The Passing of the Law of Moses: Two Priesthoods, Israel’s Feast Days and Eschatology
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 not 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 of Moses 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.” I should also point out that in the most recent debate with Dr. Hester, I pointed out that he defined “the law” that was the strength of sin in 1 Corinthians 15 as “the law of Moses.” Since he takes the position that the resurrection has not been fulfilled, and the resurrection is the time when “the law” would be removed, that logically demands that the law of Moses will remain valid until the end of time. This argument was so powerful that Hester then changed his definition of “the law” to “the moral law.” But, that simply means that the “moral law” will co-exist with the Gospel until the end of time! Dr. Hester could not keep from contradicting himself!
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!
For an in-depth discussion of the Passing of the Law of Moses, see my book Torah To Telos: The End of the Law.