" (Ezk.43:19-22 Para.).
In verses 19-22, the sin offering clearly has nothing to do with spiritual sin; it is for the purpose of removing physical defilement (i.e., ceremonial and physical impurity) from the altar.
"When you have finished cleansing, you shall bring a perfect bull, a son of the herd, and a ram out of the flock, perfect. And you shall bring them before the Lord, and the priests shall throw salt on them, and they shall offer them for a burnt offering to the Lord. For seven days you shall daily prepare a he-goat for a sin offering. And they shall prepare a bull, a son of the herd, and a ram out of the flock, perfect ones" (Ezk.43:23-25 Para.).
Salt, which is a sign of God's everlasting covenant with Israel, will also be placed on these new sacrifices. This shows that the animal sacrifices of the new temple system are a continuation of what was done under the original agreement with national Israel. See Lev.2:13; Num. 18:19.
Teaching the People
A major point made in the next few verses is that people who live during the rule of Jesus Christ will be taught the laws of purity that were a part of the first agreement with ancient Israel. These laws included the rules that determined the kinds of flesh the Israelites were allowed to eat (Lev.11:1-48; Deut.14:3-21), the transmission of impurity from one thing or one person to another (Lev.15:25-30; Num.19:11-13), and what constitutes pure and impure attitudes and behaviors (Rom.14: 22-23; Jms.4:17).
Ezekiel 44:23-27 Paraphrased
"And they shall teach my people between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean" (v23).
The priesthood will again assume their duties of teaching God's ways, which include the laws of physical and spiritual defilement. Verse 24 shows that these priests will be the civil judges of Israel, just as they were in ancient Israel.
"And in a dispute, they shall stand to judge; they shall judge by my judgments. And they shall observe my laws and my statutes in my appointed feasts; and they shall sanctify my Sabbaths" (v24).
From what is said in the last half of verses 23 and 24, it is clear that most of what was taught to ancient Israel will be taught as a way of life under Christ's rule.
"And he shall not touch a dead man, to defile himself; However, for a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or for a sister who has not had a husband, they may defile themselves. And after he is cleansed, they shall count seven days for him. And in the day that he goes into the sanctuary, to the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary, he shall bring his sin offering, declares the Lord God" (vs.25-27).
After a priest became physically impure by touching a corpse, he had to be purified, wait seven days, and make a sin offering. This sin offering had nothing to do with spiritual sin; it was for the purpose of removing the physical defilement that is acquired through contact with a corpse.
The Laws Concerning Impurity
Although the Bible clearly shows that spiritual sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ, there is no evidence that indicates God's laws concerning how God interacts with physical humans in his glorified form have been suspended or canceled. From what we have seen in these prophecies, it is apparent that the laws that govern the interaction between the physical and spirit dimensions of existence must still be obeyed after the return of Christ.
Ezekiel 45:15-20 Paraphrased
After recording various prophetic and symbolic admonitions to the rulers of Israel, Ezekiel spoke about the atonement for the leaders of Israel, a lift-offering for a prince, and the atonement for the people of Israel:
"And one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the watered land of Israel; for a food offering, and for a burnt offering, and for peace offerings, to atone for them, declares the Lord God" (v15).
The English word atone in verse 15 is translated from the Hebrew word kapar. It is unclear if kapar refers to the expiation of physical defilement or physical or spiritual sins. However, a careful reading of the preceding verses (8-14) reveals only an admonition to Israel's future leaders to put evil out of the land, which may or may not have any bearing on whether or not verse 15 is a reference to atonement of physical and spiritual sins.
"All the people of the land shall be at this heave offering for the prince in Israel" (v16).
It is unclear if the prince referred to in verse 16 is the Lord God, a ruler of Israel, or the high priest. What is clear, however, is that this will be a mandatory assembly and offering by all the people of Israel at the temple of God.
"And burnt offerings shall be on the prince, and a food offering, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and on the new moons, and on the sabbaths, and in all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the food offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to atone for the house of Israel" (v17).
