THE KINGDOM OF GOD
(i) THE NEW COVENANT
The kingdom of God thus brought to a temporary conclusion has never existed since under the sovereignty of a king or kings of the house of David. Its existence ceased even as a Commonwealth during the captivity in Babylon which lasted seventy years. At the end of this period the kingdom reappeared in Judea; but it was no longer governed by Jewish monarchs exalted to the throne either by God or the people. Jehovah permitted his kingdom to be subject to the lordship of the Gentiles, until the end of 430 years from the burning of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar. For 122 years after the interposition of the Roman senate, God's kingdom was ruled by Jewish princes of the tribe of Levi, that is, until the Gentile of Idumea, named Herod, became king in Jerusalem, in the 37th year of whose reign Jesus, the Son of God and of David and the rightful heir of the throne of Jehovah's kingdom, was born King of the Jews.
From the commencement of Herod's reign till the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, a period of 111 years, the kingdom of God was possessed by the Gentiles; in other words, Israel did not possess the kingdom. From the knowledge of this fact, the reader will be well able to appreciate the force of the question put by the apostles to Jesus after his resurrection, and as a result of their conversation for forty days upon the subject of the kingdom, saying, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). They knew that he was "The Restorer"; (Isa. 58:12) and believing that "all power was given unto him in heaven and upon earth", (Matt. 28:18) they thought the time had certainly come for the Restoration of all things to Israel spoken of by all the prophets from the days of Moses (Dent. 30:1-10). This supposition prompted the question.
But they were too fast. Messiah the prince having come, the kingdom could not be "restored again to Israel" so long as the Mosaic Covenant continued in force. This must be "changed", the kingdom must be suppressed and desolated, and Jerusalem, the city of the Great King of Israel, be trodden under foot of the Gentiles until their times be fulfilled. They had forgotten these things, and that the kingdom of God was not immediately to appear under the sovereignty of the Son of Man; but that he was first to take a journey into a far country, where he was to be detained until "the times of the restitution", called also "the Regeneration", should arrive (Luke 19:11-12; Acts 3 :21; Matt. 19:28). In the year 74 after the birth of Jesus the kingdom was broken up, and the Mosaic covenant trampled, under foot -- not finally abolished, but temporarily suppressed, that it may be "changed" in certain essential and highly important particulars.
God has had no organized kingdom upon earth since its overthrow by the Roman power. The kingdom in the sense of its territory is where it always was; and its children, or subjects, "His people Israel", are to be found in every land, still in hope that the time will come when the kingdom will be restored again to them; and "God will subdue the people under them, and the nations under their feet"; for they do not forget the testimony that "the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem", and that "the nation and kingdom that will not serve Zion shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted" (Psa. 47:3; Micah 4:7-8; Isa. 60:12). The Heir of the kingdom is at the right hand of the Divine Majesty; and his joint-heirs, the most of them, mouldering and sleeping in the dust, with a few surviving stragglers still existing in the Protestant section of the globe, enduring reproach and tribulation in the hope of its speedy and triumphant restitution.
These are the dissolved and scattered fragments of the kingdom of God. Their reunion is a matter of promise, and consequently of hope. The Gentiles must be expelled [from] the territory; the twelve tribes must be replanted upon the land; the sleeping heirs of the government must be awaked, and the living believers in this kingdom changed: and to effect all this, God's Heir, the Restorer of the Kingdom, must come and subdue all things to himself. When these things shall come to pass, God will have "accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people" (Dan. 12:7), that is, their power shall be no more scattered, but shall be restored to them: and He will come whose right the kingdom is, and God will give it him (Ezek. 21:27).
Having thus presented the reader with a few ideas concerning the kingdom that he may have something tangible and definite before his mind when we refer to it, we shall proceed now to make a few remarks to the inquiry, What is a covenant?
The kingdom as it was, and the kingdom as it is to be, although the same kingdom, is exhibited in the scriptures under Two Covenants, or constitutions. But before adverting more particularly to these it may be necessary to say a word or two in answer to the inquiry, "What is a Covenant?"
