Thomas S Monson, Mormon president, has announced yet another temple, bringing to 15 the number temples in Utah. There are currently 130 temples around the world. Someone wrote to Reachout recently asking about temples and here is his question and my answer:
“I am confused surely the whole purpose of the atonement of Christ was to overcome the need for animal sacrifice. He was the ultimate sacrifice. So it seems natural that by Jesus bring this higher law that superseded the Levitical laws that required animal sacrifice in temple the purposes of a temple would also change and the rituals that take place within them would develop and alter. Your suggestion that the event taking place in the modern Mormon temples does not match the operations of the ancient temples is therefore redundant as they should not be doing so but rather the Mormon temples are there to provide the ability to carry out rituals relating to this higher law of Jesus. Please respond I am genuinely in need of guidance on this issue”
Putting up a building and calling it a temple is not the same as “restoring” temples. By its very nature “restoration” implies that what you see in the “restoration” can be found in the same or similar form in the original. “Restored” means to bring something back to its original condition. Nothing that happened in the ancient temple happens in Mormonism’s “restored” temples and nothing that happens in Mormon temples happened in the original temple in Jerusalem. They don’t even look the same, inside or out (I know because I have attended the temple many times)
Furthermore, there were no “temples” in the Bible, only “a temple” and the Jerusalem temple was the focus of Jewish worship. The impression given when Mormonism claims that it has restored “temples” is misleading because one is led to infer that (a) there were originally “temples”, plural, and (b) that there are parallels between what happens in Mormon temples and what happened in the temple in the Bible.
Nothing could be further from the truth. What Mormonism has done is invent its own ceremonial system, based on freemasonry and esoteric ideas not found in the Bible, and called it “temple work”, which is alright as far as it goes, but it would be more honest to tell plainly that this is pure Mormonism and not the “restoration” of any biblical system of temple work.
If you can show me any parallels between Mormon temples and the biblical temple I would be very interested in seeing them.
The answer ultimately is in your first sentence. The biblical temple system was a sacrificial system in which animals were presented as sacrifices to “atone” for the sins of Israel. The Book of Hebrews chapter 9 explains perfectly the change from the OT to the NT.
The first ten verses describe and explain the temple system. It describes two sections, the first, outer court, representing “this present age”, or the time before Christ where the ordinary daily business of worship occurred, and the second “Most Holy Place” where the priest entered once a year to meet with God in behalf of the people. All that happened in the temple, the sacrifices etc. were a shadow of what was to come (Col.2:16-17) The shadow and not the reality (Heb.10:1) a copy of what is in heaven (Heb.8:5).
If the temple was a shadow of what was in heaven it follows that the reality is in heaven. How do we access the reality? The next verses explain it. Christ, our high priest, brought the reality through the shedding of his own blood to atone for sin:
“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 will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our 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 that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (vv 13-15)
If the temple with its sacrificial system and food regulations etc. is the shadow of what is in heaven the reality is brought through the once for all sacrifice of Christ that redeems us from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Earlier in Hebrews we read that, because of Christ, we can “approach the throne of grace (the reality of which the Most Holy Place was a shadow) with confidence” (Heb.4:16)
You are correct then in writing that the atonement of Christ made the sacrificial system redundant but mistaken in thinking that he replaced one law with another. On the contrary, he replaced a temporary and repeated sacrifice with one unrepeatable and sufficient sacrifice and it is this that makes the old system with its laws and regulations redundant. It is not a system that developed and altered but one that was made obsolete because the blood of Christ saves us from all our sins if we put our trust in him.