Tag Archives: Old Testament

Can God, His Word or His Covenants change?

We live in a world that take words and promises lightly. A few generations back though, a person’s word would be invaluable. When a person makes a promise, it was for life. “As good as his/her word” had real meaning. Things have changed drastically in this past century – people say one thing, and do another. They say “yes” today and “no” tomorrow. In the time of Paul it was 3d80f50502b6aa9b2f2c361aafab2853incontestable that even a man-made promise could not be changed – as we see Paul explaining “Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto”(Gal 3:15).

“Words” & “Covenants” can be frail & brittle today, but is it the same with The Word of God? Can His Word change? Does He change? Does His Word ever go void? Can Scripture ever be annuled? Can it ever be added to? Can His Covenants change? Let’s see what Our Creator YHVH has to say about Himself and the Word that proceeds from Him.

 

God does not change

Mal 3:6  For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Num 23:19  God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

1Sa 15:29  And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

Ecc 3:14  I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

Jas 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Isa 46:10  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Heb 1:11,12 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

 

God’s Word does not change

Psa 111:7,8 The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.

Psa 119:89  For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

Psa 119:160  Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

Isa 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (also quoted by Peter in 1Pet 1:24,25)

Isa 55:10,11 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Mat 5:18  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Luk 16:17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Joh 10:35  If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

Rom 11:29  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Deu 4:2  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deu 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Pro 30:6  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

 

God’s Covenants do not change

Gen 9:16  And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. (Speaking of the Noahide Covenant)

Gen 17:7,8 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. (Speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant)

Gen 17:19  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant)

Exo 31:16,17 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Speaking of the Mosaic Covenant – specifically of the Sabbath as a sign of the Covenant)

Jdg 2:1  And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. (Speaking of the Mosaic Covenant) 

1Ch 16:15-18 Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance; (Speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant & Mosaic Covenant)

Psa 89:28  My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. (speaking of the Davidic Covenant)

Psa 89:34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. (speaking of the Davidic Covenant)

Psa 105:8-10 He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: (Speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant & Mosaic Covenant)

Psa 111:9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. (Speaking of the Mosaic Covenant) 

Lev 26:44,45  And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD. (Speaking of the Mosaic Covenant)

Jer 33:20-26 Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me. Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them. (Speaking of the Davidic & Levitical Covenants)

Jer 31:35-37 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. (Speaking of the Mosaic Covenant) *please note that this proclamation follows right after the announcement of the New Covenant in Jer 31:31-34 also quoted in Heb 8:8-11

Gal 3:15-17 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. (The Mosaic Covenant cannot abolish the Abrahamic Covenant which was before it. Here Apostle Paul is laying down an argument that if man-made covenants cannot be changed, how can God’s Covenants change? See relevant section of the study on the letter to the Galatians)

 

But what about the many times that God seems to change His Mind?
Even though we see many times God delays His prophecy/word/Judgement, never does it cease to be. What He says may get postponed by 15 years (in the case of Hezekiah – Isa 38:1-5) or even more than a 100 years (in the case of Nineveh, which was destroyed by the Babylonians) but it will surely come to pass. Some readers look at the Prophet Jonah with contempt for waiting outside the city to look at what would happen to the city. But the fact is, Jonah knew God’s Word will come to pass – God had stayed His hand for the time being because of the repentant. His Words though would come to pass in 612BC, a significant time after the prophet walked in its streets.

Examples of the unchanging Scriptures in the New Testament
While Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) Himself says that “Scripture cannot be broken“, this would have been a well known fact in the 1st Century. In Acts 10, as Peter saw the Vision of the Cloth filled with Animals, he proclaimed “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” Many believers gloss over the fact that after the vision Peter “doubted in himself” what the vision was about. The reason was that what God had called unclean could never be called clean – in other words, His Word could not change. Later he would understand the true meaning of the Vision to be “not calling Gentile believers as common or unclean”(Acts 10:28).

Even though the letter to the Hebrews is generally used to say that the Mosaic covenant has been abolished (which is tackled in a separate study which you are able to read here), it is ironic that the author actually speaks of the opposite – where God’s Word stands unchanged even today. Consider Heb 7:14 & 8:4 where the author makes the case that Christ could only be a High Priest in the Heavenly Temple and not on earth as the Law does not speak of the tribe of Judah (of which He came from), to have anything to do with the priesthood. This shows that the Law is still unchanged and binding even towards Messiah Yeshua.

Conclusion
Everything around us changes – but Our Creator & Heavenly Father is the one constant which we can depend on. Neither He, nor His Word, nor His Promises, nor His Covenants can ever change. He relents, but His judgements stand. If He proclaims it, the Word which goes out of His mouth cannot be made void. May He be blessed, as He is the only true God, who we can put our trust upon. The never ending. Unchanging. God of Heaven & Earth – Yehovah Eloheem!

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The Tabernacle, Temple, Synagogue & Church – What is the House of God?

What is the difference between the tabernacle, the temple, the synagogue and the church? Does God reside in buildings? Can any place of assembly be called “The House of God”? There is little clarity on this subject. Many believe that there was no requirement for a temple of God, and that it was an Old Testament precept removed with Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross. We shall delve into the subject and see what the Bible truly teaches about “The House of God”.

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
E. Does God reside in a building?
F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?

G. The temple of our Bodies

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
Moses' Seat fromIn an earlier study, we have discussed the biblical definition of the word “Church”. Our findings were very clear – both, “Church” and “Synagogue” meant bodies of people. Not a building or a place – biblically speaking. It is a little known fact that the 1st Century believers attended Synagogue as per James’ Epistle (The word assembly in Jas 2:2 should be translated as synagogue). Even though modern Christians feel a Synagogue is for Jews while Church is for Christians, there was no such separation in thought among the 1st century believers. Both represented bodies of people and not any type of religious building.   

B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
The Tabernacle

After the deliverance from Egypt by the hand of God, the children of Israel were commanded to build a sanctuary(H4720 – Mikdawsh – Holy/Set-apart place). Specific instructions were given for the creation of this Tabernacle(H4908 – Mishkawn – Tent/Dwelling Place) and everything inside, to Moses on the Mount of Sinai(Exo 25:8,9,40, 26:30, Heb 8:5). The work was done accordingly (Exo 39:42,43) and the Tent was setup and finished according to further instructions(Exo 40:1-33). The Glory of Yehovah filled the Tabernacle with a physical thick cloud(Exo 40:34), so much so, that even Moses could not enter it. The physical Cloud and Fire were present in the Tabernacle for all the Children of Israel to see, wherever they went henceforth(Exo 40:35-38).

framework-and-tabernacle-layers-lesson-23The Levites were specifically chosen for the keeping of the Tabernacle(Num 1:50,51,53, Chap 3) and the Tabernacle itself was a covering (a sort of capsule) for God to walk with the Children of Israel(2Sam 7:6). This dwelling place moved to a variety of locations till finally under David, the Kingdom was unified. The main content of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant, which carried the tablets of the covenant written with the hand of God. After God settled the Children of Israel in the land promised to Abraham, there was no more reason for a tent which was pitched and removed – so King David planned to build a House for God which would house His Ark and His Glory(2Sam 7). But God wanted it built by Solomon, the Son of David(2Sam 7:12,13). It is clear that the Tabernacle, even though it was not a permanent structure, was also known as the House of God(Exo 23:19, 34:26, Deut 23:18, Jdg 18:31, 20:18, 21:2).

The Temple in Jerusalem
solomon-templeAfter Solomon came to power, he started the work for God’s House according to God’s command(1Kin 5:3-5) and finished it by moving the Ark from the Tabernacle to the Temple(1Kin 8:3-9). And similar to the establishment of the Tabernacle, where Moses could not enter because of the Glory of God, the cloud filled the holy place so that the priest could not stand to minister(1Kin 8:10,11). Furthermore, God appeared to Solomon and told him that He has consecrated the Temple to Himself by putting His name there, and His eyes and heart would be there perpetually. But He also warned Solomon, that if he or his children turn away from God, that the Temple will be destroyed(1Kin 9:2-9).

Babylonian Chronicles Because of the sins of Solomon, God decided to separate the unified nation of Israel(1Kin 11:9-13). Ten tribes were handed over to Jeroboam, known as the House of Israel, while the rest were left in the hands of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon(1Kin 11:29-36), known as House of Judah, from thereon. These were the two houses of Israel, mentioned in Jeremiah and Hebrews where the New Covenant is mentioned. Both these kingdoms would fall, according to the warnings of the Prophets due to their disobedience, firstly the Kingdom of Israel to Assyria; and then the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia, where the Temple built by Solomon was also razed to the ground(2Chr 36:19, Ezr 5:12) in 587BC.

The 2nd Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple would be rebuilt under the patronage of King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, by Ezra and Nehemiah(Ezr 5:13, 6:14). The Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned being carried away by the Babylonians or to have been in the 2nd Temple, but is believed to have been hidden by the Prophet Jeremiah before the sack of Jerusalem according to the Apocryphal book “Second Maccabees”.

titusThe Temple we read in the Gospel accounts was the 2nd Temple built by Ezra & Nehemiah, and added onto by Herod the Great, while the same would be destroyed again according to the words of Yeshua, in 70AD by the Romans under Titus. It is believed that all the Disciples of Yeshua other than John, and even Paul would have been killed off by Rome, before the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70AD.

The 3rd Temple in Jerusalem
Even though there is a fair amount of debate among Christian Denominations whether a 3rd Temple would ever be built, prophetic verses such as 2Thes 2:3,4, Dan 9:27 would have us believe, a main sign of the end of days which is the “Antichrist” better known as the “Son of Perdition/Destruction” would set himself up in the Temple of God, and shall stop the sacrifices. Considering sacrifices can only be offered in the temple of Jerusalem(Deut Chap 12, Psa 78:68, Psa 132:13,14, 1Kin 8:29) the place in which He chose to put His name (2Chr 6:6, 1Kin 11:36), we can deduce that the Temple of God where sacrifices will be offered in these prophetic verses is none other than a temple in Jerusalem. But since the 2nd Temple was destroyed in 70AD, for such prophecies to come to fruition, there must be a 3rd Temple built in the future.

C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
The Temple was built according to the command of God(1Kin 5:5) where God chose to place His Name – the city of Jerusalem/Zion(2Chr 6:6, 12:13). There was only one Temple where sacrifices could be brought to God. The Levites were given the right of service and the Sons of Aaron were the priests. No one else could serve in the temple of God in Jerusalem. Jer 33:17-26 shows forth that the word of God and the Covenants He has made with the Levites and David can never be broken.

