Two Priesthoods, Israel’s Feast Days and the Passing of the Law of Moses
Don K. Preston (D. Div.)
The issue of the passing of the Law of Moses is one that is under appreciated in eschatological studies. Few commentators take note of the direct connection between the end of Israel’s covenant age, the end of the Law, and the eschatological consummation. All futurist views of the end times say that the coming of the Lord, the judgment and the resurrection will take place at the end of the current Christian age. This is a tragic oversight and failure since the Bible is emphatic and explicit in positing the eschatological consummation at the time of the destruction of Old Covenant Israel, the destruction of her beloved city and the Temple. (See my book, The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Future or Fulfilled? for an in-depth discussion of this. That book is available from my website and Amazon). Not only that, the Bible is equally clear that the Christian age, the New Covenant age, has no end. If the Christian age has no end, then it is patently false to speak of the end of the current Christian age!
In a series of articles on the passing of the Law of Moses, I want to share some thoughts that will, I hope, be helpful in understanding the truth about when the Law of Moses passed away. While the vast majority of commentators say that the Law passed away at the cross, we will show that the Law of Moses passed in AD 70 with the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This series will focus on the issue of the priesthood, Israel’s festal calendar and specifically, the seventh day Sabbath as it relates to the issue of eschatology.
In numerous formal debates my opponents have stated that the Law of Moses did pass away at the Cross. For instance, in two formal public debates (2016, 2017) with Dr. David Hester, professor at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Hester presented what he believes to be a devastating argument against Covenant Eschatology, i.e. the full preterist view. Hester argued that the Law of Moses was “nailed to the Cross” per his view of Colossians 2:14-16. His argument was that there could not be two priesthoods functioning with God’s approval at the same time. I responded by noting that the Levitical priesthood of the Law of Moses, and the Melchisedec priesthood of Christ were both clearly functioning at the same time, as proven by Hebrews 7-8. The only question therefore was whether both priesthoods were acceptable, at least on some level, at the same time. I offered several arguments showing the fallacy of his claims. He never responded to my arguments other than to repeat what was almost a mantra, that there can’t be two laws in effect at the same time.
In that recently completed (June 15-16, 2017) debate held at the Eastern Meadows church of Christ in Montgomery, I presented an argument, twice, in response to Dr. Hester’s repeated claims. Dr. Hester literally said not one word to counter my argument. I will share in this series the basic structure of that argument to illustrate how facile Dr. Hester’s theology in regard to the passing of the law truly is. I say this with all due respect. While I mention Hester specifically here, it must be kept in mind that his position is the “traditional” view of many, if not most, modern Bible students in regard to the Law of Moses.
Now, I once held Dr. Hester’s traditional view. It was through a great deal of study that I realized that my traditional, preconceived concepts were indeed shallow and simply failed to consider the evidence properly. So, I will present here some of the evidence that caused me to reject the view that the Law of Moses passed away at the Cross.
My argument contained the following basic points:
☛ Jesus said that not one jot or one tittle of the law could pass until it was all fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).
☛ Israel’s feast days, including the Sabbath, were an integral part of the law (Leviticus 23).
☛ Israel’s feast days, including the Sabbath, were typological (prophetic foreshadowings) of the better things to come (Colossians 2:14-16 / Hebrews 9:610 / Hebrews 10:1-1).
☛ Those typological Feast Days, including the seventh day Sabbath, foreshadowed the eschatological consummation, i.e. the Judgment, the coming of Christ out of the Most Holy Place, and the resurrection.
☛ Those typological Feast Days, with their sacrifices and ceremonial washings, would remain valid until what they foreshadowed and typified became a reality, until “the body” of which they were a mere shadow, was fully realized (Hebrews 9:6-10).
☛ David Hester, and all futurists, say that the judgment, the coming of Christ out of the Most Holy Place and the resurrection has not taken place; they will not be fulfilled until the “end of time.” Interestingly, in our 2017 debate, I noted at least four times that the Bible says emphatically that the Christian age has no end. I challenged Hester to show how that which has no end, can come to an end. He offered not a word in response. This argument alone is a falsification of his eschatology.
☛ Since those Feast Days and Sabbaths were overseen and administered by the priests, this means that as long as the Feast Days were unfulfilled, as long as they were still shadows of the coming realities, as long as they were valid, this means, prima facie, that the priesthood would remain in force, valid, until the complete fulfillment of the typological Feast Days, including the Seventh Day Sabbath. Priesthood and cultus are inseparable. If the Law is valid, the priesthood is valid. It is that simple. It is that undeniable.
