THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM AFTER CHRIST'S RETURN

One of the more puzzling aspects of the commanded observances and festivals  that  will be practiced after Christ returns   is  the animal  sacrifices  which will be performed at a new  temple  in Jerusalem.

The  following  study is in no way  meant to answer  all  of  the questions that could be asked concerning  the sacrificial  system after  the  return of Christ nor is it meant to  be  a  detailed analysis of  this system, because the scriptures leave  out  too many  details  to  do this. This study  is only meant  to  be  an overview  of  the subject that will show the logic behind  the use of the sacrificial system of worship after Christ's return.

After  Adam  and Eve's fatal mistake in the garden of  Eden,  God instituted  the  sacrificial system through  which humans  could maintain  a  relationship with him and  be taught how the redemption of humanity would  be  accomplished.

The following study is meant to show that the overall plan of God  the Father and Jesus Christ for the redemption  of  humanity through  the use of the sacrificial system has not  changed  from the time of Adam and Eve and will not change as long as there are humans who need to learn the lessons that are taught  through it.

THE GATHERING OF ISRAEL

The  Creator God  brought the Israelites out of Egypt because  he had  a job for them to do and a purpose for their existence as  a nation.  These people were called to be a nation of priests   who would represent God and his plan for the salvation of humanity to the world by  practicing  his religion to perfection.

After Christ's  return, the descendants of Israel will be brought  to the land of their inheritance. There, they will be formed  into a  world  power to fulfill their national  destiny.  During  this future age, the nation of Israel will again assume its  responsibility  of  being an example of God's way of life to  the world, and  the city of Jerusalem will again become the focal  point  of the  worship of God when Jesus Christ administers God's  government and religion to the nations of the world in an effort to convert humanity  to the ways of his Father. See Deut.30:1-6;  Mic.4:1-7; Joel 3:16-21; Zech.8:1-3.

EZEKIEL'S PROPHECY

Chapters  40-48 of Ezekiel contain the most  detailed  prophecies concerning  the  new temple and sacrificial system that  will  be established within the nation of Israel sometime after the beginning of Christ's rule.

Word Meanings

While researching Ezekiel's prophecy of the future temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices, it is very important to know the  meanings of the words 'sin-offering' and 'guilt-offering' and the word 'atone', because these words clarify the reasons for animal sacrifices.

The Sin Offering

In most English translations of the scriptures the word 'sin-offering' is translated from  the  Hebrew word  'hattat',  which appears many times in  the  Old  Testament and alternates in meaning between 'the reality of disobedience to God', 'sin-offering', and 'the means of removing guilt  and  penalty' (i.e., atonement/expiation of sin).

In  order to understand the reason for giving a sin  offering  we must first define what sin is:

"Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is  the transgression of the law" (1.Jn.3:4 KJV).

"All  unrighteousness is sin" (1.Jn.5:17 Para.). See  also Rom.14:22-23; Jms.2:10; 4:17.

Sin is the violation of the physical, spiritual, and moral law of God;  sin is lawlessness. Sin is any deviation from God's  righteous laws, precepts, and principles that define how people should live their lives and worship God. Therefore, 'sin' is any  deviation from the physical or spiritual law of God.

Because  the word 'hattat' (sin-offering) is used in relation  to both the purging away of physical and ceremonial defilement  and the  expiation of spiritual and moral sin, the exact  reason  for making each  sin-offering must be determined  by  the context of  the specific animal sacrifice that is to be offered in atonement.

Guilt-Offering

In most English translations of the scriptures the word  'guilt-offering' is translated from the  Hebrew word  'ashem', which has to do with the expiation of a spiritual or moral violation  of God's law for which there is a punishment or penalty that must be paid for the violation of the law.

Atone

The Hebrew word 'kippurim' was translated into English as 'atone'. This word  and its cognate verb forms are applied to the purging  away of ceremonial and physical defilement as well as the setting aside of the penalty for spiritual and moral offenses.

The   purpose  of atonement was the same for each  type  of  sin, whether it was for physical and ceremonial defilement or for spiritual and moral sins. The goal was to keep the tabernacle/temple and the Israelites  in  a condition of sinlessness in order  for  God  to dwell among them and commune with them.

The word (kippurim) contains the concepts of  both  the method by which something is done and the result of doing it. When an atonement was made through the sacrificial system (the method),  the breach between God and man was  healed  (i.e.,  the result  of  sin was removed). God and man were then  in  harmony (the result). Therefore, the sacrifice of animals as an atonement for sin was required to restore  and maintain the relationship between God and man.

Holy Things—Ezekiel's Prophecy

"And  he said to me, The north chambers, and the  south  chambers which  are to the face of the separate area, they are holy  chambers,  where the priests who approach to the Lord, shall eat  the holiest of the holy things. There they shall lay the holiest of the holy  things,  even the food offering, and the sin offering, and the guilt  offering; for the place is holy" (Ezk.42:13-14 Para.).

One  of  the  first things mentioned after Ezekiel  is  given  an initial  description of the temple in chapters 40 and 41 is  that this  new temple is a holy place and everything  within  the confines of this future  temple  must  be holy.  God is holy; therefore, he will only dwell within a holy temple:

"For  I am the Lord your God: you shall therefore sanctify  yourselves,  and you shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall  you defile  yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. For I am the Lord that brought you up out of  the land of Egypt, to be your God: you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Lev.11:44-45 KJV). See also Lev.19:1-2; 20:26.