In the 1st Century AD, synagogues were in every city around the Hellenistic empire which was under Roman rule(Act 15:21), as we see Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul attending many such assemblies. But there was ONLY ONE Temple. And Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul frequented the Temple in Jerusalem often. Paul even offered sacrifices of Purification for himself and others in Acts 21. This was the Temple where Yeshua was tempted(Mat 4:5). The place where Yeshua overthrew the moneychangers/sellers saying “My House shall be called the house of prayer(Mat 21:13/Isa 56:7), but you have made it a den of thieves(Mat 21:13/Jer 7:11). Where He healed(Mat 21:14). Where He taught daily(Mat 26:55, Luk 21:37,38). This was the same Temple where the 1st Century believers gathered daily(Acts 2:46). Where they taught(Acts 5:20,21). Where Paul offered sacrifices of purification(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18). And which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

The Temple in Jerusalem cannot be equated to a building or assembly, as it was ordained, planned & created according to God’s Word and Will. God let the House that was built for Himself be destroyed twice in history, because of the transgressions of the people. But as per the Prophet Micah:

Mic 4:1-3 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

As many of us know, the above verse talks of the Reign of Messiah, in which the House of God and Jerusalem are both mentioned to be active and very much in existence.

While the Church/Synagogue are assemblies of people, the Temple in Jerusalem was a vessel for God to have an existence on the earth. It was His palace on earth from where He ruled as King over His people.

D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
You may have heard some of today’s church buildings being called the House of God. While our bodies are called the “House of God” in several places in the New Testament, nowhere has a building ever been called the Temple/House of God, or equated to the Temple that stood in Jerusalem.

E. Does God reside in a building?
Even though the Temple in Jerusalem was known to be a place of high importance in the scriptures, there are many who believe that the Temple was purposeless after the Resurrection of Messiah. The fact that the early church spent most of their time in the temple(Acts 2:46) and that Apostle Paul offered sacrifices of purification at the temple(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18) should be enough to show that the importance of the Temple never dwindled in their eyes.

Many question the necessity of the temple because of verses such as:

Act 7:48-50 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?

Act 17:24  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

The fact is that the thoughts conveyed above by Stephen and Paul are nothing new, but originate from the Old Testament Scriptures. The Temple was not a place made for God to live in, as even the Heavens cannot contain Him. These thoughts are not new ideas revealed after Christ, but what was always apparent to everyone before Christ.

1Ki 8:27  But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

2Ch 2:6  But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him?

2Ch 6:18  But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!

Isa 66:1  Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Also read Paul and his use of Greek Philosophy on Acts 17:24

The Temple was never built to contain God, but as a place/vessel/body that was specially chosen to host His Holy presence on Earth. It is very unlikely that the significance of the Temple ever changed after Messiah’s resurrection, because of this reason.

F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?
Another reason many do not see a reason for a physical Temple in Jerusalem, is because of the thought that Christ replaced it. It is true that He equaled Himself to the Temple(John 2:19-21). Rightly so, as God’s full glory resided in Christ just as in the Temple.

Verses such as these have led people to believe that Christ has done away the Temple of God:

Joh 4:21  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Mar 15:37,38  And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

While John 4:21 could be most likely speaking of the destruction about to fall of Jerusalem as He spoke of many a time in His ministry(Luk 19:44, 21:6), the idea of the Veil being torn has become one, if not the main reason that many believe in the futility of a Temple. In the Gospels, Christ’s death leads to the veil of the Temple being torn in two. Many interpret this as a sign that the separation between God and Man was removed through this act, and that we can now freely go into the holiest of holies. While I do not disagree that Christ’s Death & Resurrection corrected our standing with God, I see a few key details which need to be pointed out before we make any assumptions.

map32It is important to point out that there were 2 veils in the Temple. One which separated the Courts from the Holy place and one which separated the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies. In Hebrews 9:3, when the author speaks of the veil between the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies – He calls it “the second veil”. So it is very likely that what was torn was the outer veil. Furthermore, if the Temple acted as a Garment/Covering that encapsulated God, the tearing of the Veil at the death of Messiah could signify an act of mourning done by God towards His only begotten Son. We see similar practices in the Scriptures in Gen 37:34, 2Sam 13:31, Jos 7:6.

G. The temple of our Bodies
Some believe that our bodies have wholly replaced the Temple in Jerusalem. There are many verses in the New Testament writings that compare our bodies to the Temple of God, such as:

1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Co 6:19  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
2Co 6:16  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Eph 2:21  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
1Pe 2:5  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

tmSo what are we to make of this? Have our bodies replaced any remnant of a physical Temple in Jerusalem? While our bodies are a dwelling place for God, as Paul himself writes in 2Corinthians 6:16, he is quoting “I will dwell in them, and walk in them” from the Old Testament Scriptures (Exo 29:45, Lev 26:12, Eze 43:7). So it is not a new thought to think of ones body as a dwelling place for God.

The physical Temple in Jerusalem on the other hand, is a central part of both God’s Word and prophecy.

Isa 2:2,3 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and 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: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isa 56:6,7 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

See Ezekiel chapter 40 to 48

Conclusion
As we saw God instituted the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem, while the synagogue and the church both stood for bodies of people and not physical structures. While God is not contained in a man-made house, it was His choice to create such a place for His glory to reside and for the people to come to Him with the designated Sacrifices. While not all assemblies or buildings can be called “The House of God” in a Biblical sense, The Temple of God is for from an abolished precept. Yeshua(Jesus’ true name), His disciples or Paul never directly said anything about the Temple being anything other than the House of God. In fact the interaction between the Temple and the 1st century believers was a close one, as we even see with Paul. The tearing of the veil at Christ’s death or the fact that our bodies are called a dwelling place of God, does not mean that the Temple in Jerusalem was any less important in the Bible we hold in our hands today.

 

Lost in Translation – Are our English Bibles accurate?

While the Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament Writings are most definitely inspired by God, the Translations we carry are not. Translation is an extremely hard task with so many variables, since it is done by human beings with their own thoughts, ideas, doctrines & biases. The mere fact that there are so many different English Translations should show us that there are issues with our translations that lead to erroneous doctrines and twisting of God’s Word. These additions, subtractions and changes whether done in purpose or not, effect how we read and perceive the Bible. It is of utter importance to look into these changes and be informed so that we get to know the unadulterated truth.

Foxe's_Book_of_Martyrs_-_Tyndale

We must all be thankful for the people who have spent their precious time, resources and sometimes done it under duress – so that we have a translation which we can read. In this sense, the following inspection is in no way an attempt to undermine the work of Translators but an undertaking, so that we are all informed of the less than perfect translations we are left with to learn from.

While this post will not provide an exhaustive list of all additions, subtractions and changes seen in our English Translations, I hope to provide some key flaws I have noted in my own personal study. You are most welcome to provide your findings – so that I can add them into this post!

Deu 4:2  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deu 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
Pro 30:6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Rev 22:18,19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

With dire warnings against Adding to and Subtracting from God’s Word, we should shudder about the fact that such additions, subtractions and changes still exist in our translations. These could be categorized under the below list:
1) God’s Name & Christ’s Name
2) Parenthesis
3) Additions & Changes
3) Mistranslation & Bias

1) God’s Name & Christ’s Name
The word “LORD” in capital letters can be seen in our English Translations over 6500 times, and each of those times the root Hebrew word is “יהוה” (Yod-Hay-Vav-Hay) or YHVH commonly known as the Tetragrammaton. While there is a Hebrew Word for the title “Lord” which is “אדני” Adonai, wherever our Bible Translations have “LORD” in CAPITALS, it is signifying God’s Divine name. In a few rare instances in the King James Version, God’s Divine Name is seen in it’s original form as “JEHOVAH” – a very close transliteration to the original Yehovah (Exo 6:3,Psa 83:18,Isa 12:2,Isa 26:4). Can God’s name, known as His Memorial Name(Hos 12:5), My Holy Name(Eze 39:7) & My Name(Isa 42:8, Jer 16:21) be substituted with a mere title such as Lord? One of the biggest changes seen in our translations is that all of them mask God’s one true name. (Read this article for further study)

But it does not stop there. It comes as a shock to many people to know that “Jesus” was not the name that Christ was addressed by, by any of His disciples or any contemporaries of His day. Even though the name Jesus is seen close to 1000 times in the New Testament translation, The Hebrew Name He was known by was “ישׁוּע” “Yeshua” the same name given to Moses’ aid commonly known as Joshua.  In two instances in the King James Version, Joshua is even referred to as Jesus (Acts 7:45, Heb 4:8) proving that the two names Jesus and Joshua are derived from the same name. But how did the name “Yeshua” end up being turned to “Jesus”? This is the cause of transliterations done from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to German to English. (Read this article for further study)

Almost all of the names we read in our English Translations are anglicized versions of the originals. Even though there are too many to point out, a few key names are mentioned below. Mary’s true name is “Miriam”(the same name as Moses’ Sister), John is “Yochanan”, Jude, Judas and Judah is “Yehudah”, James and Jacob is “Yaakov”, Matthew is “Mathityahu”, Simon is “Shi-mon”, Thomas is “Taome”, Saul is “Sha-ul”, Eve is “Chavah”, Isaac is “Yitzach”, Isaiah is “Yeshiyahu”, Solomon is “Sh-lomo” and so on. This begs the question – can we change or Anglicize names? If we can’t do it to our own names… how come we change Biblical names?

2) Parenthesis
Translators use words or phrases in certain instances to help readers understand verses. But many of these additions marked by bracket marks or italicized letters are thought by readers to be part of the original text. Thus the translators make certain decisions in the interpretation of Scripture which has a profound impact on readers perception and understanding which may not be accurate at certain times.
A) Mark 7:19 –  (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
One of the biggest cases against God’s Food Laws, is based on Mark 7:19 in which Christ is making a statement about the question in context – “Does one become unclean by eating with unwashed hands?”. The translators add “(Thus he declared all foods clean.)”, thereby making Christ an advocate of breaking God’s Food Laws. This insertion seen in translations such as ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, NET, etc., gives a wrong understanding to the lay reader. (Read this article for further study)
B) Heb 8:7, Heb 8:13, Heb 9:1 – Covenant
The Word “Covenant” appears in the Letter to the Hebrews a number of times. But the translators have inserted this all important word in 3 places thereby changing the whole context of the Letter. The main question addressed in this Letter is the “Priesthood”(8:1), and not the Covenant. By inserting the word to where it does not exist, the translators thereby change the context of the priesthood towards the covenant, which has led to “Hebrews” being used as a proof text to say that “Old Covenant” is done away. There is no argument that when a certain line speaks about the first (as in priesthood), inserting the word “covenant”, changes the context to a completely different path. (Read this article for further study)

3) Additions & Changes
In some instances two sets of Manuscripts may have vast differences, which are carried to different English translations, making different versions of translations carry completely different verses. While some of these are rectified in newer editions, some ideas which were not communicated by the writers may end up and remain in our translations to this day.
A) Rev 22:14 – “Blessed are those doing His Commands” or “Blessed are those who wash their robes”

H.B. Swete's The Apocalypse of St. John... (3rd edn; Macmillan, 1911), p. 307.

