Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No, there cannot be ACCEPTABLE animal sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple after Christ has come

I fairly recently discovered Brannon Howse and most of the time I appreciate his messages, but every now and then he supports a point of view that I decidedly don't agree with and that's happened a couple of times recently, both times a view given by a guest on his radio show.

I blogged a few times recently (below) on the remarks of Jimmy DeYoung on Jonathan Cahn's "Harbinger" which there's no point in repeating here. I'm looking forward to finding out what Brannon has to say after he's done some more research into this -- will he agree with DeYoung or Cahn?

Now today, March 21st, his guest was Dr. John Whitcomb, and I nearly fell off my chair* at what he said about the idea that during the millennium when Christ is reigning on the earth the temple will be reinstated and so will animal sacrifices as they were done in the Old Testament. [*Actually I shouted "EXCA-YOOOZE ME???" so loud I must have shaken up a few neighbors. Sorry, folks.]

I know of John Whitcomb particularly for his being co-author with Henry Morris of the 1961 book The Genesis Flood, which is credited with launching Young Earth Creationism as it is known today, and was probably the main reason I got so interested in the subject too. The only problem I'm aware of having with Whitcomb's views is that he argues for a ten-thousand rather than a six-thousand year old earth, for which I can't find any Biblical justification, and has said so on Howse's program too.

But here's what he said today (this all starts at about 37.20 into the broadcast). This was in answer to a listener's question how there could be a reinstitution of animal sacrifices after Jesus came to die for our sins, and particularly in the context of the Millennium when Jesus would be ruling physically on the earth. (The Millennium is interpreted by some to refer to a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth yet to come, after His Second Coming when His appearance ends the seven-year period of the rule of the Antichrist. The prophecies regarding this period are interpreted to include the reestablishment of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the main purpose of the Temple in Old Testament times was for animal sacrifice.)

Whitcomb says he studied this question for many years and discovered something about it that "thrills his heart and soul," whidch is basically that the Old Testament animal sacrifices were
"NOT TO TAKE AWAY SIN" but "to protect people from premature destruction when they entered the holy presence of God."
Here's where I woke up any dozing neighbors.

He goes on to explain that when Israel was about to come out of Egypt and God had them paint the blood of a lamb on their door frames, God said
"When I see the blood I will pass over you, NOT "save you." Not "regenerate you" but "pass over you." "I will not destroy you prematurely."
He further says that in the Millennium the sacrifices
will be a teaching aid, a visual aid of the holiness of God. They are not for the purpose of being saved, not to have their sins cleansed away as only the blood of Christ can do that and they will be taught that fact, but only to be a visual aid of the holiness of God, and the need for faith in the finished work of Jesus Messiah to be saved and accepted to God.
It is this sort of twisting of the scripture that is the main thing that keeps me from embracing the end times pre-trib rapture interpretations. They make some very good arguments until they get to the Millennium in which they posit these reinstated sacrifices and try to rationalize them as not the obvious blasphemy they are after the advent of Jesus Christ who IS our sacrifice for sin. It's not that there isn't scripture for such a reinstatement, but there is the problem that they WOULD BE BLASPHEMOUS. And besides, at the midpoint of the seven-year period of the Antichrist's reign scripture is clear (if you accept this interpretive scheme) that this wicked world ruler will put an end to the sacrifices that would have been instituted in the Jerusalem temple sometime in the previous 3-1/2 year period. Since they are blasphemous it makes no sense at all that they would be again instituted after the Lord Jesus returns another three and a half years after that.

What makes them blasphemous? This OUGHT to be unquestionable in the mind of any Bible-believing Christian it seems to me and I have a very hard time understanding how so many these days are trying to rationalize this away.

Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed but He would raise it up in three days. His resurrection from the dead would have been that raising, and all of us who are the Body of Christ are the stones of that temple He raised [I know scripture is needed here so I'll try to get back and supply it]. In 70 AD the physical building that was the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army, fulfilling the Lord's prophecy of its destruction. And now we have the new temple, the living stones of His Body. Nothing could be clearer but that the Old Testament system of sacrifice was ended once and for all in Christ.

