When God gave to Moses the pattern for the tabernacle, God instructed Moses to make all things according to the pattern given to him: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. ~ Hebrews 8:5
The tabernacle made by Moses, was only a type and a shadow of the true tabernacle in Heaven, and the service carried out in it was to be done according to the Law.
According to the book of Hebrews, Jesus is the high Priest of the true tabernacle in Heaven, and the author of Hebrews refers to this as the better and more perfect tabernacle not made with human hands in contrast to the one God instructed Moses to build.
At the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews, the temple service was still functioning. We can conclude this based on the indicators within the epistle. The writer of Hebrews makes reference to the temple service, the priests, and the sacrifices in the present tense and draws a clear distinction between these and the superior ministry of Jesus the heavens.
He tells us that if Jesus were on earth he would not be a priest because those priests offer gifts and sacrifices according to the Law. Even though the priesthood which had been ordained by the law was still functioning in the then presently standing temple, it had been made completely ineffective by Christ’s work on earth at the cross, and by his ministry in the heavens as our high priest.
The temple service was soon to cease functioning entirely when Jerusalem was besieged and the temple destroyed by the Romans in 67-70 A.D.
The book of Hebrews gives us undeniable clarity regarding the distinction between the old and the new. Yet there are some who persist in teaching that there will be a return to animal sacrifices during the millennial reign of Christ, even though such actions would have been considered apostate at the time of the writing of Hebrews, and are referred to by the author of Hebrews as dead works, and according to Hebrews 9:14, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from dead works.
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ~ Hebrews 9:14
The dead works mentioned in Hebrews 9:14 is not a reference to such things as helping the poor, taking care of the elderly, showing brotherly kindness, etc. These are good works and demonstrations of godly character. The dead works, are contextually, a reference to those things which pertain to the old system (the tabernacle/temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices).
These observances had all been made ineffective at the time the writing of the book of Hebrews, and a return to these, after being sanctified through Christ, would be have constituted being an apostate.
Because of persecution, the temptation was present to abandon the true faith in Christ and revert back to the temple worship, which was now a dead religion. Though once ordained by God to serve the purpose of foreshadowing Christ, that system of worship under the Old Testament had now given way to a new and better covenant established by the blood of Jesus.
Through the Blood of Jesus, sin has been completely dealt with and there is no longer any need for those things which had no power to take away sin. The carnal ordinances administered by the old priesthood with animal sacrifices in a earthly sanctuary could not purify man’s conscience in the sight of God. They were only a shadow for a set time until Christ came and brought eternal redemption through his blood.
Jesus, our Great High Priest in the Heavens is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High and through his blood we are liberated to serve the Living God without any of the carnal ordinances which were imposed on those who were under the first testament.
The carnal ordinances which were imposed on them were a constant reminder that sin had not been permanently dealt with, and that the way into the holy presence of God had not yet been manifested. Therefore there was no boldness to enter God’s presence with a pure conscience by those the things which are now said to be dead works. The Old Covenant and it’s rites have been made obsolete.
Through the Blood of Jesus Christ we are cleansed from such dead works so that we may now serve the Living God, in the Spirit of Christ, and with a pure conscience. Notice the context to which the mention of the dead works belongs:
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ~ Hebrews 9:1-14
The author of Hebrews tells us that the system of worship which employed animal sacrifices was only a copy until the time of reformation. The old has faded away and Christ has been appointed high priest forever over the true tabernacle of God in the heavens.
Jesus is coming again, but not to oversee animal sacrifices as some are teaching.
Those who teach that Jesus will return to bring back a defunct system which once existed when there was a Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices under the Law, claim that this is taught in Ezekiel 40 – 48, aka Ezekiel’s temple vision.
However, there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to support such interpretive claims, nor does Ezekiel’s’ temple vision support such claims. In fact, such ideology undermines the finished work of Jesus Christ because the sacrifices that Ezekiel references include the sin offering and are said to be for atonement. ~ Ezekiel 45:17 see also Ezekiel 42:13 and 45:23
Everything that Ezekiel saw was visionary in view of the pattern given to Moses which was only a type and a shadow. A careful examination of Ezekiel’s temple vision reveals that this vision was predicated on the instructions given in the Law which Israel was commanded to follow. This is important to remember because the author of Hebrews tells us that if Jesus were on earth he would not be a priest because those priests offer gifts and sacrifices according to the Law.
