Christian Churches of God

No. 96

 

 

 

 

Distinction in the Law

(Edition 3.0 19950318-19990614-20080128)

 

This paper examines the distinction between the moral and sacrificial law. The distinction forms part of the basis for the activities in Genesis. The paper also deals with the broader aspects of the Laws of God. The specific distinctions made by the Reformers are listed as the Articles of Faith from the Second Helvetic Convention through the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England of 1571 and of other important Reformation articles up to the Methodist Articles of Religion of 1784. The statements are important in their own right.

 

 

Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA

 

Email: secretary@ccg.org

 

(Copyright ã 1995, 1999, 2008 Wade Cox)

 

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This paper is available from the World Wide Web page:
http://www.logon.org and http://www.ccg.org

 

 

 



 

Distinction in the Law

 


Some elements of modern Christianity attempt to assert that the Law is done away, from a misreading of the Epistles of Paul in the New Testament. This assertion is incorrect. The view is formed because of a misunderstanding of what has been eliminated by Christ’s sacrifice and nailed to the stauros, the stake or cross of Colossians 2:14. Christ cancelled the handwriting (cheirographon) in ordinances which stood against us (or, was contrary to us; see Marshall’s Interlinear, RSV) with its demands. It was taken out of the way, and nailed to the stauros.

What then is the handwriting? What was taken out of the way by the sacrifice of Christ?

 

It was certainly not the Law of God. The distinction made by the Apostles shows that the Commandments made by God were essential (see below). The cheirographon is a document of indebtedness. From the use of the Greek dogmasin, it is a system of regulations which is the Mosaic Law (from Eph. 2:15). The relationship between God and His Law is important.


 

God is

 

 

His Law is

 

 

Righteous

(Ezra 9:15)

 

Righteous

(Ps.119:172)

 

Perfect

(Mat. 5:48)

 

Perfect

(Ps. 19:7)

 

Holy

(Lev. 19:2)

 

Holy

(Rom. 7:12)

 

Good

(Ps. 34:8)

 

Good

(Rom. 7:12)

 

Truth

(Deut. 32:4)

 

Truth

(Ps. 119:142)

 

 


God is unchanging. So also Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Heb. 13:8) because he has the fullness of the divine nature (Col. 1:19; 2:9). The Law has the essential qualities of God, proceeding from His very nature, and is written on the hearts of the elect. The Law is right, true and good (Neh. 9:13). The elect are circumcised in the heart because they partake of the divine nature (2Pet. 1:4), and strive to have all the fullness (pleroma) of God (Eph. 3:19), as did Christ. All others are required to keep God’s Laws. They are punished for not changing (KJV); in other words, because they keep no law (RSV, Ps. 55:19). Blessed are they who walk in the Law of the Lord (Ps. 119:1). The Law is fulfilled in we who walk according to the spirit (Rom. 8:4). It is not the hearers of the Law that are righteous, but those who obey (Rom. 2:13).

 

The keeping of the Commandments of God is essential to the love and knowledge of God (1Jn. 2:3,4; 3:22; 5:3) and Christ (Jn. 14:15,21), and the receipt and retention of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:21; 1Jn. 3:24; Acts 5:32), and the blessings of God (Rev. 22:14). The breaking or relaxing or the teaching of the relaxing or breach of the Commandments was prohibited by Christ (Mat. 5:19).

Matthew 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. (KJV)

 

The fact of the matter is that Paul was speaking in the texts of not only two bodies of law, but also another third work that was lost for some centuries. He called that work the ergon nomou, translated as the Works of the Law, which was in fact another body of text that became lost for almost two thousand years. It was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and is examined in the text The Works of the Law Text - or MMT (No. 104).

 

Paul taught that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything but keeping the Commandments of God [do] (1Cor. 7:19). He is hardly likely then to contradict himself in Colossians or Galatians (e.g. Gal. 3:10). He thus speaks of two bodies of law.

The law that was fulfilled by Christ at Calvary, therefore, had to be one of type that was not changed but fulfilled. The usual distinction is that of the Moral Law and the Ceremonial Law. The Moral Law is spoken of as the Ten Commandments. The so-called Ceremonial Law is referred to as the Law of Moses. The distinction will be shown to be inadequate. The text on the Works of the Law shows one major area of misunderstanding that destroys the antinomian position of modern Christianity. The distinction is made more obvious from the following comparison.


