Two Priesthoods and the Passing of the Law of Moses – #8 – A Look at Hebrews 9

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Two Priesthoods and the Passing of the Law of Moses- #8
Hebrews 9: Foods, Drinks, Various Washings and Fleshly Ordinances…
Until the time of Reformation

“Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:6-10)

I suggested in the previous installment of this series that Hebrews 9:6-10 confirms our analysis that while part of the feast days were indeed fulfilled in Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, there were other elements of the festal calendar that pointed directly to the eschatological consummation. Those “ceremonial Sabbaths” – to use the term – would remain valid until that soteriological climax – at the appearing of Christ for salvation (Hebrews 9:28). And that is the time of the passing of the law of Moses.

A Look At Hebrews 9 and the Passing of the Law of Moses

Notice what Hebrews 9 makes clear:

1. The cultic practices, which would be the New Moon, feast days and Sabbaths of Colossians 2, and included various washings, fleshly ordinances and mandates concerning food and drink.

2. Those Temple praxis could never take away sin. They could never cleanse the conscience from the guilt of sin.

3. As long as those cultic, “ceremonial” practices remained in force, i.e. “Had standing” there was no forgiveness.

The Greek scholars are agreed on this meaning of “standing’ in the text.

Paul Ellingworth says, “Some scholars, including P. E. Hughes and Teodorico, give the meaning of “have status” or “legal standing” or “function.” (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Hebrews 9:8), 437, 439).

Word Biblical Commentary, in loc, p. 223— “The Holy Spirit disclosed to the writer that as long as the front compartment of the tabernacle had cultic status, access to the presence of God was not yet available to the congregation.” “So long as the cultic ordinances of the Sinaitic covenant were a valid expression of God’s redemptive purpose and the front compartment exouses stasin, “had cultic status’, entrance into the MHP was not yet accessible. There can be access only after the front compartment has been set aside.”

John A. T. Robertson offered this: “Another genitive absolute with the present active participle of echo (having standing, stasin, ‘the first tabernacle having a place.” (Word Pictures, Vol 5) 397.

Expositors Greek Testament, Vol. 4, p. 330: “So long as the fore-tent has an appointed place as part of the Divine arrangements for worship.”

4. As long as there was not forgiveness of sin, there could be no entrance into the Most Holy Place, the presence of God. To put it another way, there would be no salvation.

5. Christ would come – his “second appearing” – fulfilling the typological significance and function of those praxis– bringing salvation (Hebrews 9:28) and putting an end to that Old Covenant that could not provide that forgiveness and salvation.

The indisputable fact that Christ would bring salvation and entrance into the Presence of God is itself prima facie demonstration that the Old Covenant would not end until Christ’s second appearing! If there could be no forgiveness and no entrance into the Most Holy Place as long as the Law of Moses remained valid, and if entrance into the Most Holy Place (meaning the objective reception of forgiveness) and the arrival of salvation would come at Christ’s second appearing, then of logical necessity, the Law would not pass until Christ came that promised second time!

Hebrews is clear: as long as there was no forgiveness, the law would remain in effect because the Law could not provide forgiveness.

As long as the law remained in effect, there was no forgiveness of sin. As long as there was no forgiveness of sin there was no entrance into the Most Holy Place. Entrance into the Most Holy Place was totally dependent on the removal of the Law which could not provide forgiveness of sin.

Of course, what this means is that as long as man could not enter the MHP, not only would the Law of Moses remain in effect- meaning man could have no forgiveness of sin– but, the Levitical priesthood would remain valid as well. Thus, as long as man could not (or cannot) enter the MHP the Levitical priesthood remains valid, as a signal proof of the ineffectiveness of the Law of Moses! It is here that the evangelical confusion– the overt theological contradiction– comes to the forefront.

The Passing of the Law of Moses and Entrance Into the Most Holy Place

There are two views of the fate of the righteous when they die today, before the proposed “end of time / end of the Christian age:

1. The view of my youth and fellowship was that when the righteous man dies today, he goes to Abraham’s bosom in Hades. He cannot go to heaven, the MHP, because he has not been judged, and heaven is not yet opened. That only occurs at the second coming of Christ for salvation of Hebrews 9:28. This view is a minority view in modern evangelical Christianity, but it is nonetheless a widely held view. John Calvin was adamantly opposed to the idea that man enters heaven when they die:

“As for the popular notion that the souls of the righteous have the full enjoyment of heaven prior to the resurrection, Luther whimsically remarked, “It would take a foolish soul to desire its body when it was already in heaven!” – (D. Martin Luthers Werke, ed. Tischreden (Weimar, 1912-1921), p. 5534, cited by Althaus, op. cit), 417).