The high priest must prepare and make all of the various offerings on the commanded observances. It is interesting to note that four of the offerings were a part of the original sacrificial system given to ancient Israel. Notice also that a sin offering will be made for the atonement of the whole nation of Israel.
Cleanse The Sanctuary
"So says the Lord God; In the first month, on the first of the month, you shall take a bull without blemish, a son of the herd, and cleanse the sanctuary" (v18).
From this verse, it seems very likely that this cleansing process to remove ceremonial and physical defilement will take place on the first day of the month—the new moon.
The following verse shows the necessity to purge the temple of ceremonial and physical impurity that is caused by ignorance or an accident:
"And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering, and put it on the door posts of the house, and on the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and on the gateposts of the inner court. And so you shall do this on the seventh day of the month for each man who goes astray, and for the simple. And you shall atone for the house" (vs.19-20).
Verse 20 says that the process of atonement, which was done for the sanctuary will be repeated seven days later for people who go astray (Heb. shagah: i.e., sin through ignorance) and the simple (Heb. pethiy. i.e., one who lacks discriminating judgment as to the difference between right and wrong, is likely to make wrong decisions, or is easily influenced to do the wrong thing).
Physical and Spiritual Sin
Verses 15 and 20 of Ezekiel 45 seem to be the only place in the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning the new temple that hint of a sacrifice being made to expiate unintentional physical or spiritual violations of God's law.
It is obvious that some people who live during Christ's reign will continue to rebel against both the physical and spiritual law of God. In fact, the scriptures clearly show that people will continue to rebel against God until the end of human existence on the earth.
Nowhere in the scriptures are we given details of the method or procedure through which forgiveness of physical or spiritual sin can be obtained after Christ returns. However, what we do know to be absolute fact is that Jesus Christ sacrificed his life in payment for the sins of humanity and his sacrifice was accepted by the Father as payment for the sins of all humanity—past, present, and future.
Although there are not any details as to the method for the forgiveness of physical and spiritual sin during the reign of Christ, it is absolutely certain that whatever method or procedure that is prescribed will include the knowledge and understanding of the sacrifice of the Creator God, Jesus Christ, who will be residing in the temple and ruling the earth for God the Father.
The Place of Offerings
In the following reference, there are special places in the new temple area where the various offerings will be prepared. Once again, a parallel between the old and the new temple system can be found:
"And he brought me through the entry, which was at the side of the gate, into the holy chambers for the priests, facing north. And, behold, there was a place on the two sides westward. And he said to me, This is the place there where the priests shall boil the guilt offering, and the sin offering, where they shall bake the food offering, so as not to bring them out to the outer court, to sanctify the people" (Ezk.46:19-20 Para.).
The few portions of Ezekiel's prophecies that have been reviewed in this study clearly document the fact that, after Christ's return, there will still be a need for the laws of purity to be obeyed by the inhabitants of earth.
THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM AND SALVATION
Although the prophecies of Ezekiel prove that, during the rule of Christ a sacrificial system of worship will be practiced, there are two major questions that remain to be answered in regard to these sacrifices:
- Why is it necessary to offer sacrifices for sin, when the scriptures clearly show that Jesus Christ made the final sacrifice for the sins of humanity?
- Is there a reason for animal sacrifices, which does not have to do with physical and spiritual sin, that makes them necessary while Christ rules the earth?
In order to find the answers to these two questions, one must have an understanding of the following:
- Why sacrifices were required before Christ's sacrifice
- Forgiveness of sin prior to and after the advent of Christ
- The function of the holy spirit in the process of salvation
The Forgiveness of Sin
We can solve the mystery of why there will be a sacrificial system after the return of Christ by answering the following questions:
- Was there a process or method before the advent of Jesus Christ whereby individuals could have their physical and spiritual sins forgiven?
- Could physical and spiritual sins be forgiven through animal sacrifices?
The answer to both questions is NO! There was no process or method by which physical or spiritual sin could be forgiven before the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No amount of animal sacrifices could bring the forgiveness of physical or spiritual sin nor remove its penalty.
