"Let's face it. For nearly two thousand years, the Law has been given a bad reputation by the Christian Church. Not entirely, of course, but most modern day Christians, when asked about 'the Law,' will tend to respond in negative or semi-negative terms. It is no wonder, then, that when believers in Yeshua begin to observe and appreciate Torah commandments such as keeping the Sabbath or eating kosher foods, many of their Christian friends are shocked and concerned, 'Why would anyone want to put themselves under the restrictions and regulations of a Law from which Jesus freed us?!' It isn't long until the shock and concern fuels confrontation. Sometimes this confrontation is sincere and meaningful. After all, if a brother or sister really thinks that someone who is keeping the Sabbath and eating kosher foods has been deceived by the 'doctrines of demons,' they have a great motivation to rescue that poor soul from the slippery slope of legalism.
Sometimes such confrontation, when it is sincere, comes with proof texts to show the person how deceived they really are, with the genuine hope that they will 'see the light.' Occasionally, however, the confrontation begins by pointing out just how ridiculous observing the 'old Law' really is: 'So, where do you plan to sacrifice your first lamb? In your backyard?' (often accompanied by a couple of nervous chuckles). They are quite sure that this question is the coup de gras that will halt this 'Torah nonsense' and get the person back on track.
What throws the whole conversation into a tizzy is when the Torah-loving believer calmly says: 'Well, we obviously can't offer sacrifices when there is no Temple and no established priesthood. But if there were a TEmple and priesthood, I'd be ready and willing to bring my sacrifice as God commands.'
After the initial shock wears off, the stunned Christian usually retorts with something like this: 'Jesus made the final sacrifice. We no longer need sacrifices, and anyone who would think we do just doesn't appreciate the finished work of Christ!' This response is based upon a number of faulty assumptions: 1) that animal sacrifices were actually received by God as full payment for one's transgressions; 2) that forgiveness of sins before Yeshua came was through offering sacrifices, but that after He came, forgiveness of sins was by faith in Yeshua and sins were forgiven on the basis of His death; and 3) that to even consider offering an animal sacrifice after Yeshua died on the cross would be an affront to His finished work of paying for sins through His own death," pg. 25 of Ten Persistent Questions by Tim Hegg
Because I'm a Messianic who visits church fairly regularly (it's a testament to my self-control and maturity that they haven't kicked me out yet!), I can attest that Hegg's opening "confrontation" portrays the typical Christian attitude toward Messianic beliefs.
But we love Christians because, as Messianics, most of us used to be Christian. So the question for us Messianics is: how do we address the Christians concerns and explain our interpretation of the purpose/meaning of the "Old Testament" sacrificial system?
Did Animal Sacrifice Save People Before Yeshua's Atonement?
Tim Hegg points out an apparent contradiction between the book of Hebrews and various passages in the Tanak that deal with animal sacrifice. On the one hand, the Hebrews author states:
"1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins," (Hebrew 10:1-4)
Yet the Tanak seems to same that such sacrifice did in fact take away sins. It is written:
"Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin and he will be forgiven" (Etc)
Now, this seems like an insurmountable contradiction. But the reality is that everything in the earthly realm is merely a poor reflection of things occurring in the spiritual realm. The Tabernacle and Temple were not the centers of reality but rather gateways to a much deeper reality. Likewise, the sacrifices were merely an earthly representation of the spiritual mechanism by which sins were truly forgiven.
So what was the spiritual mechanism of forgiveness? It was always G-d's grace that offers forgiveness for sins and was never truly the blood of sacrificial animals. Blood represents the kinship, the closeness, required for there to be true forgiveness. However, the true blood by which we are united in kinship with our Heavenly Father is the blood offered by Yeshua. (Yet even "blood" is but another illustration of a much deeper spiritual reality).
TO BE CONTINUED...