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Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: A Body You Have Prepared

Dive into Hebrews 10 with an entertaining, fast-paced discussion of an apostolic midrash on Psalm 40 and it’s appearance in the argument regarding the suffering of the Messiah as an atoning sacrifice for sin.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-Seven: A Body You Have Prepared
Originally presented on January 4, 2014
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Lancaster touched on this in one of his previous sermons, but in today’s lecture on the Book of Hebrews, he goes into depth about why we can’t compare the Temple sacrifices to the death of Messiah, and also why the death and resurrection absolutely doesn’t cancel the Temple service…because it would be like saying apples cancel oranges (my metaphor, not Lancaster’s).

Lancaster, as he starts talking at the beginning of this recording, admits that his opinion of Hebrews chapters seven through ten, disagrees with all New Testament commentators everywhere. On the one hand, he says this probably makes him an unreliable source (and I know folks who would agree) since no other scholar corroborates his opinions. On the other hand, the traditional interpretations of Hebrews (and the rest of the Christian Bible) are fundamentally based on the theological necessity to remove the Torah and the Sinai Covenant post-crucifixion and replace it with New Testament (Gentile) grace. I’ve mentioned how more than once, Lancaster has pointed out how the theology of the Bible translators has been read back into the Bible such that they render the Greek incorrectly.

Here’s what I (and Lancaster) mean:

The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves.

Hebrews 10:1 (NLT)

This is how the New Living Translation (or the “New Living Targum” as Lancaster quips) renders the first sentence of this verse. The word “only,” which I put in bold, doesn’t appear in the Greek, and the word “dim” is not indicated in the original text.

The NASB, which is the translation I most commonly use, isn’t much better.

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.

At least the words I’ve bolded above appear in italics in the online translation of this verse, but a casual reader might not realize something is amiss.

Lancaster then reads from Young’s Literal Translation which, while sounding awkward, renders the Greek text without attempting to interpret it.

For the law having a shadow of the coming good things — not the very image of the matters, every year, by the same sacrifices that they offer continually, is never able to make perfect those coming near…

“Coming near” is a technical term, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

What this sentence boils down to once you remove the translation bias, is to say:

The Torah is good because it contains a shadow of the coming good things.

No indication that those good things have already arrived (because they haven’t) or that anything has been done away with. Just a statement that the ceremonies of the Torah foreshadow the Messianic Age and beyond.

Period.

Lancaster explained his main point and I believe I got it, but it was hell trying to take notes so that point would be easy for me to explain. I’ll try to create a more straightforward statement than what I heard in the sermon, and then I’ll go back and cite some of Lancaster’s proofs.

The Sacrifice - detailThe sacrifices for sin listed in the Torah were never, ever meant to actually forgive intentional sin. In fact, there is no sacrifice for intentional sin in the Torah, only for unintentional sin.

So what happened when a Hebrew in the days of the Tabernacle or the Temples intentionally sinned? Or, for instance, what happened if a Jew lived in the diaspora, the lands other than Israel, far away from the Temple, and he sinned? Did he have to go all the way to Jerusalem to give a sacrifice? But I guess that wouldn’t matter. Even if the Jewish person lived in Jerusalem and committed an intentional sin, was that person destined to burn in Hell for eternity because there was no sacrifice for intentional sin?

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17 (NASB)

This is David’s prayer to God after his sin with Bathsheva. He deliberately, purposefully, has an illicit affair with a married woman, impregnated her, tried to trick her husband to sleep with her by getting him drunk, and when that didn’t work, had her husband Uriah murdered, then quickly married Bathsheva so he could claim the child as his as a premature birth.

However, none of that was hidden from God and David’s sins were “outted” through the prophet Nathan.

But this was a series of premeditated and deliberate sins. How could David have possibly atoned for such sins since there is no sacrifice for them? Even David says that God would not be pleased with animal sacrifices. But he does say God would be pleased with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, or more accurately, that those sacrifices God “will not despise.”

Lancaster says that prayer and teshuvah (repentance) have always been effective for the atonement of deliberate sins.

But then, why did God command the sacrifices at all if they weren’t effective for the forgiveness of sins? Was it that they “covered” the sins whilst the death of Jesus finally, completely washed them away? Lancaster said that’s not it.

The sacrifices were never designed to atone for sins.

OK, wait a minute. What about Yom Kippur when the Aaronic High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies once a year to make atonement for the sins of all Israel?

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:3 (NASB)

If the Yom Kippur (“year by year”) sacrifice never took away sin and neither did the required sin offerings for even unintentional sin, what did they do? What was their purpose?

Remember, a Jew (anyone, actually) who sins intentionally or otherwise, can receive atonement for those sins through prayer and sincere repentance, so technically, there’s no real reason for making animal sacrifices, even when the Temple was standing, for the forgiveness of sins if you weren’t going to enter the Temple.

PriestsBut God commanded Temple services for all Israelites for a number of specific occasions such as Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Jews had to enter the Temple for those moadim and to commemorate a number of other events and acts as well, including offerings when an unintentional sin was discovered. But if a person sinned, even if spiritually he was forgiven, according to Lancaster, he still needed to enter the mikvah and perform the required sacrifices for the purity of the body, so that the person could draw physically near to God’s Divine Presence.

Even a woman who had recently given birth had to offer a sacrifice for sin, and even then, not until forty days after giving birth as commanded in the Torah. It wasn’t that giving birth was a sin. Far from it. But it’s a requirement for physical purification in order to draw near (the word translated “sacrifice” in English is “Korban” in Hebrew, meaning “to draw near”) to God’s Divine Presence. For imagine praying to God when His physical manifestation was only a few meters away. What an incredible experience to actually be commanded to enter into God’s Holy Presence at the Temple.

I have to admit, this one is hard for me to wrap my brain around, since so much of the Torah language does speak of atoning for sins and forgiveness. Even Lancaster says as much. And yet, if sin, even unintentional sin, defiles a person’s body, he or she cannot enter the Holiness of the Temple and draw near the presence of God without purification of the body which was defiled because of that sin. Even if the person was forgiven on a spiritual level through repentance, and remember, some events, such as giving birth, required a sin offering even when there was no sin, there still remained the need for physical cleansing.

That’s an especially important point because it means that Jesus (Yeshua) in his earthly existence, could still have been required to provide a sin offering at the Temple, even though he never sinned. He would just had to be in some state of ritual uncleanness (which is not a sin). That also means, certain prophesies about “the Prince” (Ezekiel 45:22) offering a sin sacrifice in the Messianic Age could indeed be about the sinless King Messiah. No supernatural hocus pocus required and no contradiction involved in a sinless person offering a sin sacrifice.