The Law Of Holiness

God's  very nature requires that all things that come into  close contact with him be of the same quality of existence. Any  deviation  or violation of the laws that govern the  interaction  with him or his spiritual nature is defined as sin.  Sin  is  simply opposition to the nature and being of God. Therefore, any thing or person  that  is  not in harmony with this law  (i.e.,  does  not exhibit a holy and righteous nature) cannot interact with God  in his  spirit presence without being destroyed, unless God  himself protects  the  physical  thing or person from the  power  of  his spirit  presence. See Lev.10:1-9; 16:1-2; Num.3:3-4;  26:61.  See also our study paper on the Day of Atonement.

"When the priests enter, then they shall not go out of the  sanctuary  into  the outer court, but they shall  lay  their  clothes there  by  which they minister by them; for they are  holy.  They shall  put on other clothes and shall approach to that  which  is for the people" (Ezk.42:14 Para.).

Here, we see that the priesthood must wear sacred  clothing  while  ministering  before God. This sacred  clothing  must remain  in  the temple in order  to  prevent  ceremonial and physical defilement (contamination). This was also required of  the priesthood  under the first agreement with national Israel while they served in the temple of God.

God's New Temple and Throne

"And  the glory of the Lord come into the house, the way  of  the gate  facing eastward. And the spirit took me up, and brought  me into  the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house!" (Ezk.43:4-5 Para.).

Ezekiel's  vision of the glory of God coming into the temple  and filling  it  with his presence is reminiscent of the  times  when God's glorified presence entered the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple that Solomon built.

"And  I  heard one speaking to me from the  house.  And  standing beside me was a man. And he said to me, Son of man, the place  of my  throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, there where  I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever. . ." (Ezk.43:6-7 Para.).

The God Jesus Christ

When Jesus Christ ascended  to the Father after being resurrected from the dead, he was restored to his former glory and status  in the  God family. He is again an immortal God being. It  is  Jesus Christ whose glory and presence resides within the future  temple spoken  of by Ezekiel. See 1.Cor.15:20-28;  Rom.6:9-16;  Col.3:1; Rev.1:14-18.

People  who  worship at this future temple will come  before  the throne of Jesus Christ who is the mediator between God the Father and humanity. Before he became the Messiah, he was the Creator God and the  mediator between God the Father and human  beings. After he became the Messiah, he was still the  mediator (the  heavenly high priest). After he returns to rule the  earth, he will still be the mediator (the God of the earth).  His  function  as  mediator has never changed nor will  it change while there are still humans alive on earth.

"Even  the house of Israel shall not defile my holy  name  any more;  they  nor their kings, by their fornication,  nor  by  the corpses of their kings in their high places" (Ezk.43:7 Para.).

Here, God speaks of the House of Israel who, shortly after  Solomon's death and the division of national Israel into two separate nations,  formed their own  worship system. God  considered  this false  system  a  defilement and pollution of his  name,  because they   attempted  to worship him through  their  own  priesthood, temple system, and observances.

Why will this never happen again? One reason it will never happen again is that Israel will never again be allowed to go their own way.  After  the return of Christ, they will be governed  by  the righteous government of God, which will be administered by  Jesus Christ  through the children of God who will be  immortal  spirit-beings. See Matt.19:27-28; Rev.2:26-27; 19:15.

"In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and  their door post beside my door posts, and the wall between me and them; even  they have defiled my holy name by their abominations  that they have done. And I consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away  their fornication, and the corpses of their kings from  me, and I will dwell in their midst forever" (Ezk.43:8-9 Para.).

The New Altar

Ezekiel 43:18-25 Paraphrased

"And  he said to me, Son of man, so says the Lord God; These  are the statutes of the altar in the day of its making to offer on it burnt offerings, and to sprinkle blood on it" (v18).

Here,  Ezekiel is being given an overview of  what  will  be required  to purify the new altar that will be used within  God's new temple. Notice  that the purification process for this new altar is  like the purification of the altar of the tabernacle in the  wilderness:

"And  you  shall give to me the priests of the Levites,  who  are from the  seed of Zadok, who approach me, declares the Lord  God,  to  minister to me,  a bull, a son of the herd, for a sin offering.  And  you  shall take of its blood and put it  on  its  four horns,  and on the four corners of the ledge, and on the  borders around. And you shall cleanse it and atone for it. And  you shall take the bull of the sin offering, and  he  shall burn  it at the appointed place of the house outside the  sanctuary.  And on the second day you shall bring a buck of the  goats, perfect for a sin offering. And they shall cleanse the altar,  as they cleansed it with the bull" (vs.19-22).

In verses 19-22, the sin offering clearly  has nothing to do with spiritual  sin; it is for the purpose of removing  physical  defilement (i.e., ceremonial and physical impurity) from the altar.

"When  you  have finished cleansing, you shall  bring  a  perfect bull, a son of the herd, and a ram out of the flock, perfect. And you shall bring them before the Lord, and the priests shall throw salt on them, and they shall offer them for a burnt offering  to the Lord. For seven days you shall daily prepare a he-goat for  a sin  offering. And they shall prepare a bull, a son of the  herd, and a ram out of the flock, perfect ones" (vs.23-25).

Salt, which is a sign  of  God's  everlasting covenant   with Israel, will also be placed on these  new sacrifices. This shows that the animal sacrifices of the new temple  system are  a continuation of what was done under  the  original agreement with national Israel.  See Lev.2:13; Num.18:19.

Teaching the People

A major point made in the next few verses is that people who live during the rule of Jesus Christ will be taught the laws of purity that  were  a part of the first agreement  with  ancient  Israel. These  laws included the  rules that determined  the   kinds  of flesh the Israelites were allowed to eat (Lev.11:1-48; Deut.14:3-21), the transmission of impurity from one thing or one person to another (Lev.15:25-30; Num.19:11-13), and what constitutes  pure and impure attitudes and behaviors (Rom.14:22-23; Jms.4:17).