 

 

The Decalogue was

The Sacrificial or Ceremonial Law was

1. Given by God through the Angel at Sinai (Ex. 20: 1,22; Deut. 4:12;13; 5:22);

1. Spoken by YHVH; written by Moses (Ex. 24:3,4,12); given in addition to the Commandments (Ex. 24:12);

2. Written by Yahovah (Ex. 31:18; 32:16);

2. Written by Moses (Ex. 24:4; Deut. 31:9);

3. On stones (Ex. 24:12; 31:18);

3. In a book (Ex. 24:4,7; Deut. 31:24);

4. Handed by Yahovah to Moses (Ex. 31:18)

4. Handed by Moses to the Levites (Deut. 31:25,26);

5. Deposited by Moses in the Ark (Deut. 10:5);

5. Deposited by the Levites by the side of the ark (Deut 31:26) where it was a witness against Israel.

The Decalogue

The Sacrificial or Ceremonial Law

6. Deals with moral precepts (Ex. 20:3-17);

6. Deals with ceremonial ritual matters (from its use in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy);

7. Reveals sin (Rom. 7:7);

7. Prescribes offerings for sins (see Leviticus);

8. Shows the breaking of the law is sin (1Jn. 3:4) and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

8. Has no sin in breaking because it is abolished (Eph. 2:15); hence where no law is there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15).

9. We should keep the whole law (Jas. 2:10);

we must not break the least of the Law (Mat. 5:19)

9. The Apostles gave no such commandment (instruction or commission; diesteilametha) to keep the law (Acts 15:24);

10. Because we shall be judged by this law (Jas. 2:12);

10. We are not to be judged in keeping it (Col. 2:16);

11. The Christian who keeps this law is blessed in his doing (Jas. 1:25);

11. We are not justified by the law but by faith (Gal. 5:1-6);

12. It is the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25; cf. Jas. 2:12) because the law is perfect (Ps. 19:7);

12. Liberty comes from faith not justification by law (Gal. 5:1,3).

13. This law was established by faith in Christ

(Rom. 3:31); it was not destroyed (Mat. 5:17);

13. Christ abolished the division of the law (Eph. 2:15); the debt (Col. 2:14); and structure (Gal. 3:19).

14. Christ was to magnify the law and make it honourable (Isa. 42:21);

14. Christ blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us (Col. 2:14).

15. We know that the law is spiritual (Rom. 7:14 cf. v. 7).

15. This law is of a carnal commandment (Heb. 7:16). God suffered Israel to be given laws by which they might not live because of their pollution (Ezek. 20:25). This law made nothing perfect.

 

 

The carnal structure of the sacrificial law and physical symbols had to be repeated annually until Christ paid once and for all for our sins.

 


 

The sacrificial law had to be removed entirely so that we could elevate our relationships with God to an entirely spiritual plane. Only through Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit could this be done, as we ourselves are the living sacrifices of the system, laying down ourselves in love for each other.

 

The Decalogue is explanatory of the two Great Commandments and from which hang

 

all the Law and the Prophets (cf. The First Great Commandment (No. 252) and The Second Great Commandment (No. 257)).

 

Thus there is a distinction in the Law and that distinction clearly upholds the moral law. The moral law of God is spiritual being perfect as established, honoured and magnified by Christ by faith, and confers liberty.

 

It was written by the finger of God and is called the Royal Law (Ex. 31:18; Jas. 2:8). We are judged by that law, which Christ magnified in its intent. Thus, lust is equivalent to adultery. The whole law is greater, not lesser, in its impact on the righteous. The prophets are interpretative of that ‘moral law’ as enshrined in the Two Great Commandments and the Ten Commandments that explain them. Thus the so-called ‘ceremonial law’ is actually divided again into the ‘sacrificial law’ and legislative commentary interpretive of the ‘moral law’. The failure to comprehend the distinction is the basic error of modern Christianity, being inherently antinomian and Gnostic. Christianity has erroneously sought to eliminate the Law of God from a misunderstanding of the texts of Paul, and the references to the Ergon Nomou or the Works of the Law. By making this conclusion and embracing all aspects of the Pentateuch in the so-called ceremonial law, they could appeal to the pagan tribes and introduce the systems of the Sun cults and the Mysteries. The Sabbath could be altered to Sunday and the Easter system placed over the Passover.

