Saturday, May 16, 2015

To The Jews First

The church grew rapidly as the disciples scattered to the four corners of the Roman Empire which comprised the known world while spreading the Gospel (good news) of Christ. It was met with diametric opposition from Caesar who had declared himself to be god and had demanded the worship of his subjects. Those Jews who hadn’t been privy to and had rejected Jesus as the Messiah were equally contentious and a great persecution arose and the new Christians were hunted down and killed by the hundreds. During this time there were four different sects within the Jewish system. There were the Pharisees who believed in life after death and loved to be seen by others as religious and righteous. There were the Sadducees who were non-religious and did not believe in life after death. Then came the Essenes, a cloistered sect of Jewish scholarly types who remained separated from the normal affairs of daily life in Israel and finally there were the Zealots, they were the anarchists of their time who’s desire it was to rid Israel of Roman domination. Judas Iscariot one of the early twelve disciples and the one who betrayed Christ may have been a Zealot. These four factions are still represented today by differing designations in most societies. There was a man named Saul of Tarsus, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews, he was a Pharisee and a temple priest who was so incensed by this new Jewish sect of Christ believers that he became the zealous chief overseer of the persecution of Christians in Israel, pulling them from their houses and slaying them in the streets. On the road to Damascus he was struck down and blinded suddenly hearing a voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” For the account read: Acts 9: 1-22. 

Following that he became known as the Apostle Paul and was by far the greatest evangelist ever, instrumental in leading untold numbers to a redemptive relationship with Christ. 
Having been a scholar of scripture and former temple priest Paul wrote the following letter to the Hebrews, his fellow Jews as a means of an explanation about all that has passed and to encourage them to receive their Messiah.

(Hebrews 9: 1- 28) Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Hence even the first covenant was not ratified without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

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