Ezekiel 44:23-27 Paraphrased

"And they shall teach my people between the holy and the  common, and between the unclean and the clean" (v23).

The  priesthood will again assume their duties of teaching  God's ways,  which include the laws of physical and  spiritual  defilement.  Verse 24 shows  that these priests will  be  the civil judges of Israel, just as they were in ancient Israel.

"And in a dispute, they shall stand to judge; they shall judge by my  judgments. And they shall observe my laws and my statutes  in my appointed feasts; and they shall sanctify my Sabbaths" (v24).

From  what  is said in the last half of verses 23 and 24,  it  is clear that most of what was taught to ancient Israel will be  taught as a way of life under Christ's rule.

Defilement

"And  he shall not touch a dead man, to defile himself;  However, for a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or for a sister who has  not had a husband, they may defile themselves. And after he is cleansed, they shall count seven days for him. And in the  day that he goes into the sanctuary, to the inner court, to  minister in  the sanctuary, he shall bring his sin offering, declares  the Lord God" (vs.25-27).

After  a priest became  physically impure by touching a  corpse, he had to be purified, wait seven days, and make a sin  offering. This sin offering had nothing to do with spiritual sin;  it was  for the purpose of removing the physical defilement  that  is acquired through contact with a corpse.

The Laws Concerning Impurity

Although the Bible clearly shows that spiritual sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ, there is no evidence that  indicates God's laws concerning how  God interacts with physical humans  in his glorified form have been suspended or canceled. From what  we have seen in these prophecies, it is apparent that the laws that govern the interaction  between  the physical and spirit dimensions  of existence must still be obeyed after the return of Christ.

Various Offerings

Ezekiel 45:15-20 Paraphrased

After recording various prophetic and symbolic admonitions to the rulers  of  Israel, Ezekiel spoke about the  atonement  for  the leaders  of Israel, a lift-offering for a prince, and the  atonement for the people of Israel:

"And  one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out  of  the watered  land  of Israel; for a food offering, and  for  a  burnt offering,  and for peace offerings, to atone for  them, declares the Lord God" (v15).

The English word  atone in verse 15 is translated from the Hebrew word 'kapar'.  It  is unclear  if 'kapar' refers to the expiation  of  physical defilement or spiritual and moral sins. However, a careful reading of the   preceding verses (8-14) reveals only an admonition  to  Israel's  future leaders to put evil out of the land, which may  or may  not have any bearing on whether or not verse 15 is a reference to atonement of spiritual and moral sins.

"All  the people of the land shall be at this heave offering  for the prince in Israel" (v16).

It  is unclear if the prince referred to in verse 16 is the  Lord God,  a  ruler  of Israel, or the high priest.  What  is  clear, however,  is that this will be a mandatory assembly and  offering by all the people of Israel at the temple of God.

"And burnt offerings shall be on the prince, and a food offering, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and on the new moons, and  on the  sabbaths,  and in all the appointed feasts of the house  of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the food offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to atone for the house of Israel" (v17).

The high priest must prepare and make  all  of the various offerings on the commanded observances. It is  interesting  to  note that four of the offerings were a  part  of  the original sacrificial system given to ancient Israel. Notice  also that a sin offering will be  made for the atonement of the  whole nation of Israel.

Cleanse The Sanctuary

"So  says the Lord God; In the first month, on the first  of  the month, you shall take a bull without blemish, a son of the  herd, and cleanse the sanctuary" (v18).

From this verse, it seems very likely that this cleansing  process  to  remove ceremonial and physical defilement will take place on the first  day of the month—the new moon.

The following verse shows the necessity to purge the  temple of   ceremonial and physical impurity that  is  caused by ignorance or an accident:

"And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering,  and put it on the door posts of the house, and on the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and on the gateposts of the inner court. And so you shall do this on the seventh day of the month for each man who goes astray, and for the simple. And you shall atone  for the house" (vs.19-20).

Verse 20 says that the process of atonement, which was done for the sanctuary  will  be repeated seven days later for people  who  go astray (Heb. 'shagah': i.e., sin through ignorance) and the foolish (Heb. 'pethiy'. i.e., one who lacks discriminating judgment as to  the  difference between right and wrong, is  likely  to  make wrong decisions, or is easily influenced to do the wrong thing).

Spiritual and Moral Sin

Verses  15 and 20 of Ezekiel 45 seem to be the only place in  the prophecy  of  Ezekiel concerning the new temple that  hint  of  a sacrifice  being made to  expiate unintentional spiritual and moral violations of God's law.

It  is  obvious that some people who live during  Christ's  reign will  continue to rebel against both the physical  and  spiritual law of God. In fact, the scriptures clearly show that people  will continue to rebel against God until the end of human existence on the earth.

Nowhere in the scriptures are we given details of the  method  or procedure through which forgiveness of spiritual and moral sin can be obtained  after  Christ returns. However, what we do know  to  be absolute  fact is that Jesus Christ sacrificed his life in  payment for the sins of humanity and his sacrifice was accepted  by the Father as payment for the sins of all humanity—past, present, and future.

Although there are not any details as to the method  for  the forgiveness of spiritual and moral sin during the reign of Christ, it is  absolutely certain that whatever method or procedure that  is prescribed  will include the knowledge and understanding  of  the sacrifice  of  the  Creator God, Jesus Christ,  who  will  be residing in the temple and ruling the earth for God the Father.