It is a word of very frequent occurrence
in scripture, and the representative in our language of the Hebrew
berith. In English, covenant signifies "a mutual agreement of two or
more persons to do or forbear some act or thing". This, however, is not the
sense of the word berith when used in relation to the things of
the kingdom. Men's compliance or acceptance does not constitute the
berith of the kingdom a covenant. It is a covenant whether they
consent or not, and is enforced as the imperious enactment of an absolute
king. It points out God's chosen, selected, and determined plan or purpose,
entirely independent of anyone's consent, either asked or given, and is
equivalent to a system of government fixed by the Prince, and imposed on the
people without the slightest consultation between them. Accordingly, what is
called the covenant in one place, is denominated the law in another. As, "He
hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he
commanded to a thousand generations; which covenant he
made with Abraham, and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law,
and to Israel for an everlasting covenant". (Ps. 105:8-10)
"These are the words of the covenant which the Lord
commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel. Thus saith the
Lord, Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this
covenant which I commanded your fathers." (Deut.
29:1; Jer. 11:3) It is evident from this that covenant and law are used as
synonymous and convertible terms.
The statements of the New Testament conduct us to the same conclusion. It may be proper to remark here that a berith, or covenant, is expressed in Greek as diatheke. This is the word used in the Septuagint as the translation of berith.
The beriths, diathekes, or covenants of the kingdom of God are absolute decrees, which make, or constitute things what they were, and what they shall be. Hence "the Builder and Maker (or constitutor) of all things is God": (Heb. 11:10) "for whose pleasure they are and were created". (Rev. 4:11) But though these covenants are absolute, and the necessity to observe them imperative on all who are placed under them, they are replete with blessings to Israel and the nations, being founded upon "exceeding great and precious promises". (2 Pet. 1:4) Hence, they are styled "the covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12). One of them is styled "the Covenant from Mount Sinai"; and the other, the Covenant from Jerusalem which is above and free (Gal. 4:24-27). The Sinai Covenant is synonymous with the Jerusalem Covenant which now is, that is, as it existed in Paul's day; while the other covenant is the Jerusalem Covenant which is to be; and because Jerusalem, which is now "desolate", will then be "free", and "above" Jerusalem in her greatest glory under the Sinai Covenant, she is styled ano, that is, above, higher, or more exalted; and is "the mother of all" (Gal.4:26) who believe the things of the kingdom of God, which will come, or be restored to her, when as "the city of the Great King" (Matt. 5:35) she shall have awaked from her present nonvinous inebriation, and have put on "her beautiful garments" (Isa. 51:21; 52:1).
Strictly speaking, the Sinai Covenant, although based on promises, is not one of "the covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12) Paul refers to in Ephesians. These are the Covenant of promise to Abraham, and the Covenant of promise to David; both of which are elemental principles of the Covenant of the Free Jerusalem, which is to "go forth from Zion" in the latter days (Isa. 2:3). The Sinai covenant is styled "the first", the one to be hereafter proclaimed to Israel, "the second", although the latter is more ancient than the Sinai law in promise by 430 years, yet as a national berith constituting the kingdom of God in its civil and ecclesiastical appurtenances under Messiah the prince and the saints, it is second in the order of proclamation to the Twelve Tribes. The promises of the first covenant, which was added to the ancient covenant (Gal. 3:19), were the blessings of Mount Gerizim consequent upon their hearkening to the voice of Jehovah their God, (Deut. 28:1-14). In these there was no promise of eternal glory and life; of an everlasting individual and national inheritance of the land; of universal dominion under Abraham's Seed; of everlasting righteousness from one atonement; and of no possible evil coming upon them as a nation. On the contrary, the promises were accompanied with terrible threatenings, which have resulted in all the curses of Jehovah pronounced upon them for not observing to do all his commandments and statutes.
