Ceremonial Laws In The Bible

By David J. Stewart

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” —Hebrews 10:1

       The Jewish culture in the Old Testament was largely based upon ceremonial laws established by God, and those laws were ways of understanding things greater than themselves. The ceremonial laws (ceremonies) were literally a SHADOW of future things to come. They were physical ways of remembering divine truths...

Hebrews 10:1-4, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

Notice carefully in the preceding Scripture passage that ceremonial laws are only a remembrance of things to come, SHADOWS and not the very IMAGE of the thing they symbolized. For example: The spotless male lamb which was killed by the tabernacle high priest (and its blood applied to the mercy seat in the holy place once a year) was a shadow of the coming Messiah, the Christ. It reminded them that our sins are washed away by the precious, literal, physical, blood of the Messiah. Jesus is the actual Lamb of God which every sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament pictured. The lamb being sacrificed each year reminded the people continually that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. It reminded them that their sins had to atoned for with blood.

Only One Plan Of Salvation For All Ages

There has always been one, and only one, plan of salvation. Acts 10:43, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Notice that Acts 10:43 teaches the Old Testament prophets preached salvation by believing in Christ.

A well-respected so-called fundamental preacher down in Pensacola, Florida is Dr. Peter Ruckman. Unfortunately, Dr. Ruckman errantly believes that people were saved by blood plus works in the Old Testament, by faith plus works in the Tribulation, and by works alone in the Millennium. In his work, “Millions Disappear: Fact or Fiction?,” Ruckman says:

“If the Lord comes and you remain behind, then start working like a madman to get to heaven, because you’re going to have to. ... You must keep the Ten Commandments (all of them, Ecclesiastes 12:13), keep the Golden Rule (1 John 3:10), give your money to the poor, get baptized, take up your cross, hold out to the end of the Tribulation, wait for Jesus Christ to show up at the Battle of Armageddon, and be prepared to die for what you believe. In the Tribulation you cannot be saved by grace alone, like you could before the Rapture.”

SOURCE: Dr. Peter Ruckman, quote from “Millions Disappear: Fact Or Fiction?”

Dr. Ruckman is very wrong and is teaching a false plan of salvation. We read in Hebrews that Moses and Joshua preached the gospel to the Jews in the Wilderness (Hebrews 3:16-19; 4:1-11). Hebrews 4:2, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” The Old Testament prophets preached the gospel.

Ceremonial Laws Ceased At The Cross

A shadow is the unilluminated area formed when the sun is in the distance. When the sun is directly overhead the shadow no longer appears. Likewise, the Old Testament ceremonial laws were shadows of distant future (prophetic) events in the Bible. But when those events happened, then the shadows were no longer needed, for they had served their purpose. This is why we read in Colossians 2:12-17...

Colossians 2:12-17, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”

This means that when Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning Himself up to that point. We confirm this truth in John 19:28, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” Jesus meticulously paid attention to the Messianic prophecies in the Scriptures, making sure that all was fulfilled.

Here again in Luke 24, when the Lord met with His disciples after raising up from the dead, He states the critical importance of making sure that all the prophecies concerning Him were fulfilled...

Luke 24:38-48, “And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.”

Jesus died, was buried and miraculously rose up triumphant from the dead after three days. This is the good news called “the gospel.” 1st Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

Jesus Is Our Sabbath Today

The Bible teaches that the ceremonial laws CEASED when Jesus died on the cross. Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” The reason why is, as we learned earlier, because a shadow no longer appears when the sun is directly overhead. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Sabbath Day.

Man working 6-days a week pictured human self-righteousness, trying to merit eternal life, as did Cain foolishly. Cain tried to impress God by his works, but God rejected it. In sharp contrast, his younger brother Abel killed an innocent animal and offered up a blood sacrifice, which expressed his faith in the coming Messiah. God was pleased by Abel's faith in Christ. Cain made the same grave error as did his father, Adam, when he sewed together fig leaves in an attempt to cover his nakedness. God rejected Adam's fig-leaf religion. The Lord killed an innocent animal and shed its blood to provide skins of clothing (picturing God's righteousness) to cloth Adam and Eve. From Genesis to Revelation the major theme of the Bible is the importance and absolute need for the precious, literal, physical, blood of Jesus Christ—“the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

It is in Jesus Christ Whom we completely rest for forgiveness of sin and salvation. Hebrews 4:10-11, “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” There is a poisonous doctrine which has crept into many churches today, teaching that faith in Christ is insufficient to save a sinner unless they also have an accompanying determination (intent) to cease from living in sin as proof that their faith is valid. This is salvation by prequalification by works, which is a backdoor approach to works salvation (a false plan of salvation). This is a dangerous mindset rooted in self-righteousness.

