Purity Laws and Sacrifices in the Age to Come?

When I wrote my latest book, A New Look at the Old Testament, one of my goals was to bring to Christians and Messianic Jews a sound theology of the sacrificial system. Liberal Jews, and most Christians, think that the sacrificial system of Leviticus was primitive and will not return. The Reform and Conservative Jewish prayer books omit references in the Amidah and other places to the restoration of the sacrifices of Israel. Maimonides felt they were an accommodation to the culture of the Ancient Near East, a system of worship needed by Israel in its primitive setting, but no longer needed since we have outgrown ancient ways. Most Christians are of the opinion that the sacrifices are outdated, replaced by the better sacrifice of Jesus.

Yet more conservative-minded Jews and some Christians who take the prophets at their word still believe the sacrificial system has a future. Most importantly, this is due to Ezekiel 40-48, a description of the Coming Temple of Messiah.

So, I offer the following thoughts (actually part of my preparation for our Torah class at Tikvat David) as a way to start the discussion about this important topic. I plan to write several posts on this topic and hopefully answer many questions. I believe the sacrificial and purity laws of the Torah are foundational theology. They show the need for a cross and the certainty of resurrection. More on that later, but for now, let’s begin the conversation:

By some ways of thinking, the sacrifices of Israel and the purity laws should have no place in the Age to Come. Many regard these as outmoded ways of thinking, throwbacks to an era of paganism and ritual worship. These have no place now that worship in the spirit has come.

A quick survey of verses from Ezekiel’s description of the Third Temple gives the lie to such a notion. The only way to dismiss these verses and maintain a theology where purity laws have no place in God’s great future is to deny that Ezekiel’s vision will ever come to pass or to suggest his detailed descriptions are mere allegories:

They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. (Ezek. 44:23).

You shall give to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, declares Adonai Elohim, a bull from the herd for a sin offering. And you shall take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the ledge and upon the rim all around. (Ezek. 43:19-20).

And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares Adonai Elohim. They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge. (Ezek. 44:15-16).

It shall be the prince’s duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel. Thus says Adonai Elohim: In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a bull from the herd without blemish, and purify the sanctuary. (Ezek. 45:17-18).

When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people. (Ezek. 42:14).

O house of Israel, enough of all your abominations, in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations. 8And you have not kept charge of my holy things, but you have set others to keep my charge for you in my sanctuary. (Ezek. 44:6-7).

The world of the Age to Come is not yet the Final Age (Rev. 20-22). In the Age to Come, the thousand-year kingdom of Messiah, there will still be death and sin. Isaiah 65 says the young will die at 100 years old and that there will be sinners (65:20). Thus, with sin and death still on the earth, there will still be a need for a Temple, a Torah, Purity Laws, and a Sacrificial System, for God’s glory will be in that Temple with Messiah Yeshua.

Yet there will be no Temple in the Final Age, since there will be no sin. As John saw in his vision:

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. Revelation 21:22-23.

Still, someone might ask, if Yeshua died for our sins, what use will sacrifices offered in a Temple be? The assumption is that the sacrifices of Leviticus were like smaller or temporary versions of the cross of Yeshua. They were not. The Levitical sacrifices had a different function: to keep the Temple clean from the pollution of Israel’s sins and impurities so that God would remain there. God does not choose to dwell in sinful pollution.

For more, see A New Look at the Old Testament, where I explain in detail the theology and procedure of the sacrificial system of Israel.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Messianic Jewish, Sacrifices and Purity, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Purity Laws and Sacrifices in the Age to Come?

  1. Amy Downey says:

    Derek wrote, “The Levitical sacrifices had a different function: to keep the Temple clean from the pollution of Israel’s sins and impurities so that God would remain there. God does not choose to dwell in sinful pollution.”

    So would not Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins not cover the same principle?

  2. Amy:

    The picture I get from bringing all the texts together and attempting to harmonize and make sense of them is this:

    1. The levitical sacrifices do not cleanse the sinner. This is Torah and it is also in Hebrews 9:9 and 10:4.

    2. Yeshua’s sacrifice does cleanse the sinner.

    3. Yet sins remain and their offense still separates us from God’s physical presence. Before we enter God’s physical presence for eternity he will glorify us and remove sin.

    4. In the Messianic Age there will still be people not resurrected and still in their sins. Though forgiven, they will not be free of sin and impurity (just free of condemnation if they believe).

    5. The old manner of cleansing the Temple will still be required by God, according to Ezekiel and other texts.

    I conclude, then, that Yeshua’s sacrifice does not also take up the function of the Levitical sacrifices.

    Amy, I’d love for you to read my book, A New Look at the Old Testament (hopeofdavid.com).

