Let’s say you’re studying by way of Exodus and also you get to chapter 40, the place the Levitical priesthood is being described. There you learn that Aaron and his sons have been to be a “perpetual priesthood all through their generations” (Ex. 40:15). Wait, what? Perpetual? As in, endless—the alternative of momentary? If the Levitical monks are speculated to be perpetual, then how come we don’t have them in our church buildings?
This identical query arises for different associated points. If the Levitical priesthood is perpetual, then one would suppose the tabernacle wherein they labored would even be perpetual. Seems it’s:
The lighting of the golden lampstand within the tabernacle was to be a “statute perpetually to be noticed all through their generations by the individuals of Israel” (Ex. 27:21).
The Day of Atonement—the sooner or later a yr when the excessive priest went into the Most Holy Place to pour sacrificial blood on the mercy seat—was to be a “statute perpetually” (Lev. 16:34).
Lengthy earlier than that, God had informed Abraham that the covenant of circumcision in his flesh was to be an “eternal covenant” “all through your generations” (cf. Gen. 17:11, 12).
Bible-believing Christians are completely comfy residing our lives and main our church buildings with no Levitical monks, no golden lampstands, no Day of Atonement, and no circumcision. Why? Is it as a result of we don’t take these passages severely? Have we in some way embraced a “Greek” Christianity that’s shorn of its Jewish roots?
The reply is not any. However the query is value exploring as a result of it is a check case for methods to interpret the Bible. To be extra exact, it’s a case research in methods to interpret the Bible with a redemptive-historical lens, permitting the New Testomony to information our interpretation of the Outdated Testomony.
Later Revelation Interprets Earlier Revelation
Traditionally, many Christians have referred to Outdated Testomony practices like circumcision and priestly guidelines as “ceremonial” or “constructive legal guidelines” (as distinguished from ethical legal guidelines) and have argued they’re now not binding within the New Testomony. Whether or not you want that terminology or not, it’s a good-faith try and take heed to all of Scripture to grasp why some legal guidelines have been discontinued whereas others weren’t.
For instance, the rationale Christians don’t regard circumcision as a perpetually binding apply (regardless of Gen. 17:13) isn’t due to a pure aversion to being lower. Reasonably, it’s due to easy New Testomony passages like 1 Corinthians 7:18–19:
Was anybody on the time of his name uncircumcised? Let him not search circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for something nor uncircumcision, however protecting the commandments of God. (cf. Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Col. 3:11)
Paul takes one thing the Torah commanded on ache of dying (Ex. 4:24–26) and mainly says, “It doesn’t matter.” Until you’re going to accuse Paul of being a false prophet who rejected the Outdated Testomony, you’ve gotten wrestle with why he mentioned this. What classes was he using to reach at such a jarring conclusion? On the very least, this could offer you a place to begin for why Christians don’t get their circumcision ethics straight out of Genesis 17.
This a case research in methods to interpret the Bible with a redemptive-historical lens, permitting the New Testomony to information our interpretation of the Outdated.
This precept additionally explains why we will’t merely go straight to the “perpetual” texts cited above and conclude, “We’ve bought to obey them actually, or else we’re refusing to imagine the Bible.” Later revelation have to be allowed to clarify earlier revelation. You possibly can’t interpret phrases like “perpetual priesthood” and “statute perpetually” aside from the New Testomony. The New Testomony provides us an impressed interpretation of how these Outdated Testomony ceremonies have been fulfilled.
Shadows Level to the Substance
However lest this sound arbitrary—as if we have been merely evaluating the dates and concluding that later have to be higher, let’s take note of how the apostles reached their conclusions. Their goal was by no means to critique or dismiss Outdated Testomony ceremonies in themselves however moderately to indicate how they have been meant to level to Christ all alongside.
In Colossians 2:17, for instance, Paul makes use of the language of “shadow” and “substance” to explain the connection between Outdated Testomony ceremonies and Christ. A shadow is forged by a substance (e.g., a physique), and a substance is what casts the shadow. Questions of food and drinks, festivals, new moons, Sabbaths—all these have been shadows forged backward by the approaching Christ. However Christ is the substance, and when he arrives, we aren’t to permit others to go judgment on us in such shadowy issues.
The author of Hebrews makes use of this identical language to explain the connection between the Levitical priesthood with its tabernacle context and Christ the good excessive priest. These earthy monks, he says “serve a replica and shadow of the heavenly issues” (Heb. 8:5). Furthermore, Hebrews 9 is evident that these outward sorts have been solely meant to endure “till the time of reformation” (v. 10).
So relating to the Day of Atonement, Hebrews 9 teaches that Christ fulfilled it when he entered as soon as for all into the true holy place in heaven (vv. 11–28). Which means that when Leviticus 16 calls the Day of Atonement a “statute perpetually,” we’ve to incorporate the success in that phrase “perpetually.” What the Day of Atonement was pointing to will endure perpetually. However that doesn’t imply the ceremony itself would endure perpetually.
As soon as Extra on the Levitical Priesthood
The guide of Hebrews relates Christ to the Levitical priesthood in two other ways. It not solely teaches that Christ fulfilled the Levitical priesthood when he went into the true holy place in heaven to supply himself but additionally teaches that Christ belongs to a greater priesthood than that of Aaron. As soon as once more, the order of occasions in redemptive historical past performs a key position right here.
The author factors out that earlier than the legislation was ever given, Moses spoke of one other priest named Melchizedek (see Gen. 14:18). Then after the legislation was given, Psalm 110 tells us one other priest was going to come up after the order of Melchizedek. So placing all these issues collectively—Genesis 14, which was earlier than the legislation, and Psalm 110, which got here after the legislation, the creator of Hebrews causes like this:
If perfection had been attainable by way of the Levitical priesthood (for underneath it the individuals acquired the legislation), what additional want would there have been for an additional priest to come up after the order of Melchizedek, moderately than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there’s a change within the priesthood, there may be essentially a change within the legislation as effectively. (Heb. 7:11–12)
For Psalm 110 to return true, the legislation must change. In different phrases, the Outdated Testomony was already indicating Aaron’s priesthood wasn’t going to final perpetually within the literal sense. It was sure up with the previous covenant—however when the brand new covenant got here, the previous covenant would vanish away, together with its priesthood (Heb. 8:13). It might then be outdated by a greater priest—a priest who’d by no means have to get replaced as a result of he’d reside perpetually.
The Outdated Testomony was already indicating Aaron’s priesthood wasn’t going to final perpetually within the literal sense.
Briefly, the author of Hebrews isn’t saying, “Aaron’s priesthood wasn’t perpetual in spite of everything—Exodus 40 simply bought it incorrect.” Neither is he saying, “You’ll by no means have gotten any this from the Outdated Testomony, however since I’m an impressed apostle, I can fill within the gaps for you.” As a substitute, he’s saying, “That is already there within the Outdated Testomony. You simply must know methods to put the items collectively correctly.”
So after we examine “perpetual priesthoods” and “perpetually statutes,” we mustn’t learn these guarantees like unbelieving Pharisees. We should heed Paul’s counsel and “keep in mind Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:8). The One in whom “all the guarantees of God discover their Sure” (2 Cor. 1:20). The one son of Israel who is actually “a priest perpetually.”