 

The keeping of the Commandments of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ is essential to inherit the tree of life, as we see from Revelation 14:12 and 22:14. The law of commandments contained in ordinances (Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14) was a shadow of good things to come (Heb. 10:1), and was annulled for its weakness and unprofitableness (Heb. 7:18; 10:3). It was given because of transgression, being ordained by angels in the hands of a mediator (Gal. 3:19). We are thus looking at the system of expiation under the sacrificial law that was necessary for our continual failure to comply with the structure and intent of the Law. For this reason, circumcision in the baptised adult was a physical sign of identification with a nation that was of itself spiritual, and which transcended the bounds of a physical nation. Therefore, it profited nothing apart from the spiritual aspects of the individual (cf. the paper Purification and Circumcision (No. 251)).

 

The next myth is that the Law was established at Sinai. The moral law of God was not established at Sinai. It existed from the creation, proceeding from the nature of God. Sin existed before the Law was given to Moses (Rom. 5:13), thus the consequences of the Law were already known from Adam, as sin is not counted where there is no law. Where sin increased under the Law from Sinai, grace abounded (Rom. 5:15-21). Sin is against God from His nature (Ps. 51:4).

 

Satan sinned in rebellion against God and by lying to Eve contrary to God’s will, thus stealing both Adam’s and Eve’s crowns and the devotion due to God. Satan broke the First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Commandments (Gen. 3:1-4; Isa. 14:13-14; Ezek. 28:2-10). Satan subsequently set up physical representations of demons, making themselves objects of worship and profaned the name of God, thus breaking the Second and Third Commandments.

 

At the time of Christ, it was understood that Satan and the demons left their first estate, committing fornication with the daughters of men and thereby breaking the Seventh Commandment (Gen. 6:4; 1Cor. 11:10; Jude 6; see esp. New English Bible for clearer phrasing of Jude 6; see also DSS, Genesis Apocryphon and 1Enoch). Through false religious systems, Satan and the demons attacked the Fourth Commandment. Thus the Law is a theoretical relationship between non-physical entities as well as physical entities. It is thus spiritual, whereas humanity is carnal, being sold under sin (Rom. 7:7,14), as are the demons that are cut off from God. The converted person delights in the Law of God in their inner selves (Ps. 119:1 ff.; Rom. 7:22). They are not debtors to the flesh, but to the Spirit as Sons of God (Rom. 8:9-17).

 

Mankind sinned by breach of the First, Second, Eighth and Tenth Commandments in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:17) (cf. also The Doctrine of Original Sin Part 1 The Garden of Eden (No. 246) and Doctrine of Original Sin Part 2 The Generations of Adam (No. 248)).

 

Cain sinned and broke the Sixth and Tenth Commandments when he killed his brother Abel (Gen. 4:7-8). Cain and Abel are representative of Christ and Satan in the Host. The pastoral sacrifice of Abel is more acceptable to God, symbolising the personal sacrifice of Christ rather than the produce obtained by Cain through forcing the Earth. The symbols are spiritual (cf. the paper Vegetarianism and the Bible (No. 183)).

 

The Nephilim sinned by murder and violence before the Flood and God judged and destroyed them (Gen. 6:4-5, 11-13).

 

Enoch entered God’s rest by positive righteousness, thus demonstrating the Sabbath system (Gen. 5:22-24) (cf. also the paper The Witnesses (No. 135)) for further information concerning Enoch). The creation stood as a positive witness to the Sabbath and Holy Day systems (Gen. 1:1-2:3). Through the harvest seasons they reflected the Plan of God from creation.

 

Ham, or perhaps Canaan, broke the Fifth Commandment by dishonouring Noah (Gen. 9:20-27). The Soncino commentary shows that there is division of opinion among the authorities as to whether Ham or Canaan was the guilty party, and as to whether the offence involved castration or a perverted act (Soncino: Rashi, Sforno).

 

Pharaoh sinned by taking Sarah in adultery and breaking the Seventh Commandment, even though he was ignorant of the offence through the deceit of Abraham, who also sinned by false witness, breaking the Ninth Commandment. He also broke the Seventh because he sent his wife into slavery to an adulterous relationship (Gen. 12:15-20). His progeny were punished by slavery in Egypt for four hundred years (Gen. 15:13). Thus two principles are established here. The first is that ignorance of the Commandments of God is no excuse. Secondly, the elect are held responsible for causing the nations to stumble; or for failing to warn them (Ezek. 33:1-6).