The Place of Offerings

In  the following reference, there are special  places in the new temple area where the various offerings will be prepared. Once  again, a parallel between the old  and  the  new temple system can be found:

"And  he brought me through the entry, which was at the  side  of the  gate, into the holy chambers for the priests, facing  north. And, behold, there was a place on the two sides westward. And  he said to me, This is the place there where the priests shall  boil the  guilt offering, and the sin offering, where they shall  bake the  food  offering,  so as not to bring them out  to  the  outer court, to sanctify the people" (Ezk.46:19-20 Para.).

Note:

The  few portions of Ezekiel's prophecies that have been reviewed in this study clearly document the fact that, after Christ's return, there  will still be a need for the laws of purity to be obeyed by the inhabitants of earth.

THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM AND SALVATION

Although the prophecies of Ezekiel prove that, during the  rule of  Christ  a sacrificial system of worship will  be  practiced, there  are  two  major questions that remain to  be  answered  in regard to these sacrifices:

1. Why is it necessary to offer sacrifices for sin, when the scriptures clearly show that  Jesus Christ made the final sacrifice for the sins of humanity?

2. Is there a reason for animal sacrifices, which does not have  to do with spiritual and moral sin, that makes them necessary while  Christ rules the earth?

In order to find the answers to these two questions, one must have an understanding of the following:

The Forgiveness of Sin

We  can  solve  the mystery of why there will  be  a  sacrificial system  after  the return of Christ by answering  the  following questions:

1. Was  there a process or method before the advent  of  Jesus Christ whereby individuals could have their spiritual and moral sins forgiven?

2. Could  spiritual and moral sins be  forgiven  through  animal sacrifices?

The  answer  to both questions is NO! There was  no  process  or method by which spiritual or moral sin could be forgiven before the  sacrifice  of Jesus Christ. No amount of  animal  sacrifices could bring the forgiveness of spiritual or moral sin nor  remove its penalty.

Sins Set Aside, Not Forgiven

Until the advent of Jesus Christ, there was no forgiveness of  sin as we think of forgiveness under the agreement with the elect of  God. Prior to Christ's death and resurrection, all  atonement for sin was only  temporary:

"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not  the very  image of the things, can never with those sacrifices  which they offered year by year continually make the corners thereunto perfect.  For then they would not have ceased to be  offered  because, when the worshipers, once purged, should have had no  more conscience of sins. But in these sacrifices there is  remembrance again  made of sins every year. For it is not possible  that  the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin" (Heb.10:1-4 KJV).

The sins of Israel were brought to remembrance every year on  the Day of Atonement because these sins were neither forgiven nor forgotten. The reason they could not be forgiven or forgotten was  that the  sacrifices  were not perfect; they had no power  to  forgive sins. Therefore, the record of sins still existed, and the people were still guilty of their sin.

Once a year on the Day of Atonement, all accumulated sin of every individual,  whether  it was physical and ceremonial  defilement  or spiritual and moral sin, was atoned for. It was either purged away or set  aside.  But the sins were not forgiven. The  punishment  for these  sins had not been exacted, the penalty had not been  paid, and each individual was still guilty before God.

Although  the blood of the bulls and goats was a  substitute  for the  guilty individual's life and was prophetic and symbolic  of the  cleansing and forgiving power of Christ's blood, the  sacrifice of an animal life could never forgive sin.

The sacrificial animals only  provided a temporary substitute  for the  life of those who were guilty of sin. Their sins still  existed,  they were still guilty of that sin, and the  next year, on the Day of Atonement,  these  same sins and any sins  committed  during  the previous year would be remembered and would have to be atoned for by the blood of bulls and goats. These sins would again be  symbolically sent away from the nation of Israel for  another year.  See  our study paper concerning the Day of  Atonement  for details of the atonement process.

This  atonement process had to be repeated year after  year,  because under the terms and conditions of the agreement with ancient Israel, only the life of the lawbreaker could pay the penalty for his sin. Animal life was only a substitute payment for sin, until payment could be made by the lawbreaker.

No Forgiveness of Sin

Although  the sacrifices for sin under the sacrificial system  did accomplish the purpose of placing individuals and the nation into harmony  with God so that he could dwell among them  and  commune with  them, there was no forgiveness of spiritual or  moral  sin, nor could its penalty be taken away through the use of animal sacrifices.

Sin Forgiven and Forgotten

"And  every  priest stands daily ministering  and  offering  many times  the same sacrifices, which can never take away  sins:  But this  man, after he had offered one sacrifice for  sins forever, sat down  on  the right hand of  God"  (Heb.10:11-12  KJV).  See Matt.26:27-28; Acts 2:38; Rom.3:23-25.

In  the Book  of Hebrews and other places, evidence can be found, which shows that  it  is through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ that spiritual  and moral sin can be forgiven and its record and penalty removed forever.

The  scriptures clearly show that Christ was the final  sacrifice for  spiritual and moral sins. Never again will it  be  necessary for anyone to offer an animal sacrifice for the purpose of having spiritual and moral sins set aside and covered from the  Father's view,  because it is through the sacrifice of Jesus  Christ  that all sin is  forgiven and forgotten forever.

Because spiritual and moral sin can now be  forgiven  and forgotten through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ,  why  is  it necessary for there to be  blood sacrifices for  the  purposes of expiating sin after the return of Christ?

Access to God

After  the establishment of the Nation of Israel at  Mount  Sinai and  the establishment of a covenant between God and Israel,  and before the  advent of Jesus Christ, all  formal  worship  and  access to the Creator God  was through a sacrificial system  that was  dictated by the terms and conditions  of the agreement  with national Israel.

