THE TRADITIONAL ARGUMENT OF CHRISTIANS IS THAT THEY’VE BEEN FREED FROM THE “BONDAGE OF THE LAW.” However, their perspective and attitude towards the commandments is in complete opposition to God’s own attitude seen throughout the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures. What they don’t understand is that they’ve been freed from the bondage of the law of sin – not the law of God. They confuse these two laws. And I believe there’s three main reasons for this obvious misunderstanding:
- They do not place the writings of the New Testament back into their historical,
cultural and religious contexts. When one removes any document from its context, you open the door to misinterpretation, misunderstanding and error.
- They base their doctrines on only 40% of the revelation that God has given to
them, i.e., on only the New Testament, and to base any doctrine on only 40% of the
available information will always lead to a distorted and erroneous conclusion.
- They look back to the cross, which they should do, but they don’t look forward to
the coming Kingdom age. Consequently, their doctrines may seem to be right on
the surface while looking back, but they are extremely problematic and
contradictory when we look forward to the future Millennial Kingdom.
A MISSING CONTEXT
One of the major influences that Christians ignore when interpreting the New Testament is Greco-Roman thought and beliefs. It must be remembered that the New Testament was not the product of 21st century Western American thought. It was written by Middle Eastern Jews of the Second Temple period of the 1st century who were spreading the news about the arrival of the Promised Messiah, as well as dealing with issues people had coming to the faith from the surrounding Greco-Roman cultures.
For example, in the Old Testament, there really is no discussion about what happens to people after they die. Obedience to God’s commandments dealt with how we live our lives here on earth; it had absolutely NOTHING to do with what happens to us after we die. If we obey God, He blesses us IN THIS LIFE, and if we disobey God, He punishes us IN THIS LIFE. Both His blessings and punishments come to us IN THIS LIFE, not in what happens to us after we die. This is easy to prove. All we have to do is read Deuteronomy 28, and all of the blessings mentioned, as well as the punishments mentioned, are things that will happen to us IN THIS LIFE; not one of them deals with us after we die.
Why is this? It is because God’s focus has always been IN THE HERE AND NOW. Am I saying there is no afterlife? No, I am not saying that. What I am saying is that God’s primary focus is on how we live our lives day-by-day, in the here and now, with Him and with each other. If we live our lives the way we should each day with Him and others, then what happens after we die will take care of itself. But usually, those people who are worried about what will happen to them after they die are not living each day the way they should in accordance to the Scriptures.
But because of the influence of Greco-Roman thought on people, discussions about death and what happens after we die, and how the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) fits into this whole idea of what happens, began to be discussed in the time period between the Old and New Testament. As a result, by the time of the New Testament, there are attitudes and beliefs about the Torah that is not seen or taught anywhere within the Old Testament. Consequently, it is wrong to take attitudes and beliefs seen in the New Testament and impose them onto the Old Testament when, in fact, they did not exist at all during that time.
For example, if I were to take the attitudes about women and marriage that exist today in the United States and impose them onto the Puritan Colonists who lived 400 years ago, the same exact time period between the Old and New Testament, would that be fair? No, it wouldn’t because there’s been a lot of changes that have happened in the United States over the past 400 years. Likewise, it is equally wrong to impose New Testament ideas onto the Old Testament for the same reason. The Israel that existed at the end of the Old Testament is not the same Israel we see in the New Testament. Just as the United States we see today is not the same United States that existed 400 years ago.
Therefore, the whole argument about people not being saved by obeying the Torah is based on an erroneous assumption: that the Torah ever dealt with us getting to heaven in the first place, which it never did. It was to guide our day-to-day life with God and other people, NOT get us into heaven. People who think that it does have something to do with our afterlife are erroneously imposing the New Testament onto the Old. Again, the Torah is NOT about what happens to us after we die, but on how we are to live our lives right here, right now, today. Therefore, most Christian arguments against the Torah is really based on erroneous assumptions, which are simply not true.
And again, because traditional Christianity has repeatedly violated this basic idea and imposed the New onto the Old, most Christians do not correctly understand the original intent and desire of God when it comes to His commandments.
THE FOUNDATION OF OUR FAITH
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul writes the following:
Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy Temple in the Lord: in whom you also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22; emphasis mine)
Now if Paul had meant for Christian doctrine to be based solely on the New Testament alone, he would not have mentioned the Prophets. The fact that he did means that the New Testament in itself is not the sole basis of what is to be Christian doctrine. However, on most topics, Christians only look at what the New Testament has to say about the topic; consequently, their doctrines are based on only half the information, rather than on all the foundation, both APOSTLES AND PROPHETS.