But the Second Covenant of the kingdom of Israel is established, or ordained for a law, upon better promises; and is therefore styled "a better covenant" (Heb.8:6). It abolishes the remembrance of national offences every year. Under the Sinai covenant these accumulated notwithstanding the yearly atonement, until the magnitude of its guilt crushed the nation, and caused its dispersion into all the kingdoms of the earth, as at this day. The better covenant, however, promises to Israel a great and everlasting amnesty for all past national transgression (Jer.31:31-34), not by virtue of the sacrifice of bulls and goats, which cannot take away sins, offered up by a sinful priest of the order of Aaron; but by a purification that shall be vouchsafed to the repentant tribes, issuing forth from "a fountain opened to the House of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness"; by the blood of which Jesus has entered into the presence of Jehovah himself, a High Priest of the tribe of Judah, consecrated after the power of an endless life, who will then have appeared the second time, having returned from the Most Holy to proclaim to his nation that God has been merciful to their unrighteousness, and will henceforth remember their sins and iniquities no more (Zech. 13:I; Heb. 9:24; 7:16; 9:28; Ezek. 36:25-28).
This great national reconciliation being consummated, and the Twelve Tribes grafted into their own olive again, they will then enjoy the better promises of the second Covenant. A new heart, and a new spirit they will then possess. They will be God's reconciled people, and He will be their God. He will call for the corn and increase it, and lay no famine upon them; and they shall receive no more reproach among the nations. Their land that was desolate will then be as the garden of Eden. Jerusalem will be a rejoicing, and Israel a joy. Their lives shall endure as the days of a tree, and they shall wear out the works of their hands (Isa. 65:17-25). These are a few incidents of the national blessedness that awaits Israel, when the kingdom of God shall be restored to them, and established in the second millennium of its independence under the New and Better Covenant.
(ii) THE MOSAIC CONSTITUTION
OF THE KINGDOM IMPERFECT.
(iii) THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE
The sectarian idea is that after John and
Jesus proclaimed repentance there would be no temple service performed by
Levites that God would accept. But this is contrary to the sure word of
prophecy, which testifies that "the Messenger of the Covenant shall sit as a
refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and
purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto Jehovah an
offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be
pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years"
(Mal. 3:3,4). And again the prophet records Jehovah's declaration,
that "David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of
Israel: neither shall the priests, the Levites, want a man before me to offer
burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice
continually... Thus saith the Lord, If ye can break my covenant of the day,
and my covenant of the night, that there should not be day and night in their
season; then (and not before) may also my covenant be broken with David my
servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the
Levites the priests my ministers". (Jer. 33:17-21) From this it is manifest
that the perpetuity of David's throne, and the perpetuity of the Levitical
ministrations, are parallel.
Some say that David's throne is now occupied in heaven will these same visionaries affirm that the Levites are offering sacrifices there? For the testimony says, "They shall do sacrifice continually"! The truth is that this testimony has regard to the time when the kingdom shall be restored again to Israel. At the time the prophecy was delivered there were unbelievers who, like some in our day, declared that the Lord had cast off the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Therefore said Jehovah to the prophet, "Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the Lord hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? Thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. But, if my covenant be not with the day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth: then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them" (Jer. 33:17-26). It is from the time of this return, then, that the perpetuity begins in relation to David's son, and the Levites. Both houses of Israel are still in captivity; therefore the return is yet future. When that return is accomplished, then henceforth even to "the end" appointed, shall these gracious promises obtain as notable realities in the land of Israel.
It is therefore a principle of the kingdom of God that the Levites shall be priests in that kingdom under the New Covenant, or constitution, as well as under the Old. As it is written, "Thus saith the Lord, They shall be ministers in my temple, having charge of the gates of the house, and ministering to the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them. They shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things in the most holy place. But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein" (Ezek. 44:9-14). The reason given why they shall not do the office of a priest before God, but shall act as menials in the service, and in relation only to the people, is because under the Mosaic Covenant "they ministered to the people before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity". (Ezek. 44:12) This is the ground of their future degradation from their former rank, to that of the lowest class of the priesthood under the New Covenant.
