I’ve been communicating with several people lately on the topic of Torah and whether it is still true for today’s believers. Invariably, the book of Hebrews is quoted to me, along with interpretations that point toward lawlessness. Here are some of the verses that people bring up while suggesting that the Law is no longer valid.
I just want to state for the record that I do not believe that anybody’s salvation depends upon obedience to the Law. Our salvation was earned through Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, and He is the only way to salvation. When folks hear that our family makes an effort to keep the commandments, some of them automatically think that I believe we have to keep the Law, but I know we don’t have to. Torah observance isn’t about having to keep it but rather wanting to keep it.
It’s the difference between not not stealing because you’re afraid of losing your salvation (which I don’t believe can happen anyway) and not stealing because you don’t want to sin against our loving Father (assuming you were in the mood to steal anyway, I suppose). And not even having the desire to steal is a blessing of His holy spirit because His righteousness is always at odds with our fleshly nature, which is to rebel and get by with as much as possible. He truly does write His Law in our hearts.
Let’s get started by looking at Hebrews 7:18:
“For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.”
Last year, I wrote an article about this passage. You can find it here. I have been studying and studying since then, and I am not sure that my interpretation was entirely correct. I do not claim to have complete understanding of these verses, but I do know what this verse means: “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 before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.” Jeremiah 33:18. And that verse makes impossible the modern interpretation of Hebrews 7:18.
Also, if you look at these two blog posts (1 and 2), you will begin to understand the big picture of why I believe the way I do. In a nutshell, I believe Jesus when He used the authority of Torah to rebuke satan during His temptation in the wilderness: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. I believe that any time a matter of doctrine comes into question, we can search the Torah and see if that’s what has been written. The Bereans believed the same as I do, checking everything Paul taught them against the scriptures and making sure that what he said aligned with the very Words of God Himself. I believe we should do the same.
Next, let’s take a look at Hebrews 8:7-9:
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.”
In the old covenant, God found fault with “them” (verse 8), not with the Law. The Law is perfect, righteous, holy, good, but the people broke it. In the new covenant, He put his Law in their hearts, to enable them to obey out of desire. We still don’t obey it perfectly, but Christ did, fulfilling the human obligation to keep the covenant in order to obtain eternal life. Anyway, the Law is an integral part of both covenants, new and old. We don’t keep it out of obligation, but out of a hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God.
In addition, I would like to add that the Levitical and Melchizedekian priesthoods certainly can coexist. The Melchizidekian priesthood was around before the Levitical priesthood. There has never been any fault with the Melchizedekian priesthood, so it was not replaced by the Levitical one.
“And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” Galatians 3:17
The Melchizedekian priesthood is the true priesthood – the body, if you will. The shadow cast by that body is the Levitical one. It is the object lesson that helps us understand the true, spiritual priesthood. Bodies and their shadows can certainly coexists. Spiritual and physical realities can certainly coexist.
Here’s my take on the book of Hebrews: The Jews were under attack and were getting ready to lose the temple and the Levitical ministry. They had continued to keep the Law (including Levitical regulations) after salvation, and this presented absolutely no problems, as made obvious by Romans 3:31, Acts 26:22, and the fact that Paul went with the men who had Nazarite vows (unless you think that Paul was two-faced and didn’t practice what he preached). Along comes 70AD and the impending destruction of the physical temple. Suddenly, the Jews realized that they would no longer have an earthly high priest to offer the continual burnt offering and others, and I think they probably freaked out because they still didn’t understand that Jesus is our spiritual high priest, and that we do have a continual advocate with the Father, and that His ministry is older and better and perfect – completely covering sin for all time. This explains why the writer of Hebrews continues to use present tense in the verses speaking of the Levitical ministry, as though they are still legitimate, and why he said that the Levitical priesthood was getting ready to pass away, instead of saying that it had already passed away when Jesus became our high priest. It seems to me like these things should be obvious since we never hear Paul or any of the other disciples or apostles preaching that the Levitical priesthood is passed away. Since it is a physical priesthood, it is the physical destruction of Jerusalem that caused it to pass away. This is not to say that it is not still righteous. (All of God’s Laws are righteous and always will be.) This is not to say that when the priesthood is physically reinstated, that it will not still serve as the perfect object lesson for understanding Christ’s sacrifice for us. We can read in the last 10 chapters of Ezekiel that Zadok (descendants of Levi, Aaron, and Phinehas – to whom the priestly ministry was promised forever) will be reinstated as Levitical priests. Here are the promises made:
Numbers 25:11-13 (Phinehas); Exodus 29:9 (Aaron); Exodus 40:15 (Aaron); Numbers 18:8 (Aaron); Deuteronomy 18:5 (Levi); Jeremiah 33:17-21; Micah 3