Difference between Rev 22:14 – “Blessed are those doing His Commands” or “Blessed are those who wash their robes “H.B. Swete’s The Apocalypse of St. John… (3rd edn; Macmillan, 1911), p. 307.

In the conclusion of Revelation written by John, some of our translations (NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, ISV, NET, ASV) say “Blessed are those who wash their robes”  while other translations (KJV, YLT) carry “Blessed are those doing His Commands”. The change comes from two different sets of Manuscripts. While the Greek text of the two versions (as seen above) have minor differences, the messages that the two different versions give out are vastly contrasting. Long before the books were compiled to form “The New Testament,” Rev. 22:14 was quoted, as “Blessed are those doing His Commands”, by Tertullian (CE 208) and by Cyprian (CE 251).

B) 1John 5:7 – “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” or “For there are three that testify”
In some of our translations (NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, ISV, NET, ASV) this verse says “For there are three that testify” while other translations (KJV, YLT) carry “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” The longer form that is central to Trinitarian Doctrine, is thought to have been added by Desiderius Erasmus in 1522, while they were absent from the first modern Greek critical text published by him in 1516.

C) Mark 16:9-20 – Missing from the oldest Greek Manuscripts
Even though the vast majority of later Greek Manuscripts carry verses 9-20 in the Gospel of Mark, two of the oldest and most respected manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, end at verse 8. While there is scholarly consensus on this addition, the question remains why it is still part of our translations. At the least there should be a note accompanied in our translations on this fact.

D) Mattew 28:19 – Missing from the Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew
It is a known fact that Matthew wrote the Gospel in Hebrew as mentioned by Irenaeus of Lyons in “Against Heresies 3:1:1” written in 180AD. These Hebrew Manuscripts have survived to this day, which was translated by George Howard – Professor of Religion, University of Georgia in 1995. These manuscripts do not contain the words “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” which is found in verse 19 of our Bible Translations. Instead the Hebrew Manuscripts merely go on from verse 18 to 20 saying “Go, Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The command to baptize using a trinitarian creed seems to be missing in the Hebrew Manuscripts. This agrees with the Book of Acts where everyone is baptized in the name of Christ, whilst the trinitarian baptism creed is not mentioned anywhere(Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, 22:16). (Read this article for further study)

4) Mistranslation & Bias
There are many occurrences where a translator or set of translators have translated the same word in the Original Greek/Hebrew to different English Words. While this maybe helpful at times, it can also cause quite a lot of confusion, especially when the translation is changing the text to fit a certain idea/doctrine. While there certainly are hundreds if not thousands of such instances, I will point out the main ones I have noticed which makes a vast difference in understanding what we read. I invite you to add any other instances which you have found, so that this article gets improved.

A. H4150 – mô‛êd – Appointed time/place
Gen 1:14  And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
Lev 23:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
The Words highlighted in Red above are the same in the Original Hebrew Manuscripts. The fact is that Gen 1:14 should have been translated as “appointed time/Feast” and not “seasons”, which gives the idea of Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter. God’s Appointed Times or Feasts depend on the Sun & Moon, and it is fitting for this reason that God created the lights for the calculating of His appointments. (Read this article for further study)

B. H8577 – tannı̂ym – Sea Creatures, Whales, Dragons or Serpants
Gen 1:21  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Exo 7:9  When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.
Deu 32:33  Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
The Words highlighted in Red above are the same in the Original Hebrew Manuscripts. Gen 1:21 should not be translated as Whales in any case, as the same word is translated Serpent and as Dragon. Vastly different to the idea which is given in our English translations pertaining the Creation account.

C. Lucifer or Heylel
We are all familiar with the name Lucifer, by which Satan is known in popular culture. But oddly enough the name “Lucifer” does not originate from the Hebrew Text, but from Latin. The Hebrew Haylel (meaning “Shining One”) seen in the Hebrew Manuscripts can only be seen in Isa 14:12. The using of Lucifer here in our translations makes a false claim that this is the name of the Adversary, when there is no mention of such in the Original Manuscripts.  (Read this article for further study)

D. H7585 – she’ôl – Hell or Grave
In some instances “she’ôl” is translated as Hell instead of Grave, when it is very clear that the correct translation should be Grave as in the Ground in burial, rather than a fiery place as communicated in popular media. (Read this article for further study)

E. Luke 23:43 and the placing of the Comma
We are all familiar with the famous words Christ spoke to the thief who believed on the cross. These words are also a central part of the theology that people go to heaven immediately when they die. Most Christians would not know that there are no punctuation marks in the Greek Manuscripts. So the placing of the Comma (marked in red) makes a vast difference to the meaning of the verse. If you place it in between “I say to you” and “today you will be with me”, it could lead us to believe that the thief will be in paradise the same day. Alternatively, if you place the comma in between “I say to you today” and “you will be with me”, it could lead us to believe that Christ is merely proclaiming that the thief will be in paradise. The placement of the comma in our English translations make a vast difference to the message derived from it. See both version below. Whichever version is right, it certainly shows the power of a simple punctuation mark.
• Luk 23:43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
• Luk 23:43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

F. Acts 12:4 – Passover or Easter
In the King James Version the word “pascha-G3957” is translated as “Easter” in Acts 12:4 – a word which is translated “Passover” everywhere else. The word “Easter” is a clear insertion which is foreign to the Greek text, and is not present in any other translation or passage of the Bible.

G. G4864 – sunagōgē – Synagogue
Jas 2:2 (KJV, NET, ESV, ISV) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
Jas 2:2 (NIV) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.
Jas 2:2 (YLT, ASV) For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing;
The Words highlighted in Red above are the same in the Original Greek Manuscripts. The fact that the believers that James is writing to are attending Synagogue is skewed by some of the translations by replacing the word with “assembly”/”meeting”. While this particular verse is changed, the 50 odd other times “sunagōgē” is seen in the Greek text it has been left translated as “Synagogue”. It begs the question why the translators left the same word in Rev 2:9 & 3:9 as “Synagoge” when it was speaking of a “Synagogue of Satan”. Should it not have been translated as Assembly of Satan or Meeting of Satan to keep it consistent?

H. G5515 – chlōros – Pale Horse or Green Horse
The Famous verse in Revelations where Death comes riding a Pale Horse(6:8) might be not a Pale Horse, but a Green Horse – as the word used there is “chloros” seen translated as Green in Mar 6:39, Rev 8:7, 9:4. You may think what does it matter whether it is “Pale” or “Green”… but could it mean that Death comes through the Green Trees, Fruit, etc food that are eaten? This is why accurate translation is of such importance.

Conclusion
Don’t agree with any of the above? Found out something that you would like to share? Please do let us know, so that we may also learn. There are many things wrong with our translations, but let us also be happy that we are fortunate enough to have a copy of the Bible in our own languages, so that we can read it for ourselves. Let us be thankful to God and ask Him to show us His Truth that we may seek Him alone!

Was God’s Law blotted out and nailed to the cross? Misunderstandings regarding Col 2:11-17

Paul’s letter to the Colossians contain one, if not the most famous of verses used to prove that God’s Law is done away with Christ’s death. While many Christians quote this passage, not many of us pay proper attention to the words used by Paul – which ultimately leads us to read our own doctrines into the text. Peter was right to warn believers to be careful when reading Paul’s Letters, as many were distorting his words in their day(2 Pet 3:15,16). Nothing much has changed, as the letters and words of this Misunderstood Apostle are still unwittingly distorted by many. Let’s try to put our preconceived ideas and beliefs away so that we can approach the text afresh, and see the true meaning of Paul’s words to the Colossians.

This study is broken down to the following areas
1. Introduction (Col 1:1-2:9)
2. The meaning of Principalities and Powers (Col 1:16, 2:10,15)
3. Circumcision made without hands (Col 2:11)
4. Buried with Him in Baptism (Col 2:12)
5. The meaning of Handwriting of Ordinances (Col 2:14)
6. Let no one judge you (Col 2:16)
7. A shadow of things to come (Col 2:17)
8. Being subject to Ordinances – the commandments and doctrines of men (Col 2:18-23)
9. Conclusion

Abraxas. Egyptian-Roman amulet, 100-400

Abraxas.
Egyptian-Roman amulet, 100-400

1. Introduction
The congregation at Colosse was most probably established and had not even seen Paul face to face(Col 2:1). Paul greets them and thanks God for their faith, telling the Colossians that his prayer is for them to increase in the knowledge and understanding of God. He then thanks God for making them part of His kingdom through Christ. Paul explains that everything in Heaven and on Earth were created through Him, whether it be thrones, dominions, principalities or powers. (This proclamation of authority whether it be in heaven or earth, being under Messiah will be an important thought to consider when we come to the verses in question, as the letter deals with who has authority over the Colossian believers) He goes onto explain that Christ is above all things, being made the head of the body of believers. His blood made peace, reconciling everything to God. Even though the Colossians were aliens before God, when they were doing things contrary to God, Messiah had reconciled them to God through His blood. Paul then explains his ministry to the gentiles of revealing Christ in each and everyone who believes, which was a mystery revealed in their day.