We are taught in many parts of the New Testament that Christ is the propitiation for our sins. His death on the cross was the fulfillment of all the previous animal sacrifices that could not atone for sin, though His blood atoned perfectly for all who believe on Him [spelled out particularly in the Letter to the Hebrews]. God's call to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac typified this much-later EFFECTIVE blood sacrifice for sin, and that event just happened to occur on the very ground where Jesus eventually died on the cross too. The Messiah is described in the Old Testament as coming "to save His people from their sins," defining the purpose of sacrifice right there. {Again I'll try to get all the relevant scriptures in place eventually].

The Passover, which Dr. Whitcomb so misrepresents, was also a type of the sacrifice of Christ, who is called "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Whitcomb twists the meaning of the words to suggest that "passing over" the people is something other than salvation, but this flies in the face of orthodox theology for the last 2000 years. God's passing over the people instead of killing their firstborn as He did those of the Egyptians, definitely represents salvation as all the animal sacrifices do. We who believe in Christ have His blood covering our souls just as the lamb's blood on the doorposts protected the people within, so that the wrath of God which abides on all sinners no longer abides on us. THAT's the "passing over" that Jesus accomplished for us and it IS salvation. And there are many other Old Testament practices that foreshadow the same meaning -- the sprinkling of blood on the people by the hyssop branch and so on and so forth.

ANY attempt to reinstate the old temple is already blasphemous in this light, a direct defiance of God's gift of His Son as THE sacrifice for sin. IF the temple is reinstated in Jerusalem and IF animal sacrifices are performed there, it could only be a terrible affront to God, and after the Antichrist removes the sacrifices to set up the Abomination of Desolation in their place I don't see how they could ever be reinstalled again. The Abomination of Desolation can't really be much more of a blasphemy than the reinstated sacrifices now that the Lamb of God has come.

It also seems necessary to say that the Old Testament ought to be enough of a "visual aid" in the Millennium just as it is now, of God's purposes in the sacrifices, especially in the light of New Testament interpretation of the Old. Why should people in the Millennium have any more of a need than we do for such illustrations? The idea is, really, ridiculous, and blasphemous. But it's even worse to suggest that the sacrifices aren't wholly an illustration of what Christ did for us, but a "teaching aid" to more general principles.

The scriptures that support this view are many but here are a couple that show that the purpose of sacrifice was WHOLLY to atone for sin -- NOT to be a "visual aid to the holiness of God":
Jhn 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
Even before Moses gave the law to the Israelites, sacrifice was practiced as an atonement for sin:

Job 1:5 And it was so, when the days of [their] feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings [according] to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
And here are a couple of commentators who agree that the purpose of the animal sacrifices was to atone for sin:

Matthew Henry on Lev 4:1-12 which describes sacrifices appointed by God [go to Leviticus 4 at Blue Letter Bible and click on the button for Commentaries]:

The laws contained in the first three chapters seem to have been delivered to Moses at one time. Here begin the statutes of another session, another day. From the throne of glory between the cherubim God delivered these orders. And he enters now upon a subject more strictly new than those before. Burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and peace-offerings, it should seem, had been offered before the giving of the law upon mount Sinai; those sacrifices the patriarchs had not been altogether unacquainted with (Gen. 8:20; Ex. 20:24), and in them they had respect to sin, to make atonement for it, Job 1:5. But the law being now added because of transgressions (Gal. 3:19), and having entered, that eventually the offence might abound (Rom. 5:20), they were put into a way of making atonement for sin more particularly by sacrifice, which was (more than any of the ceremonial institutions) a shadow of good things to come, but the substance is Christ, and that one offering of himself by which he put away sin and perfected for ever those who are sanctified.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown on the same passage also treat all the different sacrifices as for the purpose of atoning for sin [also at Blue Letter Bible Lev 4 Commentaries]:
35. it shall be forgiven him--None of these sacrifices possessed any intrinsic value sufficient to free the conscience of the sinner from the pollution of guilt, or to obtain his pardon from God; but they gave a formal deliverance from a secular penalty ( Hbr 9:13, 14 ); and they were figurative representations of the full and perfect sin offering which was to be made by Christ.
It is this very meaning of the sacrifices as FOR SIN that John Whitcomb so studiously denies, his denial even "thrilling his heart and soul." WHY? Why do so many these days seem to want to whitewash the rebuilding of the temple with its sacrifices? God Himself destroyed it because its true purpose, the Messiah, had come and fulfilled it. Eventually, we know from scripture, great numbers of Jews will recognize this and be saved with us. When that happens THEY aren't going to want to keep the old temple either. What's with all this attempt to justify the Old Testament religion that Christ fulfilled?

