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The Return of the Law of Moses and Animal Sacrifices

The following quotation is taken from Lecture 12 in Christendom Astray, a book written by one of the early Christadelphian leaders, Robert Roberts.  It is based upon a belief that Jesus is to return to the earth and set up a kingdom which is based upon a Jewish kingdom found in the Old Testament.  This view is primarily supported by Old Testament quotations which read in their contexts largely support the Christadelphian viewpoint.  In seeking to follow these quotations literally a huge temple is believed to be built in Jerusalem and an ancient code of laws and animal sacrifices are believed to be restored.

It is said of the time when Jesus shall reign on the throne of his father David, that “many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (Zech. viii. 22).  This is expressed by Jeremiah as a gathering of the nations to the name of the Lord to Jerusalem; in consequence of which they walk no more in the imagination of their evil heart (Jer. iii. 17); and by Isaiah, as the going of many people, saying, “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, TO THE HOUSE OF THE GOD OF JACOB; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths,” (Isa. ii. 3).  Zechariah describes this in the following language:

“And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year, to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. xiv. 16).

That these things are true of Christ’s reign on earth and nothing else, must be evident from the fact that they are associated with a time when the nations shall cease from war, and when men shall no longer follow the bent of their evil inclinations.  Such a state of things has never been realised in the history of the world.  If then nations are to go periodically to Jerusalem for the purpose of worship, it stands to reason that there will be a place in which this act can have suitable effect.  It is not to be imagined that a motley assemblage of people could conveniently, comfortably, or profitably bring their devotion to bear without those customary means of approach, which in all past times God has furnished to those whom He has invited to do homage to Him.  Why should nations come to Jerusalem, if there were no temple there?  If their worship was simply to consist of the sentiment of devotion, this could as well be cultivated in the countries they inhabit as at the holy city.

The necessity of the case requires that there should exist a machinery of worship adequate to the grandeur of the dispensation, in which Jerusalem is the religious metropolis of the whole world.  It is evident from attention to the limited testimony quoted, that this will exist.  Mark, for instance, the expression, “Let us go up to the house of the Lord.” Again, “the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar” (Zech. xiv. 20).  “The glory of THIS LATTER HOUSE shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts:  and IN THIS PLACE will I give peace” (Hag. ii. 9).  “Then shall Jerusalem be holy….  And a fountain shall come forth of THE HOUSE OF THE LORD and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joel iii. 17, 18).

We quote these indirect evidences not so much to prove the point in question as to introduce the great and crowning evidence before which all others pale into insignificance.  We now refer to the vision of Ezekiel, contained in the last nine chapters of the book bearing his name.  This portion of the Scripture has baffled all Bible commentators, for the simple reason that popular theology can make no use of it.  To what purpose is the establishment of a temple ritual at Jerusalem, if death sends men for final weal or woe, to God or the devil; and if the presumed millennium is simply to be a prevalence of “evangelical religion”?

The chapters referred to were written after the destruction of Solomon’s temple by Nebuchadnezzar, and disclose a state of things which has never since that time existed under heaven.  The temple was rebuilt at the return of the Jews from Babylon.  But Ezekiel’s prophecy was not realised in that event, as may be seen by a comparison of Ezekiel’s prophecy with the facts connected with the second temple.  The rebuilt temple, so far from being greater than the first, was vastly inferior to it.  This cannot be better proved than by quoting the following passage from Ezra iii. 12, 13:

“But many of the Priests and Levites, and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept WITH A LOUD VOICE; and many shouted aloud for joy:  so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people:  for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”

Ezekiel’s temple is to be contemporary with a division of the promised land to the twelve tribes of Israel (Ezekiel xlviii. 20).  The educated reader does not require to be informed that this has never taken place since the day of the Babylonish captivity.  The restoration from Babylon was but a return of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and but a small portion of them.  The ten tribes constituting the Kingdom of Israel, were removed by Shalmaneser the king of Assyria, to countries beyond the river Euphrates, and have never returned.  The conclusion is selfevident, the land has never been divided to the twelve tribes of Israel, as it is to be when Ezekiel’s temple is reared.

Another fact proving the futurity of the prophecy is that at the time foreseen by Ezekiel a portion of the country, measuring at the least forty miles by forty, is to be set apart for divine purposes as “a holy oblation” (Ezek. xiv. 1, 4).  In this stand the temple, the holy city, and the habitation of the priests.  Such a thing, as everyone knows, has never happened in the history of the Holy Land; from which it follows that the state of things depicted in the chapter under consideration lies in the future.  This conclusion is established beyond all question by the concluding statement of the prophet; that “the name of the city from that day shall be, THE LORD IS THERE.”