This also has the benefit of helping us realize that the death of Jesus on the cross didn’t have to cancel the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, the Temple, and the Torah, since it didn’t replace the actual function of that system. Animal sacrifices didn’t take away sin and then have to be replaced by Jesus who did. Prayer to God and authentic repentance has always provided for atonement.

As far as Yom Kippur is concerned, the Aaronic Priest offered the required blood sacrifices and then he prayed for the forgiveness of his own sins and those of all of Israel.

So what is so much better about the sacrifice of Jesus? It inaugurates by the merit of his holiness and suffering, the New Covenant era which does provide for the permanent perfection of human beings to make them sinless.

What Did I Learn?

Lancaster compared Hebrews 10:5-8 with Psalm 40:1-9. Here are the relevant verses:

Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
But a body You have prepared for Me;

In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.

“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come
(In the scroll of the book it is written of Me)
To do Your will, O God.’”

After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.”

Hebrews 10:5-9 (NASB)

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.

Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.

I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:6-8 (NASB)

Levites singingThe writer of Hebrews, although apparently quoting Jesus, is actually putting the words of Psalm 40 in his mouth, so to speak, since it is a prophetic Psalm. Psalm 40 was one of the songs sung by the priests in the Temple, probably during a Thanksgiving Offering. David is giving thanks for being delivered from some difficulty.

Notice in verse six, he says that God “opened his ears” (in Hebrew, it literally says “dug out my ears”) meaning, according to Lancaster, that God enabled him to hear God in order for him to do God’s will.

But Hebrews 10:5 renders the quote of that verse as “a body you prepared for me.” What happened?

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is likely a Greek-speaking Jew writing to Greek-speaking Jews and is using the Septuagint, the Greek Translation of the Tanakh, as a Biblical reference. Lancaster says a scribal error actually mistranslated the verse about “God opening ears” to “preparing a body” (you’ll have to listen to the recording to get the detailed explanation). However, the Hebrews letter writer makes good use of this error.

If you’ve read all of Psalm 40, you’ll have noticed that verse six also mentions God not wanting sacrifices. Again, this isn’t replacing sacrifices, since a few verses later, David says that he delights in doing God’s will and God’s Torah is in his heart. He is again saying that the sacrifices aren’t designed to forgive sins, though they certainly are a part of a Jew’s obedience to God.

By the way, the part of the verse in both Psalm 40 and Hebrews 10 that says “he was written about in the scroll of the book” is usually interpreted to mean Messiah, but Lancaster says it’s more likely that David meant the Torah speaks of anyone who does the will of God.

However, as far as the body being prepared, Lancaster does say that this is the sacrifice that actually does provide for the permanent atonement for Israel’s sins and perfects them such that they will sin no more in Messianic Days. It brings forth the question of whether or not anyone will have to offer a sin sacrifice in the Days of Messiah, but remember, there are other reasons for making those sacrifices that have nothing to do with actually sinning.

After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:8-10 (NASB)

OK, so the second replaced the first. Sure sounds like the sacrifice of Jesus replaced the Temple sacrifices but what are the “first” and “second?”

The first is that in order to draw near to God in the earthly Temple, the first system, the sacrificial system, was necessary, but this won’t work to draw near to God in the life of the world to come. The “second” speaks of a time past the Messianic Era when there will be no Temple.

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple

Revelation 21:22

In Messianic Days, there will still be a Temple because while the redeemed will be perfected, not everyone alive then will be among the redeemed. However, in the world to come, when all evil has been extinguished and God once again lives among His people, the Temple will no longer be needed, just as at the first, when Adam and Havah (Eve) dwelt sinless in the Garden.

Lancaster pointed out something interesting about Hebrews 10:9:

He takes away the first in order to establish the second…

The Greek verb translated above as “takes away,” also translated as “sets aside,” “cancels,” “does away with,” and “abolishes” is never, ever used in any other part of the New Testament or Septuagint to mean that. In any Greek lexicon, the word has two possible meanings:

  1. Kill or slay
  2. To take up, to lift up, to carry

It doesn’t make much sense to say:

He kills the first in order to establish the second…

Lancaster thinks the second meaning in my list, which Greek lexicons indicates is the most common usage, is the more likely meaning:

He takes up or lifts up the first in order to establish the second…

From Lancaster’s perspective, it’s high time that the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews receive a fresh translation into English to do away with centuries of mistaken translations and interpretations based on the errors required by Christian tradition.

praying_at_masadaMessiah came to do the will of his Father and by that will, we have been sanctified due to the offering of his body and the merit of his holiness.

I have only touched on some of the points Lancaster made. In the approximately forty minute lecture, he inserted a lot more detail. I hope I’ve been able to adequately summarize his sermon and make it understandable. For this one especially, I recommend listening to it yourself. Lancaster says, and I agree, that his interpretation is highly unorthodox, but it has the benefit of not throwing the baby out with the bath water, or in this case, extinguishing the Temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the Torah in order to establish and lift up the Messiah as the mediator of the New Covenant, for in fact, the earlier must flow seamlessly into the latter for the Bible to make any cohesive sense at all.

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Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: The Blood of Bulls and Goats

The writer of the book of Hebrews maintains that the animal sacrifices offered in the Temple cannot grant forgiveness for the world to come or the reward of eternal life. If so, why did God command the Israelites to offer sacrifices? What were the sacrifices supposed to accomplish?

This sermon marks one year in Beth Immanuel’s study of the epistle to the Hebrews, so it features a brief review of the first eight chapters of the book.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-Five: The Blood of Bulls and Goats
Originally presented on December 21, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Since Lancaster delivered this sermon on the one year anniversary of starting this series on Hebrews, he spent the first fifteen minutes giving a summary of what he’d taught over the course of the past twelve months. I wish I could have taken notes fast enough to capture the review because it would have been a nice “in-a-nutshell” presentation to offer. You’ll just have to click the link I posted above and listen for yourself.

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time.

Hebrews 9:8-9 (NASB)

According to Lancaster, most Christians take away from the above-quoted verses the idea that the only way to get into the Holy Place, that is, the life in the world to come, is for the Temple (although the NASB translates the Greek as “tabernacle”) to be destroyed. This fits pretty well with traditional Church doctrine about the Temple in Jerusalem needing to be destroyed because the bodies of Christians are now the “Temple,” but Lancaster disagrees. Within the overall context, that interpretation makes no sense.

