Two Priesthoods and the Passing of the Law of Moses – #6
The Priesthood and the Sabbath
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. It is my contention 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.
In our last installment I shared with the readers some of the major issues that lie latent in the traditional eschatological paradigms, issues stemming directly from the Sabbath. The confusion that abounds in the futurist world in regard to the Sabbath issue, indeed, in regard to the entire issue of Israel’s festal calendar, is incredible. For instance, in numerous formal debates, my Amillennial and Postmillennial opponents have affirmed a yet future coming of the Lord for salvation and the resurrection. Yet, they have also said that the Law of Moses – including the Sabbath – has been done away!
For instance, Joel McDurmon, now president of American Vision in Powder Springs, Georgia, in our formal 2012 debate, stated in both written and oral argument:
1. God’s covenant with Israel will remain valid until the “end of time” and the “physical resurrection.”
2. The ceremonial aspects of the Law of Moses (God’s covenant with Israel) have been annulled. However, he believes that the “judicial” aspects of the Law of Moses, including the death penalty for violating the Law, remain valid.
3. The seventh day Sabbath has been removed, being replaced by Sunday.
Likewise, Dr. David Hester, of Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, answering written questions submitted to him prior to our 2016 debate in Ardmore, Ok. told me the following:
1. All of God’s Old Covenant salvation promises to Israel were fulfilled at the cross.
2. He said the Law of Moses was ‘nailed to the cross.”
3. However, he also said “a Sabbath remains for the children of God.”
4. He said that some of the Law had passed but that some of it will remain unfulfilled until the end of time!
To say that this is utter confusion and self-contradiction is a huge understatement! (A book and DVDs of both the McDurmon debate and the Hester debate are available from my websites, Amazon, Kindle and other retailers).
As I have suggested, the issue of the Sabbath is the “elephant in the room,” the Achilles heel of all futurist eschatologies. Yet, it seems that few commentators are aware of the problem. It is an issue that for all practical purposes is swept under the rug and ignored, by all except the Sabbatarian community. That is not to say that the Sabbath is not discussed extensively. It is just to note that discussions of the Sabbath seldom involve discussions of eschatology!
The Sabbatarian community sees, although perhaps not as fully as could be, the implications of saying that the typological meaning of the Sabbath is not fulfilled. I say that even the Sabbatarian community does not realize the full power of the Sabbath issue because in a number of debate books on the Sabbath that are in my library, the Sabbatarian disputants seldom even mentioned the eschatological meaning of the Sabbath. Thus, they either did not realize the power of this argument, or, they simply chose not to make it.
To state my case simply, if the foreshadowing meaning of the Sabbath is not fulfilled, the Sabbatarian position on the Sabbath observance is true. The seventh day Sabbath, a type and shadow of the final salvation, remains valid and binding. The reason this is true is because the Sabbath foreshadowed the final resurrection and salvation! Since the shadows would remain binding and valid until “the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:6-10), then patently, if the Sabbath foreshadowed the final rest, and if that final Sabbath rest has not come, the Sabbath – and thus, the Levitical priesthood – remains valid.
Non-Sabbatarians fail to see that maintaining a futurist eschatology virtually demands Sabbath observance – and I do not mean “the Christian Sabbath.” That concept is unbiblical. It is a theological invention to avoid the core issue of the Sabbath. But in reality, it is a misguided “Replacement Theology” that fails badly.
The Sabbath and the Passing of the Law
Let me re-state here, with a bit of expansion, some points from my previous article:
1. Not one jot or one tittle of the Law could pass until it was all fulfilled – Jesus- Matthew 5:17-18. This point, like the one following, is in reality, beyond refutation. It is truly sad that futurists wind up making some of the most specious and desperate “re-writings” of these verses imaginable. They run to other texts where context limits the “all” to all of a given subject or kind, and declare that because “all” in other unrelated contexts does not mean all, that this means it cannot mean “all” in Matthew 5! This violates proper logic, exegesis and hermeneutics. See my book, The End of the Law: Torah To Telos, for a fuller discussion of the attempts to escape the force of Matthew 5.