With these bullet points set before the reader, let me examine each one of them a bit more in detail to establish their validity.
The establishment of these points will prove that the Law of Moses will remain valid until the complete fulfillment of every jot and every tittle, including the typological Feast Days and Sabbaths, all of which foreshadowed the eschatological consummation. To put it another way, if the resurrection, foreshadowed by the Sabbaths, has not been fulfilled, then the feast days remain valid.
Since the Levitical priesthood was solely responsible for administering the cultic aspects of the New Moons, Feast Days and Sabbaths until their fulfillment, the priesthood will remain valid until the fulfillment of those foreshadowing cultic praxis. Thus, when futurists posit a future Day of Judgment, Second Coming of Christ and resurrection, they are thereby implicitly saying that the Law of Moses, every jot and every tittle, and the Levitical priesthood, remains valid – imposed – today. They are saying, implicitly but powerfully that the entire Old Covenant cultus and priesthood remains valid today. So, all futurist eschatologies logically imply that there are in fact two priesthoods, two Divinely mandated laws in effect at the same time, and they will remain co-extensively with each other until the “end of time.”
Not One Jot or One Tittle Shall Pass from The Law Until It Is All Fulfilled
Jesus’ words in Matthew 5;17-18 could hardly be clearer, and yet, to read the literature of many futurists, is to be amazed at the desperate attempts to negate our Lord’s words. I am not going to give here documentation for all of the “arguments” that I have encountered in my discussions concerning the passing of the Law of Moses, some formal and public, some personal and private. See my book Torah to Telos: The Passing of the Law of Moses for an in-depth discussion and documentation. However, let me just briefly list some of the arguments that have been, and are, offered to counter what Jesus said.
1. We are told that “the law” in Matthew 5:17, refers strictly to the Decalogue, the ten commandments. This means that the “ceremonial” aspects of the Law could pass, but that the ten commandments will remain until the end of time, i.e. the passing of heaven and earth. While this is the traditional Sabbatarian argument, it is being made increasingly by those seeking to refute Covenant Eschatology, i.e. full preterism.
2. We are told that “the law” refers to the legal mandates, not to prophecy. Thus, “the Law” could pass while the prophecies remain in effect until the so-called end of time.
3. We are told that “all things” were fulfilled in Jesus’ passion. This is supposedly proven by Jesus’ words on the Cross: “It is finished” (John 19:31). This argument suggests that Matthew 5 simply means that the “every jot and every tittle” that had to pass in order for the Law to pass were the predictions of Jesus’ passion. Nothing else absolutely had to be fulfilled for the Law to pass away.
There are variations of these arguments. It needs to be realized that none of these arguments are based squarely on the text, but on presuppositional argumentation, and a desire to either maintain Sabbath keeping and / or a futurist eschatology. Our approach here is to take the shortest, most direct approach to the text of Matthew 5 and incorporate it into our overall argument concerning the question of whether two laws, and specifically, whether two priesthoods could exist, side by side, at the same time.
To keep this as basic as possible, I present the following for consideration: I will grant, for argument sake only, that “the law” of Matthew 5:17-18, refers only to the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. I grant this, not because it is true, but, because I can prove my proposition by focusing on this argument alone. In my Toral to Telos book, I provide a wealth of indisputable evidence to show that to the Jewish mind, all of what we commonly call the Old Testament, was called the Law.
But, let me now make my point.
It is undeniable, of course, that “the Law” i.e. the Ten Commandments, contain the seventh day Sabbath commandment (Exodus 20:4). It is also true that all of the Feast days of Israel were Sabbaths (Leviticus 23). This is our second point above. Outside of the Sabbatarian community I am unaware of anyone that would deny that those feast days were an integral part of “the Law” since they are in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. And to reiterate, no one that I am aware of would deny that the Decalogue, inclusive of the seventh day Sabbath, was “the Law.”
So, virtually all of Israel’s feast days were Sabbaths. All of Israel’s feast days were contained in and described as “the Law.” Thus, all of Israel’s feast days were part and parcel of “the Law” of Matthew 5. (Sabbatarians deny this of course, but, Leviticus 23:4f makes it clear that even the seventh day Sabbath was one of Israel’s “ceremonial” feast days). But, to keep this discussion focused and as simple as possible, let me put this in simple form:
Not one jot or one tittle of “the Law” would pass until it was all fulfilled.