Here is a bit more that I have written on the subject that may help you understand where I’m coming from. Sorry if some of it is redundant. I’m copying and pasting. Someone had asked how we can know that the Catholic priesthood is not a legitimate priesthood:
The difference is that the Catholic Church does not follow the regulations set forth for the priesthood. We know that Christ is our spiritual high priest, and that we are part of that spiritual royal priesthood, but if there is to be a legitimate physical priesthood on earth, it must follow the rules that God gave for the physical priesthood. These rules are not man-made, nor are they subject to man’s opinion of them. Hebrews 8:4 tells us that Jesus Christ Himself could not be a priest on earth because it would contradict the commandments concerning the physical priesthood: “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:”
During the Millennial Reign, which you can read about in the last 10 chapters of Ezekiel, the Levitical priesthood will be reinstated. (Not because that priesthood ever took away sin, but because it is a powerful object lesson that teaches us about redemption and the function of the spiritual priesthood. That was its purpose in the Old Testament, and that will continue to be its purpose during the Millennial Reign of Christ.) “And it shall be for them an appointment as priests forever, for all generations.” (Ex. 40:15) “For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes, to stand to serve in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever.” (Deut. 18:5)
Because the Levitical priesthood is the only legitimate physical priesthood, the regulations given to them in Torah are the only legitimate regulations governing that physical priesthood. So in other words, the Catholics are doing it all wrong. They are guilty of the same sin that Jesus was always reviling the Pharisees for, and that is the complete and utter disregard for Deuteronomy 4:2: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Since Jesse and I became Torah-observant, people have tried to catch us in hypocrisy by asking us why we aren’t still making sacrifices. What they fail to realize is that many of God’s regulations concerning the service of the priesthood cannot be carried out apart from the temple in Jerusalem, so even if the Catholics rounded up some Levites and tried to follow God’s regulations, they wouldn’t get very far because they would need the temple.)
In addition to problems with the priesthood, the Catholic Church believes they have the authority to make other changes to God’s Word. I personally believe that God’s Law is perfect, has always been perfect, and that you can’t improve on perfection. I believe that when He gave us the Law, He was describing actual righteousness to us, and not just arbitrarily inventing some things to be “bad” and some things to be “good.” If it’s true that His Law is righteous and perfect, then no one has the authority to make changes to it. Time can’t change it. Culture can’t change it. “Dispensationalism” can’t change it. The definition of righteousness is not defined by oligarchy or majority rule.
In fact, God Himself won’t break His own righteous Law because it is righteous and He is righteous, which is why He had to jump through hoops to redeem us. (For instance, a man cannot be remarried to his adulterous wife once they have been divorced. To this day, the Jews don’t understand how God is going to keep His promise to Israel and remarry them without compromising His own standard for righteousness. However, the Jews are ignorant of the Messiah’s role in redemption. God made it clear that the death of the husband fully releases the wife from the marriage. By dying Himself, He released both parties from the marriage contract, as though the marriage had never taken place. This action allows us to be remarried to Him as His pure bride.)
“In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
The difference between the old and new covenants is not a new law (aka, God’s righteous statutes vs. Christ’s law of love). The statutes are precisely the same. In fact the whole point of the law is love – it has always been about love. The problem is, individual human beings, especially ones that have been brainwashed by society, false religion, new doctrines, and their own willingness to engage in rationalizing sin, have different opinions about how to love God and how to love neighbor. When every man does that which is right in his own eyes, we go through dark spiritual times – as in the days of the judges. In fact, I believe we are in one of those times now: because lawlessness shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (paraphrased from Matthew 24:12). You see, one of the great purposes of the Law is to tell us God’s way to love Him and God’s way to love neighbor. He spells it out for us to lay all arguments among ourselves to rest. The difference between the old and new covenants is the place the law is written: on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10, quoting Jeremiah 31:33). The holy spirit enables us to WANT to keep God’s laws. It’s no longer done out of obligation, but desire.
If the Law became obsolete at the death of Christ, then how the Law will go forth from Zion during the Millennial Reign, and why there will be animal sacrifices once more? Why will the line of Zadok (descendants of Levi) minister before Him once again? The fact is that animal sacrifices never saved anyone. They are merely a shadow, an object lesson, to help us understand the reality. People will still need this object lesson, even in future. Just because the crucifixion and resurrection has already taken place, that does not mean that people will understand exactly how Christ atoned for their sins. Temple services paint a clear picture, and they are God’s way of doing things. If they weren’t, He would never have given statutes concerning them. (BTW, all his commandments are righteousness. Psalm 119:117.) His Law is the truth (Psalm 119:142), and His truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100:5).
“Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;”
The figure is an object lesson, and that lesson is the same for all of us, whether you were born before Christ or after: that gifts and sacrifices cannot make us perfect. Sacrifices never right a wrong, they never erase a sin. The only way to be sinless is to never commit sin in the first place. Christ’s atoning blood covers our sin – He paid for it as though He were the one committing it. He didn’t erase sin. The weight of all sin fell on His head. He paid the bill in full.
“Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”
The meats and drinks, diverse washings, carnal ordinances, etc are only the object lesson. They may make the body pure, but they do not erase the fact that sin has been committed. They all point forward to Christ. Once the temple is rebuilt in the Millennial Reign, they will also not make the worshipper pure, but they will point back to His atoning work. It is an object lesson, and a good one, and one that we need as long as sin remains in the world. (As made obvious by the fact that there will be sacrifices in the Millennial Reign, under the direct jurisdiction of the Messiah.) I would say that the figure was “imposed” on them until the reformation (Was the reformation the new covenant, or was it the fact that the temple was itself about to physically be destroyed? It could be a spiritual or a physical reformation and present no problems to my beliefs). Now we have entered the new covenant: we obey God’s statutes (all that we possibly can) out of desire. I think that both Jeremiah and the writer of Hebrews, and Jehovah Himself would agree with me (based on the entirety of scriptures).
“Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”
For context, start reading at the beginning of this chapter before you read what I have to say about it. You have to understand that throughout history, even when the Law was initially given and up to the present time, God would prefer for His people to obey Him, rather than disobeying and needing to kill an animal to point to Christ’s atoning work. Christ Himself never had to go to the temple in order to offer a sin offering, and the burnt offering never applied to Him (that specific offering was made every morning and every evening to be a continual covering for sin). Christ came to do God’s will, not to disobey and make sacrifices to cover disobedience. As far as taking away the first, I think that the Jews needed to go through a period of not having the temple services available to them in order to understand that Christ was their high priest. We know that there is nothing wrong with sacrifices in and of themselves: Firstly, because God commanded them, and He only gives us righteous commandments. Secondly, because they will be restored in the last days (the Millennial Reign). He wanted to firmly establish the work of Christ in the minds of believers, and perhaps there were some that couldn’t see the true body (Christ) because they were too focused on the shadow of that body (the Law). Not that the shadow is not a legitimate representation of the true. It most certainly is. It’s not an allegory invented by some church father; the allegory was instituted by the Father Himself – the one who doesn’t change with the times.
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
This is very clearly a contrast between the old covenant and the new. Remember, the new is God’s Law written on our hearts, and by pointing out the fear and terror of those agreeing to the old covenant, this passage makes that distinction clear.
For further consideration:
It seems to me that the entirety of Hebrews 7 is a defense to the Hebrews of how in the world Jesus could be our high priest since He wasn’t in the Levitical priesthood. Because God is righteous and His Law is righteousness (Psalm 119:72), the Hebrews were well aware that God wouldn’t break His own righteous commandments. (That would make Him unrighteous.) They wanted to know why Paul claimed that a member of the tribe of Judah could suddenly be our high priest. Do you see how they were testing what he taught against the OT, to see if his doctrine was true? If he had been teaching something not in accordance with scripture, they would have had to throw out his doctrine (as would we). Turns out, there’s an easy explanation: Paul’s answer is not that the Law was annulled. He argues that Jesus can be our high priest without breaking the Law. In fact, he says in Hebrews 8:4 that if Christ had stayed on earth, He could not legally be our high priest. In order to be an earthly priest, you must be of the Levitical line. In the Millennial Reign, I believe that the sacrificial system (Zech 14, Isaiah 56) will be reinstated and ministered by the Levites: “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 before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’” Jeremiah 33:18
Now why would Paul need to prove that Jesus could legally be our high priest? Because the Law is very much still in effect (righteousness is still righteousness) and obviously applies to Christ, who is the embodiment of righteousness. Christ, being the Word made flesh, never broke Torah in His existence, and He’s not about to start now. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Instead, Paul’s argument is that the order of Melchizedek precedes the Levitical order, and that Melchizedek’s order is the true order in heaven, the Levitical order being only a shadow of the reality. Both orders can co-exist, the perfect one in heaven and the figure of the heavenly one on earth.