The way he sees it, what the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews is saying is that the Tabernacle or Temple, the outer holy place simply stands as a symbol for the present age, the Old Covenant age, since the New Covenant while inaugurated, has not actually come into our world yet. You’ll have to go over what last week’s sermon said about the symbolism involved in comparing the Holy Place with the Holy of Holies, that is, the present age and the age to come (or read my review to get the gist of Lancaster’s points) in order to make sense of what’s being communicated.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation… (emph. mine)

Hebrews 9:11 (NASB)

The NASB translates the words I emphasized in the above-quoted verse fairly accurately, but the NIV says “are now already here”, and the NLT and ESV (and a number of other translations) say “that have come,” seemingly indicating that when Christ appeared, the better promises of the New Covenant age arrived in their fullness. That’s not what the Greek actually says, and both the NASB and the KJV render that phrase correctly. They haven’t arrived yet.

As I’ve said before, interpretation begins at translation, and more than a few Bible translators have read their own theology and doctrine back into the Bible rather than letting the Bible in its original languages speak to them about how that theology is supposed to look.

What I Learned

The Sacrifice - detailThis next part was news to me but it makes a great deal of sense now, especially when compared to what Lancaster has previously taught in this series of lessons. He described the following scriptures as a Kal Vachomer or lighter to heavier argument. In this argument, you say something like, “if you think version 1 was fabulous, version 2 is even better”. The first statement about version 1 (or whatever) must be true in order for the statement about version 2 to be true.

…and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 9:12-15

Christians don’t understand the meaning behind the sacrificial system initiated with the Tabernacle and continued with Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples. We’ve been taught that the Israelites had to make sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins and so they could get into Heaven when they died. Once Jesus came and made a single sacrifice on the cross once and for all, then there was no further need for the animal sacrifices or the Temple, since all we have to do is believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.

But what Lancaster said next is no less than revolutionary.

The sacrifices in the Tabernacle and the Temple were never designed to take away sins at all. They were designed to provide purification for an Israelite (actually, anyone since even the sacrifices of Gentiles were accepted) so that he or she could physically draw nearer to the specific, Holy precinct where the physical manifestation of the Divine Presence dwelt. The mikvah, the ashes of the Red Heifer and so on, were to provide the body of a person with ritual purification so that their physical, material self could enter a physical structure considered Holy ground because it contained the manifestation of the Divine Presence of the Almighty. This is an effect of the Sinai (Old) Covenant.

Compare and contrast that to the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus) who made total atonement for the sins of all humanity by bringing his blood, not to the Holy of Holies in the Earthly Temple, but to the Heavenly Holy of Holies, so our sins really could be permanently forgiven and that our spiritual selves could approach God in a realm outside the physical universe, and we can serve Him. This is an effect of the New Covenant.

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him.

Revelation 22:3

These two systems, two structures, two forms of sacrifice were made to operate like two sides of a coin, not for the latter to wholly replace the former, at least not until the end of the Messianic Era which will see us pass on through eternity when we’ll no longer need a Temple:

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.

Revelation 21:22-24

But none of that will happen while the current Heaven and Earth exist, which they will throughout the present age and the age of the Messiah.

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (emph. mine)

Hebrews 9:13-14

PriestsYou can see the lighter and heavier ends of the argument on either side of the text I emphasized above. If the blood of goats and bulls and ashes of a heifer can purify your bodies to come within proximity of the physical manifestation of the Divine Presence in our material world, how much more will the blood of Messiah purify your eternal Spirit to cleanse you of dead works (that is, sin) so that you can serve the living God. Purifying your body vs. purifying your spirit. The Earthly sacrifices did one and the one Heavenly sacrifice did the other. The blood of Jesus didn’t replace the blood of animals. To believe it did would be like comparing proverbial apples and oranges.

Wow.

What comes next is the letter writer’s conclusion of the current argument:

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 9:15

So all that was written before is the reason why Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, because as you may recall, the New Covenant is all about replacing our stony hearts with hearts of flesh, and giving us a new Spirit, writing the Torah of God on our hearts, permanently atoning for all sins, and allowing us to know God in an unparalleled manner greater than the greatest prophets of old.

We committed sins that were defined and identified by the Sinai covenant and that covenant condemns unrepented sin. We will die if our sins are not atoned for because the wages of sin is death. But the New Covenant offers something the Old did not, a way to permanently atone for and be forgiven of all sins, so where the Old Covenant condemns, the New Covenant, which is already beginning to enter our world, sets free. They work together in the present age. We have access to this forgiveness through our faith in the work of the Messiah. This is how we receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Protos and Deuteros

Bible teachers often use Hebrews 9 as proof that the disciples of Yeshua abandoned the Old Testament rituals of Temple worship and sacrifices as vestiges of an old covenant that had been replaced by a new covenant. A closer look reveals an entirely different message. Hebrews 9 uses the layout of the Temple to present a mystical illustration of the passage from this world to the world to come.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-Four: Protos and Deuteros
Originally presented on December 14, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Lancaster finished his survey of the New Covenant as it applies to Hebrews 8 in the previous week’s sermon which I reviewed here. This also should have finished Hebrews 8 and have taken us into chapter 9 but there’s something Lancaster wanted his listeners to get first. Protos and Deuteros.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. (emph. mine)

Hebrews 8:7 (NASB)

The first or in Greek “Protos” covenant was the Sinai or Mosaic covenant and the second or “Deuteros” covenant is the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36). There needed to be a Deuteros covenant because God found fault with “them” not “it”. That is, He found fault with people not the Protos covenant and not the conditions of the Protos covenant, the Torah, and not with the enactment of some of the covenant commandments which involve the Temple and the Priesthood (all this is covered in previous reviews and you can listen to the recording of this sermon to pick up more details).

After verse 7, Lancaster quickly reviewed verses 8 through 12 which quote Jeremiah 31 and the New Covenant language and then he focused on verse 13:

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

Verb tenses are really important here which is why some English translations of the Bible, including the English Standard Version (ESV) are bad, because they make everything sound like it’s in the past tense, which is not what the actual Greek says. Remember, interpretation begins at translation. Some translators read their theology back into the text when they do the translation, changing the literal meaning to fit their assumptions and all of the classic, though erroneous, perspectives they’ve been taught as part of Christian tradition.

The reason Protos and Deuteros are important is because Paul makes a lot of symbolic use of these two terms as we enter chapter 9.

