The Ceremonial Law

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

John 1:29

“We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”

Heb. 8:1-2

“…and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.  And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations… and I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord.”

Isa. 66:19-21



Order of Contents

Expected Changing of the Ceremonial Law  1
3 Stages of Ceremonial Law  2
Sabbatical & Jubilee Years in History  1



The Expected Changing of the Ceremonial Laws

That the 1st Century Jews Expected the Laws to Change with the Coming of the Messiah


Edersheim, Alfred – Appendix 14, ‘The Law in Messianic Times‘  Buy  (1883)  4 paragraphs  in The Life & Times of Jesus Christ the Messiah 



The 3 Stages of Ceremonial Law in Biblical History


William Perkins

A Discourse of Conscience...  (Cambridge, 1596), pp. 19-22

“The ceremonial law is that which prescribes rites and orders in the outward worship of God.  It must be considered in three times.  The first is time before the coming death of Christ: the second, the time of publishing the gospel by the apostles: the third, the time after the publishing of the Gospel.

In the first, it did bind the consciences of the Jews, and the obedience of it was the true worship of God.  But it did not then bind the consciences of the Gentiles, for it was the partition wall between them and the Jews.  And it did continue to bind the Jews till the very death and ascension of Christ.  For the hand writing of ordinances that was against us was nailed on the cross and cancelled.  And when Christ says that the prophets and the law endured till John, Luke 16:16, the meaning is not that the ceremonial law ended then: but that things foretold by the prophets and obscurely prefigured by the law, began then more plainly to be preached and made manifest.

The second time was from the ascension of Christ, till about the time of the destruction of the Temple and city: in which, ceremonies ceased to bind conscience and remained indifferent.  Hereupon Paul circumcised Timothy; the apostles after Christ’s ascension, as occasion was offered were present in the Temple, Acts 3:1; And the council of Jerusalem [Acts 15], tendering the weakness of some believers, decreed that the Church for a time should abstain from strangled [animals] and blood.  And there was good reason of this, because the Church of the Jews was not yet sufficiently convicted that an end was put to the ceremonial law by the death of Christ.

In the third time, which was after the publishing of the Gospel; ceremonies of the Jews’ Church became unlawful, and so shall continue to the world’s end.

By this it appears what a monstrous and miserable religion the Church of Rome teaches and maintains, which stands wholly in ceremonies, partly heathenish and partly Jewish.”


George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 1, ch. 8, ‘That Festival Days take away our Christian Liberty, proved out of the Gospel’, pp. 25-26

“[Col. 2] verse. 17, What should we do with the shadow, when we have the body? another, verse 20, Why should we be subject to human ordinances, since through Christ we are dead to them, and have nothing ado with them?…

…whereas it might bee thought, that the apostle does not condemn all holy-days, because both he permits others to observe days, Rom. 14:5, and he himself also did observe one of the Jewish feasts, Acts 18:21.  It is easily answered that our holy-days have no warrant from these places…

…that which the apostle either said or did hereanent, is to be expounded and understood of bearing with the weak Jews, whom he permitted to esteeme one day above another, and for whose cause he did in his own practice, thus far apply himself to their infirmity at [???] time, when they could not possibly be as yet fully and throughly instructed concerning Christian liberty and the abrogation of the Ceremonial Law, because the Gospel was as yet not fully propagated: and when the Mosaical rites were like a dead man not yet buried, as Augustine’s simile runs.  So that all this can make nothing for holy-days after the full promulgation of the Gospel, and after that the Jewish ceremonies are not only dead, but also buried, and so deadly to be used by us.  Hence it is, that the apostle will not bear with the observation days in Christian Churches, who have known God as he speaks.”



The Sabbatical & Jubilee Years in History

The Sabbatical Year, where all of Israel was to rest and cease from normal labor for a year, was to happen every seven years according to Leviticus.  The Jubilee year is when Hebrew slaves were to be set free, debts cancelled, and the people were to rest, every 50 years.

Though these years were never fully celebrated in Israel before the Babylonian captivity (586 BC), according to Scripture’s testimony, yet the below will be of significant interest.  To see that James Ussher, the 1600’s puritan, was fundamentally correct in his approach to chronology, see our page Bible Chronology.



Larry Pierce, ‘Appendix E – Some Objections Considered’ in the appendices to James Ussher, Annals of the World, in this document, p. 40

“Josephus [a 1st century Jewish historian] records a Sabbatical year in 163 BC and 37 BC.  This agrees with the start of the first Sabbatical year as deduced from the Bible by Ussher of 1445 BC and the resulting cycles…

Ussher noted some very interesting Jubilee years in history:

[Old Testament]

a) When Solomon finished the temple in the eighth month (about November) of 1005 BC, he waited until the seventh month (about October) of the following year to dedicate this multi-billion dollar building—the seventh month of 1004 BC was the start of a Jubilee.

b) The seventh month of the same year of Hezekiah’s deliverance from the Assyrians in 710 BC, was the start of a Jubilee.

c) The Jubilee year in 563/562 BC marked the year when Nebuchadnezzar was freed from his insanity and Jeconiah was freed from his imprisonment.

[New Testament]

d) The last Jubilee in biblical history heralded the start of the ministry of John the Baptist in the fall of 26 AD.”

[Note that Jesus’ public ministry started 6 months after that of John’s, and Jesus opened his public ministry by preaching on the Messianic text of Isa. 61:1 about the Jubilee Year (Lk. 4:16-21).]




“The ceremonies are Christ veiled: Christ wrapped in swaddling-cloths, Christ the Son of righteousness shining through a cloud.  Christ was implicitly revealed in them all.”

Francis Roberts, 1675




Related Pages

The Mosaic Covenant

The Covenant of Grace

The Civil Law