 

Abimelech was also placed in breach of the Law through Abraham’s deceit. This time God intervened (saving Israel), because Abimelech had not as yet approached Sarah. However, he was warned that he was a dead man, because he had taken another man’s wife (Gen. 20:3-4).

 

Both Pharaoh and Abimelech were fully aware that they had broken the Law of the Most High God. Thus the giving of the Law to Israel at Sinai was to reinforce the (moral) Law of God, and to provide additional ordinances for the governance of Israel, and to point towards Christ.

 

Abraham was supported by God in the war against the nations following the attack on the cities of the plain because they had broken the Sixth and Eighth Commandments, even though their action involved those cities of Sodom and Gomorrah under threat of destruction (Gen. 14:11-24). Thus there is no respect of persons with God (Deut. 1:17; 16:19; 2Sam. 14:14; 2Chr. 19:7; Prov. 24:23; 28:21; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; Jas. 2:1); (cf. the paper Respect of Persons (No. 221).

 

Job also would not sin and break the Third Commandment by cursing God and hence die (Job 1:22; 2:9-10). Job is acknowledged to have preceded the Law at Sinai. Hence the concept of sin (Job 2:10) also preceded Sinai.

 

Esau failed to honour his father by selling his birthright to Jacob, who supplanted him (Gen. 25:31-34), thus breaking the Fifth Commandment. As the Fifth was the first with promise, the loss of the birthright ensued as a punishment. God thus intervened to maintain this principle even though Jacob had breached the Tenth and would breach the Ninth Commandment.

 

Moses was made an elohim to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:16; 7:1) because Egypt had breached the Commandments.

 

Those who sinned apart from the Law were those who had not the general body of Law. Sin existed before Sinai, yet apart from the Law sin lies dead (Rom. 7:8). Paul implies ignorance gives freedom from the statement that he was once alive apart from the Law but the commandment came, sin revived, and he died (Rom. 7:9). Clearly, the entire body of Law was in effect when he wrote this text. Indeed nothing had been abolished at this time. The New Covenant had not yet taken over from the Old when most of the New Testament was written.

Hebrews 8:13  In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (RSV)

 

It was ready to vanish away or will soon disappear. The way into the most holy place was not yet available.

Hebrews 9:8  By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing (RSV)

 

The way could only be made available with the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, and the dispersion of Judah. This is the fuller meaning of the Sign of Jonah and of the prophecy of the ‘seventy weeks of years’ in Daniel 9:25 (see paper The Sign of Jonah ansd the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 13)), which was concerned with the cessation of the Old and the beginning of the New Covenant. The New Covenant was thus concerned with the sacrificial law, which could only be eliminated with the Temple. The New Covenant was the abolition of the sacrificial ordinances, not the elimination of the Law.

 

Broader aspects of the Laws of God

 

The contention that the Ten Commandments were the only part of the body of the Law of God, under the heading of moral law that existed before Sinai, is incorrect.

 

The Ten Commandments are the heads of the Law within the First Two Great Commandments and which are developed in their entirety through the Law and the Prophets.

 

The food laws were extant before the Flood. The distinction in the categories of clean and unclean animals was known by Noah and provided for by God in the specifications for the Ark (Gen. 7:2-3). Thus the provisions of the food laws were made from the creation. The distinctions were made and were seen from Adam through Abel (see above). The assertion that the food laws are observed by Judaisers shows a profound ignorance of the scientific and environmental basis of the food laws and their place in the creation (see the paper The Food Laws (No. 15)).

 

Similarly, the contention that the tithing laws were tied to the sacrificial laws given at Sinai is also false. Abraham tithed to Melchisedek of Salem some four hundred years before the Law at Sinai (Gen. 14:18-20) (cf. the paper Tithing (No. 161)).

 

Thus there is an ongoing aspect of the Law, which extends beyond the specific limitation of the Decalogue and covers the regulatory aspects of the daily life of Israel and the planet. Messiah is to establish the world structure at the end of the age, and as such he will reinstate the Sabbaths, the New Moons (Isa. 66:20) and the Feasts (Zech. 14:16-19; see also Ezek. 45:1ff. and 46:1ff.). Thus, Leviticus 23 has ongoing effect and the nations will be forced to keep the Law.

 

Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Heb. 13:8), hence he will not alter the conditions of Holy Days that he will impose on the people. Similarly, nations are required to keep the land Sabbaths and the lands will be given rest because of the failure to keep these physical laws. The nexus between the Law and consequence will be restored.