Essentially, what virtually “all” of the attempts to escape the force of Matthew 5 do is to make it mean, “Some jots and tittles– in fact most of the jots and tittles of the law – will pass away even they are not fulfilled.” But, Jesus did not say that some would pass when some is fulfilled. He did not say all would pass when some is fulfilled. He said NONE would pass until it was ALL fulfilled.
2. The seventh day Sabbath was a foundational tenet of “the Law” (Exodus 20:4). This point is, needless to say, indisputable. While various attempts are made to re-define “the law” in Matthew 5, no one that I am aware of would or has denied that the Decalogue was fundamentally “the law.” That logically demands that the Sabbath was part of “the law” ALL of which had to be fulfilled.
3. The Sabbath was a type, a foreshadowing of the final salvation, resurrection rest- i.e. of the “good things to come” – Colossians 2:14-16 / Hebrews 4:10.
4. It goes without saying, but has to be said anyway, that the entire theological world, both non-Sabbatarian and Sabbatarian, says the typological and foreshadowing meaning of the seventh day Sabbath is not fulfilled. Literally no one in the futurist world says that the Sabbath is fulfilled.** The non-Sabbatarian says the seventh day Sabbath has passed away, being transformed into the “Christian Sabbath” which still foreshadows the final salvation. The Sabbatarian says the seventh day Sabbath remains valid because “the law” has not been fulfilled, heaven and earth has not passed away, final salvation has not come.
** A bit of a caveat here: It is often argued by non-Sabbatarians that the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. Russell Earl Kelly, former Adventist, in an article in Proclamation magazine, stated, “Sabbath was not changed. It was fulfilled in Christ.” (“Proclamation!, Glendale, Az; LAM Publications, 2010), 30). This is likewise the position of Dale Ratzlaff, editor of that magazine). The problem for this view is that the Sabbath foreshadowed final salvation and resurrection (Hebrews 4:10). But, neither Kelly or Ratzlaff – or any other futurist – believe that has been objectively fulfilled.
5. The conclusion to the above should be clear: until and unless the typological meaning of the seventh day Sabbath was (is) fulfilled, the seventh day Sabbath would remain valid. So, let me say again by way of emphasis, that the seventh day Sabbath issue is the elephant in the room in regard to eschatology. If the seventh day Sabbath has passed and is no longer valid, the resurrection and final salvation is a reality. If the resurrection and final salvation has not been fulfilled, objectively fulfilled, the seventh day Sabbath remains valid and binding.
Let me now share the reality that virtually everyone understands and agrees that the Sabbath foreshadowed the final salvation, at the “end of the age”, the resurrection and New Creation.
The Typological Meaning of the Sabbath and Implications for the Passing of the Law of Moses
First of all, note that Paul unequivocally says that the Sabbaths – inclusive of the seventh day Sabbath – were still, when he wrote Colossians, a “shadow of the good things about to come” (Colossians 2:16 – Paul uses the present active indicative to say that those praxis “are a shadow…”).
Likewise, in Hebrews 9:24-10:1-2, the author speaks of Christ fulfilling – being in the process of fulfilling – the typological actions of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. He had offered himself as the Atonement sacrifice (v. 26). He had entered into the MHP (v 24). He was about to come for salvation, and that coming was necessary, “for the law, being a shadow of good things about to come” (10:1-2). Notice that causative “for” at the beginning of chapter 10. Christ had to come the second time because the Law continued to be a shadow of the coming things!
Jesus’ coming, the coming to bring the “Sabbath rest” of Hebrews 4:10) was necessary to fulfill the shadows of the law! Of course, the writer then continued his discussion of that salvation and said that Christ was coming “in a very, very little while” (10:37). Thus, we have in Hebrews the affirmation that the fulfillment of the Sabbath was coming very, very soon! This alone should settle the issue of the meaning of the Sabbath and the passing of the Law of Moses.