Gnostic Gem Showing the Lion-Faced Deity Laldabaoth (Sophia’s Son). From L’antiquité Expliquée et Représentée en Figures, by Bernard de Montfaucon (Paris: F. Delaulne, 1719)

Gnostic Gem Showing the Lion-Faced Deity Laldabaoth (Sophia’s Son). From L’antiquité Expliquée et Représentée en Figures, by Bernard de Montfaucon (Paris: F. Delaulne, 1719)

In the second chapter Paul once again speaks of the mystery of God, and how wisdom and knowledge is hidden in Him. He asks them to beware of being deceived by persuasive language – in context of Knowledge and wisdom. It is apparent reading the letter thus far, that the Colossians were being persuaded by some party or parties in the realm of wisdom and knowledge. There is a strong probability that these were Gnostics who believed in “Hidden Knowledge” (Gnostikos in Greek meant “Having Knowledge”) – they were known to shun the physical/material world and wanted to embrace the spiritual world. Gnosticism could also be likened unto the “traditions of the elders” which practiced justification through certain works. Gnostics believed that gnosis (knowledge, enlightenment or ‘oneness with God’) may be reached by practicing philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence and diligently searching for knowledge/wisdom by helping others. Outwardly, it looked like a good way of life, but inwardly it did nothing to help believers, being just man-made ideas. This will be apparent when we reach the end of Chapter 2.

Paul advises them to be rooted and built up in Christ, and be steadfast & established in the faith they had received. In Col 2:8, Paul once again tells them to beware of philosophy, empty delusions which are according to human traditions and principle of the world. And then proclaims once again that all “principality and power” is under him, as the fullness of divinity resides in Him. In other words, their is no higher authority than the savior and lord of our lives, Yeshua the Messiah.

2. Principalities and Powers
At this juncture, before proceeding to verse 11, we must identify the true meaning of “Principalities and Powers”. The usual explanation is that these are spiritual entities which had authority over humans, before Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Let’s test this against the writings. Paul uses this phrasing 3 times in the letter to the Colossians, denoting a certain importance of said phrase to the point he is trying to make.

Col 1:16  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Col 2:10  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Col 2:15  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Principalities – Strong’s Dictionary – G746 – ar-khay’ – From G756; (properly abstract) a commencement, or (concrete) chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank): – beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.

Powers – Strong’s Dictionary – G1849 – ex-oo-see’-ah – From G1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, that is, (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence: – authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.

The use of the phrase “Principalities and Powers” in the New Testament 
Luk 12:11  And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates(G746), and powers(G1489), take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
Luk 20:20  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power(G746) and authority(G1489) of the governor.
1Co 15:24  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule(G746) and all authority(G1489) and power.
Eph 1:21  Far above all principality(G746), and power(G1489), and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
Eph 3:10  To the intent that now unto the principalities(G746), and powers(G1489)in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities(G746), against powers(G1489), against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Tit 3:1  Put them in mind to be subject to principalities(G746), and powers(G1489), to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

These two Greek words “Arkhay” & “Exooseeah” are mostly used for rule/authority/governance in an earthly sense, as in magistrates, governors, rulers, etc. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul uses the same words to speak of spiritual rule and authority, but he clearly mentions “high places” or “heavenly places” to explain that he is not speaking of it in an earthly sense. Luk 12 and Titus 3 are clearly speaking of earthly rulers and authorities using the same Greek words. Looking at the above evidence, it is most likely that Paul was speaking of an earthly “Arkhay” & “Exooseeah” in the letter to the Colossians. Colossians 1:16 further explains the fact that he was speaking of earthly rulers and authorities as well as the heavenly.

3. Circumcision made without hands
Returning to the Letter to the Colossians, we see Paul suddenly addressing the topic of circumcision. One of the main concerns in the 1st century was whether gentile believers in the faith should be circumcised or not before they were accepted as believers – in other words, some were saying that Gentile believers needed to be circumcised to be saved. The 15th Chapter of Acts shows the conflict and the resolution created by the Jerusalem Council. Many of Paul’s letters directly tackle this idea of “justification by Works” – in other words “being saved because of becoming circumcised”. And it is the same argument that Paul brings to the Colossians. Just after explaining that Christ is above all so called rulers and authorities, he explains that the Colossians have been circumcised with the circumcision made without hands – The circumcision of the heart – both spoken by Paul(Rom 2:29) and God Himslef(Deut 10:16, 30:6, Jer 4:4) in the Old Testament Scriptures. Circumcision of the heart was repentance and turning from your iniquities towards God.

4. Buried with Him in Baptism
After explaining that they have received “salvation” (putting off the body of sins of the flesh) without physical circumcision, Paul then turns to baptism. Explaining that they have died to the old life in baptism (burial in water) and being resurrected through the faith in God, Paul writes that they were dead in sin and uncircumcision – but have now been forgiven their sins.

It is important to note that the Jewish Rabbinic authorities believe a proselyte(convert to Judaism) must engage in Circumcision and Baptism before they are regarded part of the congregation ([A] Refer discussion by Maimonides on Yevamot 47a-b). This is still considered mandatory and is in practice even today. It is proven through archaeology that there were ritual baths (special places for baptism) even before the time of Christ, so it is safe to say Jewish Proselytes were circumcised and baptized before they were accepted into the community, even in the 1st Century. It should now be apparent to you why Paul discusses Circumcision and Baptism in his letter to the Colossians. These were new converts into the faith, and most definitely, the rulers/authorities wanted them to adhere to the customs/traditions of their day. In the eyes of these “principalities” and “powers” a proselyte was to be physically circumcised and then baptized before they were part of the faith. The Jerusalem Council had announced this was not necessary to become part of the congregation as one is saved only by faith and the grace of God. Circumcision was never a requirement to approach God. In fact it was a commandment for parents, as they are the one who circumcised a child on the 8th day.

Paul explained that the Colossians had been circumcised with a circumcision done without hands, and with baptism to Christ – so that they did not need any further acts to be done in accordance to the principalities and powers of their day.

5. The meaning of Handwriting of Ordinances
As we step into the main verses in question, the context leading to this verse becomes all the more important. Christians are quick to say that the phrase “Handwriting of Ordinances” refers to the “Law of God” or “Law of Moses” or “The Old Testament Scriptures”. Nothing can be further than the truth.

Handwriting – G5498 – khi-rog’-raf-on – Neuter of a compound of G5495 and G1125; something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): – handwriting. This word can only be found in Col 2:14

Ordinances – G1378 – dog’-mah – From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): – decree, ordinance.
Luk 2:1  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree(G1378) from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
Act 16:4  And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees(G1378) for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
Act 17:7  Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees(G1378) of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
Eph 2:15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances(G1378); for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

The phrase “handwriting of Ordinances” is only seen in the letter to the Colossians. The word “Ordinances” (Dogmah) is seen 5 times in the New Testament and 3 of those occasions clearly refer to “man-made Decrees”.

Eph 2:15 stands out amongst them, as Paul connected it to the “middle wall of partition” (also known as the soreg). While God had given Commandments and His Law, the word Dogmah stood for man-made Decrees/laws/ordinances. If Paul was indeed speaking of God’s Law & Commandments, he would not have needed to use the word “ordinance”/”decree”(dogmah) in his letter. These “ordinances” which were prescribed by the principalities and powers, were hostile to the worship of God, as they restrained anyone other than “Jews” (as per their definition) from worshiping God. These ordinances made a clear separation between Jew and Gentile, by elevating one above the other, to the extent where gentiles were looked down upon and disassociated, by Jews everywhere (Joh 4:9,27, 7:35, Act 10:28, 11:2,3, Gal 2:12).

Coming back to Col 2:14, we see that which is blotted out and nailed to the cross is “Dogmah” or man-made decrees, and not any parts of the Scriptures. Just as Paul explains in Eph 2:15, these were hostile towards us. He repeats those words to the Colossians by saying that those decrees were against and opposed to believers of God. In the same breadth Paul explains these rulers and people of authority(principalities and powers) who create and subject others to these man-made decrees had been made powerless by Christ, as He alone held authority over all.

6. Let no one judge you
One of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the New Testament, this verse is commonly used as a proof text to say that the Sabbath and feast days that God called “His Feasts” are now discarded after Christ. Let’s look at the verse a little closer.

Col 2:16  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Paul writes that “therefore”, hinting at the so called rulers & authorities (principalities and powers) who are powerless because of the true person who has authority over all of God’s children; For this reason the Colossians should not let anyone judge/condemn them. They were under a higher authority. But what were these Principalities and powers condemning the Colossians for? This verse can be read in the following ways:

A) Let no man therefore judge you FOR NOT ADHERING TO Food Laws, Holydays, New Moon days and Sabbath days.
B) Let no man therefore judge you FOR ADHERING TO Food Laws, Holydays, New Moon days and Sabbath days.

The majority of Christians understand this verse to be read according to “reading A” in which Paul is asking the Colossians to let no one judge them for not keeping God’s Law. The inverse maybe true as well. As per “reading B”, Paul could also be asking them to not let anyone judge them for adhering to God’s Law.

According to the context, it is clear that these gentile believers were being influenced by the Jewish authorities of their day in the realm of adherence to their man-made laws and authority. Paul had already explained that these “dogmah” ordinances/man-made laws were done away in Christ. It is likely that these “principalities and powers” were judging these new Gentile believers for keeping Food Laws, Holy days, New Moons and Sabbath days without proper adherence to their laws which were made for proselytes. In their eyes, these proselytes were keeping the ways of God before being officially accepted into the fold. They were acting outside their authority, and that was not acceptable.

7. A shadow of things to come
Paul concludes the advice about not letting anyone judge them by saying that the Food Laws, Holy days, New Moons & Sabbaths “are” a shadow of things to come. Note that Paul did not say “were” but “are” indicating they are still a shadow of things to come. The next part of the verse is written “But the body is of Christ”, which can also be translated as “and the body is of Christ”. However it is translated, it is apparent that Paul is saying that the Shadow is cast by a body which is Christ. Meaning that these Laws “are” a shadow of the coming Christ and His Kingdom.

8. Being subject to Ordinances – the commandments and doctrines of men
Paul completes his advise on coming under authority/rule of men and obeying their man made laws/doctrines/commandments by speaking of the Gnostic influence on the Colossians once again. We saw that he had mentioned the pursuit of wisdom at the start of the second chapter possibly indicating influence by Gnostics. Now paul speaks of asceticism (a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals), worship/religion of angels, pride in wisdom and intrusion into the unknown. These were all Gnostic ideas/teachings, making it obvious that one of the main parties trying to influence the Colossian believers were indeed the Gnostics.

Paul reminds them to be firmly connected to Christ, the head of authority, who nourishes all believers in faith. And also to not be in subjection to principles of the world or doctrines/commands of men that say do not touch, taste, handle – which appear to be wise, but is self-made religion and asceticism which neglect the body, but do nothing to stop the indulgences of the flesh. In other words, they seem to be spiritual commands but are man-made ideas which does nothing to bring you closer to God. Some see these verses to be speaking of God’s Law, such as the food laws… but Paul is very clear in saying that these are “commandments and doctrines of men”.