The next class of priests above them is to consist of the Levites, the sons of Zadok (verse 15). These will have no immediate communication with the people in performing the service, but will officiate immediately between the people's priests and "the Prince", who is then High Priest, and Jehovah's anointed for ever. Zadok signifies just or justified. Zadok, who was contemporary with David and Solomon, is their representative father in the priesthood, as David is their representative father in the royalty, and Abraham their representative father in the faith. Hence in the priesthood, the saints are "the sons of Zadok"; (Ezek. 44:15; 48:11) in the royalty, "the sons of the Prince" (Ezek. 46:16); and in the faith the seed or sons of Abraham".
Eli and his sons were rejected as representative sacerdotal men, because the sons were wicked, and Eli honoured them above Jehovah. Therefore Jehovah said to him, "I will raise me up a faithful priest, who shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind; and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever" (1 Sam. 2:29,35). He must therefore become immortal. Now under the Mosaic Covenant this "faithful priest" was Zadok, who walked before David and Solomon. When Absalom and Israel rebelled against the Lord's anointed, Zadok and Abiathar remained faithful with Jehovah and his king. But when David was about to die, Abiathar, who was descended from Eli, conspired to make Adonijah king instead of Solomon; while Zadok continued faithful to David. Solomon, however, being established on the throne, "thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the Lord; that he might fulfil the word of the Lord, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh". He told him he was worthy of death, but he would spare his life for his father's sake, because he suffered with him in Absalom's rebellion; he therefore exiled him to Anathoth, and promoted Zadok to the high-priesthood in his room (1 Kings 1: 7,39;2:22,26,27,35).
Now these were representative events. Jehovah will raise up the faithful of the house of Levi, even Zadok and his sons, and they shall walk before His Anointed for ever -- even before the "greater than Solomon" (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31) -- when, in "the city of the Great King", (Matt. 5:35; Ps. 48:2) he sits and rules upon his throne as a priest bearing the glory (Zech.6:12,13), as Prince of Israel for ever. This superior class of Levites "shall come near to me", saith the Lord, "to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood : they shall enter into my holy place, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge." (Ezek. 44:15,16) From the seventeenth verse to the end of this chapter are the ordinances for the lowest class of Levitical priests.
Here then is a change in the Levitical arrangements, and not an abolition of them. The "service" will be amended, not abolished. In the service under the Mosaic Covenant there were "divers washings"; (Heb. 9:10) but in the service under the New Covenant of the kingdom "washings" are omitted; for in the Ezekiel Temple there is no laver, or brazen sea provided. But sacrifices remain; for eight tables are appointed to be set up in the entry of the north gate on which the lowest class of the priests are to slay them for the people. Paul therefore did not mean that the Levitical service was absolutely and finally discontinued -- that it should be revived no more; but that it should be amended to adapt it to the new circumstances created by the sacrifice and high priesthood of Jesus, which was to supersede the priesthood of Aaron.
If we be asked the reason for the conclusion that Paul meant amendment, and not final discontinuance of the Levitical service, we reply, that it is found in the phrase "until the time of reformation" (Heb. 9:10) used by him. His words are mechri kairou diorthoseos. The Levitical service continued unchanged for forty years after the proclamation of "reformation" by Jesus; so that the kairos or definite time for discontinuance was not at his preaching, or even the rending of the temple vail. The Mosaic service was not "imposed until the time of metanoia" (Heb. 9:10) which is the word signifying the "reformation" preached. Metanoeite, "Repent ye", said Jesus. No; it was imposed until the time of diorthosis", which is not repentance", but emendation, amendment; from diorthoo, to correct, or make right. The subject of the diorthosis is the Mosaic Covenant, not the disposition of men.