Those who teach that Jesus will oversee animal sacrifices in the millennium advocate a theology which can not be supported with Biblical doctrine. Christ’s ministry as high priest is through his blood and not the blood of animal sacrifices.
Therefore, Ezekiel’s vision cannot refer to literal animal sacrifices in the Kingdom of Christ now that Christ has fulfilled that which was foreshadowed by those sacrifices.
The sacrificial system which employed animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross until he came and fulfilled all that was written of him.
Those who teach a reinstatement of animal sacrifices in the millennial Kingdom of Christ insert their “end time theology” into Ezekiel’s vision rather than holding their “theology” accountable to the whole counsel of scripture.
Because of such carelessness in handling the Word of God, there is a plethora of teachings attempting to explain “why” there supposedly will be animal sacrifices in the millennium. None of them are supported by the sound teachings of scripture.
Depending on who you listen to, there are different conclusions reached as to “why” animal sacrifices will be offered in the millennium. One notable teacher on the topic makes the claim that the sacrifices will be offered to protect God’s glory in the temple. Yet, the New Testament teaches us that God’s glory is fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person. Paul tells us in Colossians that all the fullness of the Godhead is present in Jesus.
Some claim that the sacrifices will be reinstituted as object lessons to teach the people living in the millennium what Christ has done in his death. This rationale fails miserably when we consider that for 2000 years the gospel of Christ has been sufficient for leading men to salvation. How is it that suddenly when Christ is physically present in all of his glory, we will need animal sacrifices?
Bad theology leads to more bad theology when we do not stay true to the whole counsel of scripture.
In scripture, the temple which Solomon built was destroyed at the time of the Babylonian captivity, and Herod’s temple, which was the one standing in the time of Jesus’s earthly ministry, was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Both were destroyed because of God’s judgment against the apostasy of the nation, just as the tabernacle was during the days of Eli because of corruption and apostasy. Even though this is revealed in the scripture, some who claim that Ezekiel’s temple is a future millennial temple, also claim that it will be first inhabited by the anti-Christ, then occupied by the glory of God at the coming of Jesus.
Nowhere in scripture will you find a “rebuilt – man made – temple” of which the Lord Jesus Christ will return to fill with His Glory.
Jesus is the cornerstone which God has laid in Zion. He is the foundation stone of the true house of God which is built not by man but by the Spirit of the Living God. The true house of God is built with living stones. These living stones are Jews and Gentiles who obey Jesus Christ and abide in Him.
For through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. ~ Ephesians 2:18-22
The true Temple of God of which Jesus is the foundation, and His followers are the building, is out in the open – loud and clear – in the New Testament: John 2:19-20; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16 -17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:12-22; 1 Peter 2:5.
Jesus is the cornerstone (i.e. the foundation stone) of the true temple of God which is the body of Christ, and the New Testament is embedded with this truth.
All man-made structures (the tabernacle and the temples) in scripture, whether literally or in vision form, were only types and shadows of the true which is in Christ.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that while the first “man made” tabernacle was standing, the Holy Spirit was testifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest. Jesus has entered and consecrated the true holiest of all in the Heavens and we are invited to come boldly into the presence of God by his blood.
The permanent resting place for the God’s presence among his people is not found in a man made structure, but in a circumcised heart. Stephen testified of this truth in the book of Acts: 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? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. ~ Acts 7:48-51
The scriptures tells us that after the new heavens and new earth come, new Jerusalem will descend from above and in the New Heavens and New Earth there shall be no temple – a reference to man made structures.
There is no harmony with the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ and the ideology of another man-made Temple with animal sacrifices, which also would include atonement sacrifices.
Jesus is the foundation stone of the true Temple which God is building with living stones (believers in Jesus Christ) and it is this Temple that God himself inhabits by his Spirit.
The Bible teaches that animal sacrifices were never desired by God and they never brought him any pleasure. They were only types and shadows of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When Christ returns in all of his glory we will not be living in a Kingdom with types and shadows. We will be living in a Kingdom where the fullness of the light of the glory of God abounds.
When Jesus returns, he will come in all of his majesty, honor, and glory. The coming of Jesus is the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior. We will see him face to face, and we will be like him for we will see him as he is. The scriptures also tell us we will appear with him in glory. ~ 1 John 3:1-3, Phil 3:21, 1 Cor 13, Colossians 3:4
Why would anyone be compelled to think that the glorious return of Christ will usher in a reinstatement of an obsolete system of worship which employed the offering of animal sacrifices, which failed to take away sins? It is because of the lack of revelation of the person and finished work of Jesus Christ in God’s eternal plan.