9. Conclusion
The Colossians were a group of new believers who were being influenced and criticized by certain authorities. These “principalities and powers” as Paul put them, were in places of power but had no authority over the Children of God, as Christ was the head of the body. Through His sacrifice, He had put those man-made ordinances/doctrines to shame by triumphing over them. There was no more barrier for Gentiles to approach God in repentance. These proselytes need not be subject to the ways of man anymore. The second influencing factor were the Gnostic thoughts in their day. These ideas rejected the earthly life altogether for Spiritual knowledge and wisdom, in worshiping angels and in asceticism.

The Colossians who were most likely being pushed, bullied and rejected by both Jews who held onto the “Traditions of the elders” and the Gentiles who were peddling Gnostic thought, were being influenced in the middle – to which Paul writes to strengthen them in the Gospel they have heard and to advice them to separate God’s Word from the Word of man. Separate God’s eternal Law from the temporary man-made commands and doctrines. Separate Christ who has full authority over them to the powerless “principalities and powers” of their day.

It is important to dissect Paul’s words carefully, and to always remember that we do not fully know the backgrounds of the assemblies he wrote to, nor the troubles and conflicts they faced. We must understand that Paul adhered and walked according to God’s Law, and that his common rebuke was against justification/salvation through the doing of the Law. When taken in context there is no doubt that Paul was speaking of man-made doctrines being nailed to the cross and being blotted out, and not God’s eternal Law.

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[A]”By three things did Israel enter into the Covenant: by circumcision, and baptism and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt, as it is written: ‘No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof’ (Exodus 12:48). Baptism was in the wilderness, just before giving of the Law, as it is written: ‘Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes’ (Exodus 19:10). And sacrifice, as it is said: ‘And he sent young men of the children of Israel which offered burnt offerings’ (Exodus 24:5)…When a gentile is willing to enter the covenant…He must be circumcised and be baptized and bring a sacrifice…And at this time when there is no sacrifice, they must be circumcised and be baptized; and when the Temple shall be built, they are to bring a sacrifice…The gentile that is made a proselyte and the slave that is made free, behold he is like a child new born.”

Understanding Sacrifices and Offerings, and whether they are done away in Christ

The “Scriptures” or the Old Testament, as it is known today, consist of many Sacrifices and Offerings which were instituted by Our Heavenly Creator. Though many of us are vague on the details of such, and see these sacrifices and offerings as archaic and barbaric, we must not forget that they are part of God’s Word. While these sacrifices/offerings have ceased with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, many Christians believe that they are done away in Christ, never to be re-instituted again. While much of this thinking stems from the idea that “God’s Law is a curse that was done away in Christ“, there are many prophecies which speak otherwise.

the-lamb-illustration-1It is the objective of this study to give you, the reader, a basic understanding of the different kinds of sacrifices and offerings instituted by YHVH through Moses, to unravel the reasons for such actions and see whether they have ceased altogether or whether they will reappear in the time of the Millennial rule of Messiah Yeshua.

 

 

This study is broken down to the following sections:
1. What are Offerings & Sacrifices?
2. The different varieties of Offerings
3. What was the reason for offering sacrifices?
4. Sacrifices & Messiah
5. Earthly Priesthood & Heavenly Priesthood
6. Sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom?
7. Conclusion

1. What are Offerings & Sacrifices?
Offering – The word translated as “offering” in our English translations of the Bible come from the Hebrew word “Korbawn” (H7133 – something brought near the altar, that is, a sacrificial present: – oblation, that is offered, offering). An offering was a gift brought before God, similar to a manner of approaching a king, with humility and due honor. It did not necessarily consist of Animal Sacrifices, but could be anything from bread to jewels(Num 28:2, 31:50). We see Yeshua alluding to the same “Corban” in Mark 7:11 when rebuking the Pharisees.

Sacrifice – The word translated as “sacrifice” in our English translations of the Bible come from the Hebrew word “Zabach” (H2076 – to slaughter an animal. usually in sacrifice: – kill, offer, sacrifice, slay). An Offering was not necessarily a “Zabach” (animal sacrifice). The difference could be seen clearly in Lev 3:1 And if his oblation(Korbawn) be a sacrifice(Zabach) of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD.

2. The different varieties of Offerings
While Animal Sacrifices(Zabach) was just one type of offering, there are also many other types of offerings, that we are not familiar with. Offerings could be divided to 2 main categories as “blood offerings” and “bloodless offerings”.

BLOOD OFFERINGS mainly consisted of
“Olah” translated as Burnt Offerings (H5930 – ascending, going up in smoke: – ascent, go up)
“Shelem” translated as peace offering (H8002 – requital, that is, a sacrifice in thanks)
“Chattath” translated as sin offering (H2403 – offence, and its penalty, occasion, sacrifice, or expiation; also an offender: – punishment of sin, purifying for sin, sinner). Both “Sin” and “Sin Offering” is called “Chattath” (Lev 4:3).
“Asham” translated as Trespass offering (H817 – guilt; by implication a fault; also a sin offering: – guiltiness, offering for sin, trespass)

BLOODLESS OFFERINGS mainly consisted of
“Minchah” translated as Meat/Meal Offering (H4503 – apportion, that is, bestow; a donation; euphemistically tribute; specifically a sacrificial offering. usually bloodless and voluntary: – gift, oblation, meat offering, present, sacrifice).
“Nesek” translated as Drink Offering (H5262 – libation; pouring out, pour)

RITUALS OF OFFERING THE ABOVE
“Terumah” translated as Heave Offering (H8641 – something raised, lifted, offered up). For example, part of the Peace offering could be lifted up, and therefore called a heave offering (Lev 7:32)
“Tenuphah” translated as Wave offering (H8573 – tumult; specifically the official undulation of sacrificial offerings: – offering, shaking, wave). For example,  part of the Peace offering could be waved, and therefore be called a wave offering (Lev 7:30). Several offerings were waved, such as the Leper’s trespass offering (Lev 14:12), Consecration offering (Lev 8:27), Sheaf of Firstfruits (Lev 23:11) and Loaves at Pentecost (Lev 23:17).

THE SIX MAIN OFFERINGS COMMANDED BY GOD
1)Burnt Offering (Olah)
2)Meal Offering (Minchah)
3)Peace Offering (Shelem)
4)Sin Offering (Chattath)
5)Trespass Offering (Asham)
6)Drink Offering (Nesek)

Different combinations of these above categories of offerings were used for different instances – such as – consecration of priests, nazarite vow, cleansing of leper, person defiled with issue, women giving birth, jealousy trial, etc.

3 MAIN GROUPS OF OFFERINGS
• Sweet savour offerings – Burnt and Peace offerings
• Atonement offerings – Sin and Trespass offerings
• Supplementary offerings – Meal and Drink offerings (added to other offerings)

1) BURNT OFFERING
Burnt Offerings are first seen many years before Moses, being offered by Noah(Gen 8:20),  Abraham(Gen 22:2) & Job(Job 1:5). Better translated as “Ascending Offerings”, these were wholly burnt at the Altar.

Commanded Burnt Offerings –
1) Continual Burnt Offering – One lamb was to be offered each morning and evening (Exo 29:42) at the Temple, and the fires would continually burn through morning to evening, and so on.
2) Sabbath Burnt Offering – On top of the continual burnt offering, on the Sabbath, two lambs were offered (Num 28:9,10).
3) New Moon/Month Burnt Offering – Two young bullocks, one ram & seven lambs were offered on the first day of each month (Num 28:11).
4) Burnt offerings at the seven Feasts/Appointments – Passover(2Chr 30:24), Unleavened Bread(Num 28:24), Firstfruits(Lev 23:12), Pentecost(Lev 23:18), Trumpets(Num 29:2), Atonement(Lev 16:24), Tabernacles(Num 29:13-38)
5) Consecration – of priests(Lev 8:18, 9:2), of people (Lev 9:3-7) of Levites(Num 8:12)
6) Dedication – of the altar – (Num 7:87), of the temple(1Kin 8:64)
7) Cleansing – of women bearing children(Lev 12:6), of lepers(Lev 14:19), of people with some kind of bodily discharge(Lev 15:15), a defiled Nazarite(Num 6:11)
8) Completion of a vow(Num 15:8), specifically a Nazarite vow as well(Num 6:14)

Each day, each sabbath, each month, each feast, in consecration, dedication, cleansing and completion of oaths, physical contact with God was prescribed. They were constant reminders of who is King, Lord & God. All important events and commemorations were celebrated by offering such gifts to God.

Voluntary Burnt Offerings
An individual could bring a burnt offering on his own free-will, but what should be offered and how it should be offered was instructed(Lev 1:2 onwards). Even the people who were not native born Israelites (aliens/strangers) were capable of making burnt sacrifices(Lev 22:18). The poor could also offer pigeons and turtle doves instead bullocks and lambs(Lev 12:8 & 1:14).

The process of sacrifice
• Offering – being accepted by God
It was offered only at the brass altar in front of the door of the tabernacle/temple(Lev 17:8-9).
The offerer then laid the hand on the animal, identifying with it, and showing that he himself is offered up(Lev 1:4)
• Shedding blood – being atoned/covered by God
The offerer killed the animal and shed the blood, which was sprinkled around the altar by the priest(Lev 1:5). Then he had to skin the animal, at which point the skin was kept by the priest(Lev 7:8). Then the offerer cut the meat into pieces, which was placed on the altar by the priest(Lev 1:6-8). The inwards and legs were washed with water, and placed by the priest on the altar(Lev 1:9)
• Burning – Being adored by God
Then all of the animal was completely burnt on the altar as a pleasant smell to God(Lev 1:9)

While in some offerings, the offerer and the priest shared a part, in the burnt offering they burnt it whole to God as a sweet savour. The same applied for a poor man who brought a pigeon – the only difference being the priest would kill it instead(Lev 1:14-17).

The burnt offerings were accompanied by a drink offering and meal offering, with various sizes according to the animal(Num 15:3-12). Trumpets were sounded over the burnt offerings done on the New Moon days and appointed feasts(Num 10:10).