Sins Set Aside, Not Forgiven
Until the advent of Jesus Christ, there was no forgiveness of sin as we think of forgiveness under the agreement with the elect of God. Prior to Christ's death and resurrection, all atonement for sin was only temporary:
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the corners thereunto perfect. For then they would not have ceased to be offered because, when the worshipers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins. But in these sacrifices there is remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin" (Heb.10:1-4 KJV).
The sins of Israel were brought to remembrance every year on the Day of Atonement because these sins were neither forgiven nor forgotten. The reason they could not be forgiven or forgotten was that the sacrifices were not perfect; they had no power to forgive sins. Therefore, the record of sins still existed, and the people were still guilty of their sin.
Once a year on the Day of Atonement, all accumulated sin of every individual, whether it was physical and ceremonial defilement or physical and spiritual sin, was atoned for. It was either purged away or set aside. But the sins were not forgiven. The punishment for these sins had not been exacted, the penalty had not been paid, and each individual was still guilty before God.
Although the blood of the bulls and goats was a substitute for the guilty individual's life and was prophetic and symbolic of the cleansing and forgiving power of Christ's blood, the sacrifice of an animal life could never forgive sin.
The sacrificial animals only provided a temporary substitute for the life of those who were guilty of sin. Their sins still existed, they were still guilty of that sin, and the next year, on the Day of Atonement, these same sins and any sins committed during the previous year would be remembered and would have to be atoned for by the blood of bulls and goats. These sins would again be symbolically sent away from the nation of Israel for another year.
This atonement process had to be repeated year after year, because under the terms and conditions of the agreement with ancient Israel, only the life of the lawbreaker could pay the penalty for his sin. Animal life was only a substitute payment for sin, until payment could be made by the lawbreaker.
No Forgiveness of Sin
Although the sacrifices for sin under the sacrificial system did accomplish the purpose of placing individuals and the nation into harmony with God so that he could dwell among them and commune with them, there was no forgiveness of physical or spiritual sin, nor could its penalty be taken away through the use of animal sacrifices.
Sin Forgiven and Forgotten
"And every priest stands daily ministering and offering many times the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb.10:11-12 KJV). See Matt.26:27-28; Acts 2:38; Rom.3:23-25.
In the Book of Hebrews and other places, evidence can be found, which shows that, it is through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ that physical and spiritual sin can be forgiven and its record and penalty removed forever.
The scriptures clearly show that Christ was the final sacrifice for physical and spiritual sins. Never again will it be necessary for anyone to offer an animal sacrifice for the purpose of having physical or spiritual sins set aside and covered from the Father's view, because it is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that all sin is forgiven and forgotten forever.
Because physical and spiritual sin can now be forgiven and forgotten through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, why is it necessary for there to be blood sacrifices for the purposes of expiating sin after the return of Christ?
Access to God
After the establishment of the Nation of Israel at Mount Sinai and the establishment of a covenant between God and Israel, and before the advent of Jesus Christ, all formal worship and access to the Creator God was through a sacrificial system that was dictated by the terms and conditions of the agreement with national Israel.
It is important to understand that, after Jesus Christ returns he will again be the God who rules Israel and the earth from Jerusalem. It will be Jesus Christ in his glorified form who will reside in the temple of God. God the Father will not be on the earth, but he will still be in his heavenly city and temple administering his kingdom through Jesus Christ who will rule the earth for him.
It is also important to understand that most people who existed before the coming of Jesus Christ did not know of the existence of God the Father. These people only had access to the Creator God who later became the Messiah. No human has had direct access to God the Father except Jesus Christ and those called to salvation after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
After the return of Jesus Christ, physical humans will be without direct access to God the Father. They will only have direct access to the God of Israel (Jesus Christ) who will again reside in a temple at Jerusalem. Formal access to God will be granted in the same way it was to ancient Israel: through a sacrificial system of worship.