In numerous formal debates I have pressed this point, and to this date I have not had one debate opponent address the argument! In two formal debates with Dr. David Hester (2016 / 2017) I addressed the issue of the Sabbath, but, he was totally silent about the relationship between Hebrews 9–> Hebrews 10:37. A book of our first debate is available on my websites, Amazon, Kindle and other retailers.
Let’s examine now what scholarship has to say about the foreshadowing meaning of the Sabbath.
Greg Beale says: “The observance of every seventh day was to recall God’s seventh day of resting, and this observance of every seventh day apparently was to remind humanity of the final, eternal Sabbath rest without ‘morning or evening’ that would no longer need to be repeated. That is, the ultimate goal of humanity was to enter the kind of consummative rest into which God himself had entered (Gen. 2:2).” (Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids; Baker Academic, 2011), 780).
He continued: “Judaism believed that the weekly Sabbath pointed to the eternal rest of the New creation.” On page 789 he cites Hippolytus and Barnabas who both say the Sabbath was typological of the final salvation and resurrection. (Beale, Theology, 2011, p. 793, n. 38).
Postmillennial writer Keith Mathison, citing Dumbrell, says:“In pointing back to creation, the Sabbath points also to what is yet to be, to the final destiny to which all creation is moving.” (Keith Mathison, (Age to Age, The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology, Phillipsburg, NJ; P & R Publishing 2009), 57, n. 34; Dumbrell (1984, 35). We have already shared the similar views from Bahnsen.
Meredith Kline offers this: “Through each weekly cycle humanity was to ‘advance through six days of work to the seventh day of completion’ the latter of which pointed typologically to the eternal end-time rest without ‘morning or evening,’ into which God had already entered at the completion of His creating activity. Thus, human activity ‘was to correspond to the course of God’s creational work working as a movement from work begun to work consummated.’ ‘Humanity is reminded in this way that life is not an aimless existence, that a goal lies beyond’ the earthly, temporal history of weeks in an eternal Sabbath of eschatological rest.’” (Meredith Kline, The Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal World-View, (Overland Park, KS; Two Age Press, 2000), 78.
J. H. Kurtz says, “The earthly Sabbath reflected the Sabbath of God after the creation was finished – a Sabbath in which man, beast, and field participated, in the fulness of their native glory, and the blessedness before the Fall. And as every repristination of the lost blessing of creation, however transient, is at the same time a typical anticipation of their future restoration, the blessedness of the Sabbath rest, enjoyed by man, beast, and field, was a typical pledge and prophecy of the rest of the later time.” (J. H. Kurtz, Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids; Baker, 1980), 344).
Likewise, the highly respected Alfred Edershiem says that according to the ancients the Sabbath anticipated “that final Messianic Kingdom,” and, “ultimately to the eternal Sabbath of completed redemption, and completed ‘hallowing’ (Revelation 11).” (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, (Updated Edition, Peabody, Mass; 2004), 134+).
We could multiply this kind of quotation many times over. There is simply no debate as to what the Jews believed that the Sabbath pointed to. I do note that in numerous written discussions about the passing of the Law of Moses, when confronted with the indisputable evidence about what the Sabbath foreshadowed, I have had opponents suddenly take the view that the Sabbath foreshadowed the “Day of Pentecost,” “the Christian age,” These patently desperate “explanations” have no precedent and certainly no exegetical support. The fulfillment of Sabbath was still future in Hebrews 4:9-10. Thus, if the Sabbath foreshadowed the Christian age, then that means that the Christian age had not yet arrived! (This would force one to take the “already but not yet” paradigm which so many seem to eschew).
From the above, we can make the following argument:
Not one jot or one tittle would pass from “the Law” until it was all fulfilled.
The Sabbath (all of the Sabbaths) were an integral part of “the Law.”
The Sabbath (all of the Sabbaths), foreshadowed the final salvation and the resurrection.
Therefore, until the final salvation and the resurrection was – or is – fulfilled, the Sabbath (all of the Sabbaths) must remain valid.
