Two Priesthoods and the Passing of the Law of Moses – #4
The Role of John the Baptizer
This series is investigating the question of whether two priesthoods, the Levitical and Christ’s could co-exist for the period between the Cross and AD 70. Opponents of Covenant Eschatology, i.e. full preterism, claim that this would not be possible. It is my position, however, that the two priesthoods did co-exist for that second exodus period, but, that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple signaled the full end of the Old Covenant, with that ineffective priesthood.
I would suggest at this juncture that we take Luke 16:16 into consideration: “The Law and the prophets were until John.” Beginning with John, the Old Covenant prophecies of the last days and the establishment of the kingdom, with all attendant elements began to unfold. The appearance of John is the critical “kick start” of the eschatological last days, since he was, as The Voice, The Messenger and Elijah, the herald of the coming of the Lord in judgment and the salvation of Israel (Isaiah 40 / Malachi 3 / Malachi 4:5-6).
It should be obvious that John’s mission as The Voice, The Messenger and as Elijah, was not fulfilled at the Cross – or even Pentecost. This means that “all things” of the Law were not fulfilled at the Cross or Pentecost. To help us appreciate this fact, let me pose a question for consideration especially in light of what we will present. That question is: If a law or covenant has been abrogated and annulled, are any of the provisions, promises or penalties, applicable subsequent to that annulment? In other words, can you apply a dead law??
Simple logic and common sense answers the question, does it not? A dead law / covenant is, well D-E-A-D! Since this is indisputably true, consider the ministry and message of John the Baptizer.
1. John predicted the out pouring of the Spirit, which was based on the OT prophecies of the last days out pouring of the Spirit (Joel 2:28f– Matthew 3:10f). Since the Spirit was not poured out until Pentecost, after the Cross, then patently, “all things” of the Law were not fulfilled at the Cross. Thus, John’s message, the proclamation of the fulfillment of Old Covenant prophecies, was not finished, was not fulfilled at the Cross.
2. John was The Voice in the Wilderness of Isaiah 40 proclaiming the coming salvation of Israel at the coming of the Lord in the Kingdom and judgment (Mark 1:1). The Cross was not the time of the salvation of Israel foretold by Isaiah 40. Take note of what Isaiah foretold:
“Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11).
The salvation foretold would only come at the Day of the Lord in judgment and reward. It is the full arrival of the kingdom. It is particularly important to see that in Matthew 16:27-28 Jesus is directly echoing Isaiah 40 and Isaiah 62:10f as well. Both of those prophecies are judgment coming texts.
The critical role of Isaiah 40 in understanding not only John’s message and mission, but, eschatology itself is critical. If one cannot, or does not, properly locate the coming of the Lord in judgment and salvation – the salvation of Israel – they cannot understand John’s mission and they will fail to understand NT eschatology.
Needless to say the Cross was the foundation, the ground and the power of that coming salvation, but, it was not the when of that promised salvation- Romans 11:25-27 makes that unambiguously clear. There is a distinction between the means of that coming salvation and the when of that salvation, but lamentably, many commentators ignore that distinction.
Paul posited the fulfillment of Isaiah- and thus, the completion of John’s ministry – at the future to him coming of the Lord (Romans 11:25-27). Just as Isaiah foretold the salvation of Israel at the coming of the Lord, Paul anticipated the salvation of Israel at the coming of the Lord. Likewise, John in the Apocalypse foresaw the coming salvation of Israel in the New Creation. That was not a different salvation from that foretold by Isaiah 40. Thus, once again, John’s prophetic message as The Voice was not finished, fulfilled, at the Cross. It would not be finished until Revelation was fulfilled!
John the Baptizer as “The Messenger” and the Passing of the Law of Moses
3.) As The Messenger, John was to herald the coming of the Lord to His Temple. What is so important is that, just like Isaiah 40, this coming of the Lord would be his coming in judgment (Malachi 3:5-6). It is not the Incarnation! It is not a reference to Jesus’ cleansing of the temple either. This is revealed by the fact that it says, “Who can stand before him when he comes?” This is the language of judgment (Cf. Nahum 1:6 / Revelation 6:12f). And there is even more explicit evidence.
The coming of the Lord in Malachi 3:5-6 proves, as I discuss extensively in my Elijah book, that the coming of the Messenger would be in the application of Mosaic Covenant sanctions. Look at Malachi 3:5:
“And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the Lord of hosts.”
It is critical to realize that the sins iterated here are directly from Torah, the Law of Moses. They are listed specifically in Exodus 22 and Deuteronomy 27:19f. Look specifically at Exodus 22:18-24:
v. 18: “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
20 “He who sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.
21 “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
22 “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; 24 and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.”
Notice that YHVH said that if / when Israel committed these sins, He would kill them with the edge of the sword! This is the threat of national judgment. It is clearly and undeniably covenantal judgment. It is in fact the imposition of the sanctions of the Law of Blessings and Cursings of Deuteronomy 28-30, as well as Leviticus 26.