The Mosaic Constitution must be amended to make way for a new order of priesthood, and a service which shall show forth the perfection of its character. The work of amendment in regard to its foundation was laid in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It then became necessary to gather out of Judah sons for Zadok, and the Prince. "Behold, I and the children whom God has given me are for signs and wonder in Israel" (Isa. 8:18; Heb. 2:13). These children being separated to Jesus from the tribe of Levi and the nation for the purposes to be accomplished through them at "the restitution of all things", (Acts 3:21) nothing remained for that epoch, but to give the Mosaic constitution a thorough shaking. This is called shaking the heaven, and was the fulfilment of the prophecy by Haggai reproduced by Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews (Hag. 2:6; Heb.12:26,27) "Yet once, it is a little while, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will shake the heavens and the earth." The "little while" was 587 years from the delivery of the prediction; and about ten years from the date of the epistle. It was the last time the nation of Israel and the constitution of their kingdom were to be shaken. Their commonwealth was to be shaken that "the things made" or constituted, by the Mosaic Covenant, which were incompatible with the rights of the Lord Jesus founded upon "the word of the oath" (Heb. 7:21,28) might be "removed"; and that "those things which" were in harmony with that word, and which "cannot be shaken might remain". This then was the first stage of the "emendation", or as the Gentiles would say, of the amendment of the constitution".
The next work in the carrying out the purpose of emendation is thus expressed in Haggai -- "I will shake the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts". (Hag. 2:6,7) When this was spoken the temple was in ruins, the foundation only being laid. The people then returned from Babylon said, "The time has not come that the Lord's house should be built" (Hag. I:2,4,9); that is, the 70 years that it was to lie waste from the time of its destruction are not yet, accomplished, 66 years only having elapsed. But Haggai was sent to them to stir them up to the work, and in four years after, even in the sixth year of the reign of Darius, it was finished (Ezra 6:15).
When therefore Haggai said, "This house shall be filled with glory", (Hag. 2:6) he did not refer to the temple which Jesus frequented but to the temple to stand upon the same site which is described by Ezekiel, into which "the glory of the God of Israel", even the Son of Man in the glory of the Father, "shall come from the way of the east", and cause the neighbouring earth itself to shine (Ezek.43:2). This is the only interpretation the prophecy will admit of; for when Jesus came, he was neither "the desire of all nations", (Hag. 2:7) nor was he in glory. The glory of the God of Israel left the temple when the Chaldees were about to destroy it; and it will not return until Jesus shall sit upon the throne and bear the glory in the era of "the regeneration". (Matt.19:28)
The shaking of the heavens and the earth, as we have said, refers to "the end of all things" (1 Peter 4:7), constituted by the Old Covenant; but the shaking of the sea and dry land, to the kingdoms of the Gentiles, and is thus explained; "I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen ... In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, 0 Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, and will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee, said the Lord of hosts" (Hag. 2:22 and 23). This period of overthrow is "the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation to that same time", when Michael shall stand up, the Great Prince who standeth for the Israelites, who at that time shall be delivered, even all that shall be found written among the living in Jerusalem (Dan. 12:I; Isa. 4:3).
This is the era of the resurrection of "the heirs" (Heb. 6:17) of "the kingdom which cannot be moved". (Heb. 12:28) Michael (Mi who, cha like, el God), the great power of God, even Jesus the great Prince of Israel, appears at this crisis "to subdue all things to himself", (Phil. 3:21) and to complete the work of emendation. He smites the image of Nebuchadnezzar upon its feet (Dan. 2:34), and grinds its fragments to powder. He brings the king of the north, who is Head over an extensive region, to his end (Dan. 11:45; Ps. 110:6). He causes Gog to fall upon the mountains of Israel; and expels the Gentiles out of his land (Ezek. 39:4), that they may tread his holy city under foot no more. Having made the nations lick the dust like a serpent, and bound their power as with a mighty chain, he proceeds in the building again of the tabernacle of David, and in the setting up its ruins -- that is, in the restoring again of the kingdom of God to Israel, or in "the restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21) belonging to the Mosaic law, compatible with his exercise of the functions of High Priest in Israel. When this work is accomplished the diorthosis or emendation will be complete (Psa. 10:16; Micah 7:16,17; Rev. 20:1-3).