Non-Sabbatarians face a severe problem here. It is clear that they do not “see the train coming.” It is illogical to affirm that “the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ,” while at the same time claiming that the very thing that the Sabbath foreshadowed is not fulfilled!
Take note that in Revelation 14:13, the Sabbath is fulfilled at the coming of the Lord at the time of the harvest. The word translated as “rest” in, “they shall rest from their labors” is from anapausis, the most common word in the LXX to speak of the Sabbath rest. Revelation 14:13 thus depicts the fulfillment of Hebrews 4:10 – and the fulfillment of all of the New Moons, Feast Days and Sabbaths! The Sabbath is fulfilled at the Coming of the Lord! This is hugely problematic for all futurists.
Dale Ratzlaff, former Adventist leader, and head of an active ministry seeking to free Adventists from the shackles of a legalistic movement, said this:
“It would be very easy for His listeners to conclude that He was completely doing away with the binding nature of the old covenant. This He will do, but not before He completely fulfills the prophecies, types and shadows which pointed forward to His work of Messiah Savior of the world which are recorded in that law. Therefore the law must continue until He has accomplished everything.” …” If one were to conclude that Jesus was teaching the continuing nature of the law in this passage, the Christian would immediately be faced with a dilemma. For this passage expressly states that not one thing, not even the smallest punctuation mark, is to be removed from the law. Thus, if the Christian is going to use this text to prove the perpetuity of the old covenant law, he must use it to prove the binding nature of all old covenant law. In writing to the Galatians Paul warned his readers that they could not take only part of the law and leave the rest (Galatians 5:3). We are left with only two choices: Jesus fulfilled the law for us and thus freed us from the dominion of the old covenant, or we must keep every bit of the old covenant. There are no other choices.” (Dale Ratzlaff, Sabbath in Christ, 2010, (Glendale, Az; LAM Publications, 2010), 241).
Ratzlaff is certainly partly right: if one appeals to Matthew 5:17-18 for Sabbath keeping, then of necessity they must keep every jot and every tittle of the Law. He is likewise correct to say that, “until all the types and shadows which pointed forward to his (Christ’s, dkp) work of Messiah Savior of the world which are recorded in that law. Therefore the law must continue until He has accomplished everything.” (All emphasis his).
The problem for Ratzlaff is that as a futurist, he would posit the ultimate fulfillment of the typological, foreshadowing Sabbath at the so-called “end of time.” (It falls short of the typological meaning of Sabbath to apply it short of the resurrection). Thus, per his own argument, until Christ has fulfilled every type, every shadow of the law – inclusive of the Sabbath – every jot and every tittle of the Law – (which Ratzlaff insists has passed!) – must remain valid.
I suggest that contra Ratzlaff, there is in fact another alternative. It is to see that the Sabbath – and every jot and every tittle of the Law – was completely fulfilled. But, it was not fulfilled at the Cross. It was not fulfilled at Pentecost. It was at the dissolution of the Temple in AD 70. That is where Jesus posited the fulfillment of all things written: “These be the days of vengeance when all things that are written must be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22).
Let me make my point now in regard to Two Priesthoods and the passing of the Law of Moses:
Not one jot or one tittle of the Law of Moses could pass until it was all fulfilled– Jesus.
The Sabbath was an integral and foundational element of “the Law” (Exodus 20:4).
The Sabbath foreshadowed and typified the final salvation and resurrection.
Therefore, until final salvation and the resurrection came to a reality, the Sabbath (and all of the Law of Moses, including the Levitical priesthood that presided over the Sabbath!) would remain valid.
All futurist eschatologies say final salvation and the resurrection have not yet been fulfilled.
Therefore, every jot and every tittle of the Law of Moses – (inclusive of the Levitical priesthood that presided over the Sabbath) remains valid today.
Logically and scripturally, you cannot posit the resurrection and the coming of the Lord for salvation in the future without thereby demanding that the entire Law of Moses, with the priesthood, remains valid today.
More to come.