 

There is thus a clear distinction between God’s Laws and the law that was abolished by Christ. That can only have been the sacrificial law with its ritual obligations. The sacrificial ordinances did not regulate the Sabbaths that were made integral to the Decalogue. They simply dictated what was done on the Sabbaths during the Temple period as a precursor to the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of a new system, of which they were merely illustrative. Thus the Sabbaths were not done away with at the death of Messiah. The Sabbaths were made more significant with the establishment of the Church, of which they were interpretive. The Sunday-system of worship is derived from the pagan system and the Sun cults and has nothing to do with Christianity (cf. also The Origins of Christmas and Easter (No. 235)).

 

The understanding of the distinction in the Law between the Decalogue and the sacrificial law is quite old and quite significant. The Reformers were specific in the distinction. A list of many declarations to this effect are seen in the Seventh-Day Adventist Publication Questions on Doctrine (Review and Herald Publishing, 1957, pp. 131ff.). These are:

 

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566), of the Reformed Church of Zurich, and one of the most authoritative of all Continental symbols (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Vol. 1, pp. 391, 394, 395), in chapter 12, “Of the Law of God,” after contrasting the “moral” and the “ceremonial” laws, says of the moral laws, “We believe that the whole will of God, and all necessary precepts, for every part of this life, are fully delivered in this law” (not that we are to be justified by it, but that we shall turn to Christ by faith). The types and figures of the ceremonial law have ceased. “The shadow ceased when the body came,” but the moral law is not to be disdained or rejected, and all teachings against the law are condemned (see Schaff, Vol. 3, pp. 854-856 (emphasis added)).

 

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England (1571). Article VII states that “the lawe geven from God by Moses” concerning “ceremonies and rites” is not binding, “no Christian man whatsoeuer, is free from the obedience of the commandments, which are called moral.” (Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 491, 492) [old spelling retained].

 

The American Revision of Thirty-nine Articles by the Protestant Episcopal Church (1801) is identical with the forgoing. (See Schaff, vol. 3, p. 816.)

 

The Irish Articles of Religion (1615), believed to have been composed by Archbishop Ussher, after stating that the ceremonial law is abolished, says: “No Christian man whatsoever is freed from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.” (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 526,541.)

 

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), after showing the difference between the ceremonial and the moral law, and the abrogation of the former and the perpetuity of the latter, in chapter 19 declares “the moral law doth forever bind all,” not for justification, but as a rule of life, in order to recognize the enabling power of Christ. This law continues to be “a perfect rule of righteousness.” And it adds, “Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.” (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 640-644.)

 

The Savoy Declaration of the Congregational Churches (1658). There is no change in chapter 19, “Of the Law of God,” from the Westminster Confession. (See Schaff, vol. 3, p. 718).

 

Baptist Confession of 1688 (Philadelphia), based on the London, 1677, confession, has no change from the Westminster Confession in chapter 19, “Of the Law of God.” It deals with the distinction between the moral and the ceremonial law, and asserts that no Christian is free from the moral law. (See Schaff, vol. 3, p. 738.)

 

Methodist Articles of Religion (1784). These twenty-five articles, drawn up by John Wesley for American Methodists, are an abridgement (sic) of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, and declare: “Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, doth not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth, yet, notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience to the commandments which are called moral.” (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 807,808.)

 

In referring to this position, the Seventh-Day Adventists hold that:

The position maintained by Seventh-day Adventists regarding their relationship to the Decalogue, and their distinction between the moral and the ceremonial law, is fully sustained by the leading creeds, articles of faith, and catechisms of historic Protestantism. The concept that the Decalogue was abolished by the death of Christ is a relatively recent one. Certainly it was not taught by the founding fathers of Protestantism, for such is in total conflict with their belief (SDA Questions On Doctrine, pp. 131-134).

 

The fact that one agrees with the founding fathers of Protestantism should still be treated with a great deal of caution, as they were absolutely wrong because they failed to go back beyond Augustine of Hippo in their Reformation. Thus the reformers failed to restore the original teachings of the Church.

 

They failed to establish the correct system of worship within God’s Calendar (cf. the paper God’s Calendar (No. 156)), and they then failed to establish the correct relationship of the Law of God and the distinction in the Law.

 

One specific error that they made was that they failed to redress the error of the Trinity, which had been set up from the Councils of Constantinople (381 CE) and Chalcedon (451 CE). The reformation thus failed and they were then prevented from establishing the Holy Days by divine fiat and intervention.