It  is important to  understand that, after  Jesus Christ returns  he will again be the God who rules Israel and the  earth from  Jerusalem.  It will be Jesus Christ in his  glorified  form who  will reside in the temple of God.  God the Father will  not be  on the earth, but he will still be in his heavenly city and temple  administering his kingdom through Jesus Christ  who  will rule the earth for him.

It is also important to understand that most people who existed before the coming  of Jesus Christ did not know of the existence of God  the Father.  These  people only had access  to the  Creator God  who later  became the Messiah. No human has had direct access to  God the  Father  except Jesus Christ and those  called  to  salvation after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

After the return of Jesus Christ, physical humans will be without direct  access  to  God the Father. They will  only  have  direct access to the  God of Israel (Jesus Christ) who will again reside in a temple at Jerusalem. Formal access to God will be granted in the same way it was to ancient Israel: through a sacrificial system of worship.

SALVATION AND RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE THE ADVENT OF CHRIST

There  are  three important questions that need  to  be  answered concerning  salvation  and righteousness before the advent of Christ.  The answers to these three questions will help in discovering why  animal  sacrifices will be necessary when Christ rules the earth:

1. Was it possible for people to attain a state of  righteousness before the advent of Christ?

2. Was it possible for people to obtain salvation and secure  the promise   of  eternal  and immortal life before the  advent  of Christ?

3. Why will physical humans exist on earth after Christ returns?

In chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews, the answers to  questions 1 and 2 can be found. These two questions  concern attaining  a  condition  of righteousness,  obtaining salvation, and securing the promise  of eternal and immortal life before the advent of Christ.

In  chapter 11, there is a long list of  righteous  individuals including  the patriarchs, the prophets, and others  who  all died without receiving God's promises but  will receive these promises at the time of the first resurrection:

"Who  through  faith  subdued  kingdoms,  wrought  righteousness, obtained  promises, stopped the mouths of  lions,  Quenched  the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of  weakness were  made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to  flight  the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and  others were tortured, not accepting deliverance;  that  they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb.11:33-35 KJV).

This  entire chapter chronicles righteous individuals  and  their deeds of faith as they lived and died in obedience to God's  laws and ways that define righteous behavior and character.

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,  received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb.11:39-40 KJV). See also Heb.11:13.

These  righteous individuals had not, at that point  in  history, received  their reward. They did not receive their  reward  then nor  have they yet received it. They are dead; they are not  alive  in heaven or any other place. See our study concerning the state of the dead.

The  individuals  on  this list,  including  Abel,  Enoch,  Noah, Abraham, Sara, Moses, Rahab, and King David, did obtain salvation and secure the promise of eternal and immortal life  through the sacrificial system of worship before the advent of Jesus Christ.

All  of  these people and more will receive their reward  at  the same  time  as the righteous who have died since  the  advent of Jesus Christ and  those who remain alive at  his  coming. See 1.Thes.4:13-15.

It was difficult to obtain salvation under the sacrificial system, but  it could be done. The major barrier to  obtaining  salvation under  the  sacrificial system had nothing to do with  the  system itself, but had to do with those who were given an opportunity to practice it.

The Problem With People

Some individuals were able to secure the promises  of  God through the sacrificial system while others were not, but how were the successful ones able to do it? The answer to this question is also found in the  Book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 8:7-8, 10 KJV

"For  if that first covenant had been  faultless, then should  no place have been sought for the second" (v7).

The  old agreement did not work well for most people. If it had  worked well,  there  would have been no need for another agreement to replace it.  

"For  finding  fault with them, he said, Behold, the  days  come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (v8).

There was no problem with the original method by which one  could obtain  salvation  and secure God's promises. The fault  was  not with the method or the agreement; it was with the people who were under  the terms and conditions of the agreement. The  covenant could be performed; God performed his part and many individuals performed their part.

"For  this  is the covenant that I will make with  the  house  of Israel  after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws  into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:" (v10).

People who lived before the gospel age of salvation did not have the law of God as a part of their mental and spiritual make-up; therefore, they found it very difficult to obey and worship God properly. Because of this innate problem  with people, God decided that he would form a new agreement and  change what was wrong with the people by placing his laws in their minds and spirits.

After  the implementation of this new agreement between  God  and humanity,  there would no longer be an excuse for not being able  to keep  the terms and conditions of an agreement with God, and there would be no excuse for not being able to successfully obtain salvation. Each person with whom God makes an  agreement  will  be given the tools to guarantee success, if these tools are used properly.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

The most important tool that God gives a person to help in  their effort to please him and obtain salvation is the holy spirit.

Understanding  the importance of this tool, King David asked  God not  to take his holy spirit from him. David did this because  he knew that this was the tool that  God gave him to help him obtain salvation and secure eternal life:

"Create  in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit  in me.  Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your  holy spirit  from  me. Restore to me the joy of  your salvation;  and uphold me with your free spirit" (Psa.51:10-12 KJV).

The holy spirit that David had is the  same tool that enables the elect  of God during this age of salvation to secure the  promise of  salvation,  eternal life, and  immortality.  See  Lk.11:9-13; 24:39; Rom.8:26-27; Eph.4:21-32; 6:17-18.

A short survey of the Old Testament will show that  various  attributes  and  functions of the holy spirit were  given  to  many people before the advent of Christ, and many of the people who  had this spirit will be in the first resurrection.

The Holy Spirit After Christ's Return

There are a number scriptures that speak of the holy spirit-being placed  into  people after the return of Christ  (See  Jer.31:33; Ezk.37:13-14). Because of these scriptures, some people believe that, during the time of Christ's rule, all humanity will be  given the spirit of God with the same attributes and functions as those who  have been called to salvation between  the Day of  Pentecost in 30 A.D. and the return of Christ at the end of this age.