Likewise, John Calvin was firmly opposed to the idea that the faithful Christian goes to heaven when they die:

“Many greatly torment themselves with discussing what place they occupy, and whether or not they already enjoy celestial glory. It is foolish and rash to inquire into hidden things, farther than God permits us to know. Scripture, after telling that Christ is present with them, and receives them into paradise (John 12:32), and that they are comforted, while the souls of the reprobate suffer the torments which they have merited goes no farther. What teacher or doctor will reveal to us what God has concealed? As to the place of abode, the question is not less futile and inept, since we know that the dimension of the soul is not the same as that of the body. When the abode of blessed spirits is designated as the bosom of Abraham, it is plain that, on quitting this pilgrimage, they are received by the common father of the faithful, who imparts to them the fruit of his faith. Still, since Scripture uniformly enjoins us to look with expectation to the advent of Christ, and delays the crown of glory till that period, let us be contented with the limits divinely prescribed to us, viz., that the souls of the righteous, after their warfare is ended, obtain blessed rest where in joy they wait for the fruition of promised glory, and that thus the final result is suspended till Christ the Redeemer appear. There can be no doubt that the reprobate have the same doom as that which Jude assigns to the devils, they are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” (Jude ver. 6). (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software (1997) in his comments on Jude verse 6).

I would note that in formal debates, my Amillennial opponents have stated, in response to written questions, that the faithful Christian goes to Hades / Abraham’s bosom when they die. In a 2016 debate with professor David Hester of Faulkner University, (Montgomery, Alabama), Dr. Hester affirmed this view. During the debate, I presented the following argument:

As long as the Law of Moses remained valid there was no forgiveness of sin and no entrance into the MHP, i.e. heaven.

Today, there is no entrance into the Most Holy Place (heaven) and there will be no entrance into the MHP until the second appearing of Christ at the “end of time” – David Hester.

Therefore, the Law of Moses remains valid today and will remain valid until the end of time.

I expounded on the clear teaching of Hebrews 9, showing that his view demands two things: 1. the Law of Moses remains valid today and, 2. There is no forgiveness of sin today, Dr. Hester got up and in manifest desperation simply read from Hebrews 10:17f and saying, “We today have the full benefit of the Atonement.”

As I pointed out to the audience, this was a “debate conversion” moment! He had changed from affirming that we do not enter the MHP – meaning we do not have the full benefit of the Atonement – to saying that we do have the full benefit of the Atonement. But, if we have the full benefit of the Atonement, then the faithful child of God can and does enter heaven when they die – which means that Christ has come! This is simply inescapable.

Dr. Hester refused to discuss the issue further in that debate even though I repeated my argument. (A book of that debate is available on Amazon, Kindle, my websites and other retailers).

2. The majority view of the fate of the righteous when they die today is that they go directly to be with the Lord in heaven. This is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

“1. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep), having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.” (The Westminster Confession Chapter 32 – Of the State of Man After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead).

Sam Frost, former preterist, in a Facebook “debate” took the position that when the faithful child of God dies, they go directly to be with God in heaven. The OT worthies of Hebrews 11 and all of God’s saints who have ever lived now enjoy the indescribable pleasure of heaven: “And I will see this man again…..hallelujah…..I WILL SEE HIM FACE TO FACE … billions ALREADY HAVE AND ARE enjoying his presence, their friend, their Lord, their Saviour their brother…..The Man Christ Jesus….who is also, GOD.” (Posted February, 2017 on Facebook- all emphasis his). He has repeated this position in other discussions.

Both of these views demand some rethinking. Both of them stand at odds – radically so- with the teaching of Hebrews 9.

☛ If the righteous go to heaven today, then Christ has come, bringing salvation, and there is no future eschatology. The context of Hebrews makes it clear that salvation – entrance into the MHP would be at the end of the Old Covenant, at the second appearing of Christ for salvation, i.e. entrance into the MHP.

☛ If man today cannot and does not enter the MHP, the presence of God, upon death, then as Hebrews 9 undeniably teaches, the Law of Moses, including the “meats and drinks, various washings and fleshly ordinances” remains firmly in place. That can only mean that there is no forgiveness of sin available to the believer. It also means that the Levitical priesthood remains in effect at the same time as Christ’s priesthood.

Simply stated, if Christ has not come for salvation and the resurrection, the entire cultic world of Israel remains valid. Specifically, if Christ has not come for salvation, to open the way into heaven for the righteous, this demands that the last three feast days of Israel are not yet fulfilled. (What is important to see however, is that the “meats and drinks, various washings and fleshly ordinances” were not limited or applied exclusively to the final three feast days. They were part and parcel of the entire festal calendar. The Sabbatarian claim therefore, that the “ceremonial feast days” were removed falls in the face of Hebrews 9. Those festivals- all of the laws about meats and drinks, washings and ordinances – would remain valid until the second appearing of Christ to bring salvation, the time of reformation.

If those last three feast days are not fulfilled – and all futurist eschatologies say they are not – then the Levitical priesthood remains valid to this very day and will remain valid until the (supposed) end of time. The failure of futurists to carefully consider the eschatological nature of Israel’s festal calendar, specifically the last three feasts, logically (and effectively) negates modern views of the Sabbath, the Law of Moses and futurist eschatology.

When Hebrews was written the Levitical priests continued to serve, standing daily and ministering in the temple (notice the present active Greek tenses in Hebrews 8:4). They continued to serve in a priesthood that, while always ineffective, they were nonetheless fulfilling the typological aspects of the Law until it was all fulfilled at the parousia that was coming in a “very, very little while” (Hebrews 10:37). That means that both the priesthoods, the Levitical and the Melchizedec, were valid and operating at the same time.

In our next installment we will confirm what Hebrews 9 teaches: the time of reformation when the laws about meats and drinks, washings and ordinances would pass away would be at the coming of Christ for salvation. Stay tuned!