What is becoming obsolete and getting ready (but hasn’t yet) to disappear?

holy placeNot the Torah, because it represents the conditions of both the Sinai and the New Covenants. Not the Temple because the Temple was still standing when this epistle was written and there will be a Temple in the Messianic Age. Not the Priesthood because God declared that the Aaronic Priesthood is eternal.

So what does Protos represent that is in the process of becoming obsolete and getting ready to disappear.

The Olam Hazah or the Present Age. The age that we have with us now. The age of everything before the Messianic Age and the Age to Come. That’s what is just about to, but hasn’t yet because we’re still in it, get ready to pass away.

Now this next part has to be followed carefully. Once you get it, it’s rather simple to comprehend, but it’s easy to get lost if you don’t get it. Lancaster admitted that he makes it all sound more complicated than it really is.

Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

Hebrews 9:1-5

Both Lancaster and the writer of the Hebrews epistle are hip deep in symbolism at this point.

The Holy Place described in these verses is the Protos or the Present Age. The Holy of Holies is the Deuteros or the Age to Come. Lancaster goes into a lengthy and detailed explanation of what each of the objects in this analogy of the letter writer’s description means but basically, the Present Age is where all of the daily duties of the Priests occur. It’s where we live today. Here’s what I mean.

holy-holies2

Remember, Lancaster says that he believes the Temple was still standing when this letter was written, so he’s being quite literal. But also, this is representative of the fact that he was describing the Present Age, the age in which he and his readers were living and the age in which we continue to live. We have daily access to the holy things and the service to God as described in the Sinai Covenant (and remember, this is a Jewish person writing to Jewish people so for them, it’s all about the Sinai Covenant). It doesn’t matter that the Temple is now destroyed because Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and there was a long period between that and the building of Herod’s Temple, and yet the Sinai Covenant was (and is) still in effect.

The Holy of Holies by contrast, represents the Age to Come which begins or which is beginning in the Messianic Age, the place where not just any Priest but only the High Priest could enter, and not on a daily basis but only on one day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the High Priest could only enter carrying blood.

He’s saying that the Holy Place, representing our reality today, still has Godliness but there’s a big difference between what we have now and what is going to happen.

Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.

Hebrews 8:6-10

Verse 8 is the key and where we have to pay close attention to the verb tenses:

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time.

The way into the New Covenant age has not been shown to us nor will it be while the current age exists, the Present Age, the age we are living in right now. So the Old (Sinai) Covenant still is in effect and we are still living in the Present Age under the rules and conditions of the Old Covenant. Nothing has been replaced, including the Sinai Covenant, the Torah, the Temple (since it will be rebuilt) and the Priesthood (since it’s an eternal Priesthood and will make sacrifices in the Temple in the Messianic Age).

But why isn’t the New Covenant Age open to us yet?

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

Matthew 27:50-51

Most Christians take these verses to mean that once Yeshua (Jesus) died, the Priesthood was abolished and everyone could enter the (spiritual) Holy of Holies and stand before the throne of God. And yet the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews is saying that this isn’t true and it won’t be true until the New Covenant Age which Messiah will bring to completion, or near completion, when he returns.

What Did I Learn?

I was following Lancaster along pretty well but this next part was new to me. The Present Age is represented by the Holy Place, where our daily service to God takes place and where the Sinai Covenant remains in effect. The Present Age is slowly beginning to pass away and about to become obsolete, but since it’s still here and we’re still here, it still has some life left in it.

The Messianic Age can be compared to the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Both resurrected/perfected people, the Saints, so to speak, in Christ who will rise at the first resurrection and the rest of the people alive at his Second Coming who are yet to be resurrected. It’s the intersection between covenants which is why there will have to be a Temple.

world-to-come

But the Messianic Age is relatively brief, only about a thousand years or so, and once passed through that veil, we’ll be fully in the Age to Come:

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 21:22-23

It is only at this point in future history, after the Messianic Age has passed away, that the Sinai Covenant will also pass away and there will no longer be a need for the Temple. It’s difficult to imagine what life will be like here, but this is part of what’s being described.

But it’s not as relevant as what happens in the Messianic Age and indeed what’s happening now.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, [m]having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews 8:11-12

Even though we can’t actually enter the Deuteros, the second, the New Covenant Age yet, we still have a stake in it that allows us to live as if we have already entered. How can we do this? Because we have a High Priest who has entered before us, the first fruits of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). How can he enter where we cannot?

The High PriestBecause he already died and was resurrected into a perfected body. We haven’t done that yet. Also, since even the High Priest cannot enter without blood, the blood he shed in the Present Age he “carried” (spiritually, not literally with his hands) from the Protos to the Deuteros as a one time event (not an annual event as is the present Yom Kippur) as a forerunner for the rest of us, and to provide an anchor for us, bridging the gap from the Present Age to the Age to Come.

As I was listening to Lancaster, I realized that when the Temple veil was torn top to bottom the moment Jesus died, it wasn’t a sign that the Old Covenant was dead and buried right then and there so we all could immediately enter the Holy of Holies and stand naked before the Throne of God. It was a sign that the High Priest of Heaven, Messiah Yeshua could now enter…but only him, and only in the Heavenly Holy of Holies, and only with the blood, his blood.

The sermon ended abruptly at this point so I can only imagine Lancaster will continue to follow through next time. Only eleven sermons left to complete the series. It’s getting pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Glory to Glory

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?

For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

2 Corinthians 3:7-11

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul teaches a short discourse contrasting the glory of the Old Covenant and the glory of the New Covenant, employing the metaphor of the veil that concealed the light of Moses’ face. This passage is frequently understood to imply replacement theology the cancellation of the Torah, but a closer look reveals a the role of the Torah in both old and new covenants.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-Three: Glory to Glory
Originally presented on December 7, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Before getting into today’s review, I should mention that this is pretty much the same material I reviewed from Lancaster’s lecture series What About the New Covenant. You’ll get most of my commentary from my previous review of From Glory to Glory (which you should read if you haven’t done so already), but you won’t get all of it. That’s because Lancaster changed a few things around and became more overtly “mystic” in today’s sermon. Maybe that’s because he’s talking to his home congregation vs. producing a teaching for a more generalized audience.

The new stuff I learned came packaged in the two “Prologues” to his sermon (also see Zechariah 12:10).

Prologue One

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed [terrified] at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.”

Genesis 45:1-7 (NASB)

Prologue Two

It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai.