It is never a good idea to interpret scripture which was visionary in nature under the Old Testament with interpretive claims that are contrary to the New Testament revelation and doctrine of Jesus Christ.
The New Testament writers are the authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament scriptures as they pertain to Jesus Christ. The ideology of a return to that which was only a foreshadowing of Christ now that Christ has come is a contrary to New Testament doctrine.
Many of the old testament prophecies are symbolic of a greater truth. We have an example of this in Acts 15 when James says the following:
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; AS IT IS WRITTEN. After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”
If James had not said this, someone could build a doctrine that the literal tent in which David placed the Ark of the Covenant would be rebuilt and we will worship the Lord there, or the literal Kingdom of David would be restored. Instead, James applies this Old Testament prophecy to the salvation of the Gentiles.
It is so important to interpret the Old Testament scriptures in view of the revelation of Jesus Christ given to us by the New Testament writers.
The Old Testament sacrifices were only types and shadows pointing to a greater truth. The greater truth has been revealed and we are not going back to the shadow. We are not going back to animal sacrifices which never truly pleased God. It is Christ in whom God is pleased. He alone is the sacrifice for sins. ~ Hebrews 10:1-14
PROPERLY UNDERSTANDING EZEKIEL’S VISION
The temple in Ezekiel’s vision is a temple that would have been but never was, because of the sins of Israel and their priests.
Ezekiel was a priest by blood linage and also a prophet. This temple vision was given to Ezekiel to make the people of Israel ashamed of their sins (Ezekiel 43:10, 11). In this temple, the Holy presence of God would have continued to be separated from the people, and particularly from the Levites because of their past sins.
According to the new testament, Jesus has removed the separation between God and his people and we now have unhindered access to God through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22; Ephesians 2:13, 18).
Is a temple in which the presence of God cannot be approached consistent with the finished work of Jesus Christ? Certainly not! Yet, this is exactly the temple you have in Ezekiel – a temple which erects a separating barrier between God and his people.
In Ezekiel’s temple vision, the Levite priests bear the shame of their sins for leading the people of Israel into iniquity. They are still appointed to serve, but cannot approach God’s presence in the temple. Only the descendants of Zadok will be able to come near to the Lord.
Does physical linage matter in the kingdom of God? According to Jesus it doesn’t (see John 3). Yet, those who teach that Ezekiel’s temple is a millennial temple advocate a return to the importance of physical linage even though Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” ~ John 3:5-7
While proponents of “animal sacrifices in the millennium” claim they will only be offered as a memorial, the book of Ezekiel says differently. In the temple vision given to Ezekiel, the sacrifices are offered for the same purpose for which they were given in the book of Leviticus: sanctification, reconciliation, and for purity.
Furthermore, if we interpret Ezekiel’s temple vision as a literal temple for the service and worship of the Living God in the millennial, we will have a millennium without the cross of Christ, the blood of Christ, the intercessory ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, and the message of the gospel.
Jesus is not the priest of God in Ezekiel’s temple vision. The sons of Zadok are.
The sons of Zadok, of the tribe of Levi, are consecrated in the same manner in which Aaron and his descendants were consecrated in Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8, and wear the same priestly garments instructed for the priests in the law of Moses. The sons of Zadok are required to follow the same regulations which were given to the sons of Aaron.
The author of Hebrews, however, refers to the Law’s instructions for appointing priests as, the law of a carnal commandment, and tells us that this command has been annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (Hebrews 7:18). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews tells us that the changing of the priesthood has necessitated a change of the Law as well (Hebrews 7:12) .
The command given by the Law with regards to its priests required a continuous succession of priests who succeeded one another because those priests were all subject to death. This is why the writer of Hebrews says, “the Law made nothing perfect but the bringing in of a better hope did, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19-23)
The priesthood which was ordained by the Law could not make anything perfect and therefore it had no power to bring men near to God. Those who served as priests under that administration were men with infirmities, meaning, they were all under the power of sin and subject to death like everyone else.
They were appointed by a carnal commandment (Hebrews 7:16), which employed carnal ordinances (Hebrews 9:10), and as long as that priesthood was in force, the true Holiest of all was not yet open (Hebrews 9:8).