But, “the Law” included the seventh day Sabbath (Exodus 20:4).
Therefore, until the seventh day Sabbath was fulfilled, not one jot or one tittle of “the Law” would pass away.
(Those who say that if “the Law” has passed there are no moral mandates fail to understand Jesus’ teaching, but again, for brevity, I will not address that here. I do discuss it in my Torah to Telos book).
So, taking the simplest path of argumentation, we are confronted with the undeniable reality that the Sabbath was “the Law” and thus, the Sabbath had to be fulfilled for it to pass away. If the seventh day Sabbath has not been fulfilled, then the seventh day Sabbath remains valid and binding – as a typological foreshadowing- today.
In both of my formal debates with Dr. David Hester I made this argument, and he failed to offer a single word of response. I also made the argument in my debate with Dr. Joel McDurmon. He likewise failed to address it in any substantive way.
Of course, the Sabbatarians would agree with the argument above, insisting that the Sabbath has not been fulfilled. However, we will show that this will not stand, because in fact, the Sabbath has been fulfilled!
How would, or how could, the Sabbath be fulfilled? What did the Sabbath (Sabbaths) represent? We will discuss that in our next installment, so stay tuned!
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Two Priesthoods, Israel’s Feast Days and the Passing of the Law of Moses – #2
Don K. Preston (D. Div.)
As we noted in our first article, the issue of the passing of the Law of Moses is one that is under appreciated in eschatological studies. Virtually all commentators teach that the Law of Moses was “nailed to the Cross” They fail to realize that the end of Israel’s covenant age, the end of the Law, and the eschatological consummation are inseparably bound together. Sadly, all futurist views of the end times say that the coming of the Lord, the judgment and the resurrection will take place at the end of the current Christian age.
The truth is that the Bible is emphatic and explicit in positing the eschatological consummation at the time of the destruction of Old Covenant Israel, the destruction of her beloved city and the Temple. Take note of just a couple of examples from the Tanakh:
1. The Kingdom and resurrection would be when the holy city and the temple would be turned over to foreigners (Isaiah 24-25:1-10).
2. The time of the resurrection would be when the blood of the martyrs would be avenged at the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 26:19f), and Jesus posited the avenging of all the blood of all the martyrs at the judgment of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70 (Matthew 23:29f).
3. The destruction of Leviathan, i.e. Satan, which of course if the eschatological climax, would be at that very Day of the Lord (Isaiah 27:1-2).
4. The destruction of “heaven and earth” and the creation of the New Heaven and Earth would be when the Lord destroyed Old Covenant Israel (Isaiah 65-66).
5. The resurrection is explicitly posited for the time when “the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (Daniel 12:2-7) As an illustration of the consternation that this truth causes in commentators, in two formal debates with Dr. David Hester, professor at Faulkner University, Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Hester initially agreed that Daniel foretold the final resurrection. However, when I noted that the text is about the destruction of the holy people – and that was Old Covenant Israel in the context, he changed his position, claiming that Daniel is not about the general resurrection. When I noted that he had, in writing, stated that Daniel 12 is the resurrection of John 5:28-29 and Acts 24:14f, in other words, the final resurrection, he then said, amazingly, that Daniel 12 and John 5 are not, after all, the same resurrection! A book of that first debate is available from my websites or Amazon and Kindle.
All of this was in our first debate, in July of 2016. In our follow up debate in June of 2017, when I once again pressed him on Daniel 12, he changed his position again, insisting that “the holy people” refers to the church, and that the resurrection of Daniel 12 is therefore, after all, the “general resurrection at the end of time.” I responded by showing that according to both the Old Covenant prophecies and the New Covenant, the church / kingdom of Christ will never be destroyed and that Jesus said that his word (the power of God to salvation, Romans 1:16) would never pass away.
So, David Hester’s view, his “final” view of Daniel 12, thus entrapped him in the position that the church and the gospel will one day be totally shattered! I pressed him to address this problem, asking if he actually believed that. H refused to offer another word about Daniel 12. It was undeniably clear that Hester had fatally entrapped himself. But, Hester is not alone in struggling with the words of Daniel 12.