SALVATION AND RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE THE ADVENT OF CHRIST
There are three important questions that need to be answered about salvation and righteousness before the advent of Christ. The answers to these three questions will help in discovering why animal sacrifices will be necessary when Christ rules the earth:
- Was it possible for people to attain a state of righteousness before the advent of Christ?
- Was it possible for people to obtain salvation and secure the promise of eternal and immortal life before the advent of Christ?
- Why will physical humans exist on earth after Christ returns?
In chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews, the answers to questions 1 and 2 can be found. These two questions concern attaining a condition of righteousness, obtaining salvation, and securing the promise of eternal and immortal life before the advent of Christ.
In chapter 11, there is a long list of righteous individuals including the patriarchs, the prophets, and others who all died without receiving God's promises but will receive these promises at the time of the first resurrection:
"Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb.11:33-35 KJV).
This entire chapter chronicles righteous individuals and their deeds of faith as they lived and died in obedience to God's laws and ways that define righteous behavior and character.
"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb.11: 39-40 KJV). See also Heb.11:13.
These righteous individuals had not, at that point in history, received their reward. They did not receive their reward then nor have they yet received it. They are dead; they are not alive in heaven or any other place.
The individuals in this list, including Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Moses, Rahab, and King David, did obtain salvation and secure the promise of eternal and immortal life through the sacrificial system of worship before the advent of Jesus Christ.
All of these people and more will receive their reward at the same time as the righteous who have died since the advent of Jesus Christ and those who remain alive at his coming. See 1.Thes.4:13-15.
It was difficult to obtain salvation under the sacrificial system, but it could be done. The major barrier to obtaining salvation under the sacrificial system had nothing to do with the system itself, but had to do with those who were given an opportunity to practice it.
The Problem With People
Some individuals were able to secure the promises of God through the sacrificial system while others were not, but how were the successful ones able to do it? The answer to this question is also found in the Book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 8:7-8, 10 KJV
"For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second" (v7).
The old agreement did not work well for most people. If it had worked well, there would have been no need for another agreement to replace it.
"For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (v8).
There was no problem with the original method by which one could obtain salvation and secure God's promises. The fault was not with the method or the agreement; it was with the people who were under the terms and conditions of the agreement. The covenant could be performed; God performed his part and many individuals performed their part.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:" (v10).
People who lived before the gospel age of salvation did not have the law of God as a part of their mental and spiritual make-up; therefore, they found it very difficult to obey and worship God properly. Because of this innate problem with people, God decided that he would form a new agreement and change what was wrong with the people by placing his laws in their minds and spirits.
After the implementation of this new agreement between God and humanity, there would no longer be an excuse for not being able to keep the terms and conditions of an agreement with God, and there would be no excuse for not being able to successfully obtain salvation. Each person with whom God makes an agreement will be given the tools to guarantee success, if these tools are used properly.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
The most important tool that God gives a person to help in their effort to please him and obtain salvation is the holy spirit.
Understanding the importance of this tool, King David asked God not to take his holy spirit from him. David did this because he knew that this was the tool that God gave him to help him obtain salvation and secure eternal life:
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit in me. Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with your free spirit" (Psa.51:10-12 KJV).
The holy spirit that David had is the same tool that enables the elect of God during this age of salvation to secure the promise of salvation, eternal life, and immortality. See Lk.11:9-13; 24:39; Rom.8:26-27; Eph. 4:21-32; 6:17-18.
A short survey of the Old Testament will show that various attributes and functions of the holy spirit were given to many people before the advent of Christ, and many of the people who had this spirit will be in the first resurrection.
The Holy Spirit After Christ's Return
There are a number of scriptures that speak of the holy spirit being placed into people after the return of Christ (See Jer.31:33; Ezk.37: 13-14). Because of these scriptures, some people believe that, during the time of Christ's rule, all humanity will be given the spirit of God with the same attributes and functions as those who have been called to salvation between the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. and the return of Christ at the end of this age.