2) MEAL OFFERING
Usually translated as meat offering in the King James Version, the reason for this was that “meat” was generally used for food in the early days. It is also translated as meal offering or grain offering in various translations, but the meaning derived from the Hebrew word “Minchah” is Gift/tribute/apportion. First seen in Gen 4:3-5 in the offerings of Cain & Abel, it is seen again in Gen 32:20 & Gen 43:26 translated as present. The Meal offering is an act of remembrance(Lev 2:2), of worship, gratitude and request for future blessing. As a supplementary to other offerings such as the daily, Sabbath, Feast day offerings, Consecration of the priests & levites, End of a Nazarite vow and the Cleansing of the leper, the portion of the meal offering varied according to the animal sacrificed(Num 15:4-10).

The ingredients of the meal offering consisted of fine flour, oil and frankincense(Lev 2:1). Every meal offering was also seasoned with salt, called the “salt of the covenant”(Lev 2:13). Salt being a preservative agent, was certainly used to ratify covenants(Num 18:19, 2Chr 13:5). Anything Leavened was not part of Meal offerings.

The process of sacrifice
The meal offering according to Lev 2:2-3 is;
• a memorial – reminder of the indebtedness to God
• Offering made by fire – consumed by fire to indicate being devoted wholly to God
• Sweet Savour – Giving satisfaction to God

3 states of wheat could be used for the meal offering:
1) Corn – Ears of wheat parched on a pan and rubbed to obtain roasted grains (Lev 2:14)
2) Flour – Wheat ground into fine flour and mixed with oil to make a batter (Lev 2:1)
3) Bread – The flour baked into bread could be offered by baking in the oven, baking in a flat plate or baking in a frying pan (Lev 2:4,5,7)

It was brought by the offerer to the priest, who burned the necessary quantity at the altar. The amounts of oil and frankincense used with the component of wheat differed according to the animal sacrificed(Num 15:4-11)

After it was burnt at the Alta, whatever was left was provided to the priests (sons of Aaron) as food. It was to be eaten inside the holy place, in the court of the tabernacle, and never to be baked with leaven. Only people who were ritually pure could eat it, and this was said to be a statute forever(Lev 6:14-18).

3) PEACE OFFERING
Derived from the root word “Shalam” (H7999) meaning to be safe, it was an offering of giving thanks, and were divide into 3 types of peace offerings (Lev 7:11-16)
1)Thanksgiving for received salvation(Lev 7:12)
2)a fulfillment of a vow – when expected salvation is received(Lev 7:16)
3)voluntary offering of giving thanks(Lev 7:16) – as an expression of rejoicing with God, as in the case of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (1Kin 8:63)

The peace offering consisted of a part of an animal sacrificed to God through fire, part given to the priest as food and the rest eaten as a festive meal in fellowship.

The offerer could bring an ox, sheep or goat from his flock(Lev 3:1,6,12) but it would need to be without blemish. There was more freedom of choice as a male or female could be offered up, but there was no provision for a pigeon or dove as the whole point of the offering was the sacrificial meal, and a chance to join with God in a time of fellowship and thanksgiving.

The peace offering was also accompanied by 4 varieties of cakes(Lev 7:11-14)

The process of sacrifice
Similar to the burnt offering, the offerer brought the animal to the door of the tabernacle, laid hands on it, identifying himself with it, and killed it. The priests sprinkled the blood, after which the offerer removed all the fat of the animal as part of God’s burnt offering(Lev 3:3-5,9) set forth as a sweet savour to Him. The fat was prescribed as the food of YHVH offered up by fire(Lev 3:16). The second portion was given to the sons of Aaron as per the instructions of God(Lev 7:34, 10:15) The remainder was used in a sacrificial meal eaten inside the temple court with all of the offerers family including his servants(Deut 12:11,18) with much rejoicing(Deut 12:7). This is what Paul alludes to in 1Cor 10:18. They were having communion with God. The meal was to be partaken on the same day, but could be eaten the next day if it was for a vow or a voluntary offering. Whatever was left had to be burnt with fire on the third day, and nothing left or eaten(Lev 7:15-18).

If the sacrificed meat came in contact with something unclean, it could not be eaten but burnt. All who ate it had to be ceremonially clean as well. Any who broke these precepts were said to be cut off from His people by God Himself(Lev  7:19-21).

The fat was not to be eaten as it was God’s portion, and the blood was not to be eaten(Lev 7:22-27) as it was used for atonement and had life(Lev 17:11).

4) SIN OFFERING
With the giving of the Law, everyone was given the knowledge of Sin (Rom 5:13). No more could one say “I did not know”. This offering was intended for such a person who had broken God’s Law to be restored back to a right relationship with God(Lev 4:31). Willful sin could not be atoned through this offering. Lev 4:2,13&22 shows whether it is the individual, the congregation or a ruler, they must all atone for sinning through ignorance. Lev 5:1-4 specifically mentions a few unwitting sins – a witness who keeps quiet, a person who touches an unclean thing and realizes it later and a person who makes a rash oath and realizes his guilt. Confessing the sin was of utmost importance(Lev 5:5). The sacrificed animal would take the place of the person for his guilt and act as atonement.

Different people in different offices had to bring different sacrifices according to the greater responsibility they carried. The higher the rank, the more valuable the sin offering would be.
• The high priest must bring a bullock (Lev 4:3-12)
• The whole congregation must bring a bullock (Lev 4:13-21)
• A ruler must bring a male goat (Lev 4:22-26)
• A common man must bring either a female goat(Lev 4:27-31), a female lamb(Lev 4:32-35), two turtledoves or two pigeons(Lev 5:7-10), or a tenth of an ephah of fine flour(Lev 5:11-13).

Sin done knowingly was not covered through the sin offering and God had mentioned that people doing such would be cut off from His people(Num 15:30).

The process of sacrifice
The offering was brought to the brass altar at the door of the tabernacle(Lev 4:18). Then the offerer laid his hands on the offering(Lev 4:33), and possibly confessed the sin(Lev 5:5, 16:21). Then the animal was killed by the offerer(Lev 4:29). Blood was sprinkled as atonement(Lev 4:5-7) and the fat was burnt on the bronze altar(Lev 4:8-10). The remainder would be burnt wholly outside the camp in case of the priest’s or congregation’s sacrifice(Lev 4:12,21), but was left for the priest’s consumption in other cases(Lev 6:26).

5) TRESPASS OFFERING
The trespass offering and sin offering are closely associated to each other. While sin was the act, trespass was the result. The word “Asham” (H817) is used for the trespass(Psa 68:21), the trespass offering(Lev 5:18) and the compensation paid for it(1Sam 6:3).

Trespasses were divided among things done against God(Lev 5:14-19) & things done against the neighbor(Lev 6:1-7). A trespass against his neighbor is also counted as a trespass against God (Lev 6:2).

The process of sacrifice
The trespass was confessed, assessed and paid with a fifth being added to what was taken/lost(Num 5:7). After the trespass was recompensed, a ram was offered to God(Lev 6:5-7). When David said “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned”, he understood that the trespass against Uriah was a sin against God. If the person who was wronged was dead or had no family, the payment would go towards the priest(Num 5:8). Just as in the sin offering, the animal was killed near the altar, blood sprinkled and the fat burned, while what remained was given to the priest to be eaten in the holy place(Lev 7:1-6).

6) DRINK OFFERING
The drink offering which had the act of pouring out, usually consisted of Wine. In Gen 35:14 Jacob pours a drink offering as well as David is seen doing the same in 2Sam 23:16. Used as a complementary offering, it was used for all offering other than the Sin offering and Trespass offering. Even though oil and water was also used as drink offerings, the prescribed drink offering of the temple was of Wine(Exo 29:40). And even strong wine was used(Num 28:7).

The process of sacrifice
Various quantities of wine was offered alongside the main sacrifice, and was poured on them(Num 15:5,7,10). The table of shewbread consisted of a jug and cup for the pouring out of these sacrifices(Exo 37:16, Num 4:7 – cover should be translated “poured out/cup”). The drink offering was most probably poured on the sacrificed animal(Lev 23:18). It was a sweet savour offering before God’s eyes(Num 15:10) and is never mentioned to have been drunk by the priests.

3. What was the reason for offering sacrifices?
The sacrifices each person had to offer for various reasons at various occasions created a profound sense of responsibility, accountability of personal actions and duty/reverence towards the King over all – our Father in Heaven. While in our current lives we have no way of measuring sin, or better, the wages of sin – the people who made physical sacrifices of blood and wine experienced what it took to cover sin, to approach God, to be holy before Him. Offerings gave weight to Sin, in a way we can never understand, as each person had to offer their own sacrifices, killing animals, thereby getting covered in their blood – experiencing first hand, that it took life to cover death – it took blood to cover sin.

Another reason for many of the misunderstandings regarding these offerings, stem from a wrong understanding of what Atonement is. Derived from the Hebrew word Kaphar(H3722) “Atonement” means “to cover”, as covering your sin. A good example for the above is Gen 6:14, where “Kaphar” is used as cover instead of atonement. While the blood covered the shamefulness, nakedness and sin, the forgiveness wrought from offering sacrifices could not have been a complete, spiritual forgiveness. In Yeshua, we have spiritual forgiveness so that even if our body dies, it can be resurrected anew. The earthly forgiveness, that sacrifices brought was a temporary bridge so that we were not cut off from a Holy God because of our Sinful nature. To understand this more fully, we must understand the connection between Sacrifices & our Messiah.

4. Sacrifices & Messiah
As a lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Messiah’s Sacrifice was the pinnacle of all Sacrifices, and it is evident that all sacrifices pointed to Him. But it is important to understand that His sacrifice is not offered up in an earthly temple, but in the heavenly construction(Heb 9:23-26). What was created on earth was a duplicate of the heavenly(Exo 25:40, Heb8:5), and it is in this heavenly temple that Yeshua offers up His blood. His sacrifice is what purifies the soul and clears our conscience(Heb 9:9), which could not have been wiped clean with the blood of earthly sacrifices, but only covered(Atoned).

When we as Children of the Most High, sin, we bring shame to Our Father. And for such actions we should ideally be punished – but Our Messiah took on our shame, thereby taking the just punishment we should receive, on Himself. The love that Yeshua showed us is boundless for this reason. In animals, the life given for our own, was of a lesser being which was only able to cover us for the time, but not give just satisfaction for the trespass done against God. Yeshua’s Life was a just exchange for our own lives which were destined for death, but in Him have been transformed to Life.

So the question should never be “whether Earthly Sacrifices are done away in Christ”. Rather, the Heavenly Sacrifices offered by Yeshua are a means of receiving purification for our life beyond the earthly bodies, while the earthly sacrifices were a means of being covered on earth, so that we are not cut off from God, in our walk till we attain eternal life. The two should not be mixed up, as one has nothing to do with the other – the heavenly being for eternal life and the earthly being for the temporary life on earth.