In view of the certainty that Ezekiel’s prophecy is unfulfilled, it becomes interesting in the highest degree to glance at what Ezekiel describes.  He says, in the visions of God he was brought into the land of Israel, and set upon a very high mountain, from which he beheld the frame of a city to the south.  He finds himself in the company of a man, “whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed.” This man, whom he sees standing in the entrance gate of the temple enclosure, addresses him as follows:

“Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee; for to the intent that I aught shew them unto thee, art thou brought hither; declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (Ezek.

Ezekiel then becomes attentive to his guide’s operations, and beholds him proceed with a series of measurements which he records with great minuteness, in the first five chapters.  Without following the intricacies of these, let us briefly state that Ezekiel is shown a temple exceeding anything ever realised in the history of Israel or any other nation.  The temple is a gigantic building, with every appliance required in the worship of which it is the centre.  The outside wall (measuring about a mileandaquarter each way), is pierced with many gates, each gate being flanked with chambers for the temple service, and entered by an upward flight of steps.  Mounting the steps, the prophet sees an inner wall, about 150 feet nearer the temple; the space lying between the inner and the outer wall being described as “the outer court,” and forming a spacious promenade or pavement.  The inner wall has gates after the pattern of those in the outer wall.  These gates open by eight steps into the inner court, in which stands THE TEMPLE - an immense circle of lofty arched and latticed building, capable of holding a million worshippers.  This is the centrepiece of the vision.  For height, breadth, and elaborateness, it exceeds anything devised in human architecture, and is only surpassed in interest by the event which the prophet witnessed after surveying the external approaches to the building.  This event, which he saw from the eastern gate of the outer wall, he describes in the following language:

Behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east, and His voice was like a noise of many waters, and the earth shined with His glory…..And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east” (ch xliii. 2, 4).

Ezekiel is then conveyed by the spirit into the inner court, standing in which he beholds the house filled with the glory of the Lord.  He then hears the divine voice addressing him as follows:

“Son of Man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I WILL DWELL IN THE MIDST OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FOR EVER, and my holy name shall the house of Israel no more defile; neither they nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places” (verse 7).

Afterwards, Ezekiel is taken back by the way of the eastern gate, and observes that it is shut, in reference to which the following explanation is given:

“This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it, because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.  It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; He shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same” (ch. xliv. 2, 3).

At a later stage, Ezekiel received the following information in reference to the same gate:

“The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.  And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate; then he shall go forth, but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.  Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the Lord, in the Sabbaths and in the new moons” (ch. xlvi, 1, 2, 3).

The temple, we are informed, stands in the centre of an area of country measuring fortytwo miles from east to west, and about seventeen miles from north to south; which is to be occupied by a class described as “the sons of Zadok,” who were faithful in ancient times.  To the south of this, there is a similar tract of country measured off for the Levites, whose duty it will be to perform the menial and laborious duties connected with the temple worship.  Again, to the south of this, measuring fortytwo miles from east to west, and between nine and ten miles from north to south, a strip of country is allotted for the city and land for fields and gardens.

The measurements of the city show it to be the most extensive and magnificent that has ever been built.  Lying foursquare, it will occupy an area of about eighty square miles.  Each wall, east, west, north, and south, measures about nine miles, the total circumference being, therefore, about thirtysix miles.  In each wall, there are three gates, at equal distances, each gate being named after one of the tribes of the land.  The land lying east and west of the city, appropriated for the raising of produce, contains about two hundred and seventy square miles, forming an adequate provision for the wants of the stupendous city, which will be known from that day by the name -Jehovahshammah, the Lord is there.

The temple stands on the site of ancient and modern Jerusalem, crowning the hill of Zion; of which it is testified in Psalm cxxxii. 13, 14:  “The Lord hath chosen Zion, He hath desired it for His habitation.  This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” The city lies about thirtytwo miles to the south of the temple.  The whole territory apportioned is a magnificent square, measuring about fortytwo miles each way, and forming the tabernacle of Jehovah, as it will be pitched in the age to come.

These details leave no doubt as to the reality of the temple to be erected in the day when the fallen tabernacle of David is upreared by the Son of David.  The reason that orthodox interpreters are unable to see this, is that they are ignorant of the kingdom of which the temple and its service form a part.