Although it is not important to anyone's salvation during this age to know if people after Christ's return will be given the spirit of God in the same manner as those prior to his return, there is scriptural information that gives some insight into the administration of the holy spirit after Christ's return.
A Major Key
One of the major keys to understanding the administration of the holy spirit after Christ's return is that the holy spirit is an energy, force, and power with many functions and it originates from and belongs to God the Father. This spirit-power that has many attributes, functions, and qualities is the power that the Father uses to perform his will and work throughout his vast realm.
Receiving the holy spirit into one's life is the most important event that can ever happen to any human, because this spirit is the power that places the law of God within one's mind and spirit. It is also the power that enables one to live a righteous life and progress toward spiritual maturity.
The Holy Spirit Today
Today, those who are chosen to participate in the first resurrection are provided with some attributes, functions, qualities, and powers of the holy spirit that were not given in the first or second age of salvation, nor will they be given after Christ's return. Why is this? This is because today is a different age with different opportunities and responsibilities for the elect of God.
Those who were called to salvation before this age lived under different circumstances, just as those who will live after this age will live under different circumstances. Therefore, the holy spirit will be administered as necessary to fit the circumstances in which people live, in order to give them what they need to obtain salvation.
One of the major differences between this and all other ages of salvation is that, during this age, those who have been given the holy spirit are authorized to have direct access to God the Father. They have been given this access because this is a unique age in the plan of God for the salvation of humanity and there are a number circumstances that did not exist before the new covenant:
- Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the elect of the Father have all their sins (physical and spiritual) totally forgiven and washed away and they are made holy and righteous before God the Father.
During the first and second ages of salvation, sins were not forgiven. Physical impurity was only purged from the people of God and their spiritual sins were only set aside, not forgiven. Their sins were not forgiven because the Creator God had not yet sacrificed his life for the sins of humanity. In other words, he had not paid the penalty for their sins.
- Today, the children of God are given the Father's holy spirit, which imparts various attributes and powers and they also have the spirit of the Father and Christ dwelling within them.
During the first and second ages of salvation, the holy spirit was given to a few people who were called to salvation, but there were limitations placed on the kinds of attributes, functions, qualities, and power that were given.
During these two ages, no one was given the spirit of the Father or Jesus Christ, because the Father had not yet been revealed (See Matt.11: 27; Lk.10:22; Jn.8:19) and the Creator God had not yet become the Messiah. The people of these ages did not receive the spirit of sonship (Rom.8:14-15) nor did they have the law of God placed within their mind and spirit (See Jer.31:33; Heb.8:8-10), because these functions of the holy spirit were reserved for a different people and a different age of salvation.
- By virtue of being a holy vessel in which the holy spirit resides and having the spirit of the Father and Christ dwelling within them, the children of God are a temple of God. See 1.Cor.3: 16-17; 6:19-20; Eph.2:19-22.
The scriptures clearly show that those to whom the Father gives the holy spirit (his spirit-power) and his spirit and the spirit of Christ are kept in a sinlessness and pure condition as they live their physical lives. These people are not subject to accidental, ceremonial and physical, or physical and spiritual defilement in the same way as people were before the advent of Jesus Christ.
In this age of salvation, a child of God is a temple of God and has no need of a physical atonement process in order to purge physical or spiritual defilement from them, because they are continually being purged of physical defilement and spiritual sin through the sacrificial blood of Christ which purifies them.
Today, those called to salvation are transformed into a new creation as sons of God the Father through the function of the Father's holy spirit, which is known as the spirit of adoption. This important function of the holy spirit is to transform a person into a new creature (i.e., a son of God). When this function of the spirit of God is applied to people, they are transformed into a new creature and made a member of the Family of God. This transformation places a person at the starting point of eternal life. This is the time of spiritual conception from which a person can grow toward spiritual maturity and perfection into an immortal spirit-being.
After Christ Returns
We are not told how the holy spirit will be administered after the return of Christ; however, we are told that these people will have the holy spirit placed in them and they will have the law of God placed into their minds and spirits. Additionally we know that the Father and Jesus Christ want everyone to come to repentance and to obtain salvation.