If the Mosaic Covenant of the kingdom bad been found faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second (Heb. 8:7). The priesthood of the Mosaic was changeable, passing from father to son. This was deemed by the Lord a very important defect, which must therefore be amended. He determined therefore that the priesthood should be changed -- that it should no longer "be left to other people" (Dan. 2:44) -- but should be unchangeable in the hands of Messiah and the saints, or Zadok and his sons. But this purpose could not be carried into effect so long as the Mosaic constitution of the kingdom continued in force; for this restricted the priesthood to the tribe of Levi, and made no provision for a priest of the tribe of Judah.
Now Jehovah purposed that the High Priesthood of the nation should be changed from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron, to the tribe of Judah and the family of David. Hence this change of the priesthood being determined, there was decreed of necessity a change also of the law (Heb. 7:12). As Christ's priesthood was not authorized by the Mosaic Covenant, something was necessary on which to found it. This necessity was provided for in the Word of the Oath which runs thus -- " I have sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the Order of Melchizedec" (Ps. 110:4 and Heb. 7:21) This oath was uttered by Jehovah upwards of 500 years after the Law was given from Sinai, and constitutes the right of David's son to the priesthood of the kingdom; as the oath sworn to David also entitles his son to its throne for ever. The grand peculiarity, then, of the new Constitution of the kingdom over the old is the union of the high priesthood and kingly office in one person, of the tribe of Judah and family of David unchangeably, or for ever. Under the Mosaic, the priesthood and royalty of the kingdom were separate, and restricted to two distinct families and tribes the priesthood to Levi and Aaron; the royalty to Judah and David. But this will be amended, and the Lord Jesus, in whose veins once flowed the blood of Levi, Aaron, Judah and David (Luke 1 :5, 36), will unite in himself the kingly and priestly offices, when he sits and rules upon his throne and bears the glory.
Well, Jesus of Nazareth was manifested to Israel as Son of God at his baptism. It was clearly proved that he was the Christ, and therefore entitled to the things defined in the word of the oaths to himself and his father David. But "he was made under the law" (Gal. 4:4), to which he yielded a perfect obedience in all things. He never entered the Court of the Priests, nor the Holy Place; nor attempted to do service at the altar. Being of the tribe of Judah, the Law forbad him to advance beyond the Court of the Israelites, or to minister in holy things. So long as the Mosaic law continued in practical operation, and he inhabited the land, he must have remained among the people. Had Israel continued in their country under the law to this day, and Jesus had remained with them until now, and they had been willing to acknowledge him, and submit to his government, he would not have ascended the throne until the constitution was dedicated and amended; "for", says Paul, in view of this condition of affairs, "if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law" (Heb. 8:4).
The emendation of the covenant must have been preceded by its dedication. This could only be accomplished by the death of the mediator. The death was the dedication of the covenant in his blood; as he himself said, "This is the New Covenant in my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28; Luke 22:20), -- and to show the connection between the covenant and the kingdom, he said, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come". (Matt.26:29) But when he came to life again after this dedication, he could not even then inherit the kingdom. The Mosaic Covenant must have been changed; an emendation, however, to which the party in power would by no means consent, as the amendment would have put them all out of the government. Pilate and Herod, Caiaphas and the Council must have surrendered their offices into the hands of Jesus, who would have promoted in their place his own disciples and friends. But they would not hear of such a thing; therefore it remained only for Jesus to absent himself, and to abolish the kingdom until the time appointed in the wisdom of the Father for its restitution to Israel under a better, more permanent, and perfect order of things.