Musings on prophecy for today (pray more and fast some and you may change your opinion on this)

Just a note inspired by the second to last post:

I know that some Christians are adamantly against the idea of prophecy in today's church, and since there is a lot of false prophecy, especially in the charismatic movement, that's a prudent view to take these days.

But think about the fact that David Wilkerson's church had been expecting some sort of disaster and the leaders called them to prayer over it for weeks before 9/11 occurred (see the video in the previous post). That's true prophecy isn't it? And you can't deny it. They were seeking God about something the leaders of the church felt was coming, for quite a while before 9/11 hit. David Wilkerson years ago wrote about a prophetic word he'd received about the destruction of New York city mostly through social breakdown, and that has not yet occurred. If it was really from God then it will eventually occur.

Believers who are deeply and consistently in prayer, in touch with God, reading the Bible, spending much time at it, DO experience God's speakings. At the very least we hear from Him on a personal level. God has spoken to me personally about my own spiritual life many times, often in correction or rebuke, alas, but very direct and personal (no, not audibly, but by a vivid impression on my spirit). I know I've had at least two dreams in my life that came from God, also about my personal situation. When it comes to external things, such as this blog is about, God does sometimes lead me and I know He is leading me, and the more I pray and seek Him the more I am likely to receive such leadings but this doesn't come in the form of visions or dreams or prophetic words, just the promptings of the Spirit. ALL Christians experience something of this leading of God, which often comes through the Bible, a particular passage just "jumping out" as you read, that has such a specific connection to something you've been experiencing or thinking about you know it was from Him.

We also sometimes have experiences of being hindered in some way, kept from doing something we fully intended to do, or on the other hand made to feel some urgency to get someplace we are going, then to find out that the hindering or urgency put us in a position we needed to be in, often to be of help to another Christian. I know many of us have had this sort of experience, and what is that but God intervening PERSONALLY in our lives? This isn't exactly prophecy but along with His leading us through His word it doesn't seem all that different from His actually making us aware of a direct message from Him. And all that COULD be said to be prophecy in a sense because it comes from God Himself. But certainly receiving a direct message must be called prophecy. It's not just "forthtelling the word" as some claim is the only form of prophecy we have today, it's a specific message for our time NOW, if only for oneself concerning something in your own very limited circle. OF COURSE IT MUST NOT CONTRADICT THE BIBLE. And again, those who spend much time seeking the Lord are the ones who are most likely to have such experiences-- and conversely, perhaps it's those who don't spend a lot of time in prayer and Bible reading who are the critics of such experiences.

The REAL problem with claims of hearing from God is when they contradict His word or are provably false. And that happens an awful lot in charismatic churches, particularly when a "prophet" comes and gives a "word" over a brother or sister in the church that doesn't pan out. The devil CAN give messages into people's minds too, and discerning the difference isn't always easy.

I'm saying all this because I know some object to Jonathan Cahn's message as a personal prophecy and I hate to see this obviously true message being dismissed out of hand on such a basis without giving it a fair hearing. It's really not a prophecy at all, it's his observations of connections between a Bible verse and real public events that anyone can check out for himself. But the Jewish Messianic movement of which he is a part does support prophecy for today and at the end of the talk he gave in 2005 which I've linked many times, including in the previous post, he describes some other experiences only tangentially related to the 9/11 message that are prophetic in nature, that I too have some doubts about.

But the "harbinger" message remains intact no matter what you think about such spiritual gifts for today or this branch of the church or Jonathan Cahn himself. I think of him as a dedicated Christian brother myself.