A BASIC PRINCIPLE IN AMOS
A very important principle is laid down for us in Amos 3:7 when it comes to the Scriptures,
Surely the LORD God will do NOTHING but He reveals His secret unto His servants the prophets.
In this passage, God says that He will not do anything that He has not first revealed to the Prophets. For example, every important detail of Christ’s life, betrayal, crucifixion, burial and resurrection are foretold in the Prophets. However, there is absolutely NO PROPHECY about God doing away with His commandments. If God’s desire was to do away with His commandments at Christ’s death and this was part of God’s plan, He would have revealed this in the writings of the Prophets, but He does not at all, in any way.
NO COMMANDMENTS = A CURSE
There’s only ONE Prophet who says something about Israel not having God’s commandments for an extended time period, but this is not seen as a blessing, but as a curse.
Therefore will I return, and take away My corn in the time thereof, and My wine in the season thereof, and will recover My wool and My flax given to cover her [Israel’s] nakedness. And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of Mine hand. I WILL ALSO CAUSE ALL HER MIRTH TO CEASE, HER FEAST DAYS, HER NEW MOONS, AND HER SABBATHS, AND ALL HER SOLEMN FEASTS. (Hosea 2:9-11)
This is the only prophecy given in which God promises to remove from the Northern Kingdom of Ephraim-Israel her “feast days,” “new moons,” “sabbaths,” and “her solemn feasts,” but it is seen as a curse upon the people for their disobedience to God and His commandments; it is NOT seen in any way to be a blessing. Consequently, the Christian attitude towards these things is in complete opposition to the attitude God has in regard to His sabbaths and feast days. He sees His people being without these things to be a curse, but Christians proclaim the opposite, that it is a blessing. This is an obvious contradiction.
THE COMING KINGDOM AGE
When we look at the coming Kingdom age, when Jesus will return and reign on earth for 1,000 years, the Old Testament has much more to say about it than the New Testament, particularly when it comes to God’s commandments.
GOD’S COMING MONARCHY
When Jesus returns, He is going to establish His own international government over all the nations, not just Israel. His government, which will be a monarchy, not a democracy, will not co-exist with the governments of other nations, including the United States, but He will replace those systems with His own, as well as place believers in positions who have faithfully served Him now. For example, in Isaiah 9, we read,
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the GOVERNMENT will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to His GOVERNMENT or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Jesus is not coming back to establish a religion, nor is He coming back to attend “church services,” nor to be another religious leader. He is coming back to re-establish the throne of David (a political position and government), and to rule this world with justice and righteousness. And according to the prophet Zechariah, He will sit on His throne both as King (a political position) and as High Priest (a religious position). There’s no separation of “church and state” in His Kingdom since He is both “the church” and “the state.” They are united in Him, and there will never be any other form or type of government once Jesus comes back again. His Kingdom and His Kingdom alone will be the only government that shall ever rule over this world forevermore.
THE RE-INSTITUTED TEMPLE SYSTEM
In this same passage in Zechariah, we read,
And take silver and gold, make an ornate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is the Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest of His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.” (Zechariah 6:11-15)
I find many interesting things about this passage.
- “The Branch” is a term used in the prophets for the Messiah. It’s derived from
Isaiah 11:1-2a, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH
from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,…” Jesus
is “the Branch” (the Messiah, the son of David). But also, it says about Him, “a man
whose name is the Branch.” What was His name? Joshua. Most people do not
know that Jesus is the Greek form of the name “Joshua,” so that “Joshua” in the Old
Testament is, in fact, the same name as “Jesus” in the New Testament, depending if
you translate it from the Hebrew or Greek. But when the Jews were taken captive
into Babylon, the name “Joshua” took on another form, Yeshua, and it is this form
of the name of Joshua that was popular in Israel from the time of Ezra until the
beginning of the 2nd century, A.D. And according to research, Yeshua was the
form of the name given to the Lord when He was born. But again, Yeshua is
just another form of the name Joshua. Therefore, “Joshua (Yeshua) is the name of
the man who is the Branch (Messiah).”
- Secondly, when Jesus returns, He will rule both as King and High Priest. This will
literally be fulfilled, and so will Jesus rebuilding the Temple of the LORD. Many
times, Christians try to spiritualize this part of the prophecy, and say that the
church is the Temple, but there is no need to spiritualize it. Just as one part of this
prophecy will literally by fulfilled, so will the rebuilding of the Temple.