Dominionist Kenneth Gentry once took the position that Daniel 12 predicted the “end of human history” resurrection. (Kenneth Gentry, The Greatness of the Great Commission, (Tyler, Tx., Institute for Christian Economics, 1993)142). When confronted repeatedly in preterist writings about the clear words of Daniel, Gentry has now changed his view, and admits that Daniel foretold the corporate resurrection of Old Covenant Israel, transformed into the body of Christ, in AD 70! (He Shall Have Dominion, (Draper, VA.; Apologetics Group, 2009), 538).
Our point here is that futurists fail to see that the Old Covenant prophecies of the end clearly posit that consummation at the end of the Old Covenant age of Israel, when the City and the Temple would be destroyed – not at the end of time and not at the end of the Christian age. This means of course, that the Law of Moses did not pass away at the Cross, and Israel did not cease being God’s covenant people at the Cross. To drive that point home, we return to the question of two priesthoods, Israel’s feast days and the passing of the Law of Moses.
It is often argued that when Jesus cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30) he was signifying that the Law itself was now finished. He had done all that was required for the Law to pass. This is an unfortunate an ill-informed claim. It completely overlooks the place of the fulfillment of Israel’s feast days in God’s scheme. Consider the following:
Passover was the first of Israel’s feast days (See Exodus 12-14). It initiated the first four feast days, the feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost (or First-Fruit). Pentecost was the last of those first four festivals.
Keep in mind that Israel’s New Moons, Feast Days and Sabbaths were shadows of the better things that were to come (Colossians 2:14f). When Paul wrote Colossians, years after the Cross, he was still anticipating the fulfillment of those types and shadows. He set forth Jesus as the “body” i.e. the reality that the Old Covenant shadows anticipated and foreshadowed. It is essential to honor the present active indicatives in the text when he says that those Sabbatical feast days “are” (his present tense situation) a shadow of the good things “about to come.” So, for Paul, Israel’s festal calendar was not yet fulfilled. But, one thing is certain, fulfillment had begun!
Paul called attention to the fact that Jesus was the Passover sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5)! His death on the Cross was the “reality” to which the original Passover pointed. But, ask yourself the question: Was Israel’s festal calendar finished / consummated / finalized with the completion of the Passover sacrifice – the first of the seven feast days? Patently not. What then is the meaning of, “It is finished”? As we will see momentarily, it meant that just as the High Priest was declaring that the typological Passover ceremony was finished, Jesus, the True High Priest, was declaring that the True Passover sacrifice was completed. With the Passover sacrifice offered, the other feast days were about to be finished. It actually meant that the festal calendar was now underway – not that it was finished! To get a bit of better understanding and appreciation for the Passover, and even its eschatological role, we need to look at history for corroboration and understanding of Jesus’ cry: “It is finished” as it related to the Passover. We can look to both the Passover meal, and, to the Temple actions during Passover to appreciate what Jesus said as he was on the Cross.
In regard to the preliminary Passover meal and its typological significance, Pitre has some insightful comments.
Pitre speaks of the four cups of Passover. The fourth cup was the final cup to conclude the Passover.
Jesus did not initially take the fourth cup. He said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine, until I take it in my father’s kingdom. In other words, Jesus did not finish the Passover! However, Pitre then shows how in the Garden, Jesus said “let this cup pass from me.”
Pitre then shows how on the Cross, Jesus initially refused the wine mixed with gall (Matthew 27:31-36), which was given to those about to die to kill the pain, but, he then requested a drink. They gave him sour wine on a sponge, and that is when Jesus said, “It is finished.”
Pitre notes, “When Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ he was not referring to his life or his messianic mission. For he did not say it until his request for a drink had been answered. He did not say it until ‘he had received the wine.’ Why? What does that mean? Once again, when we remember Jesus’ vow at the Last Supper, and his prayer about drinking the ‘cup’ in Gethsemane, then the meaning of Jesus’ last word becomes clear. It means that Jesus did in fact drink the fourth cup of the Jewish Passover. It means that he did in fact finish the Last Supper. But, he did not do it in the Upper Room. He did it on the cross. He did it at the very moment of his death.” (Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, (New York, Doubleday; 2011), 155f).
An examination of the cups of Passover and how the NT writers utilized the typology of the Supper is helpful and full of meaning.
1. Festival Blessing – Drink from 1st cup of wine.
2. Passover Narrative and Little Hallel (Psalm 113) – Drink from 2nd cup of wine.
3. Main Meal: Eat the roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs and spices. This third cup was called the Cup of Blessing. Note then 1 Corinthians 11:16f where Paul said, “The Cup of Blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?”