However, one thing is certain, whatever attributes, functions, qualities and powers of the holy spirit that are necessary for one to obtain salvation will be given to humans.
THE APOSTLES AND SACRIFICE
The account of Paul's trip to Jerusalem and his Nazarite vow reveals the will of the Father and Jesus Christ concerning sons of the new creation and the offering of sacrifices after the formation of the new covenant church.
This account clearly shows that certain aspects of the temple and sacrificial worship system are perfectly compatible with the new agreement that was instituted by Jesus Christ. Moreover, it shows that these aspects could be practiced by the Father's sons who have his spirit residing within them.
The Nazarite Vow
The taking of a Nazarite vow under the first covenant was a sincere expression of a person's gratitude for God's blessings and their attitude and commitment to live a righteous life and serve God. The taking of this vow required that a person commit their time and resources to the fulfillment of their vow during its duration. See Num.6:1-21.
We know that Paul had taken a Nazarite vow some time before going to Jerusalem, because the only vow that required one to cut off all of their hair was the Nazarite vow:
"Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken" (Acts 18:18 NIV).
In Acts 21:8-19, we find Paul leaving the evangelist Philip after being warned by the prophet Agabus about his fate if he went to Jerusalem. And in Acts 21:15-26, Paul offers his sacrifice at the temple:
Zealous For The Law
On his second day in Jerusalem, Paul went to meet with James and the elders of the Jerusalem Church. During this meeting, he told them about all the things that God was doing among the Gentiles:
"When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul, "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law" (Acts 21:20 NIV).
Is the law that is referred to here the Ten Commandments or some other law? From the scriptures surrounding this event, it is apparent that the law referred to here is the sacrificial system of worship, which required the temple at Jerusalem to be used for its practice.
"They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children" (Acts 21:21 NIV).
Before coming to Jerusalem, Paul had been accused of teaching the Jews to forsake the law of Moses. However, the scriptures clearly show that Paul was not guilty of this accusation. Paul merely pointed out the fact that circumcision would not justify them before God:
"Be it known to you, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus] is proclaimed the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39 Para).
Paul and the men spoken of in the following verses were converted Jews who had taken a Nazarite vow that had nothing to do with forgiveness of sin. This event shows that, as late as 56-57 A.D., Paul and the other apostles were teaching and practicing part of the original law given to national Israel, which included the sacrificial system:
"What shall we do ? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law" (Acts 21:22-24 NIV).
"The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him" (Acts 21:26-27 NIV).
It is clear that the apostles knew that it was permissible and expedient for them as leaders to participate in the temple worship system as an example to the Jews.
Why would the apostles do this? They did this because the law was the schoolmaster that taught the way to salvation. It was the tool that was used to lead people to understand the meaning of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and Christ for humanity. After the return of Christ, this tool will again be used to teach people the ways of God.
The following events show that Paul and the other men that came to Jerusalem with him had indeed taken a Nazarite vow (Num.6:1-21):
- Paul purified himself with these men.
- Paul gave notice when the Nazarite vow would end for the men and himself.
- Paul was seized during the waiting period before the ending of the Nazarite vow.
Paul Stands Accused Before Felix
In defending himself against the charge of heresy before Felix, Paul stated some very important beliefs and explained why he was in the temple in the account of Acts 21:27:
"But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which were written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there be such a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. And I do hereby exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men. Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Wherein certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor tumult" (Acts 24:14-18 KJV).
Paul believed the following:
- He believed he was worshiping God as Jesus taught.
- He believed God's written Word.
- He believed in the resurrection.
- He believed he was careful not to offend God or man.
Did Paul's Nazarite vow, sacrifice, and giving of gifts at the temple contradict the decision of the apostles and elders in Acts 15 or violate the terms and conditions of the new covenant? The answer is NO! Paul was not seeking forgiveness of sin by these acts.
These accounts in the Book of Acts reveal that having the holy spirit as given under the new agreement is compatible with certain aspects of the sacrificial system of worship.