Although  it is not important to anyone's salvation  during  this age  to  know if people after Christ's return will be  given  the spirit  of God in the same manner as those prior to  his  return, there is scriptural information that gives some insight into  the administration of the holy spirit after Christ's return.

A Major Key

One of the major keys to understanding the  administration of the holy  spirit after Christ's return is that the holy spirit is  an energy,  force, and power with many functions and it  originates from  and belongs to God the Father. This spirit power that  has many  attributes, functions, and qualities is the power that  the Father  uses  to perform his will and work  throughout  his  vast realm. See our study about the spirit of God.

Receiving  the holy spirit into one's life is the most  important event that can ever happen to any human, because this spirit is the  power that  places the law of God within one's mind and spirit. It is also  the  power that enables one to live a  righteous  life  and progress toward spiritual maturity.

The Holy Spirit Today

Today, those who are chosen to participate in the first resurrection  are  provided with some attributes, functions,  qualities,  and powers  of the holy spirit that were not given in the  first  or second age of salvation, nor will they be given after Christ's return.  Why is this? This is because today is a different age with  different opportunities and responsibilities for the elect of God.

Those who were called to salvation before this age lived  under different  circumstances, just as those who will live after  this age will live under different circumstances. Therefore, the holy spirit will be administered as necessary to fit the circumstances in  which  people live, in order to give them what  they  need  to obtain salvation.

One  of the major differences between this and all other ages  of salvation is that, during this age, those who have been given  the holy  spirit  are  authorized to have direct access  to  God  the Father. They have been given this access because this is a unique  age in the plan of God for the salvation of humanity and there are a number  circumstances that did not exist before the new covenant:

During  the  first and second ages of salvation,  sins  were  not forgiven.  Physical impurity was only purged from the  people  of God  and their spiritual sins were only set aside, not  forgiven.  Their sins were not forgiven because the Creator God had not yet  sacrificed  his life  for the sins of humanity. In other words,  he had not paid the  penalty  for their sins.

During  the first and second ages of salvation, the  holy  spirit was   given  to a few people who were called to  salvation, but there were limitations placed on the kinds of attributes, functions,  qualities, and power that were given.

During these two ages, no one was given the spirit of the  Father or  Jesus Christ, because the Father had not yet been  revealed  (See Matt.11:27;  Lk.10:22; Jn.8:19) and the Creator God had not  yet become the Messiah. The people of these ages  did not receive the spirit  of sonship  (Rom.8:14-15) nor did they have the  law  of God placed within their mind and spirit (See Jer.31:33;  Heb.8:8-10), because these functions of the  holy spirit  were reserved for a different people and a different  age of salvation.

The  scriptures clearly show that those to whom the Father  gives the holy spirit (his spirit-power) and his spirit and the spirit  of Christ are kept in a sinlessness and pure condition  as they  live their physical lives. These people are not subject  to accidental,  ceremonial and physical, or spiritual and moral defilement  in the  same  way  as  people were before the advent of Jesus Christ.

In  this age of salvation, a child of God is a temple of God  and has  no  need of a physical atonement process in order  to  purge physical  or spiritual defilement from them, because they are continually being purged of  physical defilement and spiritual sin through the sacrificial blood of Christ which purifies them.

After Christ's Return

We  are not told how the holy spirit will be  administered  after the return of Christ; however, we are told that these people will have  the holy spirit placed in them and they will have the law of  God placed  into their minds and spirits. Additionally we know that the Father  and Jesus Christ want everyone to come to repentance and to obtain salvation.

However, one thing is certain, whatever attributes, functions, qualities  and powers of the holy spirit that are  necessary  for one to obtain salvation will be given to humans.

THE APOSTLES AND SACRIFICE

The  account  of Paul's trip to Jerusalem and  his  Nazarite  vow reveals the will of the Father and Jesus Christ concerning sons of the new creation and the offering of sacrifices  after  the formation of the new covenant church.

This account clearly shows that certain aspects of the temple and sacrificial worship system are perfectly compatible with the  new agreement  that  was instituted by Jesus Christ. Moreover, it shows that  these aspects  could  be practiced by the Father's sons  who  have  his spirit residing within them.

The Nazarite Vow

The taking of a Nazarite vow under the first covenant was a sincere expression of a persons gratitude for God's blessings and their attitude and commitment to live a righteous life and serve God. The taking of this vow required that a person commit their time and resources to the fulfillment of their vow during its duration. See Num.6:1-21.

We  know  that Paul had taken a Nazarite vow some time before going to Jerusalem, because the only vow that required one to cut off  all of their hair was the Nazarite vow:

"Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers  and  sailed for Syria accompanied by Priscilla  and  Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken" (Acts 18:18 NIV).

In  Acts  21:8-19, we find Paul leaving  the  evangelist  Philip after  being  warned by the prophet Agabus about his fate  if  he went  to Jerusalem. And in Acts 21:15-26, Paul offers his sacrifice at the temple:  

Zealous For The Law

On his second day in Jerusalem, Paul went to meet with James and the elders of the Jerusalem Church. During this meeting, he told them about all the things that God was doing among the Gentiles:

"When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to  Paul, "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have  believed, and all of them are zealous for the law" (Acts 21:20 NIV).

Is the  law that is referred to here the Ten Commandments or  some other  law?  From the scriptures surrounding this  event,  it  is apparent that the law referred to here is the sacrificial  system of worship, which required the temple at Jerusalem to be used for its practice.

"They  have  been informed that you teach all the Jews  who  live among  the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not  to circumcise their children" (Acts 21:21 NIV).