Exodus 34:29-32 (NASB)

Let’s take a look at what these two passages have in common.

joseph-and-pharaohFirst we have Joseph, you all know about Joseph, who his brothers had sold into slavery, who was first a slave in Potiphar’s house, then a prisoner, and finally raised to the station of ruler over Egypt second only to Pharaoh, King of Egypt.

His identity was hidden from all his brothers. They never recognized him, even though they faced him repeatedly, even in Joseph’s household. Only when Joseph directly revealed himself, taking off his veil if you will, did they recognize him…and were terrified. After all the rotten things they’d done to Joseph, they suddenly knew that not only was he alive but he was virtually the most powerful man on Earth, capable of any act, good or bad, and they were totally in his power.

But Joseph was merciful. He forgave them, all of them. He told them not to be afraid. He told them to come near and when they did, they were all reconciled.

Now how about Moses. The “back story” is when Moses was up on the Mountain with God the first time, the Israelites rebelled, created the Golden Calf, and worshipped it as the “god” who had brought them out of Egypt. Moses came down with the first pair of tablets and when he realized what they were doing, smashed them. God wanted to wipe out the Israelites, but Moses interceded on their behalf, made a second set of tablets at God’s command, and renewing the covenant, took the tablets down to Israel.

What Moses hadn’t realized was that in his time with God, his face started glowing with a sort of reflection of the light of the Divine Presence. When Moses returned to the Israelites, they saw him, the tablets, and his glowing face and they were afraid and ashamed, especially so soon after the incident of the Golden Calf. But Moses forgave them, all of them. He brought with him God’s Torah and he bade his brothers to come closer. And when they did, they were all reconciled.

To summarize:

  1. The revelation of the identity (Joseph and Moses).
  2. The reaction of fear and shame (brothers and Israelites).
  3. He (Joseph and Moses) asks his brothers/Israelites to come near to him.
  4. His brothers/Israelites come near.
  5. They are all forgiven and reconciled.
  6. The Renewed Covenant is presented (Moses).

Now imagine this is a picture of the Second Coming of Christ (Messiah). Remember, I mentioned Zechariah 12:10.

The revelation of the identity of Messiah to the Jewish people could very easily be anticipated by the six-point list above including Yeshua (Jesus) presenting what Lancaster calls the Supernal Torah, the Heavenly Torah, unfettered by the “clothing” that was necessary to present the Earthly Torah at Sinai.

I knew of the comparison between Joseph’s revelation to his brothers and Messiah but I hadn’t factored in Moses before.

2 Corinthians 3 is the link. It makes a “lighter to heavier” comparison between the Old (Sinai) and New Covenants using Moses’ glowing face and the veil.

When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

Exodus 34:33-35 (NASB)

lightMoses’ face absorbed some of the light of the Divine Presence but eventually his “charge” faded. He uncovered his face in the presence of God, absorbing the light. He kept his glowing face uncovered when he spoke with Israel, revealing the light. He covered his face with a veil so they wouldn’t realize the glow was fading.

According to what Lancaster says, although the Sinai Covenant is exceedingly glorious, the New Covenant still blows it away because, mystically and metaphorically speaking, the “glow” of the New Covenant’s mediator, that is Messiah, never fades.

Lancaster believes this is the difference between mortality and immortality. Moses, like all men, was mortal, and so were all the Priests and Prophets, but one of the requirements of the job description of Heavenly High Priest, the mediator of the New Covenant, is to be immortal.

Another thing:

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

2 Corinthians 3:12-16 (NASB)

Lancaster compares this to a Chassidic rebuke that can only be understood via mysticism (I’m sure I’m losing some of my audience here). This is not a comparison between Judaism and Christianity, it’s a comparison between Jews who study the Torah without the “lens” of the revelation of Messiah and those who do. Those who are not yet aware of the identity of Messiah may be compared to Moses wearing a veil with the glow faded. Those who study Torah with the revelation of Messiah may be compared to Moses with his face unveiled and glowing with the reflected glory of God.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NASB)

Lancaster commented that he wished Paul would have said more about “there is liberty” at the end of verse 17. Liberty from what? From the Torah? From observing the mitzvot? That doesn’t make sense given the context of the New Covenant he’s been teaching for the past few sermons. What does make sense is freedom from condemnation. One of the purposes of the Torah under the Sinai Covenant was to identify and condemn sin. The penalty for unrepented sin was/is death. But under the New Covenant, the sins of all of Israel are forgiven and with the New Covenant written on human hearts, comes everlasting life.

For without the revelation of the New Covenant, we see through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), as did all the Prophets of old save Moses who saw God clearly. With the revelation of the New Covenant, faces are unveiled and our eyes can see as “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord…”

I think you can get the other important points Lancaster made from my other review. Of course, to be sure, you should listen to the sermon yourself. It’s only about forty minutes long.

Oh, one more thing:

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (emph. mine)

Hebrews 8:13 (NASB)

For his sermon, Lancaster used the NASB translation rather than his usual ESV. He said that the ESV does “unforgivable violence to the text.” More specifically, it all has to do with verb tenses. The ESV makes it sound like it’s all said and done and that the Old Covenant is totally extinguished and replaced by the New. Classic Evangelical doctrine.

Light under the doorHowever, the actual Greek doesn’t say things like has become obsolete” but rather is becoming obsolete,” describing an active process that is still happening today (as Paul and the author of the Hebrews epistle were writing). In other sermons, Lancaster said that we are still living in Old Covenant times. We may have one foot in the New Covenant, but we still aren’t through the doorway yet. We won’t be until the dead are resurrected, Messiah returns, his identity is revealed, and his brothers and sisters, that is, the Jewish people, recognize him, come close to him, and are reconciled with him in the forgiveness of sins.

In those days, King Messiah will be revealed to the world, he will reveal the Supernal or Heavenly Torah and teach us all the things we currently misunderstand and all of the hidden things that in this life, we cannot possibly know. And he will be our King and we will be his people, all of Israel, and the people of the nations who come alongside and who are called by his name.

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: The Inner Torah

What is the differences between the letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law in Pauline terminology?

A discussion on the promise in Jeremiah 31 regarding the Torah written on our hearts in the New Covenant, with reference to Paul’s discourse in Romans 7-8 regarding the Spirit and the Law.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-One: The Inner Torah
Originally presented on November 16, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

As I was listening to this recording, I paid close attention to see if I could hear the sounds of an audience in the background, indicating that Lancaster was actually speaking to his congregation at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship rather than this being a direct repurposing of the third lecture on his What About the New Covenant CD series.