It is also noteworthy to mention that Jesus Christ who had the holy spirit without measure also participated in the sacrificial system as he lived his life and presented himself as the perfect example of righteousness.
WHY PHYSICAL HUMANS?
The next question that needs to be answered is why will there be physical humans on earth after Christ returns?
There are two interrelated reasons for the existence of physical humans on earth after the return of Christ and both have to do with God's plan for the salvation of humanity:
- God the Father's plan for the salvation of humanity will not have been completed prior to Christ's return.
- All the living and the dead who have not had an opportunity for salvation will be given this opportunity during Christ's rule.
Salvation Requires Time and Effort
Today, many people believe that the only requirement for salvation and eternal life is professing their faith after which there is no more effort or commitment required on their part. Many people also believe that, directly after they profess their faith, they are assured salvation and the promises of God. But are these beliefs true? The answer is No!
God the Father requires more than just professing one's faith and believing in him and his Son (Rom.10:8-19). He requires people to prove that they are sincere in their desire to live a life that is pleasing to him and to learn his ways and obey his law. In order to do this, a person must experience life in the flesh and grow into spiritual maturity; salvation takes time and effort.
To worship God as one should takes both physical and mental effort. One must study his Word, communicate with him, and learn to make righteous decisions. In short, it takes living a righteous lifestyle (faith and works) to truly show God that one is sincere in their desire to please him and be a part of his family.
Terms and Conditions
A person cannot earn salvation or eternal life, because it is a gift (Rom.6:23). However, God the Father has set forth a number of terms and conditions that must be complied with before he will bestow the gift of eternal life.
Many times people give gifts to others with terms and conditions that must be fulfilled before the person can actually receive the gift. One of the terms and conditions that must be complied with before the Father will grant the gift of eternal life is repentance.
Repentance and Conversion
"Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19 KJV). See also Lk.6:46; 13:1-5; Jms.2:11-24.
For people to truly repent, there must be an intense desire and effort to have a change of heart. This type of change leads people away from all aspects of evil and leads them toward that which is of God. Repentance is a change in one's attitudes, state of mind, priorities, and lifestyle.
True repentance requires a total commitment and an unconditional surrender to the rule and authority of God. A fundamental teaching of the biblical record is that people must be in obedience to God's laws, precepts, and principles before they will be granted salvation.
True repentance is much more than an emotional feeling of sorrow or remorse; people who are truly repentant must not only regret having sinned but also no longer make a practice of sinning. People who are seeking to please God should strive with their entire being to obey God. See Isa.29:13; Ezk.33:31-32; Matt.15:7-9; Lk.3:7-8; Rom.6:21-22.
The overall plan of God for salvation has not changed from the foundation of the world. Part of this plan is that humans must come into conformity with his laws of behavior. Another fundamental teaching of both the Old and the New Testaments is that one must put forth a serious, heartfelt effort to change from disobedience to obedience before being granted salvation. This type of change takes time, effort, and life experience.
Work Out Your Own Salvation
"Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure" (Phil.2:12-13 KJV). See also Gal.6:3-10.
The way to salvation is a growth process that requires an ongoing effort.
During the reign of Christ, people will live in a world of peace and prosperity. In this age of peace, God the Father will give the opportunity for salvation, but it will be the responsibility of each individual to make an ongoing effort to live a righteous life and develop spiritual maturity.
THE FOUR AGES OF SALVATION
The answer to the question of whether or not animal sacrifices will be necessary when Christ is ruling the earth can only be fully understood in the context of the four different ages in which salvation is offered to humanity:
The First Age
The first age of salvation began with Adam and lasted until the covenant was made between God and Israel at Mount Sinai. During this time, individuals were offered salvation through a sacrificial system and obedience to God's law. Very little is known about God's worship system during this time. However, the scriptures do record that individuals offered sacrifices and prayed to God. A few individuals had personal contact with God, and there were preachers of righteousness and priests of God who taught the people who wanted to worship God.