iv) JEWS AND GENTILES IN
RELATION TO THE NEW COVENANT
We come now to the consideration of the
difficulty seemingly involved in Paul's doctrine when regarded in the light of
Ezekiel's testimony, Jesus is now the High Priest of God, and the only one
that exists, or will ever exist in relation to man. He has had no rival since
the Mosaic Covenant "vanished away". (Heb. 8:13) He is God's high priest for
those, both Jews and Gentiles who have been reconciled to God through his name
-- that is, who believe God's promises concerning the kingdom, and the things
concerning Jesus, and have been united to his name by baptism. This is
equivalent to saying, who have been reconciled through the belief and
obedience of the gospel of the kingdom -- through the obedience of faith. Of
the things concerning Jesus are the things pertaining to his divine sonship,
his spotless and unblemished character, his sacrificial death and
resurrection, etc., constituting him God's Lamb, holy and without blemish,
having neither spot, nor wrinkle, or any such thing, of his own free will once
offered to bear the sins of many. Thus he was at once the sacrifice and the
priest; for "he offered up himself"; as he said, "I lay down my life for the
sheep. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I
might take it up again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.
I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. This
commandment have I received of my Father" (Heb. 7:27; John 10:15,17,18). Being
thus the Lamb slain, he resumed his life, and entered into the presence of God
before whom he stands as the blood-sprinkled Ark of the Covenant (Rev. 11:19),
in whom is deposited the Law hereafter to go forth from Zion, and the life of
his sheep, whose sins he bears away (Col. 3:3; Heb. 9:28); and thus they are
sanctified by the dedicated covenant through the once offering of his body: so
that "by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified"
Now these sanctified ones are a purified people, whose "hearts" or minds and dispositions, have been "purified by faith" (Acts 15:9) -- faith in the promises of God, and in "the blood of sprinkling which speaks better things than the blood of Abel". (Heb. 12:24) The blood of Jesus is the blood of sprinkling which gushed forth from his side as "an offering" or purification "for sin". The poor in spirit and the meek, the honest and good hearts, that by faith appreciate the virtue of this sprinkled blood, and have become the subjects of repentance and remission in his name, are said to be "sprinkled from an evil conscience" and to have "washed the body with pure water" (Heb. 10:22). They are "the children of the promise",(Gal. 4:28) or covenant; because in becoming Christ's they have believed the promises, and have been purified by "the blood of the covenant". (Zec. 9:11; Heb. 10:29) As yet they walk by faith in the things believed, and not by sight. Faith, which is "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen", (Heb. 11:1) is the mirror which reflects the things of the approaching future, and presents them to the believer's mind as though he were beholding, and personally in the presence of, the very things themselves. Hence, it is said to such, "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the City of the living God, to Jerusalem the heavenly, and to the myriads of angels, to a general convocation, even to an assembly of first-borns enrolled for the heavens (en ouranols), and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of the sprinkling which speaks better things than that of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24). Ye are come by faith to these things, which at present ye do dimly contemplate; but which ye shall see no longer as through a glass darkly, but face to face in the presence of the Lord.
Now these, whose hearts are sprinkled and their bodies washed, are the only people on the earth since the entrance of Jesus into the presence of God, for whom he officiates as "High Priest over the House of God" (Heb. 10:2I;3:6). They are "God's temple" "the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb. 8:2). For forty years this temple coexisted with that in Jerusalem; but since the destruction of the latter it is the only temple of God upon the earth, where gifts and offerings, called "spiritual sacrifices", are offered acceptably to His name (1 Peter 2:5, 9). They become acceptable in being presented through Jesus Christ. They who do the worship (and they are all the faithful) enter into this holy place, or heavenly, which as a whole they constitute, with the sprinkled blood of the covenant upon their hearts. Purified once through faith in the blood-sprinkled covenant of promise, hereafter to become the law of the kingdom, there is in their case no more sacrifice for sin; "for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified". (Heb. 10:14) Yet, though thus sanctified, they continue to offer spiritual sacrifices. All this is worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth; which is the only service acceptable to Him while His kingdom is in ruins, and prostrate at the feet of the Gentiles.