Yes, I could hear people in the background, but the material was virtually identical, right down to the jokes he told. I don’t feel like writing the same review over again, so you can get the details about what Lancaster said concerning “the Inner Torah” at Review of “What About the New Covenant” Part 3.

However, my reviews are always influenced by whatever else I’m reading or listening to at the time, so my head is in a different place now than it was last April when I wrote that review. And given my recent reviews of J.K. McKee’s book One Law for All: From the Mosaic Texts to the Work of the Holy Spirit (see Part 1 and Part 2 as well as my follow-up in If You Love Something), I heard different details than I did before, or at least they seemed more pronounced this time around.

Lancaster was talking about how some Christians, including some Messianics, understand the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit could be thought of by these folks as “obedience light”. The covenant conditions God wants Christians to fulfill have not only changed, they are very few and fairly easy to manage. You often can tell what God wants just by how you feel.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians say they’ve felt led by the Spirit to do this and not led to do that. One of the examples Lancaster used was how (amazingly) a Messianic Gentile could actually say they aren’t led by the Spirit to observe Shabbat. Lancaster seemed to be making a point that Christians really should feel led by the Spirit to observe Shabbos.

But later on in his sermon, Lancaster went through a list of the signs of the different covenants and the Sabbath is the sign of the Sinai Covenant God made with Israel.

“But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

Exodus 31:13 (NASB)

I’ve just spent several blog posts and frankly, a lot of years believing and writing that the Sinai covenant conditions, that is, the Torah mitzvot, don’t apply to Gentiles as they do to Jewish Israel, so what do we do with Lancaster’s statement here?

Spirit, Torah, and Good NewsHe also said that the sign of the New Covenant (also see my review of last week’s sermon) is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which we see famously in Acts 2 with the Jewish Apostles and Acts 10 with the Gentile Cornelius and his entire household. We also know from 2 Corinthians 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Ephesians 1:13-14 that the Holy Spirit given to believers is but a down-payment, a token, a small deposit on the whole sum that will not be delivered in full until the resurrection.

So, as Lancaster said before, we’re not living in New Covenant times yet because if we were, then we wouldn’t sin but instead, have the conditions of the covenant written on our hearts as opposed to on paper or animal skins, and we would have an apprehension of God equal to or greater than the greatest of all the prophets.

But if the conditions of the covenant don’t change from the Sinai Covenant to the New Covenant, and if the Sabbath is a sign of the Sinai (Old) Covenant God made exclusively with Israel, and if Lancaster believes that Gentiles today should be led by the Holy Spirit, our down-payment on the deliverables to come in the New Covenant times, to observe the Sabbath, what does that say about Messianic Gentiles and our observance relative to Messianic (or any other kind of) Jews?

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:12-15 (NASB)

We are not under obligation or “debtors” to the flesh, that is our human inclinations, but to the Spirit, which leads us to obey God as if His statues were already written on our hearts, even though they aren’t yet. What makes Romans 6, 7, and 8 so confusing is when Paul refers to “law”, he’s not always talking about the Torah. He’s comparing and contrasting the Law of Torah with the Law of Sin. What’s the Law of Sin?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NASB)

Lancaster didn’t go into a detailed analysis of these passages in Romans so neither will I, but know that it’s quite possible to see the Torah as always good in Paul’s words, and when the law is supposedly denigrated by Paul, this law is the law of sin and death.

But if we are obligated to at least try to the best of our abilities to live life as if it were already the Messianic Era, already the resurrection, when the Torah is written on all hearts and the Spirit is fully poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28), and that Torah is identical to the conditions of the Sinai Covenant given to Israel in the days of Moses, then where does that leave all Christians right now?

It’s puzzling.

Lancaster, citing Jewish mysticism, leads us to the idea that there is a heavenly Torah, a supernal Torah in Heaven, and that this Torah is the perfect expression of God’s will and wisdom. Lancaster says it is this Torah that will be written on our hearts.

He also says that there is no difference between the supernal Torah and the earthly Torah, but it gets confusing. Over a year ago I wrote a review of Michael Fishbane’s book The Garments of Torah: Essays in Biblical Hermeneutics. While the book was not mystical as such, it certainly illustrated the difficulty in translating God’s perfect will and wisdom into methods, principles, and terms human beings can understand let alone perform. When God “clothed” the Torah so that it could be delivered to our world, the material world, it took on the nature and characteristics of our world so it could be an adequate interface for people.

If it is this “unclothed” Torah that will be written on our hearts, what will that be like? Will the actual mitzvot (Shabbat, Kosher, tzitzit, visiting the sick, charity to the poor) remain exactly the same and our human abilities to perfectly carry them out will be enhanced, or will the nature and character of the commandments themselves be subtly changed because they are internal drives and not external lists?

I don’t know. It gets pretty metaphysical from here.

I did recall a quote from mechon-mamre.org about the days of Mashiach:

In the messianic age, the whole world will recognize YHWH, the LORD God of Israel, as the only true God, and the Torah will be seen as the only true religion (Isaiah 2,3; 11,10; Micah 4,2-3; Zechariah 14,9).

The only true religion for the whole world will be the Torah.

Simchat TorahIs this saying that there’s a principle in Judaism that the Torah will be applied to the Gentiles as well as the Jews in Messianic Days including what are called “sign commandments?”

If I didn’t know what First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) taught (Lancaster is a primary author of FFOZ’s educational material), I could be convinced Lancaster was preaching some form of “One Law.”

And yet I know that they do describe two sometimes overlapping paths for Jews and Gentiles in Messiah. Their long-awaited Sabbath Table materials have content that is tailored differently, at certain junctions in the reading, to be recited either by a Jew or a Gentile.

And yet, when Lancaster said that the Shema is recited at Beth Immanuel every week, and I know the majority of people who attend that congregation are not Jewish, I found myself wondering if a Gentile disciple of Messiah could or should recite the Shema. I sometimes miss the “old days” when I did recite the Shema on Shabbat, but in deference to the requirements of Messianic Jews (not to mention my wife who is not Messianic but is a Jew), I surrendered that practice along with most other behaviors one could think of as “jewish”.

The very first words you utter when you recite the Shema are:

Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.

But if everything I’ve been taught and believe is correct, we Gentiles are not Israel, nor will we ever be Israel. Such a thing is a direct violation of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob about the Land and their inheritance.

Lancaster quoted from Isaiah something I must have read many times before but never picked up on:

O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher.

