Question: It’s been taught that after Christ’s return the Levites will once again offer burnt offerings and other sacrifices. Why is this necessary? Will it be used as a tutor to train people the overall scheme of things? Or is it meant figuratively?
Also, Jeremiah 33:18, says there will always be a Levitical priest to offer sacrifices and offerings. But there have not been priests doing offerings since 70 AD. So, it looks like it means that, as the Levites have been offering up sacrifices all these centuries, it is in a figurative or spiritual sense rather than literal. In verses 21-22, of this chapter, God refers to the priests as His ministers. So maybe all these things (specifically the offering of sacrifices after the return of Christ) are merely a type of the spiritual healing that will become the norm on earth.
Can you give me some feedback on this?
Answer: There is a difference in how the prophecy of Jeremiah 33:17-18 applied and was carried out with respect to the throne of David as opposed to the Levitical priesthood. The differences are explained in other Scriptures which deal with these subjects and with how the Scriptures have been fulfilled historically.
It’s important to take into account the context of Jeremiah 33, which is the restoration of Judah, Israel and Jerusalem under the rule of the Messiah. The primary application of this specific prophecy is to the Millennium. The prophecy looks forward to the reestablishment of David’s throne in Jerusalem and the reestablishment of the Levitical priesthood to offer sacrifices there. The Hebrew yowm used in verse 18, translated “continually” in the KJV, means daily, in reference to the daily sacrifices (Strong’s Revised Lexicon, Online Bible, Woodside Bible Fellowship; cf. Numbers 28:3).
The prophecy says, “nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me…” (Jeremiah 33:18). It does not say that they will have continually offered sacrifices without interruption until the Messiah’s coming. The main point is that the Levites (and the descendants of David) will have continued to exist up to that time.
Jeremiah himself both prophesied of and witnessed the destruction of the Temple (Jeremiah 7:4, 10-14; 26:2-6, 12, 18; 25:13). The Temple having been destroyed, there was no place for the Levites to legitimately offer physical sacrifices (Deuteronomy 12:20-28; 2 Chronicles 7:12). And they did not (except for the impure sacrifices at Elephantine) until the altar and later the Temple were restored in Jerusalem (Ezra 3-7).
Joel prophesied of a time when sacrifices would cease to be offered (Joel 1:9, 13). Hosea wrote, “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim” (Hosea 3:4). Daniel prophesied that the first coming of the Messiah would “bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Daniel 9:25-27). Jesus prophesied the destruction of the second Temple (Matthew 24:1-2), which occurred in 70 A.D. All of these prophecies, as well as the historical reality of what has happened, point to a suspension in the activities of the Levitical priesthood due to God’s displeasure, but not a permanent obliteration, because of God’s promise in Jeremiah 33 as well as other prophecies that speak of its restoration (e.g., Ezekiel 44).
Why will the Levitical priesthood be restored during the Millennium? Your suggestion that it will be done as a teaching device is absolutely correct. As Paul points out in the book of Hebrews, the earthly sanctuary and its divine service under the Levitical priesthood served as a “copy and shadow of the heavenly” (Hebrews 8:5). All of this was intended to teach spiritual lessons and principles. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “…the law [meaning the Old Covenant, including the Levitical system] was our tutor to bring us to Christ…” (Galatians 3:24). The primary job of ministers, including priests, under God’s system is to teach God’s way by word and example (1 Timothy 4:12-13). “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 2:7; cf. 2 Chronicles 15:3; Ezra 7:10).
Under the New Covenant the physical temple and priesthood with their system of physical sacrifices have been superseded by the reality of which they were only a figure and type. “He takes away the first that He may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9). The spiritual priesthood of Melchizedek (“King of Righteousness” – Jesus Christ) has replaced the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-19). Those in the first resurrection will be added to this spiritual priesthood, serving under Jesus Christ, the High Priest (Revelation 1:6; 20:6).
The High Priest of the spiritual priesthood of Melchizedek is not a Levite, but was, humanly, of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:11-19). Those of the spiritual priesthood added in the first resurrection will be humanly “of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9-10).
But in the Millennium, serving with the spiritual priesthood of the order of Melchizedek, as an adjunct to them, will be the physical Levitical priesthood in a restored physical temple in the restored city of Jerusalem. Their duty will be to, “…teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths” (Ezekiel 44:23-24). The rites of the physical temple, including its sacrifices, will be an aid to their teaching responsibility, as they were intended to be from the time the Levitical priesthood was initially established.
As for the house of David, God promised David that the kingdom of his seed would be established forever, and that if his descendants sinned God would chasten them, but not as Saul, who was punished by having his dynasty ended (2 Samuel 7:12-16; cf. Psalm 89:4, 30-37). Hence, when Solomon sinned God took away from the dynasty ten tribes, but left one (Judah, joined by Benjamin and most of the Levites) to it “for the sake of my servant David” (1 Kings 11:13).
As we read earlier, because of their sins the tribes of Israel were removed from their land and scattered, and various of the tribes have abided for many days without a king (Hosea 3:4). The Jews, for example, have been without a king of the house of David for more than two thousand years. So that prophecy has been and is being fulfilled.
At the same time, the record indicates that somewhere descendants of the house of David have been ruling over some portion of the people of Israel at all times. For example, indications are that some of the kings of the Scythians (c. 700 B.C.-100 A.D.) and the Parthians (c. 250 B.C.-226 A.D.), many of whom were descendants of the Israelites, were of the house of David (see The ‘Lost’ Ten Tribes of Israel…Found, Steven Collins, pp. 176, 213-215).
History and tradition indicate that descendants of the Jewish kings of the house of David were transported to Ireland at the time of Judah’s fall to the Babylonians, and their descendants ruled there over a portion of the house of Israel. The kings of England trace their linage back to David. And there is much evidence both from Bible prophecy and secular history establishing the British as descendants of the people of Israel (specifically Ephraim). Almost alone among the royal houses of Europe, the British throne survives.
In summary then, although the Levites have been preserved to once again serve as teaching priests in the future, even offering physical sacrifices, they have not continued without interruption to offer physical sacrifices, because God has willed it so. At the same time, his covenant with David wherein he promised to “build up your throne to all generations,” and, “as the sun before me” (Psalm 89:4, 36), has also been kept.
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