The question is, when, from the time of the appearing of John the Baptizer until the Cross, did the Lord come in judgment of Israel – national judgment? If the Law was “cancelled at the Cross,” as former preterist Sam Frost claims, then there could be no covenantal judgments on Israel after the Cross. (And as a matter of fact, unbelievably, Frost is now denying that AD 70 was a covenantal judgment on Israel in any way!)
But, if AD 70 was not a covenantal judgment, in fulfillment of Malachi 3, it mean that the prophecy of Malachi failed, for it most assuredly did predict the coming of the Lord in national judgment of Israel for violating the Law of Moses! That judgment would be heralded by The Messenger, John the Baptizer. The only judgment that fits was the Lord’s coming in AD 70, proving that the Law of Moses was not cancelled at the Cross. And of course, this being true, it means that two priesthoods did co-exist between the Cross and AD 70.
John the Baptizer as Elijah and the Passing of the Law of Moses
4. John’s message of “the wrath about to come” (Matthew 3:7) was nothing less than, and nothing other than the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord that he, as Elijah, predicted. Compare his message with Malachi 4. That was undeniably not fulfilled at the Cross or Pentecost. And note that Malachi 4:4f posits the coming of the Great Day of the Lord in connection with the call for Israel to obey the Law of Moses! Violation of Torah would lead directly to that Great Day of the Lord.
When we come to Acts 2, Peter warned his audience to, “save yourself from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40) – a warning for them to turn to Jesus to escape the coming “Great and Terrible Day of the Lord” foretold by Joel and by John as Elijah.
So, Elijah would come, calling on Israel to obey the Law of Moses, warning them that failure to do so would lead to the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord. This puts Elijah / John’s mission and message squarely within the context of the Old Covenant. John, as Elijah, warned Israel that failure to obey Moses and the Law was going to lead them to “the wrath about to come” (Matthew 3:7). The axe was already at the root! To deny that John was proclaiming imminent covenantal judgment, the application of the Law of Blessings and Cursings and Leviticus 26, is to completely ignore or distort the context of his ministry and message.
So, John’s work of fulfilling the Law began before the Cross and continued after the Cross. It was not fulfilled, and would not be fulfilled, until the coming of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, the coming of the Lord for the salvation of the righteous remnant of Israel (Isaiah 40:1-12). That would be the Great Day of judgment on Israel for violating Torah, as Malachi 3-4 firmly and undeniably establishes. See my book: Elijah Has Come: A Solution to Romans 11:25-27, for a fuller discussion of the foundational role of John in the eschatological schema. The book is available from Amazon or my websites.
Right here is revealed one of the basic errors of the traditional view. As we noted in the previous installment, many Bible students run to John 19:30 and Jesus’ cry, “It is finished” and they claim that he was saying that the Law was now finished, now fulfilled. They then couple that with texts like Luke 18:31 and proclaim that the law was completely fulfilled at the cross. This is an untenable argument as John’s message proves and as we will continue to show. The reality is that there was much of the law that had to be fulfilled after the cross, but, it would all be fulfilled in the first century generation (Luke 21:22).
The fact that the message and ministry of John as The Voice, The Messenger and Elijah was not finished at the Cross or Pentecost is prima facie proof that the Law of Moses, the source of John’s message and ministry, continued until AD 70– The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.
Unless you can divorce John’s message of the coming Day of the Lord in the kingdom and the judgment (Isaiah 40) from God’s covenantal promises to Israel – then the Law did not pass at the Cross. Yet, Paul was patently expecting the fulfillment of Isaiah 40 in Romans 11! And, that fulfillment would be in fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel: “This is my covenant with them, when I take away their sin.”
Unless you can divorce the judgment message of The Messenger from the message of John, or, unless you can show where and how Malachi 3 was fulfilled prior to the Cross, then once again, this is irrefutable evidence that the Law of Moses was not “cancelled” at the Cross. It was not nailed to the Cross. And since the Law continued until AD 70, this proves definitively that there were two priesthoods functioning side by side until AD 70. To express this succinctly:
The coming of the Lord of Malachi 3:5f would be a national judgment of Israel for violating the Law of Moses, and would be heralded by The Messenger.
John the Baptizer was The Messenger, heralding the impending fulfillment of Malachi- Mark 1:1-2.
The coming of the Lord in national judgment of Israel for violating the Law of Moses occurred after the Cross and Pentecost. It occurred in AD 70.
Therefore, the judgment sanctions of the Law of Moses for violation of the Law remained valid until AD 70.
☛ Building on our earlier points, the New Testament writers – after the Cross – continued to speak of the abiding validity of the Law as a shadow of the good things that were about to come. They speak of the necessity for it to be fulfilled at the coming of the Lord. They continue to echo the message of John of the coming wrath at the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:10 / 2:14-16). They tell us that the Law would remain binding until Christ’s appearing for salvation (Hebrews 9:28-10:1-2). They tell us that the “New Moons, Feast Days and Sabbaths” were to endure until the Day of the Lord.
We will develop these thoughts as we proceed.
Be sure to get a copy of my book, The End of the Law: Torah To Telos, for an in-depth study of the passing of the Law of Moses.