Isaiah 30:19-20 (NASB)

Of course, the prophet is talking to Israel and not the rest of the world, but given that he is referencing a teacher, according to certain circles of Judaism, one of the things the Messiah is supposed to do is teach Torah correctly. Except that once the Holy Spirit is fully poured out on all flesh, that won’t really be necessary since it will all be inscribed on our hearts, the full wisdom and will of God. Our “teacher” then, will no longer hide Himself and we will see Him.

I normally put a section toward the end of these reviews called What Did I Learn but my entire “review” of this sermon today is about interpreting and learning (or at least struggling to learn) rather than an analysis of Lancaster’s lecture and what was new to me in it.

One thing is certain. In the New Covenant age there will be no questions, only answers. Our teacher will be in our hearts. We only currently possess a small down-payment against the full amount to be paid in the resurrection, but Lancaster says that’s no excuse to slack off and blame God for not giving us everything we need up front. The answers are coming but we are supposed to behave as if they’re already here. I feel like I’ve been blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back, and then sent into a maze with the instructions to make it to the other end without falling victim to any of the many, sometimes lethal traps that infest the maze at every turn.

No wonder a life of faith feels so dangerous and frustrating. No wonder it’s so hard to understand the difficult teachings of the Bible. No wonder the temptation is almost overwhelming to turn off my brain and to cleave to the teacher with the easiest story to follow.

But that would drive me crazy. My “inner teacher” won’t allow it.

Lancaster likens faith to a battle between our flesh and spirit natures, a lifetime struggle between two elemental forces locked in conflict until trumpets sound and graves open depositing the dead into life again. The battle is hard but that’s no excuse. We don’t have the option of giving up because if we do, sin and flesh wins and there’s no resurrection among the righteous for us…only among the damned.

the mazeI’m tired of the war, God. I’m tired of fighting with myself every waking minute of every day. And yet people of faith, both Gentile Christians and religious Jews have been fighting this battle for thousands of years. None of them were perfect at it and none of them found its even remotely easy.

I’m no tzaddik. I’m no saint. I’m only a guy trying to figure it all out and then live it all out. It would be nice to have the rules of life all spelled out for us, but as I’ve been trying to say, they’re not, at least not very clearly. Our teacher is still hiding.

Yes, I’ve heard Christians say that “Bible” stands for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” A little too cute for me and it trivializes the enormous struggle each one of us faces every day. What do we learn from the sermon of the Inner Torah? Only that we must pray for endurance and perseverance that we last in faith until it arrives, until the King returns, and may God have mercy on those of us whose strength should fail.

Addendum: I wrote this about a week ago and obviously I’ve been doing a lot of reading, pondering, and writing since then. On the FFOZ eDrash for Torah Portion Re’eh, referencing Deut. 12:7, 12, it says in part:

Messiah offers us a similar invitation. He invites us into the Father’s house eternally. He tells His disciples, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) He invites us into the LORD’s house, not just as invited guests, but as family members. Thanks to Yeshua, we will rejoice before the Father in His holy house for all eternity. We will sit at the table in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all Israel. How could we ever refuse such a fabulous invitation?

When I read “not just as invited guests, but as family members,” I saw the relationship between the redeemed nations and Israel again knocked somewhat into a cocked hat. If we believing Gentile disciples of the Master are considered “family members,” that implies a level of access and intimacy very close to the born-sons (if Gentiles are considered adopted). The only way I can resolve this within my current conceptual framework is that in the Messianic Kingdom, the ekklesia of Jews and Gentiles do share a “oneness” of access and knowledge of God. But what does that make Gentiles and Jews together in Messiah?

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: The New Covenant

Discussion on Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31 regarding the New Covenant and its meaning from a Messianic Jewish perspective. Discover why the New Covenant is not the New Testament, the “Renewed Covenant,” nor the “Brit Chadashah.” Find out what the New Covenant really is and how the Torah is part of the New Covenant. A foundational teaching for everyone interested in Messianic Judaism and the role of Torah in the lives of disciples of Yeshua.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty: The New Covenant
Originally presented on November 9, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

I suppose I could just point you to part 1 of my review of Lancaster’s lecture series What About The New Covenant and call it good since it seems he intends to repurpose that material in the next four “Hebrews” lectures, but that probably wouldn’t be fair. Also, I don’t think he presents the information in exactly the same way, so I should review today’s sermon on its own merits.

I’ll skip over Lancaster’s introductory section since I don’t think it adds very much, and cut to the chase. The Old Testament does not equal the Old (Sinai) Covenant and the New Testament does not equal the New Covenant. Christianity has very poorly named these two major sections of the Bible, or at least named them with the intent of misrepresenting what the Old and New Covenants really mean.

Christians really take this naming convention seriously, though. I remember having a conversation about this with the head Pastor at the church I currently attend, and when he said that the books of the New Testament really were the New Covenant, I could scarcely believe my ears. How could someone so intelligent, well read, and well-educated as Pastor Randy actually believe this?

D. Thomas Lancaster
D. Thomas Lancaster

And yet it is a common, though wholly illogical doctrine of the Church. Lancaster told a story of how years back, he had worked for some place called Master’s Institute, a Lutheran seminary, and on his first day, he taught that the New Testament wasn’t the New Covenant. He promptly lost his job without so much as a “by your leave.”

That’s how seriously Christianity takes the doctrine of New Testament = New Covenant. But as Lancaster establishes in his sermon, that doctrine is dead wrong.

Lancaster knocks down all of the standard Christian arguments and if you want to know what they are, you can listen to the audio recording. The link is at the top of the page. What we call the New Testament is really the writings of the Apostles or what I call the Apostolic Scriptures. They contain information about the New Covenant, but the actual covenant is found in the Old Testament writings or the Tanakh.

The writer of the book of Hebrews, just as he made a comparison between the Levitical and Melkizedekian priesthoods and between the earthly and heavenly Temples, is now introducing a new comparison. He compares the Old and New Covenants (see last week’s review: Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Shadow and a Copy for more information).

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.

Hebrews 8:6-7 (NASB)

Here’s one of the places Christians point to in the Bible and say, “See? The Old Covenant is bad and the New Covenant is better,” implying not only that grace is better than the Law (and that the two are mutually exclusive) but that it replaces the Law.

Except as we have heard in previous sermons, what was at fault with the Old Covenant priesthood wasn’t that the Law was bad or that the Temple or sacrifices were bad, but rather, all of that couldn’t grant resurrection and immortality. The Levitical priests were human, they were mortal, they died. They also had their own sins to deal with. But then again, as Lancaster has said already, that system was never designed to remove sins permanently and to make us sinless human beings.

New CovenantThat’s why we need a New Covenant and why God had it planned all along.