This is highly suggestive. The third cup, in Jewish thought, signified salvation through suffering: “The third cup was drunk in connection with Exod 6.6c: “I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” Thus, it symbolized redemption by judgment.” (Daniel Wallace, http://endtimepilgrim.org/fourthcup.htm).
So, when Paul spoke of the Supper and the “Cup of Blessing” in direct connection with the suffering of Christ, does this not suggest that the fourth cup – like Jesus did- would be taken with the filling up of the measure of suffering? Just as Jesus drank the fourth cup on the cross, i.e. through finishing his sacrifice, the early church had to drink the fourth cup by filling up the measure of suffering that Jesus foretold in Matthew 23:29f. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 11:26 when Paul spoke of, “shewing forth the Lord’s death until he comes” he was referring to their participation in Christ’s suffering and the consequent impending consummation of the last days, eschatological suffering of the early church as the participated in “the sufferings of Christ” (Cf. Romans 8:17) and anticipated “the glory” about to be revealed (2 Thessalonians 1:10f; 1 Peter 5:1f, etc.).
4. The Passover is completed with the singing of the Great Hallel (PSALMS 114-118), the drinking of the 4th cup of wine, and closed when the presiding priest or host says the phrase, “TEL TELESTI” which is interpreted as “IT IS FINISHED” or “IT IS CONSUMMATED”. (http://passoversedermeal.com/bible-verses.html).
Failure to integrate the typology of the Passover meal and the cups into our interpretation of several NT passages surely leads to a failure to fully appreciate what the writers were saying. The richness of this kind of study can hardly be over-emphasized. Unfortunately, the significance of Israel’s festal calendar for understanding the NT is greatly ignored or overlooked.
In regard to the Temple practice of the Passover, it is incredible to consider what was taking place in the Temple at the very moment Jesus – the True Passover – was on the Cross.
“IT IS FINISHED” (John 19:30)
At Passover, the lamb that the high priest chose was staked at the temple mount for the public to inspect. All could inspect it for four days before it was offered up for sacrifice. The thousands of lambs would then be sacrificed, starting at around 9:00am. The shofar would sound to announce to the surrounding areas that the last lamb of about 250,000 (over 40,000 per hour) had been slaughtered. This would be about 3:00pm. The blood from the slaughter was in such volume that it shone in the brazen pans as the sunlight reflected on it. This red glow (shine) was evident from the hills a long distance away. The High Priest who had closely inspected the lamb, satisfied it was unblemished (perfect), would say: ”I find no fault in him” (John 18:38, 19:4, 6). The main lamb offering at the temple mount during Passover was made by the High Priest after all the others had been made, about 3:00pm. Starting at about 9:00am the High priest was required (by tradition) to stand there for about six hours and supervise until all the lambs were sacrificed. It was exactly six hours that Yeshua hung on the stake before He died. After the High Priest offered up the last lamb the High priest would say “I thirst”. He would then wet his lips with water and proclaim that “it is finished”, meaning the slaughtering of all the lambs for Passover. It was exactly 3:00pm when Yeshua gave up His Spirit and said His last words; “It is finished.” If you recall, as part of the Jewish wedding tradition the father of the groom to be would declare to his son “it is finished”, when the groom’s house was complete. He was then able to go get his bride. Does this sound familiar?
Yeshua too was the last lamb sacrificed and He would have heard the sound of the shofar blasting as He gave up His life for us. Yeshua wasn’t killed for us, He died for us” (Luke 23:44-45). “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.”
Just so you can get a good idea of how strong the Temple veil was, keep this in mind. When testing the second veil in front of the Holy of Holies in the Temple, two pair of oxen were attached to either end of the veil. If the oxen could split the veil, it was not made strong enough. Luke 23 was the fulfillment of Isa. 50:3 “I clothe the heavens with blackness And make sackcloth their covering.” John 19:30 Therefore when Yeshua had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” The analogy is so beautiful. The more we learn about the Feasts, the more analogies we see between Yeshua and everything associated with Him in the Scriptures. (see also Ps. 22:31). Found at: http://messianicgentiles.blogspot.com/2009/11/it-is-finished-john-1930.html
So, what we have in the Passover meal and Jesus’ sacrifice of himself on the Cross is that there were two priesthoods functioning side by side at that very moment! One was typological, the other was anti-typical, fulfilling what was happening as the Old Covenant High Priest went about his Temple actions.
More to come.