This is a continuation on the topic I started discussing in Lancaster’s Galatians: Introduction, Audience, and What Happened to the Torah? and continued in Broad Strokes. I asked the first three of these four questions in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series. Part 4 presents the fourth and final question. Hopefully, the answer will be illuminating.
Just a reminder, all quotes from scripture will be from the ESV Bible unless otherwise stated.
Belief in the coming of the Messiah has always been a fundamental part of both Judaism and Christianity. The Hebrew word for Messiah, Mashiach or Moshiach, means anointed, as does the Greek word, christos. Thus in Christianity, Christ is just another word for the Messiah. Much has been written about Jesus as the Messiah within the Christian realm, but little information has been publicized to the uninformed Jewish community concerning the coming of a Messiah, whom all we know about is that he will be a direct descendant of king David. Although Jesus has been proposed by Christianity to be such a descendant, Judaism does not accept Christ as their savior or king. Because the Messiah cannot be separated from God’s Third Temple and because God’s Third Temple is destined for all people…
“Coming of the Messiah”
“For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”
I’ve written about the Messiah and the Third Temple before, but this is a slightly different approach because of the fourth and last question.
What is the Future of the Torah and the Temple?
Pastor Randy and I both agree that there will be another Temple built in Jerusalem, and if the Jewish understandings of the prophesies about Messiah are accurate, then we know that Messiah will build the Temple.
Here’s a brief refresher about the Messianic prophesies courtesy of Judaism 101:
The mashiach will bring about the political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people by bringing us back to Israel and restoring Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). He will establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government, both for Jews and gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1). He will rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18). He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15).
The idea of a Third Temple gets a bad rap from a lot of Christians because it begs the question about future sacrifices. If the sacrificial system only existed to point to Jesus and Jesus has come, gone, and will come again, why would Jesus, upon his return, build another Temple and (supposedly) restart the sacrificial system? Weren’t our sins already paid for once and for all by Christ’s death on the cross?
What makes you think that the only sacrifices made in the Temple were for sin? Also, what makes you think that only Jews made sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple of the past or that Gentiles won’t make sacrifices in the Third Temple?
That Gentiles as well as Jews brought sacrifices to the Temple is implied in the prayer of Solomon when he dedicated the Temple (I Kings 8:41-3) and in the declaration by the prophet that the Temple will be a house of prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7).
-Rabbi Louis Jacobs
Within the Books of the Prophets, we find that in the past, Gentiles were welcomed to the First and Second Temples, and that they will participate even more at the Third Temple.
In his commentary on the Torah section beginning with Gen. 12:1, Ramban (Nachmanides) wrote:
“Even in the time of Joshua, … the Gentiles knew that this place was the most august of all, that it was at the center of the inhabited world; and Tradition had taught them that it corresponds in this world to the celestial Temple where Divine Majesty, called (righteousness), resides.”
When the First Temple was inaugurated by King Solomon, he beseeched G-d with an eloquent prayer that included the following words (Kings I, 8:41-43) (which show that in the past, Gentiles were welcomed to the First and Second Temples, and that they will participate even more in the Third Temple):
“If a foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name – for they shall hear about Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm – when he comes to pray toward this House, oh, hear in Your heavenly abode and grant all [!] that the foreigner asks You for. Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built.”
Torah Law holds that Gentiles are allowed to bring burnt offerings to G-d in the Temple when it is standing in Jerusalem. There is a specific commandment to let us know that an animal (sheep, goat or bullock) offered in the Temple by a Gentile must be unblemished, to the same degree as the offering of a Jew. (Leviticus 22:25)
-from “Will Gentiles be permitted to worship at the Third Temple in Jerusalem?”
I know I’m borrowing heavily from my previous blog post and you may be wondering why I just didn’t reblog it as the answer to this fourth question. But here’s the new thought.
If there indeed will be a Third Temple that Messiah will build and if part, most, or all of the sacrificial system will be reinstated, then what is the role of the Torah in Messianic Days?
Pastor Randy and I talk a lot about what the role of Torah was in the days before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and what the role of Torah is now. He believes, using Orthodox Jewish halachah as a guide, that the Torah is too difficult to keep and has always been too difficult to keep. I’m pretty sure I spelled a lot of that out in my blog post about my last conversation with him a week ago.
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
Doesn’t sound like Moses (or God) intended the Torah to be too difficult to obey or too hard to access.
Here’s another reason why the Torah has a future in the days of Messiah.
Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.
I could draw from more scriptural quotes but chances are you know them all and they’re referenced above anyway. If a Third Temple will be built by Messiah, and if sacrifices and festivals that require sacrifices will be reinstated, and if Gentiles will not only be allowed to worship at the Temple and make sacrifices but in some cases, required to do so, then how will all that be possible if the Torah is not observed, at least as far as the Temple is concerned?