One has to wonder if those who teach that Ezekiel’s temple vision is a yet future and literal temple, actually read the details given in Ezekiel’s temple vision.
If people would actually pay attention to the details, that they claim is literal, they would have to accept that physical circumcision will be required to approach God in the millennium: Thus saith the Lord God; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel. ~ Ezekiel 44:9
This is problematic, because Paul tells us: in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. ~ Galatians 5:6
In Ezekiel’s Temple Vision, the middle wall of partition which separated Jews and Gentiles, is still standing. Yet Paul tells us that Jesus removed this the middle wall of partition: meaning that we now have a millennium in which Jews and Gentiles are no longer one in Christ!
If Ezekiel’s temple were truly a literal millennial temple as some claim, we now have a millennium where (1) the finished work of Christ and the necessity of being born again is undermined, (2) The Levites bare the shame of their sin for a 1000 years, (3) God’s presence is unapproachable by anyone except the sons of Zadok, (4) Being accepted by the Lord will be dependent on the burnt offerings offered by the priests, (5) Being reconciled to God depends on animal sacrifices. Therefore the altar on which animal sacrifices will to be offered becomes the source of reconciliation rather than the cross on which Christ died for our sins, (6) The Prince of Israel would have to offer sin offerings for his own sins.
In God’s kingdom, Jesus is the only prince. Does Jesus have to offer sin offerings for his own sins? Certainly not! The new testament tells us that Jesus has no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15) and that is why he was able to offer himself without any blemish to God as the sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 1:18-20; Hebrews 9:14).
ANIMAL SACRIFICES WILL NOT BE REINSTATED
- The finished work of Jesus Christ has made those sacrifices obsolete.
- Animal sacrifices could not take away sin or open the way into the holiest of all.
- Animal sacrifices were a continual reminder of sin.
- God never desired animal sacrifices.
- Animal sacrifices are called dead works in Hebrews.
- Returning to animal sacrifices is apostasy.
Listed below are some of the important truths taught by scripture regarding the remission of our sins in contrast to the old testament atonement.
- It was impossible for the blood of animals which were offered under the law to cleanse man’s conscience from sin and guilt. ~ Hebrews 9:9; 10:1-5, 11
- The blood of Jesus cleanses our conscience from guilt. ~ 1 John 1:7,9; Hebrews 7:19; 9:9, 13-14, 22; 10:1-2, 14, 19-22; 12:23
- The sacrifices under the Law were repeated over and over again and were a continual reminder that sin had not been permanently dealt with. ~ Hebrews 10:1-6
- Jesus does not need to offer himself for our sins over and over again. Jesus’ one sacrifice provides cleansing for sins forever. ~ Hebrews 7:25-28; 10: 5-22
- The priests, under the Law, who offered the sacrifices on the behalf of the people could not abide continually in the presence of God (Hebrews 9:6-8), neither could they continue in their priestly ministry indefinitely because they were subject to death. Therefore there were many priests who succeeded one another (Hebrews 7:19-23). Under that system of worship, man was separated from God because the way into God’s presence was not yet opened (Hebrews 9:6-10). The Law could only give a foreshadowing of good things to come – an illustration of something better that itself. ~ Hebrews 10:1-5
- Christ is our great high priest. In and through him, the good things which the law could only foreshadow have become reality. Unlike the entrance of the priests under the old testament who served in a temporary tabernacle, Jesus has entered a greater and more perfect tabernacle. Christ entered the tabernacle of God in Heaven (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus did not enter this tabernacle with the blood of animals, but with his own blood, securing our permanent redemption. ~ Hebrews 9:12-14, 24-28; 10:10-14
- Under the law, the offerings of sacrificial animals could only provide ceremonial cleansing from impurity. However, the Blood of Jesus Christ purifies our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. ~ Hebrews 9:6-14
- Under the old covenant, the priests stood and ministered before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, and those sacrifices could never take away sins. Jesus Christ, our high priest, offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, forever. He then sat down at the right hand of God, reigning as King till all his enemies are made his footstool. His one offering is the perfect sacrifice for all people forever. Now we can enter boldly into the Most Holy Place (the presence of God) because of the blood of Jesus. Jesus has consecrated this new and living way to God for us. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we now can draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. ~ Hebrews chapters 7-10