But this worship in spirit and in truth (expressed in confession of the hope (Heb. 10:23), praise, and prayer; in baptism; and in eating and drinking of the symbols on the table of the Lord) is the unburdensome privilege of those only who through faith in the Covenant and its blood have become "heirs of the kingdom". (James 2:5) When this is set up in Palestine, the service is changed in form, but not in principle; and from social becomes national. In the national service, the higher priesthood, which consists of Jesus and the "children God has given him", (Heb. 2:13)_ all immortal by resurrection, or transformation, though they offer "the fat and the blood"; (Ezek. 44:7,15) it is for the people and not for themselves. They need no more sacrifice for sin; but being "priests unto God" (Rev. 5:10), there needs must be something for them to offer on account of the worshippers for whom they officiate. The New Covenant, which we now accept as a matter of faith and hope, has not yet been made with the House of Judah and Israel. If it had, they would now be a united nation in Palestine. It will be made with them when they are grafted into their own olive and not before. At the engrafting, there will be a great national celebration, called "a delivering of the Covenant" (Ezek. 20:37): a delivering of the New Covenant from Zion (Micah 4: 2), with a glorious, but not such a terrible display of power as when the Covenant was delivered from Sinai. The nation, or Twelve Tribes, having been brought at length to acknowledge Jesus as High Priest and King, are received unto favour; and being under the New Covenant, as in former years they were under the Old, Jehovah becomes merciful to their unrighteousness, and proclaims everlasting oblivion of all their past individual and national offences by virtue of the royal blood of the Covenant, the preciousness of which they then perceive and appreciate. This amnesty, however, benefits that generation only to which the Covenant is delivered and by which it is accepted. It affects not the generations of Israel's rebellious dead; they are the "cut off from the people".
Now, the question remains, when thus reconciled to God through the blood of his Son, is the nation to have a religious service or worship; and if they are, what is to be its principle, and what its form? No one who understands the Bible would affirm that the Twelve Tribes of Israel were to live in their own land under the New Covenant for 1,000 years without any national religious worship. To affirm this would be to say in effect that God had prepared a Royal Priesthood for His kingdom, but had provided no service for them to perform. This is not admissible for a moment. There will be a service under the New Covenant as there was under the Old. Its principle will be memorial, not typical; even the extension of the principle upon which is now celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus. Hence, the "reconciliation" will be a memorial reconciliation made perfect by the blood of the Covenant which institutes it. The reconciliation of the Old Covenant was typical and imperfect; because the dedication blood, being merely that of bulls and goats, could not perfect the conscience in taking away of sins. When the Prince under the New Covenant "prepares for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin-offering" (Ezek. 45:22), it is memorial of his own sacrifice of himself, and memorial of the reconciliation which the people enjoy through the blood of the Covenant with which, through faith in it, their hearts will be sprinkled then, as the true believers are at present.
Such is the principle of the amended "service which pertains to the Israelites" (Rom. 9:4). The form thereof is detailed in Ezekiel more at large than we can present it here. It is a service not of spiritual sacrifices, but of bloody sacrifices of spiritual significance. The lower order of the priesthood, mortal Levites, slay them for the people, and pass the fat and blood from the tables at the north gate to the Altar, where they are burned and sprinkled by the higher or immortal priests, "the seed of Zadok", (Ezek. 43:19) before the Lord. The past sins of the nation having been amnestied at the delivering of the Covenant, there is henceforth no more remembrance of sins once a year. The old Mosaic annual atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month, at which the tribes were to "afflict their souls", (Lev. 16:29,31; 23:27,32; Num.29:7) is not revived under the New Covenant. It will form no part of the service then. It was one of those things made, or appointed, that was removed when the Lord shook the Mosaic heaven by the Roman power. There will be no laver of water between the Temple and the Altar for the seed of Zadok to wash themselves before they enter the temple. These washings and carnal ordinances are also abolished; for those who approach the altar and enter in are like their Prince, holy and undefiled, being devoid of evil in the flesh.
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