But what is a Covenant? I mentioned that the New Testament is not actually the New Covenant and thus the Old Testament isn’t the Old Covenant.

Guess what? The Old Covenant isn’t the Torah, it’s not the Law. Some of you, unless you already know or have read my commentaries on the New Covenant, are probably shocked that I had the nerve to say that. But it’s true.

Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”

Exodus 24:3-7 (NASB)

That’s the Old Covenant, also called the Sinai or the Mosaic Covenant, in a nutshell. God makes a proposal.

Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

Exodus 19:5-6 (NASB)

If the Israelites agree to obey God and keep the conditions of His Covenant, then He will be their God and make them into “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

That’s the Sinai or Old Covenant. The Law or Torah are the conditions of the covenant but the not the covenant itself. The covenant is an agreement between two parties, in this case between God and the Children of Israel. The Torah contains the conditions that must be obeyed, what the Israelites agreed to do as their part of the bargain.

Here’s a news flash:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:26-31 (NASB)

light of torahWhen Israel failed to hold up their end, that is, when they disobeyed God by not observing the conditions of the covenant, God had no intention of abandoning them (see verse 31). He swore never to fail the Israelites and never to destroy them. He swore that even if Israel was faithless, He would never “forget the covenant with [their] fathers which He swore to them.”

Here’s another news flash. We are still living in Old Covenant times. The New Covenant hasn’t arrived yet and it won’t until Jesus (Yeshua) returns. That means the covenant and all its conditions established at Sinai are still in effect. Jewish people, including Jews in Messiah (Messianic Jews), are still under a covenant obligation to observe the Torah mitzvot. Please Christians, don’t try to talk them out of it. That would be a mistake.

OK, if that’s the Old Covenant, what’s the New Covenant?

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew 26:27-28 (NASB)

No, that’s not the New Covenant, that’s Jesus in the process of inaugurating the New Covenant with those present at the Seder. By eating and drinking, they are entering the very leading edge of the New Covenant which is near but will not arrive until the return of the Master when he drinks the fullness of it:

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew 26:29 (NASB)

The New Covenant will not reach fruition until the Master drinks the cup of the Covenant in the Messianic Kingdom to come.

But what is the New Covenant then? The writer of Hebrews quotes from it starting in Hebrews 8:8 but Lancaster directs his audience to the source of that quote, which is in Jeremiah 31:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Jeremiah 31:31-33 (NASB)

There’s a lot more to it of course, but this is as far as Lancaster intends to go in his first sermon on the topic.

Torah at SinaiRemember, that a covenant is an agreement and the agreement contains certain terms and conditions that each party is supposed to uphold. In the Old Covenant, God’s part was He would be a God to Israel and make her a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But that’s only as long as Israel did their part, which was obey the terms and conditions listed in the Torah. When Israel failed their end of things, God withdrew but not completely, sent the nation into exile, and applied any number of disciplinary measures. When Israel repented, God returned to them and returned them to their Land, the nation of Israel.

So what changes in the New Covenant?

“I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Isolating just that sentence, it seems that God intends to write His Law, that is, the Torah, on the hearts of the Israelites and He will continue to be their God and they will continue to be His people.

Here’s how Lancaster laid it out.

The Old Covenant

  1. God spoke the Torah
  2. Moses wrote it down and read it to the people
  3. The people said they would do everything in the Torah

The New Covenant

God puts the Torah inside of people rather than them accessing an external source and attempting to obey the covenant’s terms and conditions. The terms and conditions under the New Covenant are made internal for all the Jewish people so it’s natural for them to obey said-terms and conditions of the covenant.

But they are the same terms and conditions listed for the Old Covenant!

The only difference between the Old and New Covenants is where the terms and conditions are written.

The Torah isn’t bad or too hard to obey or a bait and switch to teach people that God’s standards are beyond our reach. In fact, the Torah is beautiful:

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

Psalm 19:7-10 (NASB)

There’s nothing wrong with the Old Covenant conditions except that human beings are faulty.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says…

Hebrews 8:7-8 (NASB)

sinaiThe first covenant was not faultless, not because the covenant was at fault but they were at fault, that is the Israelites were at fault. They agreed to obey God but they repeatedly disobeyed. God’s solution to the problem of repeated disobedience wasn’t to annul the Old Covenant and its conditions but to make its possible for people to obey the covenant conditions by creating a New Covenant.

God didn’t change the Law, He changed, or rather, He will change the people.

The Church teaches that God did away with the Old Covenant and all of its terms and conditions completely and “dumbed down” the standards for human obedience. Instead of obeying God all we have to do is believe in Jesus Christ. Except that’s not what the Bible says the New Covenant is. But as I mentioned above, the Christian doctrine of the New Covenant is a dearly held assumption, even if it’s completely in error.

In Lancaster’s understanding of the New Covenant, it’s not here yet but it’s near. Jesus said repeatedly, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). That’s our job. To repent and to repent now! As much as we are able, we should try to live as if the New Covenant Era has already arrived, we should try to have as high a fidelity to the standards of God as we can in preparation for what is to come.

No, it’s not easy, but before it gets easier, it’s going to get a whole lot harder.

What Did I Learn?

As I’ve already said, I’ve gone over this material before so it’s not exactly a revelation, but as I was listening to the recording, I came up with an obvious problem.

We people of the nations are included in the New Covenant blessings. That is, by faith in Messiah, we too will be resurrected in the next age into immortal bodies and live in an era of total peace and tranquility.

But what will we have written on our hearts? The Torah? Will we be like the Jews? Will we be “grandfathered in” to Judaism? Will we be Jews?

Lancaster may cover all this in subsequent sermons, but it’s a compelling set of queries to consider now.

Remember though that the prophet Jeremiah was writing to the houses of Judah and Israel who were about to be sent into the Babylonian exile. Most of his writing was really bad news and he inserted the information about the future New Covenant times to give them hope. But Jeremiah wasn’t writing to Gentiles at all.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews was Jewish and he was writing to other Jews. He wasn’t writing to Gentile disciples, so he didn’t have to take them into account when he crafted the language of his letter.

Coffee and BibleWe Gentile Christians read Hebrews and the rest of the Apostolic Scriptures (and the rest of the Bible) as if it were written exclusively for us in the present age. But while the Bible certainly does have applications for us in our world today, that doesn’t mean every single page is addressing us and our issues. Maybe this epistle doesn’t present an explanation of the New Covenant that takes Gentile disciples into account.

I guess we’ll find out in the next few weeks or so.