On Worship in the Past, the Present, and the Future

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Some souls find a difficulty in understanding how animal sacrifices should again be resorted to after the church has been caught up to heaven, imagining that the Jewish ritual has been once and forever abolished, consequent on the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross having been offered up. The Mosaic ritual is never said to be abolished. We who believe on the Lord have died to the law, and those called to go with Christ without the camp of necessity turned their backs once and forever on the temple and its ritual. But the recurrence of sacrifices is so clearly stated in Ezek. 40-46, that the fact is settled at once for the soul which bows to the Word. Isa. 66:2323And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 66:23), too, intimates it, and. Mal. 1:1111For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11) likewise. Further, the sons of Zadok will be reinstated in their priestly office and functions, as the holy priesthood, to offer up animal sacrifices (Ezek. 44:15,1615But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God: 16They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge. (Ezekiel 44:15‑16)); for the covenant of an everlasting priesthood made with Phinehas the Lord will not revoke.
But the difficulty in the mind probably arises from not understanding, that an essential difference exists between the character of worship suited for men on earth, whose calling and prospects are earthly, and that suited for those whose calling and portion are heavenly, those who share in the latter worship on earth after the manner in which they will worship in heaven; i.e. without a ritual in which animal sacrifices or literal incense have a place. Hence they need no altar; and the language of the elders in heaven (Rev. 5) suits Christians now on earth who worship in spirit and in truth, for such worship the Father (John 4:2323But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (John 4:23)), and by the Spirit of God. (Phil. 3:33For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)) It is evident, then, that no unconverted person can have part in such a service. Only children can worship the Father; only those who are partakers of salvation can worship by the Spirit of God, and such the Lord calls true worshippers.
But in the days before the cross the case was different. Men approached God by sacrifice, and Israel, God's peculiar people, drew nigh to the altar with their offerings and sacrifices; at least, they were all commanded to do it, without the question being thereby raised of the individual's conversion. As God's earthly people they were to own Him, and in doing that governmental dealing was at times averted. Christians bring not their sacrifices, the fruit of their lips, to avert the divine displeasure, or to ensure acceptance. They worship because the divine displeasure has been forever averted from them, and they stand in the acceptance which flows from the abiding value in God's eye of the atoning death of His Son. As the Creator and as Jehovah God was worshipped before the cross; as such He will be worshipped again. Hence of old unconverted people could worship Him. Saul worshipped the Lord (1 Sam. 15:3131So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the Lord. (1 Samuel 15:31)) in the past, and the spared of all nations who shall come against Jerusalem (Zech. 14:1616And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16)) will in the future. See also the proclamation of the everlasting gospel, noting the classes of persons to whom it is addressed (Rev. 14:4,54These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. 5And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelation 14:4‑5)), and the prophetic announcements in Psa. 22:27-29; 86: 9, 1027All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. 28For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations. 29All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. (Psalm 22:27‑29), Isa. 66:2323And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 66:23), Zeph. 2:1111The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. (Zephaniah 2:11). All flesh in that day will not be converted (Psa. 18:4444As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. (Psalm 18:44), margin), but all will worship God.
Further, the revival of the Mosaic ritual need not engender any difficulty in the minds of the Scripture student. Sacrifice can be commemorative as well as anticipative. In the blood of bulls and goats there was no intrinsic value. (Heb. 10:44For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4)) Their blood was typical of the blood of Christ. By-and-by, when the blood of the sacrificial animals shall again be shed, it will be in commemoration of the atoning blood of Christ shed once for all on the cross. There is really no more difficulty in the thought of sacrifices in commemoration of what has been offered up, than in sacrifices anticipative of it; and since the normal manner of worship for those whose prospects are bounded by earth is by sacrifices, they will be again resorted to when the earthly people shall be once more owned as the people of Jehovah.