It seems clear that the Torah had a vital role in the existence of the Jews of ancient Israel and it will have a vital role in future, Messianic Israel. But what happens to Torah in the meantime? Does it just vanish temporarily from existence, put in cold storage until it’s needed, and then brought out, thawed out, and then be put back into service when Messiah starts his construction work?
Well, no. First of all, religious Jews observe the Torah every day. For that matter, Christians observe substantial portions of the Torah (ideally) every day. Every time a Christian performs any act of kindness in the name of Jesus, he or she is observing one of the mitzvot. They (we) just don’t call it that. Every time a Christian donates money, food, or some other good or service to the poor, they are observing a mitzvah (probably more than one). Every time a Christian comforts a person who is grief-stricken at the loss of a loved one, performs an act of kindness that assists the successful wedding of a bride, visits a sick person in the hospital, visits someone in jail, shovels snow off of a neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk unasked…they are performing Torah mitzvot.
The Torah is hardly obsolete. The Law isn’t dead. In fact, if Christians and Christianity are functioning properly, the Torah is alive and well and being performed in churches around the world and in the lives of Christians and their neighbors every day. The Torah is also alive and well and being performed in synagogues around the world and in the lives of Jews and their neighbors every day. No, not all Christians and not all Jews are doing what God expects of them (us), but some are. Not everything that some Christians think of as “the Word of God” and not everything that some Jews think of as “Torah” is really God’s Word and Torah.
Some Christians have some pretty funny ideas about how they’re supposed to judge people who don’t comply with their personal political and social agenda, and some Jews have some pretty funny ideas about how far to take all of the massive compilation of halachah that has become attached to Torah. I suspect when Messiah returns, he’s going to help us all out by teaching us what God’s expectations are really all about and what the Torah is supposed to mean as applied to Gentile Christians and as applied to Jews.
But be that as it may, the Torah has a past, a present, and a future. It has to, otherwise what even traditional Christians understand about the Bible doesn’t make sense, and many specific passages of scripture don’t make sense.
I have no idea exactly how we are to apply the Torah in the lives of Jews or Christians today except in a general, common sense way. As I’ve said numerous times before, based on Acts 15, Acts 21 and various other scriptures, I don’t believe that Gentile, God-fearing believers in Messiah are expected to observe the mitzvot in the manner of the Jews. I do believe we are to observe it as taught by Messiah, and what he taught focused on the acts of kindness and charity I mentioned above. I also believe that Jewish people, believers in Messiah Yeshua and otherwise, remain under all of the covenants that God made with Israel. The New Covenant extends the part of the Abrahamic covenant that allows the Messiah to bless the nations to the rest of us, providing salvation and relationship to God for the Gentiles who are called by Messiah’s name, and providing reaffirmation of all of the previous covenants to the Jewish people.
What’s New about the New Covenant, as I was recently reminded, is that it will be written on our hearts. The actual content of the writing won’t change but how we will perceive it and live it out will be different. I say “will be” as opposed to “is” because if the “writing” were a done deal, we all would be leading very different lives, rising above sin, rising above the cares of the world, all “knowing God” in a way that currently escapes us.
Messiah opened the door and he holds all the keys, but he’s not done yet and until he is, the finger of God is still in motion, slowly inscribing “Torah” on the hearts of Christians and Jews everywhere.
But that Torah is and will be about the Temple, Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot, and many more things most Christians don’t consider important anymore. That Torah will be a pure product, freed from our biases, our interpretations, our confusion, and our controversies.
But there was a Torah. There is a Torah. And there will be a Torah. Our current understanding is not very good, and like Paul said, we are seeing the Bible and the things of God as through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). We’re all still going to mess up a “free lunch” until Messiah returns. Until then, we still have to eat that lunch, so to speak, even if we do so poorly. At least we’re mindful of God and His will and His Word.
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
I hope you enjoyed going over these four questions with me. As you read this, it is Wednesday morning, and tonight, I’ll have another conversation with Pastor on Lancaster’s “Galatians” book. May I continue to be inspired and illuminated by my relationship with Pastor Randy and may God grant both of us the eyes to see and the ears to hear what our Master is teaching us all.
Addendum, March 21: My wife emailed me a link to Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe’s article The Dynamic of Sacrifices. Rabbi Yaffe tells a wonderful story about the meaning of the Olah offering, the fire from God, and how the sacrifices in the Third Temple, built by Messiah, will provide the means for a unity between all people.
“I will bring them to My holy mount, and I will cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Amen and may it come soon and in our days.