Before coming to Jerusalem, Paul had been accused of  teaching the   Jews  to forsake  the law of Moses. However, the scriptures  clearly show  that Paul was not guilty of this accusation.   Paul merely pointed  out  the fact that circumcision would not  justify  them before God:

"Be  it known to you, men and brethren, that  through this man [Jesus] is proclaimed the forgiveness of sins: And by him all  that  believe are justified from all things, from  which  you could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39 Para).

Paul and the men spoken of in the following verses were converted Jews  who  had taken a Nazarite vow that had nothing to  do  with forgiveness  of sin. This event shows that, as late as 56-57  A.D., Paul and the other apostles were teaching and practicing part  of the  original  law given to national Israel, which  included  the sacrificial system:

"What shall we do ? They will certainly hear that you have  come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have  made a  vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and  pay their  expenses, so that they can have their heads  shaved.  Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but  that you yourself are living in obedience to the law"  (Acts 21:22-24 NIV).

"The  next day Paul took the men and purified himself along  with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date  when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him" (Acts 21:26-27 NIV).

It  is clear that the apostles  knew that it was permissible  and expedient  for them as leaders to participate in the temple worship system as  an example to the Jews.

Why would the apostles do this? They did this because the law was the  schoolmaster  that taught the way to salvation. It was the   tool  that  was  used to lead people to understand the meaning of the sacrifice  of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and Christ  for humanity.  After  the return of Christ, this tool will  again  be used to teach people the ways of God.

The following events show that  Paul and the other men that came to Jerusalem with him had indeed taken a Nazarite vow (Num.6:1-21):

Paul Stands Accused Before Felix

In  defending  himself against the charge of  heresy before Felix, Paul  stated  some very  important beliefs and explained why he was in the temple in  the account of Acts 21:27:

"But  this I confess to you, that after the way which  they  call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all  things which were written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there be  such a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.  And I do hereby exercise myself, to have always a conscience void  of offence  toward God, and toward men. Now after many years I  came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Wherein certain  Jews from  Asia found me purified in the temple, neither  with multitude, nor tumult" (Acts 24:14-18 KJV).

Paul believed the following:

Did  Paul's Nazarite vow, sacrifice, and giving of gifts  at  the temple contradict the decision of the apostles and elders in Acts 15 or violate the terms and conditions of the new covenant?  The answer is NO! Paul was not seeking  forgiveness  of sin  by these acts. See our study about Acts  15 for a detailed explanation of the sacrificial system and justification before God.

These  accounts in the Book of Acts reveal that having  the  holy spirit  as given under the new agreement is compatible with  certain aspects of the sacrificial system of worship.

It  is also noteworthy to mention that Jesus Christ who had  the holy spirit without measure also participated in the sacrificial system as he lived his life and presented himself as the  perfect example of righteousness.

WHY PHYSICAL HUMANS?

The  next question that needs to be  answered is why will  there be physical humans on earth after Christ returns?

There  are two interrelated reasons for the existence of  physical humans on  earth  after the return of Christ and both have to  do  with God's plan for the salvation of humanity:

1. God the Father's plan for the salvation of  humanity  will not have been completed prior to Christ's return.

2. All the living and the dead who have not had an  opportunity  for salvation will be given this opportunity during Christ's rule.

Salvation Requires Time and Effort

Today, many people  believe that the only requirement for salvation  and  eternal life is professing their  faith after  which  there is no more effort or commitment  required  on their  part. Many people also believe that, directly after they profess their faith, they  are  assured salvation and the promises of  God.  But are these beliefs true? The answer is No!

God the Father requires more than just professing one's faith  and believing in him and his Son (Rom.10:8-19).  He requires people to prove that they are sincere in their desire to live a life that is pleasing  to him and to learn his ways and obey his law. In order  to do this, a person must experience life in the flesh and grow into spiritual maturity; salvation takes time and effort.

To  worship  God  as one should takes both  physical  and  mental effort. One must study his Word, communicate with him, and  learn to  make righteous decisions. In short, it takes living a  righteous lifestyle (faith and works)  to truly show  God that one is sincere in their  desire to please him and be a  part of his family.

Terms and Conditions

A  person cannot earn salvation or eternal life, because it  is  a gift  (Rom.6:23). However, God the Father has set forth a  number of  terms and conditions that must be complied with before he will bestow the gift of eternal life.

Many times people give gifts to others with terms and  conditions that must be fulfilled before the person can actually receive the gift. One of the terms and conditions that must be complied  with before the Father will grant the gift of eternal life is  repentance.  See our study papers concerning true repentance  and  baptism.

Repentance and Conversion

"Repent  you therefore, and be converted, that your sins  may  be blotted  out,  when the times of refreshing shall come  from  the presence  of the Lord" (Acts 3:19 KJV). See also Lk.6:46; 13:1-5; Jms.2:11-24.

For  people to truly repent, there must be an intense  desire  and effort  to  have  a change of heart. This type  of  change  leads people away from all aspects of evil and leads them toward  that which is  of God. Repentance  is a change in one's  attitudes,  state  of mind, priorities, and lifestyle.

True repentance also requires a total commitment and an  unconditional surrender to the rule and authority of God. A  fundamental teaching  of both the Old and New Testaments is that people  must be  in obedience to God's laws, precepts, and  principles  before they will be granted salvation.

True repentance is much more than an emotional feeling of  sorrow or  remorse; people who are truly repentant must not only  regret having sinned but also no longer make a practice  of sinning. People who are seeking to please God should strive with their entire being  to  obey God. See Isa.29:13;  Ezk.33:31-32;  Matt.15:7-9; Lk.3:7-8; Rom.6:21-22.