We know this because of what is stated in other prophetic passages. For example, Zechariah 14. In this chapter, we are told about the return of Christ and the defeat of the world’s military that will come against Jerusalem (14:1-15). But then afterwards, we read,
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of booths (or Tabernacles). And it will be that whichever of the FAMILIES OF THE EARTH does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of ALL THE NATIONS who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:16-19)
Notice that this biblical feast is not just for Israel, but it is to be observed by “THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH,” Jew and non-Jew alike. And those who do not observe it will be punished by God withholding the rain from them. So if the biblical feasts were ONLY for Israel, as Christians teach, then why during the Kingdom Age do we see God requiring ALL people to observe them?
But then look at what it says in the very next two verses:
In that day there will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “HOLY TO THE LORD.” And the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the bowls before the altar. And every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the LORD of hosts; and all who SACRIFICE will come and take of them and boil in them. And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts in that day. (Zechariah 14:20-21)
How can the Temple be the church when people will come to offer sacrifices there that will need the use of pots to boil them? The sacrifices being alluded to here are not “praise and worship,” but animal sacrifices. This is well seen in Ezekiel 43-45, which likewise discusses the Millennium Temple.
Now Ezekiel 43: 1-9 describes the return of Christ and the Presence of God to God’s Temple in Jerusalem. In describing the Temple, we discover that there is, in fact, an altar (43:13-17), animal sacrifices or offerings that will be offered there (43:18-47), including sin offerings (43:19-22). And then in speaking to the priests at that time, God informs them that from now on,
“No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart AND uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary (or Temple).” (Ezekiel 44:9)
Again, if the whole Temple Levitical System ended at the cross, including circumcision, as traditional Christianity has taught, then why is God going to bring it all back again when Jesus returns?
Not only does Jesus tell the priests this, but later on in the chapter, He also tells the prophet that the priests will be doing the following:
Moreover, they [the priests] shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. And in a dispute they shall take a stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances. They shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts, and sanctify My sabbaths. (Ezekiel 44:23-24)
If the Law of God ended at the cross, as traditional Christianity teaches, then why do we see Jesus saying that the Levitical priests need to teach His people “the difference between the holy and the profane,” and to “discern between the unclean and the clean”? Why do the Levitical priests need to teach Christ’s people this, because the church has not been doing it, because of their erroneous belief that all these things ended at the cross.
THE SABBATH AND NEW MOON FEASTS
Not only is Jesus going to re-institute the whole Temple Levitical System when He returns, but He is also going to requre all people – Jew and non-Jew alike – to observe God’s sabbaths and new moon feasts:
And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, ALL MANKIND will come to bow down before Me, says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:23)
Again, if the sabbaths and new moon feasts only apply to Jews, and not Christians, then why do we find “ALL MANKIND” keeping them in the coming Kingdom age? And this passage indeed deals with the coming Millennium Kingdom since the content of this chapter discusses the return of Christ and His judgment on the nations (Isaiah 66:15-19), and then afterwards how Gentiles will help bring the Jews from all the nations of the world back to the promised land.
THE JEWS WILL BE USED BY GOD
Finally, during the Millennium Kingdom, God will elevate the Jewish people, and every one will seek after them to teach them what they should do. In Zechariah 8:20-23, we read,
Thus says the LORD of hosts, It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. And the inhabitants of one will go to another saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I will also go.” So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment [corner of the garment; the fringes] of a Jew saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
God will be with the Jewish people like He has not been before, and all the people of the nations will seek after them, to go with them, so that they may entreat the LORD’s favor. Since Christianity has traditionally rejected the commandments of God, to live in them, it will be the Jewish people that people will turn to in order to learn the commandments and to entreat God’s favor upon their lives.
And this by far is not all that the Old Testament has to say about the coming Kingdom Age. But again, when we look at Christian doctrine looking only back at the cross, the problems are not as obvious, but when we look forward to the coming Kingdom Age, the contradictions between Christian doctrine and the Scriptures are much more obvious, if not blatant.
So as long as Christians continue to formulate doctrine and beliefs that are not consistent with both ends of the spectrum, both at what happened at the cross AND what we know about the coming Kingdom age, there will continue to be misinterpretation and misunderstanding about what the Bible teaches us as believers today.
Also, if we truly believe that the LORD JESUS is indeed coming back soon, should we not be involved in preparing people for what is about to take place? Shouldn’t we be teaching them about the sabbaths and new moon, the feasts, the Temple system, and the dietary laws, since the Lord Himself will be the One who will re-institute all of these things, according to His own word?
Why should we wait to do it when He returns and verbally tells us to do it in person, why not begin the process now, and enjoy the blessings we will receive from by Him for doing so? In doing this, won’t we be demonstrating to Him that we are indeed anxiously looking forward to His soon return?