Another reason is probably to be found in the fact, that the sacrifices superseded by the death of Christ are in this temple found restored, burnt offerings and sin offerings, of “bulls and goats,” are required with all the minute ceremonial observed under the law of Moses.  This, to the majority of people, is a great stumbling block.  They reason against the possibility of sacrifices being restored after the accomplishment of the antitypical sacrifice of “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”

A little reflection, however, will dissipate the force of this difficulty.  It is evident that the reign of Christ on earth is a priestly one.  This is stated in the testimony that “he shall be a priest upon his throne”; and is further evident from the statement in Rev. i. 6:  “He hath made us kings AND priests unto God and his Father,” a double function which appears from Rev. v. 10, to have reference to the time when Christ shall reign on earth:  “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.” If, then, the millennial dispensation is a priestly one, it is according to the fitness of things, that the people should have somewhat to offer in token of their obedience; and the priests, something to present on their behalf.

But it will be asked, how can the sacrifice of animals be revived, when he who was slain is present in the earth as a perfected mediator between God and man?  And since Christ’s priesthood is in force even now, without the use of material sacrifices on the part of his own household for whom he officiates, why need there be material sacrifices in the age to come, when his priesthood is but transferred from his own household to the world?

The answer to this must take a general form.  As the sacrifices under the law of Moses pointed forward to the death of Christ, so the sacrifices under the “prophet like unto Moses,” may point backward to the death of Christ.  In the law of Moses, the sacrifices were prospective and typical of that which was to come.  Under the law of Christ, they may be retrospective and commemorative of that which has been:  after the manner of the Lord’s supper, which, in Christ’s absence, is a standing memorial of his broken body and shed blood.  Whatever, explanation of the fact may be suggested, there can be no doubt of the fact itself, that sacrifices form part of the institution of the age to come.  We gather this, not only from Ezekiel, but from a variety of Scripture testimony, of which we cite the following examples:

“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a PURE OFFERING:  for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Mal. i. 11).

“The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come:  they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.  All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee, they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify THE HOUSE OF MY GLORY” (Isa. lx. 6, 7).

“And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it” (Isa. xix. 21).

“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.  Afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hosea iii. 4, 5).

“Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of Hosts; and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them and seethe therein, and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the House of the Lord of Hosts” (Zech. xiv. 21).

“God is the Lord, which has showed us light:  bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (Psa. xcviii. 27).

At first sight, it may appear incongruous that the glorious administration of power and righteousness characteristic of the reign of Christ should be mixed up with a ritual which has been obsolete for centuries, and between which and the truth there scarcely exists the element of affinity.  There is, however, a view of the matter which reveals wisdom in the arrangement.

It is part of eternal truth that without faith and trial, it is impossible to be accepted with God.  This principle is unaffected by time or circumstances; it will be as true in the future age as now.  Men and women who live as subjects of the Messiah’s kingdom, will have to obtain a right to eat of the tree of life by faith and obedience, as much as those who now have to struggle in the absence of an open vision.  But how can their faith be exercised, and how can their obedience be tested in the presence of the overpowering fact of God’s visible government of the nations through Jesus and the saints?  Does it not seem as if all scope for faith would be shut out by the sublime and incontestable facts of the time?  And as if obedience would be eclipsed and superseded by the practical compulsion brought to bear upon men by the existence and supervision of divine government?

As it appears to us, the restitution of sacrifice supplies an answer to the question.  Called upon to perform acts in the worship of God, which in themselves appear needless and unsuitable, the faith and obedience of men will be put to as powerful a test as in ancient days, when similar things were required at the hand of Israel.  Their minds will be educated to submit to the divine will, and to have faith in the divine intentions by a ritualism unreasonable enough to have no hold upon the mind except such as arises from a recognition of divine authority; while at the same time, their intellects will be enlightened by the lessons taught by it in allegory.  We must remember that in the age to come, the nations subject to Christ and his people will be composed of men and women constituted as men and women are now:  and therefore, standing in need of spiritual education.

The kingdom of God, in its millennial phase, is an adaptation to this necessity.  By the aid of this fact, we are enabled to see the wisdom of a dispensation which would be out of keeping in a generation spiritually perfect.  Nations will have to be disciplined in first principles, and exercised continually in a divine direction.  Left without external stimulus or object of occupation, the human mind becomes listless and retrogressive.  The most brilliant moral impressions will fade in a state of inactivity.  Degeneration of this description will be effectually prevented by a system of universal compulsory religion, which will require the presence of every man once a year at the centre of divine government and worship, and which, for every offence against the laws, will exact the token of penitence afforded in the sacrifice of an animal of his property.  The mind of all the world will be kept in continual motion in a spiritual channel.  By this means, mankind, as a whole, will be turned from the ways of ignorance and evil, while the powerful hand of governmental repression, brought to bear upon everything antagonistic to the temporal and spiritual welfare of the people, will secure a situation admitting of the full and effective operation of these ameliorating influences.

