Author: Ron Graham
Back to Shadows
—Mosaic temple worship in the Millennium?
Most premillennialists say that, in the Millennium, the law of Moses will be instituted again and the Mosaic system of temple sacrifices and festivals will be the basis of worldwide religion.
The Shadow Doctrine
There's a fundamental idea in the New Testament particularly in the letter to the Hebrews. The idea is this: under the law of Moses, the tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices, and festivals, were "shadows of good things to come" (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:16-17). What was foreshadowed by the things of Moses has all now been realised in the things of Christ. The real things have replaced the shadows.
¶“1The law was a mere shadow of the good things that were coming —a shadow rather than the real form of the good things themselves. The law called for repeated sacrifices year after year. But they could never make perfect those who drew near [to God seeking forgiveness]. 2Otherwise the sacrifices would have ceased, wouldn't they? If the worshippers were cleansed once [and for all] they would no longer feel guilty of sins. 3But those sacrifices are a reminder of sins year after year. 4It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).
This New Testament doctrine raises the obvious question: why return to the shadows for a thousand years?
Jesus is now the "mediator of a better covenant enacted on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). The Mosaic covenant was but a shadow of this new and better covenant (Hebrews 10:1-2).
Why then teach that we are going back to the old obsolete and inferior covenant? Even if the old covenant were modified, it would not come close to the new covenant that superceded it. Hebrews chapters 7-10 make an excellent lesson on this.
The Hebrew writer says, "When he said, 'a new covenant', he has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." (Hebrews 8:13, Jeremiah 31:31-32). The Hebrew writer points out that, even as far back as the days of Jeremiah, the Mosaic covenant was becoming obsolete and was ready to disappear. Yet premillennialists tell us that it is coming back in the new world of the millennium.
1 Back to the Old Sacrifices?
When Christ died on the cross, that old covenant was no longer recognised by God. It had been growing old, and then it disappeared. God "nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). Of course it was not literally nailed to the cross. Christ’s body was nailed to the cross, and the old covenant was "abolished in his flesh" (Ephesians 2:15). Figuratively speaking it was nailed with him to the cross.
Which is the better sacrifice? The animal sacrifices of old are inferior to the death of Christ on the cross —which the Lord’s Supper commemorates. There is no question that Christ’s death is the perfect sacrifice, once and for all. What is the purpose, therefore, in bringing back the slaughter and bloodshed of animals?
Animal sacrifices could never take away sins, but the blood of Jesus enabled sins to be taken away once and for all (Hebrews 10:9-18). Part of the passage I just mentioned has this to say..
¶“11Every priest stands daily at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices which have no power to take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time one single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God...” (Hebrews 10:11-12).
So again I ask, why would Christ bring back into force the sacrifices that he abolished by his own sacrifice on the cross?
Note:— A Reminder of Sins? The usual answer is that the sacrifices will be an object lesson to remind us of our "sinful nature" and our need of our Lord’s sacrifice. It is not explained why the Lord’s Supper, which our Lord instituted as a reminder of his death, would not fill that purpose, as it does today without the need of animal sacrifice. So this answer is unsatisfactory. Nothing in scripture suggests that the Lord’s Supper will be replaced by animal sacrifices.
Which is the better feast? The feasts and celebrations of the old covenant are inferior to the simple memorial supper which Jesus instituted at the Passover just before he died on the cross. (Luke 22:14-20). It is the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’s own “feast”. Why then believe that the old feasts will come back again?
Now, having considered the superior sacrifice of Christ and the feast that commemorates it, let's briefly consider two elements of the law closely associated with sacrifice —namely the tabernacle and priesthood.
2 Back to the Old Tabernacle?
Which is the better tabernacle? The earthly temple is inferior to the heavenly temple.
Why then teach that Jesus is going to leave the true, spiritual, eternal, God-built tabernacle in heaven, and enter instead an earthly, physical temple re-built by man?
Christ is now in heaven in the true tabernacle which is a more perfect and greater tabernacle. The earthly tabernacle and temple, beautiful as they were, are inferior.
Shall Christ leave the perfect temple in heaven for a mere shadow of it on earth? No, and where we read in the prophets about the physical temple we understand it symbolises the spiritual.
¶“1The main point we have been talking about is this: we have the kind of High Priest who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the Heavens. 2 He is the Minister of the sanctuary and true tabernical, built by the Lord and not by man” (Hebrews 8:1-2).
3 Back to the Old Priesthood?
Which is the better priesthood? The Levitical (or other) earthly priesthood is inferior to the more excellent, spiritual, permanent priesthood of Christ. Why then teach that an earthly priesthood will be reverted to?
The Hebrew writer holds that the earthly priesthood, like the earthly tabernacle, was a copy and shadow of Heavenly things. As stated in the passage above, Christ has obtained "a more excellent ministry" than the earthly priesthood (Hebrews 7:22-28, Hebrews 8:1-6).