The Bible teaches that we are saved by placing our trust in Christ, period. Anyone who receives Christ's death, burial and resurrection as full-payment for their sins is saved. Even childlike faith is enough to save a person. My friend, there are no conditions of salvation. Charles H. Spurgeon said it correctly...

“'Repentance' is a grace. Some people preach it as a condition of salvation. Condition of nonsense!” —Charles Spurgeon

SOURCE: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0044.htm (Charles Spurgeon, from a sermon titled, REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE, preached at the New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, on Sept. 23, 1855)

Spurgeon is not saying that repentance is not necessary for salvation. What he is saying is that repentance is NOT A WORK. It is a grace, that is, “For BY GRACE are ye saved through faith...” (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is God's mercy, kindness and gentleness toward sinful mankind, offering redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. Eternal life is a free gift! Those who teach repentance as a condition (work) for salvation have woefully corrupted the gospel. Biblical repentance is simply “a change of mind” which compels a person to BELIEVE the gospel for the forgiveness of sins. Mark 1:15, “repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Why Did God Kill A Man For Collecting Sticks On The Sabbath?

Another ceremonial law was the prohibition to collect sticks on the Sabbath Day. You weren't allowed to pick them up. The sticks were used as fuel to make fire for cooking or to heat their homes. Why did God kill someone for gathering some harmless sticks, especially if it was only because they were cold and forget to gather sticks earlier. Why Did God Kill A Man For Picking Up Sticks On The Sabbath Day? Since the Sabbath Day represented ceasing from our own self-righteous works and resting in Christ for salvation, to gather sticks was a very serious violation, making light of the integrity of the gospel. The symbolic meaning of the ceremonial law was ruined anytime a Jew violated the ceremonial law.

God killed the man by having him stoned for corrupting the gospel!!! By picking up some sticks, it ruined the spiritual type, showing that some amount of personal works are required for salvation (which is a lie). But that's why God commanded for no one to pick up sticks on the Sabbath Day (because it would corrupt the truth of salvation by grace, through faith, in Christ). God hates false doctrine that leads sinners into Hell forever and ever. Picking up sticks was such a serious matter that God took a man's life to preserve the integrity of the gospel. YOU DON'T ADD OR SUBTRACT ANYTHING FROM THE GOSPEL. This is why no one was allowed to do anything on the Sabbath Day. It pictured resting completely in Christ for our salvation.

So you see, ceremonial laws were a big deal to God and the Jews in the Old Testament. Taking the ceremonial laws lightly could bring the death penalty. This is how important truth is in God's eyes. There is nothing more important than truth, which is why God elevates His Word even above How own holy name. Psalms 138:2 “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”

Remember, the ceremonial laws were established by God for a particular people (the Jews), during a particular time (the Old Testament), and in a particular region (Palestine). Those ceremonial laws were memorable ways of understanding things greater than themselves. Each ceremonial law was important, because it pictured a corresponding truth given to them BY GOD. It was no trifle matter when ceremonial laws were broken, shirked off or taken lightly. A Jew's attitude toward the ceremonial laws were a direct reflection of their attitude toward the gospel and Christ.

I chose to focus on the most important ceremonial law of all, that is, the work of the Old Testament high priest. I just scratched the surface. There is an excellent book on the subject by M.R. DeHann titled “The Tabernacle” which I highly recommend. He goes into detail about the tabernacle (where the presence of God dwelt amongst the people), its majestic construction and brilliant design, and what everything means. I also recommend Dr. DeHaan's timeless classic book, “The Chemistry of The Blood,” which you can freely read online.

Gospel + Faith = Salvation

Eternal Security

“No Christian will ever have his name blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life, for all such have eternal life—which is unforfeitable and everlasting.” Pastor Harry A. Ironside

Religions: The Occult Connection | Part 2

Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”