Thus we see a beauty and a force in that clause of the covenant made with David, which assigns to the Messiah the duty of building a house to the Lord of all the earth.  The mechanical part of the process will, of course, be performed by the alien.  The manual labour required to elaborate the splendid and spacious architecture exhibited to Ezekiel will be furnished by the stranger; but the work will be executed under the supervision of Christ, as the temple of Solomon was built to David’s directions:

“The sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee, for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee…  The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee, and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.  Whereas, thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations” (Isa. lx. 10,14,15).

“And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.  And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen, and your vinedressers” (Isa. lxi. 4, 5).

“Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people:  and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.  And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers:  they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet:  and thou shalt know that I am the Lord:  for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isa. xlix. 22, 23).

It will be the peculiar honour of Jesus to bring all nations to worship before God:  and this he will do in virtue of the covenant made with David.

Little remains to be said in illustration of the remaining provisions of the covenant.  That God will establish the throne of His kingdom for ever, in the hands of Jesus; and, under Him, give to Israel the sure dwellingplace from which they shall never be removed, has been made evident in other lectures.  These two conclusions are amongst the most copiously attested doctrines of the Word of God.  In the light of them all prophecy is intelligible; without them, the Old Testament is what orthodox people practically find it to be - a dark vision, and a dead letter.

For this, the Apostasy is responsible.  By intermixing pagan dogmas with the doctrines of revelation, it has succeeded in mystifying the oracles of God to an extent which is hopeless as regards the majority of people.  It has drawn a thick veil over their faces; it has made the Bible unintelligible, and brought it into ridicule and contempt with many who, with a better understanding, would bow before the sublimity and splendour of the scheme it unfolds for the redemption of this fair planet from the evil that now reigns.  This lamentable result cannot be remedied to any material extent at present.  A few here and there will surrender to the power of judgment and testimony, but the great majority will continue in bondage to the power of error numerically supported.

Seduced by the deception practiced upon their senses by the circumstances existing in society, they are deaf to the voice of reason; they look around them, and behold a crowd walking in the stereotyped ways of popular religion; and, though, taken man by man, they could estimate their opinions at their proper value - which, in the majority of cases, from the ignorance that prevails, is no value at all - yet the mere deadweight of numbers gives the collective sentiment a power which they cannot resist and they allow themselves to be dragged like manacled slaves at the chariot wheels of a system of faith which will not stand for a moment when tried on its own merits.  Every one man in the crowd sees the rest as a crowd, and overpowered by the sight of the crowd, he bows to the collective opinion, though it be but a mere traditional bias, and not a conviction on evidence.  In this way, each man in the great orthodox communities is held in bondage by all the rest, and the bondage is rivited hard and fast by the influence of the church, chapel, college, vestry, school, bazaar, tea party, private interest, and the whole machinery of the system.

Nothing will break into this intellectual slavery but the iron rod of the Son of David.  When he comes to vest in his single person the authority now exercised by all the kings and parliaments of the world; when he lays hold with unsparing hand upon the vested interests which obstruct the path of general progress and shivers to atoms the rotten fabrics of respectable superstition; when he overturns the institutions which foolish crowds fall down and worship, through the mere power of antiquity; when he sends forth to all the world the decrees of a divine and omnipotent absolutism; when he sets up a system of worship to which he will command conformity on pain of death; and demands the allegiance of every soul to be personally tendered at Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, when he comes to sweep from the face of the earth the tangled cobweb of existing institutions which shelters ignorance, vice, and misery; while professedly based on right, religion, and morality; and to deal with even hand the swift and powerful awards of unerring justice; when he, in fact, breaks in pieces the whole constitution of human society, as now put together, and substitutes for it a new order of things, having the revived kingdom of David, in the land of Palestine, as its centre and basis of operations - then and not till then, will mankind see their folly, and “come from the ends of the earth, and say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies and vanity, and things wherein there is no profit” (Jer. xvi. 19).  There is no hope till then.  He will “judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth” (Psalm lxvii).  “In that day there shall be one Lord, and his name One.” (Zech. xiv. 9).