What happens to the sins of the Jews?

Fredy Winkler

There’s one question that comes up all the time: What happens to the sins of the Jews, since there is no longer a temple for them to offer sacrifices for their sins?

The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4). This is why the Old Testament used the word “kappara,” which didn’t mean “to forgive” or “to take away,” but rather “to cover.” The sins in the Old Testament were simply covered up with God’s forbearance until He came to truly forgive the sins, in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who shed His blood as the final and eternal sacrifice for the forgiveness of all the sins of the world. When John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Seen like this, the entirety of the sacrificial ceremonies under the old law were just precursors for the coming final sacrifice that Jesus Christ would make in the fullness of time. Significantly, 40 years after Jesus died and rose again, the temple was utterly destroyed, putting an end to the sacrificial ceremonies, just as God predicted through the prophet Daniel, in chapter 9 of his book.

The suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ must therefore be the central and most important theme of evangelism. Suffering and death by themselves, though, aren’t the important part of the Good News, but rather the resurrection. If Jesus had not arose from the dead, He would have just been a martyr and would have simply been classified among all the other founders of religions. Above all else, it is the fact that Jesus rose from death that makes Him greater than all others.

Many times, the suffering and death of Jesus are emphasized more than His resurrection, but it is actually the resurrection that should be the focus of the gospel message. For the Orthodox Church, the day commemorating the resurrection is the most important day in the church calendar; not so much Christmas, as in the Western church. In fact, they call the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by a much more glorious and befitting name: the Church of the Resurrection, or Anastasis in Greek. The greatest gospel message that Jesus entrusted to His followers was the promise of resurrection and eternal life; a message that they were directed to share with the entire world. This message is sometimes referred to as the message of grace, because it contains an offer to receive a pardon from death and the punishment for sin.

The Jews were also beginning to understand that it wasn’t the sacrifices, but rather the grace of God that was most important. When the temple was destroyed and the sacrificial ceremonies ended, the Jews transitioned almost seamlessly to a new religious practice, in which the day of Yom Kippur and the preceding ten days of atonement became the central instrument for the forgiveness of sin. In the ceremonial prayers of that holiday, they recite a verse from the Book of Micah, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (7:18).

This expression was one of the most important verses that convinced the Jews that God’s grace is needed for the forgiveness of sins. For them, however, some uncertainty remains as to whether God will really be gracious. By contrast, those who believe in Jesus Christ know that they have received grace, because God always fulfills His promises.

Another question that often seems to come up when this topic is discussed is the issue of offering sacrifices in the future temple, which was spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel. What will be the purpose of sacrifices during the millennium? They will probably be a commemoration of the sacrificial death of Jesus, much like communion with bread and wine is a reminder for us of what He did.

News from Israel - 05/2018

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