 

The Holy Days and the Sabbaths are impugned deliberately. That is a promise that God himself had made through the prophets. God spoke through the prophet Amos and likened Israel in the Last Days to a basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:1ff.).

 

The punishment for the failure to obey God is that the Sabbaths and the Feasts are turned into mourning. That is followed by the famine of hearing the word of Yahovah (Amos 8:11-14). Because of the failure to understand the nature of the One True God (Jn. 17:3; 1Jn. 5:20), the people are punished (Hos. 8:5-9). Even the demons know that God is one and tremble (Jas. 2:19). The great things of God’s Law were written for Israel because they counted them as a stranger through their breach of the First Commandment and their proliferation of sin in worship (Hos. 8:11-12; see the Interlinear Bible and also Law and the First Commandment (No. 253)).

 

The nexus between the Feasts and the sacrifices noted in Deuteronomy 12:8-14 was abolished along with the nexus between the sacrifices and the weekly Sabbath. One cannot link the Sacred Calendar and Feasts and the sacrificial law without applying the same concept to all other aspects of the Law. All of the system of God’s government was freed from the sacrificial system, including the Holy-Day systems. The Passover itself was introduced before the Law was given at Sinai. The entire process of the introduction of the elect within Christianity is predicated on the Holy-Day sequence right up until the Second or General Resurrection. They cannot be abolished until the Last Great Day. Each Feast represents an ongoing part of the Plan of God that is still unfolding. They are, by definition, of the harvest system still operating and unfolding (cf. the paper God’s Feasts as they relate to the Creation (No. 227)).

 

The Law was the shadow of things to come (Heb. 10:1). The shadow shows the reality; it is not removed from it. That shadow was tied specifically to the sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-10), and not to the Feasts. The Catholic and Protestant Churches alike still understand that the early Feasts have to be kept. They have confused the Passover with the pagan Easter system and count Pentecost incorrectly from Easter; however, they do not argue their necessity. Because of their erroneous understanding of the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, and the denial of the physical restoration in the Millennium and the Second Resurrection, they do not understand the later Feasts.

 

The meal of 14 Nisan, which became the Lord’s Supper, was joined to the Passover and kept outside of the towns, as required by Deuteronomy 16:6-7 (cf. the papers The Passover (No. 98); The Quartodeciman Disputes (No. 277); The Moon and the New Year (No. 213)). Thus the entire twenty-four-hour period of 14 Nisan and the evening of 15 Nisan, making 36 hours, was kept outside of the towns of Israel as one Feast. The Lord’s Supper was laid down and kept by Christ. It precedes the Passover, being on the night of the 14th of Nisan. The Passover sacrifice, which Christ was, occurs on the 14th of Nisan, and the Passover meal occurs on the 15th. Both evenings are to be kept, and outside of the towns. The Lord’s Supper is thus an annual event tied to the Passover and Unleavened Bread.

 

The Bible holds that the blemishes on the Feasts are caused by those in the Body who abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion (Jude 11-12). In other words, they teach for hire and they pervert the Feasts and the understanding of the Law and the Testimony. There is no light (Isa. 8:20, KJV) or dawn (RSV) in them. They are twice dead and uprooted. These people, devoid of the Spirit, set up divisions in the Last Days (Jude 19). Korah’s rebellion is thus an ongoing process against the word of God (cf. The Nicolaitans (No. 202)).

 

Christ is able to keep the elect from falling and to present them before God the Saviour of us (Jude 24-25; see Marshall’s Interlinear, RSV). However, the divisions within the Body of Christ are allowed so that it might be made manifest who has the truth and the approval of God (1Cor. 11:19). The argument that the text of Galatians 3:10 eliminates the Feasts shows an ignorance of the pre-Sinaitic nature of the creation and the Sabbaths. The restoration of the Feasts under penalty of starvation is a necessary adjunct to the commencement of the Millennium (Zech. 14:16-19). Christ does not change his mind. He restores the Feasts because he requires them to be kept.

 

The Churches of God, including Christ and the Apostolic Church (Mat. 26:17-20; Lk. 2:41,42; 22:15; Jn. 2:13,23; 5:1; 7:10; 10:22; Acts 18:21(KJV); 19:21; 20:6,16; 24:11,17), have kept the Feasts for two thousand years, with the exception of one Church from the nineteenth century. Elements of the Sabbath-keeping Church in Europe that have failed in the keeping of the Commandments or fallen into apostasy have then lost the Feasts (see the papers The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170), The Law Of God (No. L1) and the Law Series (Nos. 252-263)).