The Second Age
The second age of salvation began with the covenant at Mount Sinai and ended with the death and resurrection of Christ in 30 A.D.. During this time, the nation of Israel was offered salvation through obedience to the law of God and a sacrificial system that was officiated over by a priesthood at the place where God and the power of his presence resided.
In the second age of salvation, individuals were given various attributes and functions of the holy spirit to help them obey God and grow spiritually. Additionally, a few individuals had personal contact with God, while the nation as a whole only had access to the Creator God through prayer and formal worship at the tabernacle/temple.
The Third Age
The third age of salvation began on the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. with a new agreement that replaced the one God made with Israel at Mount Sinai. During this age, which will last until Christ returns to rule the earth, individuals are offered salvation through belief in God the Father and his son Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism. Those under this agreement have the holy spirit given to them, the law of God placed in their minds and spirits, the spirit of the Father and the Son merged with their spirit. Because the spirit-presence of God dwells in them, they are sons and temples of God.
During this age, no sacrifices are required for the atonement of physical or spiritual sin, because the Creator God himself gave his life as the supreme sacrifice to pay the penalty for all the physical and spiritual sins of humanity.
The sons of God during this age are a temple of God where God's holy spirit resides. These individuals have direct access to God the Father and Jesus Christ and worship the Father in spirit and truth. See Jn.4:19-24.
The Fourth Age
The fourth and final age of salvation will begin after the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. This age will last until the Father's kingdom is presented to him by Jesus Christ at the end of that age:
"Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he has put all things under his feet. But when he says all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1.Cor.15:24-28 KJV).
During this age, salvation will be offered through obedience to the law of God and a sacrificial system similar to the one in ancient Israel. The sacrificial system will be officiated over by a priesthood at a new temple in Jerusalem where Jesus Christ (the Creator God) in his glorified form and the power of his presence will reside.
Individuals who want to have salvation will be given the holy spirit and have God's laws placed in their minds and spirits to help them grow spiritually. These individuals will not have direct access to God the Father but they will worship the Father through the sacrificial system and through Jesus Christ, the God who will rule the whole earth from Jerusalem.
The law of God that Paul speaks of as being a schoolmaster through which Christ is revealed included the sacrificial system:
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith is come, we are no longer under the schoolmaster. For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:24-26 KJV).
Paul clearly shows that there was nothing wrong with the law and the covenant, which included the sacrificial system, because it was a tool by which one could learn the ways of God and come to an understanding of how to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ.
The School Master Returns
Animal sacrifices will be performed as a part of the new temple worship system after the return of Christ, but they will not forgive sin. It is only through the sacrifice of Christ that a person can obtain forgiveness of sin. The sacrificial system after the return of Christ will have a similar function to the one under the agreements with the Patriarchs and ancient Israel, in that sacrifices will be offered to make it possible for people to access, worship, and be taught by God at the temple.
Ezekiel's prophecies clearly reveal that a temple for the worship of God will exist after Christ's return and that various observances and sacrifices will be performed there. Moreover, the New Testament records that Paul and others of the early church offered sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, it can be safely assumed that there is nothing wrong with the sacrificial system of worship and that it will again be used as a tool to teach people the way of God and bring them to an understanding of how to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ.
The following are the primary lessons taught through offering a blood sacrifice for the atonement of physical or spiritual violations of God's law:
- The violation of the law of God separates a person from God and all of the benefits of this relationship.
- The penalty for the violation of the law of God is the death of the law breaker (Rom.6:23).
- Because the violation of the law requires the death of the law breaker, the only way to heal the breach between a person and God without that person dying for their sin, is for a superior sacrifice to be made in their place.
People who live after the return of Christ will live under a sacrificial system of worship for the followings reasons:
- It is the way God has always led people to salvation and his way of life.
- It will be used to teach the way to eternal life through the meaning of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
- It will be used to teach God's laws and way of life.
- It will allow people to practice and learn God's way of life through experience.
- It will allow people to come into the presence of Jesus Christ in his glorified form.
By B. L. Cocherell b5w78