    Derek

  3. Glenn says:

    Derek – This is a great topic to discuss and much needed in light of current events. In the last year I have heard several leading evangelicals attack those who see a future temple and sacrificial system in the age to come. Some have even stated that the belief in a future temple and priesthood with a sacrificial sytem is heretical – see Hank Hanegraaff’s latest book – The Apocalypse Code. Much education is needed in this area and I am looking forward to your future posts.

  4. Glenn:

    As you probably know, Hank Hanegraaff is very Reformed in theology. He does not support Israel. He does not take the prophets at their word, but (as is generally the case with Reformed interpreters) he allegorizes their meaning, replacing Israel with Christians in God’s promises.

    Let’s be honest, interpreting the prophets like that is anti-Semitic.

    I know that Reformed Christians are not usually anti-Semitic themselves, but they have inherited a system devised in anti-Semitism and refuse to see it. A quick read of the church fathers who began to walk this road will confirm what I am saying.

    Meanwhile, we who believe God’s promises are true as they are written, we keep waiting and believing.

    Derek

  5. Freddy Basurco says:

    Hi Derek:

    You stated: “I conclude, then, that Yeshua’s sacrifice does not also take up the function of the Levitical sacrifices.”

    Does this not diminishes The Atonement value?
    I understand tha Yeshua´s Atonement redeems the whole universe (not only mankind). How it is then possible to say that levitical sacrifices, a part and parcel of the universe, are not superseded by this Great Atonement?
    I think you are slightly wrong in this, to say the least.
    There must be some other reason to explain Ezekiel, which I believe was NOT wrong.

    Freddy

  6. Freddy:

    I’m afraid you’ve made an assumption that sounds good on the surface but which: (a) has no Biblical support and (b) can be seen to be untrue merely by observation.

    You said: “I understand tha Yeshua´s Atonement redeems the whole universe (not only mankind).”

    The universe is far from redeemed. The cross is perhaps the largest step toward the universe being redeemed, but evil is still here, death, and a need for God to finish redemption and bring consummation. Traditional Christian theology holds that redemption is the next to last stage. Consummation (what you are calling redeeming the universe) is as yet undone.

    Let me know your continued thoughts on this. I hope we can understand each other better through a little dialogue.

    Derek

  7. This is good stuff, Derek.

    What your responders seem to miss is that there are many different kinds of sacrifices brought to the Temple, those for sin being but one kind. I would suggest that a way to reconcile the two positions is that, while the sin sacrifices will likely not happen in the Millennial Kingdom, the other sorts will.

  8. Adam:

    Your solution would seem to be a good suggestion, but the text is clear that sin offerings will be in the Age to Come (see citation below). The point is that sin offerings and all offerings affected cleansing only for the defilement our sins cause the sanctuary. They do not cleanse the sinner, which only the cross can do. Thus, they are not mutually exclusive and sacrifices are still useful after the cross to keep the Temple clean so God’s holiness can dwell there.

    Ezekiel 43:25-26 For seven days you shall provide daily a male goat for a sin offering; also, a bull from the herd and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided. 26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it.

    Derek

  9. Steve says:

    I don’t see the usefulness of swinging a chicken over ones head. Interesting you bring up the family of Zadok, yet the Sons of Zadok in the days of Yeshua didn’t practice animal sacrifice. You know some of this is metaphorical like living waters….

    I’m reminded of what the Lord quoted – Hosea 6:6

  10. Paul Tabinor says:

    It seems to me that as the Levitical sacrifices were abolished by the one sacrifice that Jesus (Jeshua) made, and yet Ezekiel prophesied that there would be a temple and sacrifices in the future kingdom, then they will take place and must have a purpose.

    Today, as Christians,we hold a memorial service, the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist,as beleivers, remembering the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross, and what it accomplished for us “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

    When He is here in the Millenial Kingdom, there will be no more need for this particular memorial service, because He will be here.

    Instead, certain Temple sacrifices will be established, not the same sacrifices as all of the Levitical offerings, not to atone for sin, because that was accomplished on the cross; but as a memorial again of that one sacrifice that Jesus made that accomplished everything in relation to atoning for man’s sin.

    People will be reminded, through the sacrifices of what the now Ruling Messiah did for them when He was here during His first advent.

    Paul Tabinor

  11. sunnyvj65 says:

    This is so cool! I have been studying about the third temple and the sacrifices. I tell you the truth, I can hardly wait! Now. Zadok, which line of Priesthood is he from? Ithamar or Eleazar? I’m from the line of Ithamar and I do hope my sons will be able to serve in the Temple of HaShem!
    I wonder, since we’re talking about the sacrifices and everything, has anyone here made an offer to HaShem? Wine, water or bread offering or fat offering?
    Viola

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