 

Like Christ, and the other Apostles and Presbyteri, Paul kept the Feasts, as we have seen from Acts. Thus, he did not and indeed could not abolish them. The Temple was chosen as a Temple of sacrifice (2Chr. 7:12), after the Tabernacles at Hebron and Shiloh. However, the Feasts were not tied to the Temple. The Lord chose Zion for His dwelling (Ps. 132:13-14), but that choice was suspended for the wandering of the Church in the wilderness until the return of Messiah. This action was prefigured by the forty years under the pillar of fire and cloud in the wilderness (cf. also the paper Outline Timetable of the Age (No. 272)). That was a specific indication that Christ would indicate the centre of worship through the elect.

 

Under the Apostles, the Church kept the Feasts in various locations; although Paul sought to return to Jerusalem for the Feast mentioned in Acts 18:21; 19:21 (see KJV; The Interlinear Bible). Acts 20:6 shows that Paul kept the days of Unleavened Bread at Philippi, being delayed. He then sought to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 20:16). Both Jews and Christians kept the Feasts in the dispersion. The Feasts preceded the Temple and succeeded it. Only the sacrifice is central to the Temple. However, the sacrifice also occurred elsewhere, both while the Temple stood, and when it was destroyed during the Babylonian captivity. The Temple at Elephantine assumed the duties of the sacrifice until the Temple was rebuilt in the reign of Darius II. The Temple at Elephantine was then destroyed by attack (see Pritchard, The Ancient Near East, vol. I, pp. 278-282). The Aramaic letters in Pritchard, translated by Ginsberg, show the records of the Passover directive to the empire mentioned in Ezra (see the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 13)).

 

The contributions to the restoration of the Temple are mentioned, as are the circumstances of the destruction of the Temple at Elephantine in the 14th year of Darius II. The Governors of Judah also had policy control of the priests at Elephantine. The texts show that the sacrifice never ceased during the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Temple was restored to Jerusalem on the rebuilding of the Temple there. The sacrifice ceased with the New Covenant and the final destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, but the Feasts in the dispersion continued. The Church has kept the Feasts under persecution for two thousand years.

 

Another Temple was also built in Egypt at Leontopolis, in the Nome of Heliopolis, by the High Priest, Onias IV. This temple was prophesied by God through Isaiah (Isa. 19:19). It was closed by order of Vespasian in 71 CE, after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, although it had continued the sacrifice there since its construction ca. 160 BCE.

 

The elect are judged by their knowledge of the One True God. Through the knowledge of God, the understanding of the Law flows and becomes entrenched within the mind and heart of the individual. The issue is not the Sabbath, or the Feasts, or the Law; it is the fact that God the Father is the One True God (Jn. 17:3; 1Jn. 5:20), and that He alone is immortal (1Tim. 6:16). If we do not hold fast to this truth we will be removed from the elect and be given over to strong delusion and the belief in a lie (2Thes. 2:11). Marshall’s Interlinear translates this verse as an operation of error so that they believe a lie. They cannot help themselves any longer. They simply are removed from the elect and their understanding is removed. They cannot understand, even if they wanted to see the error.

 

All of the understanding of the elect is predicated upon their relationship with the One True God and their knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ (Jn. 17:3; 1Jn. 5:20). The breach of the First Commandment ensures that the Feasts are removed. They cannot be kept even if those in error desire to keep them. God will intervene in the long term. For those who keep the Law, the Feasts are a necessary reminder of the Plan of God. Moreover, Christ’s mandatory restoration under his system shows that the Feasts are required and are indeed a blessing for his followers.

 

The removal of the Ten Commandments from the requirements of the Law and their confusion with the sacrificial law called ceremonial law, stems from a profound ignorance of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, such that not even the Protestant reformers fell into the error. It is a feature of the spiritual weakness, error and failure of the Church in the Last Days. This weakness is seen in the promises to the Churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, where the Sardis Church is dead and the Laodicean Church is spewed out. Neither of these Churches enters the Kingdom of God. Only a small number of their members enter the First Resurrection.

 

The seed of the woman, which is the Church, are those who keep the Commandments of God and the Testimony or Faith of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17; 14:12). See also the paper Love and the Structure of the Law (No. 200).

 


 

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