5. Earthly Priesthood & Heavenly priesthood
In the previous section we saw that the Earthly Temple built in Jerusalem was a copy of a Heavenly temple structure. The Earthly Temple was handed over to the Levites and the Sons of Aaron to be managed, and it is a clear fact that Yeshua can never be a priest on earth(Heb 7:13,14). All throughout the Book of Hebrews, its author explains how Yeshua, in the order of Melchizedek, has taken charge of the heavenly service and sacrifice, where better sacrifices are offered(Heb 9:23). On earth, fleshly bodies needed cleansing even after Yeshua’s death. A good example being Paul’s own sacrifice and purification done in the Temple in Jerusalem. Just as the Earthly Sacrifices should not be mixed up with the Heavenly Sacrifices, the Earthly priesthood should not be mixed up with the Heavenly priesthood. One does not replace the other, but only foreshadows the better – the Heavenly.

Heb 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

6. Sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom?
Most of the prophets in the Scriptures speak of the Millennium reign of Yeshua. And one interesting fact is that almost all of these verses speak of various offerings such as Burnt sacrifices and Animal Sacrifices made at the time. A few such instances are given below.

Isa 56:6-8 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings(Olah) and their sacrifices(Zebach) shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

Jer 33:15-18 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings(Olah), and to kindle meat offerings(Minchah), and to do sacrifice(Zebach) continually.

Dan 9:27  And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice(Zebach) and the oblation(Minchah) to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

The greatest detail of such sacrifices comes from not these, but Ezekiel Chapter 40 to 46. All sorts of details from the sizes to the appearance of the new temple is prophesied through Ezekiel. Ezek 43:18-27 speaks of the animal sacrifices offered on the altar by the Levites, while chapter 44 goes on to speak of the Levites in service and especially the lineage of Zadok. Chapter 45 & 46 continue to speak of animal sacrifices, and all of the instituted offering in the book of Leviticus, as well as specific offerings made on the sabbaths, new moons and feast days.

Eze 40:42  And the four tables were of hewn stone for the burnt offering, of a cubit and an half long, and a cubit and an half broad, and one cubit high: whereupon also they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burnt offering(Olah) and the sacrifice(Zebach)
Eze 44:11  Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering(Olah) and the sacrifice(Zebach) for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them.
Eze 46:24  Then said he unto me, These are the places of them that boil, where the ministers of the house shall boil the sacrifice(Zebach) of the people.
Eze 43:18-27 And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings(Olah) thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon. And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering(Chattath). And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it. Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering(Chattath), and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary. And on the second day thou shalt offer a kid of the goats without blemish for a sin offering(Chattath); and they shall cleanse the altar, as they did cleanse it with the bullock. When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish. And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering(Olah) unto the LORD. Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin offering(Chattath): they shall also prepare a young bullock, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish. Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves. And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings(Olah) upon the altar, and your peace offerings(Shehlem); and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.

The context of the above Scriptures is the Millennial Kingdom beyond any doubt. And it is clear that these prophets have spoken of Sacrifices being offered up at that time, just like before. So the thought we need to consider is why such sacrifices are offered in the future. As mentioned before, the Heavenly Sacrifices done through the Heavenly Priesthood is Spiritual in nature and brings eternal life through the wiping away of sin, while the Earthly Sacrifices done through the Earthly Priesthood is physical in nature and acts as a temporary cover from sin on earth.

In the Millennial Kingdom, Sin is still an active facet of life(Zec 14:16-19, Rev 20:7,8) and will not be expunged till the end of the Millennial Kingdom(Rev 20:14). Paul is right in saying “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin(Rom 3:20).” During the 1000 year reign of Yeshua, righteousness and holiness will prevail, but those with earthly bodies will still have a sin nature, and there will be a need to teach about how offensive sin is to a holy and righteous God. Animal sacrifices will serve that purpose, “but in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year”(Heb 10:3). A temporary cover for sin will be required at this time, through offerings made at the active Temple in Jerusalem. Only after the Millennial reign, will the Heavenly Jerusalem come down, replacing the Old Temple with the Heavenly(Rev 21:1-4). When sin and death are cast off, there will be no more reason for physical animal sacrifices – till that time, the re-instituted system of Temple Offerings will stand according to Scripture.

7. Conclusion
The reason for the objections brought against an earthly sacrificial system stem from the belief that “Sacrifices” took away sin. We have seen that the blood of animals could never wipe away sin, but rather act as a temporary covering. What’s more, the sacrifices also gave weight to “Sin” and served as a lesson to the sinner, that the relationship with God was based on purity and obedience. Just as one cannot approach a king without right attire, a man in sin could not approach a Holy God. In the earthly realm, the instituted offerings dressed up the person so that they were not naked before God, in their walk in this temporary body. Offerings showed how great and holy God was and what drawing near to Him entails.

Yeshua’s sacrifice and His Blood could never be offered in the earthly temple, but in the Heavenly construction where it cleared the conscience and made us pure in Spirit so that one could receive Eternal Life. While the earthly foreshadows the heavenly, the two are separate and have nothing to do with each other – one meant to be a temporary cover for temporary life and the other wiping away sin wholly, opening a path to Eternal Life. This is why the Sacrifice of Messiah did not abolish the Earthly Sacrifices. It is why even the Apostle Paul went to purify himself through sacrifices in the temple many years after the death of Messiah(Acts 21:23-26). It is why the prophets speak of a time where offerings will be re-instituted with the building of a third Earthly Temple in Jerusalem.

Even though these offerings were expressions of ones heart, symbolic of the offerer being offered up as an offering, they were never a substitute for obedience to God(1Sam 15:22, Mic 6:6-8). The psalmist put it aptly when he said “An afflicted heart would be desired more by God, than burnt sacrifices(Psa 51:16,17)”. What matters is obedience, when it comes to His Word. And the sacrifices and offerings instituted by YHVH are part of His word. It was never abolished in Yeshua, but rather ceased temporarily with the destruction of the temple only to be re-instituted when it is rebuilt. In the interim we can only bring our prayers as Offerings, and our lives as a sacrifice unto Him. Let us be obedient in all He has instituted, walking in holiness, and do what is possible till the prophesied time of His return.

Was Pentecost instituted at the Upper Room or at Mount Sinai?

The day of Pentecost, celebrated throughout most Christian Congregations, is thought to have started with the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples gathered at the Upper Room. But what if Pentecost started almost 1500 years before? As Christians who were brought up being taught that Pentecost started in the upper Room, this may come as a shock. But the truth is that Pentecost had been celebrated for almost 1500 years before Christ, being instituted by YHVH at the Mount of Sinai.

As Christians, we need to become more like the “noble Bereans” (Acts 17:10,11) who searched the Scriptures to check what was told to them were true or not. So let us dig into the Scriptures for the evidence of a Pre-Christ Pentecost.

What does the word “Pentecost” mean?
The English word “Pentecost” is a direct transliteration of the Greek word “Pentekoste” and means “fiftieth” or more specifically “the fiftieth day” in Greek. Even though the meaning has been lost in our English translations of the Bible, a quick look at a dictionary/lexicon reveals the real meaning.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
G4005 – πεντηκοστή – pentēkoste – Pentecost = “the fiftieth day”
1) the second of the three great Jewish feasts, celebrated at Jerusalem yearly, the seventh week after the Passover, in grateful recognition of the completed harvest.

Pentecost in the New Testament writings
lexImageThere are 3 instances where the above word “G4005 – Pentekoste” appears in the New Testament. In the below verses, the 1st instance speaks of the disciple being gathered to the upper room when the “fiftieth day” had fully come. The second instance is of Paul who determines to go to Jerusalem by the “fiftieth day”. And the 3rd instance is of Paul’s words to the Ephesians explaining how he will stay at Ephesus until the “fiftieth day”.

And when the day of Pentecost(Pentekoste – the fiftieth day) was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Act 2:1)

For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost(Pentekoste – the fiftieth day). (Act 20:16)

But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost(Pentekoste – the fiftieth day). (1Co 16:8)

Why was this day called “The Fiftieth Day”?
If it was called the Fiftieth Day, there would have had to be a reason for it. Was it a Fiftieth day from a specific event? To know the answer, we must examine the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the clues left for us in the New Testament.

A. The Fiftieth Day is instituted at Sinai
To understand what “Pentecost/the fiftieth day” really means, we must look at its origins, in the Old Testament.

Lev 23:15,16 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Lev 23:21  And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

The above reference is part of the commandment given by God at Sinai regarding the “Feasts/Appointments of God” recorded in Leviticus, and speaks of the Appointment which comes 50 days from the day of “Firstfruits” which is the day after the Sabbath following “Passover“. (To know detailed information on this topic, please read this post). In it God commands to count “Seven Sabbaths” (Seven Weeks) from the day the firstfruit (sheaf of the wave offering) was brought to the temple – and the day after the Seventh Sabbath would be considered, a day of Assembly, where no monetary work would be done and would be proclaimed each year, forever.

Generally known as the Feast of Weeks in the Scriptures, it was a countdown of Seven Weeks/Sabbaths leading to 50 days. (7days x 7 +1 = 50days)
Exo 34:22  And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
Deu 16:10  And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
2Ch 8:13  Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.

It was also necessary for all males to come to Jerusalem for this day/event.
Deu 16:16  Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:

B. Clues left in the Book of Acts by Luke, regarding the “Fiftieth day”
1. The completion of 50 days
In Acts 2:1, Luke specifically mentions the “completion of 50 days” saying “when the day of Pentecost was fully come“. This shows how the Disciple gathered in the upper room, as Pentecost/Fifty Days were completed.

2. A multitude of Jews living outside Judea and Jerusalem had gathered to Jerusalem
In Acts 2:5, Luke specifies that devout men from every nation under heaven had gathered to Jerusalem. Why were such a crowd gathered to Jerusalem at the time the disciples were in the upper room? It was no coincidence. God had specified that all males of His people must come to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Weeks”/”Fifty Days” or better known as “Pentecost” in the New Testament (Deut 16:16, Exo 23:14-17, 34:22,23).

3. Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost/The fiftieth day
As a devout Jew who was obedient to God’s Law, it is no surprise that Paul determined to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost(Act 20:16), as it was part of God’s Law to be present in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Contrary to popular belief, Paul was obedient to Mosaic Law as per James(Act 21:18-24) & Paul’s(Act 24:14) own testimony. He  was earnest to keep the feast days in Jerusalem according to Acts 18:21

4. A specified time span and a command not to leave Jerusalem
The disciples themselves were ordered by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) not to leave Jerusalem(Acts 1:4) and Luke even specifies the proximity to the Fiftieth day by recording that Messiah was seen by the disciples for Forty days after His Resurrection(Acts 1:3). As Yeshua arose on the day of FirstFruits – and the counting of 50 days starts on Firstfruits, this meant that there were 10 days remaining to the feast of Pentecost.

Conclusion
Pentecost was instituted at Sinai by God, 1500 years before the giving of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the Upper Room. Pentecost, a Greek word turned into English hides the meaning of “Fifty days” behind it, which was the counting of fifty days according to the Law of God. Modern Christianity might not even know it, but they are keeping God’s Law of the “Fiftieth Day” when they meet together on Pentecost. How wonderful would it be if all Christians knew and understood that God’s Commandments, His Word endures forever without change – without a single jot or tittle being done away. And that His Feasts/Appointed Days do foreshadow the first and second coming of Messiah Yeshua. And that Pentecost, which was instituted in the Old Testament is part of these 7 appointed days set forth by God Himself.

Should we stone sinners, if we obey God’s Law?

It is part of God’s Law – So, should we? As a means of showing the impracticality of God’s Law, many pose the question, “if we are keeping God’s Law, why don’t we stone adulterers and other sinners specified by the Law?”. A recent comment I received from a dear brother read “If we cannot pick and choose which ceremonial law applies to us, then when keeping the OT law after being saved, we should be sure to stone adulterers.” He went on to ask why Christ forgave the woman who was accused of adultery. And to reiterate the point by commenting that “We should stone. Stone, stone, stone.” While I completely understand the point of view, and the hint of frustration in this brother’s words, I believe this common view among Christians is quite a misinformed one at best. The “issue of stoning” is taken as one of the easiest argument against keeping God’s Law – in a haphazard way, with little to no understanding of how the Law functions.

StoneBut is it a pointless question to ask? Absolutely not. In fact, understanding this subject could bring any Christian who can look at theology in a critical fashion, a bit closer to God’s Word. While this post will focus on the “issue of stoning”, if you would like to read into God’s Law a bit further – please go here.

First of all, I must explain that I, myself as a Christian who was taught that God’s Law was done away in Christ, had the same opinion as the brother whom I mentioned earlier. I had little understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures, even though I had read parts of it – And was ready to defend my faith against who I believed to be “Judaizers” with comments such as “We don’t need to keep God’s Law. If we do, then we need to stone people”. So enough about me – on to the question in hand!

Capital Punishment
When God led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and gave them His Law, many commandments were set forth. There were commandments for land owners, men, women, soldiers, fathers, levites, aaronic priests, judges, witnesses, etc. – much like the laws that govern us in our own respective countries. Many countries have laws, that if broken can lead to capital punishment. This was the case with God’s Law. There were certain acts which were punishable by death – according to God’s Law. And it involved stoning as an act of putting fear in the Godless.

Can anyone stone a sinner?
Imagine a land which is run on a law that specifies that anyone can give the lethal injection to a person accused of murder or adultery. No trial? No judge? No witnesses? Immediate punishment! What sort of land would that be? But this is exactly how Christianity views the Land of Israel under God’s Law in the time before Christ. Barbaric. It is such a pity that we have been taught to view God’s Law which was called liberty by David(Psa 119:45) & James(Jas 1:25), in such a way. The critical question which needs to be asked is “can anyone stone a sinner?”. And as we will see below, similar to the Law of the secular world, God’s Law (when it came to public matters) was to be put to effect through a system of Law.

The making of a ‘system of Law’
When God led His people out of Egypt, at the helm was Moses. He was the only judge at that time, and did his duties from morning to evening (Exo 18:13). It was his duty to enact fair judgement according to God’s Law and statutes (Exo 18:16). Heeding the advice of his father-in-law, Moses chose God-fearing men of truth, and appointed them rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens – teaching them God’s ordinances and Laws (Exo 18:19-21). These rulers were to judge the people under them, and bring any case which was hard for them to resolve, unto Moses (Exo 18:22). Moses in turn would bring any matter he was unsure about before God for resolution(Exo 18:23, Lev 24:12). This was the system of Law at the time – the god fearing rulers/judges would try the easy cases while bringing hard ones to Moses – the head judge, who in turn went to God, when he was unsure of a matter(Exo 18:26). God was supreme ruler and judge of the children of Israel at the time.

After Moses, the mantle of judge passed onto Joshua (Deut 31:14,23) and then to the judges mentioned in the book of judges(Judg 2:16-18) until the time of Samuel, when God gave the people a king at their request. From Saul onward, the kings acted as the head judge – to whom all hard cases were brought to(1King 3:16-28). This system established at the time of Moses was to continue(Deut 16:18) with the help of the priests according to God’s own command (Deut 17:8-12), and was even in effect after the return from the Babylonian exile(Ezr 7:25, 10:14).

The office of the judge
In the book of Deuteronomy, we see Moses recollecting the event where the judges were selected(Exo 18:13-26) with some more detail. In it, he makes an important statement (highlighted in bold with underlining for emphasis)

Deu 1:12-18 How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do. So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it. And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.

Moses clearly states that the judges should judge righteously, for the judgement would come from God, if they acted/judged according to God’s Word/Law. This same idea is echoed again in 2Chr 19:6. The fact is that judges were to dispense the Law, when it came to public cases. We see this abundantly in the Scriptures – a few examples follow:

Exo 21:22  If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
Exo 22:8 If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods.
Exo 22:9 For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.
Deu 19:17,18 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;

The judge who dispenses sentences according to God’s Law needs to be a properly appointed God fearing, righteous person with a thorough knowledge of the Law. Every person could not act as a judge, as it was a position of authority presented to a person, similar to the appointment of a King.

The calling of Witnesses
A judge could not simply put someone to death without hearing a case against him/her. There had to be witnesses called forth, especially in the case of capital punishment. NO ONE COULD BE PUT TO DEATH WITHOUT HEARING 2 TO 3 WITNESSES.

Num 35:30  Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
Deu 17:6  At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
Deu 19:15  One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

Not only was a judge to hear the case with adequate evidence before putting someone to death, the witnesses had to cast the first stone, when it came to punishment.

Deu 17:7  The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.

Following proper procedure
Each case was to be judged according to God’s Law – and proper procedure was to be followed for each case. For example, in the case of adultery, both the man and woman had to be punished (Deut 22:22, Lev 20:10) – the case would be heard with 2 to 3 witnesses present, and if found guilty by the judge, both of them would be stoned. If the man had forced himself on the woman, the man would be stoned, while the woman was set free. If the woman was not betrothed or married to another, the man would have to marry her and not be permitted to divorce her till his death. (Deut 22:23-29). Without adequate witnesses or following of proper procedure, the Judge would not be able to give a proper sentence.

The verdict
With the above information in hand, we can see that stoning or any other punishment could not have been dispensed without the use of the proper authorities. According to God’s Law, the common man could not take any action against a sinner without the judge and proper witnesses. Two to three witnesses needed to provide testimony for a judge to dispense proper justice. Anything outside these boundaries would have been “vigilantism”, which was not approved by God. No person could take the Law unto his/her own hand, much like the law of the secular world today. Just like we cannot give a ticket to a drunk driver or put a murderer on the electric chair, God’s Law did not allow everyone to judge & punish the guilty.

Why did Christ let the woman accused of adultery go free?
Many Christians believe that Yeshua(real name of Jesus) reinterpreted or changed God’s Law against adultery, when he let the woman accused of adultery go free. Let us review the words in John 8:2-11.

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

A few important facts to point out:
1. The pharisees say that the woman was taken in the act of adultery – but the man with whom the act of adultery was committed is not present (both man and woman should be produced before the judge for proper sentencing – Deut 22:22/Lev 20:10)
2. They point to God’s Law given through Moses, and the connected punishment of death by stoning, as part of punishment for adultery – even though without a proper hearing it cannot be determined what action should be taken (the woman would be stoned if it was consensual along with the man/ the woman would be set free, while the man was stoned if she was forced upon / the woman would be given in marriage to the man with no ability of divorce if she is not betrothed to anyone – Deut 22:23-29)
3. Yeshua asked the one without sin to cast the first stone (the one who is familiar with God’s Law would have known that the person to cast the first stone needed to be the witnesses – Deut 17:7) – in light of this, whether any real witnesses were present would have been questionable, and even if they were present, the fact that they were sinful as much as the woman, made it impossible for them to judge anyone.
4. Yeshua asks whether no one passed sentence on the woman, and tells her that neither will He – to go and sin no more (The fact is that Yeshua was not an appointed judge who could carry out a death sentence, let alone punish anyone. He even denies to being any kind of judge in Luk 12:14. This was not the court, the partner who should be accused alongside the woman was missing and whether there were any real witnesses is questionable. It is important to highlight that the Pharisees and Scribes could not put anyone to death under Roman rule anyway, as it was prohibited by Roman Law(Joh 18:31) – this would have been why this situation was used as a way of finding fault with Christ. If Yeshua said “no”, He would have gone against God’s Law. If He said “yes”, He would have gone against Roman Law. Just as with the case of “paying taxes to Rome”, in this situation He showcased God’s Wisdom, in unraveling the plot and silencing the hecklers while putting them to shame by their own acts.

Conclusion
Stoning the guilty, much like the rest of God’s Law, is misunderstood by most. While this specific part is used to make God’s Law look ancient, impractical and even barbaric – it must be noted that dispensing of God’s Law when it came to a public matter, was not open for everyone. People could not stone each other haphazardly for every accusation. There was a system in place for this purpose with witnesses providing testimony and judges determining the verdict – all done according to specifics pointed out in God’s Law. If we stoned someone outside these instructions, our actions would go against God’s Law. For example, Stephen was stoned against God’s Law, as they produced false witnesses(Acts 6:11-14) against him and stoned him without a proper trial or verdict (Acts Chapter 7). While there were many such instances of kangaroo courts, mob attacks & vigilantism – none of it is in accordance to God’s Law, which systematically produces righteous judgement and unbiased punishment. Let us be thankful that Christ has taken on Himself the punishment for sins, which we should be stoned for, and have granted us to live a life full of Grace through walking in His ways/Words/Laws.

Further Reading:
Could anyone in Old Testament times, take “an eye for an eye”?
Is God’s Law a curse?
Defining the terms Sin, Law & Grace