The  overall plan of God for salvation has not changed  from  the foundation  of the world. Part of this plan is that  humans  must come  into conformity with his laws   of behavior. Another fundamental teaching of both the Old and the New Testaments is that one  must put forth a serious, heartfelt effort to change from disobedience to obedience before being granted salvation. This type of  change  takes time, effort, and life experience.

Work Out Your Own Salvation

"Wherefore,  my  beloved, as you have always obeyed,  not  as  in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out  your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in  you both to will and to do his good pleasure"   (Phil.2:12-13 KJV). See also Gal.6:3-10.

The  way  to salvation is a growth process that requires an ongoing effort.

During the reign of Christ, people will live in a world of  peace and  prosperity. In this age of peace, God the Father  will  give the opportunity for salvation, but it will be the  responsibility of each individual to make an ongoing effort to live a  righteous life and develop spiritual maturity.

THE FOUR AGES OF SALVATION

The  answer to the question of whether or not  animal  sacrifices will  be necessary when Christ is ruling the earth can  only  be fully  understood  in the context of the four different  ages  in which salvation is offered to humanity:

The First Age

The  first age of salvation began with Adam and lasted until the  covenant was made between God and Israel at Mount Sinai. During this  time,  individuals  were offered salvation through a sacrificial system  and obedience to God's law. Very little is known about God's  worship system during this time period. However, the scriptures do record that  individuals  offered sacrifices and prayed to God.  A  few individuals had personal contact with God, and there were preachers of righteousness and priests of God who taught the people who wanted to worship God.

The Second Age

The  second age of salvation began with the covenant at Mount Sinai and ended  with the  death and resurrection of Christ in 30  A.D..  During  this time,  the nation of Israel was offered salvation through  obedience to the law of God and a sacrificial system that was  officiated over by a priesthood at the place where God and the power of his presence resided.

In the second age of salvation, individuals  were given various attributes and functions  of  the holy spirit  to help them obey God and grow spiritually.  Additionally, a few individuals had personal contact with God, while the nation as  a whole  only  had  access to the Creator God  through prayer and formal worship at the tabernacle/temple.

The Third Age

The  third  age of salvation began on the Day  of  Pentecost in 30 A.D.  with a new agreement that replaced the one God  made  with Israel  at  Mount Sinai. During this age, which will  last  until Christ returns to rule the earth, individuals are offered  salvation  through belief in God the Father and his son Jesus  Christ, repentance, and baptism. Those under this agreement have the holy spirit  given to them, the law of God placed in their  minds  and spirits,  the spirit of the Father and the Son merged  with  their spirit. Because the spirit-presence of God dwells in them, they are sons and temples of God.  See our study paper concerning the sons of the new creation.

During this age, no sacrifices are required for the atonement  of spiritual and moral  sin,  because the Creator God himself  gave  his life  as the supreme sacrifice to pay the penalty for all the spiritual and moral sins of humanity.

The  sons of God during this age are a temple of God where  God's holy spirit resides. These individuals have direct access to  God the Father and Jesus Christ and worship the Father in spirit and truth. See Jn.4:19-24.

The Fourth Age

The fourth and final age of salvation will begin after the return  of Christ  and  the  establishment of the Kingdom of  God  on  earth. This age will last until the Father's kingdom is presented to him by Jesus Christ at the end of that age:

"Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the  kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies  under his feet. The last enemy that shall be  destroyed  is death. For he has put all things under his feet. But when he says all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall  be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that  put  all  things under him, that God may  be  all  in  all" (1.Cor.15:24-28 KJV).

During  this age, salvation will be offered through  obedience  to  the law of God and a sacrificial system  similar to the one in ancient Israel. The sacrificial system  will  be  officiated over by a priesthood at a new temple in  Jerusalem where  Jesus Christ (the Creator God) in his glorified  form and the power of his presence will reside.

Individuals  who want to have salvation will be given the  holy spirit  and have God's laws placed in their minds and spirits  to help  them  grow  spiritually. These individuals  will  not  have direct access to God the Father but they will  worship  the  Father through the sacrificial system and through Jesus Christ, the  God who will rule the whole earth from Jerusalem.

THE SCHOOLMASTER

The law of God that Paul speaks of as being a schoolmaster through which Christ is revealed included  the  sacrificial system:

"Wherefore  the law was our schoolmaster to bring us  to  Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith is come,  we are  no longer under the schoolmaster. For you are all the  children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:24-26 KJV).

Paul clearly shows that there was nothing  wrong with the law and the  covenant, which included the sacrificial system, because it  was  a tool  by  which one could learn the ways of God and  come  to an understanding  of how to obtain salvation through  Jesus  Christ.

The School Master Returns

Animal  sacrifices will be performed as a part of the  new temple  worship system after the return of Christ, but they will not  forgive  sin.  It  is only through the sacrifice of  Christ  that  a person  can obtain forgiveness of sin. The  sacrificial  system after  the return of Christ will have a similar function to the one under the agreements with the Patriarchs and ancient  Israel, in that sacrifices  will be offered to make it possible for people to access, worship, and be taught by God at the temple.

SUMMARY

Ezekiel's prophecies clearly reveal that a temple for the worship of God will exist after Christ's return and that various observances and sacrifices that will be performed there. Moreover, the  New Testament records that Paul and others of the early church offered sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, it can be safely assumed that  there  is nothing wrong with the sacrificial system of worship and that it will again  be used as a tool to teach people the way of God  and  bring them to an understanding of how to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ.

The following are the primary lessons taught through offering a blood sacrifice for the  atonement of spiritual and moral  violations  of God's law:

People  who  live after the return of Christ will  live  under  a sacrificial system of worship for the followings reasons:

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w78