The Change of the Times and the Laws

 

i

“The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom.  After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.  He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws.  The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.”                                                            Daniel 7.24,25

This prophecy of Daniel describes a king and conqueror who ultimately exercises power for a specific period of time over those who are faithful to God.  In Revelation John gives an analogous prophecy with regard to a conqueror/dominion known as “the Beast:”

“To him the dragon gave his own power and his own throne and great authority. …He was allowed to utter loud and blasphemous vaunts and allowed to exert authority for two and forty months;…He was allowed to wage war on the saints and to conquer them…”[1]

Daniel tells us that this enemy of God tries “to change the set times and the laws.”  The contexts of the prophecies in Daniel and in Revelation indicate that what is being described is the ascent to power of a specific king or seat of power at the end of this era.  Nevertheless, it would appear that the change of the times and laws already has a long-established history.  This is in conformity with the general appraisal that the spirit of “the man of lawlessness” has long been at work in the world, the spirit of Satan who was cast down to earth by the victory of our Messiah at the cross.  Over the centuries the servants of lawlessness prepare the grounds of the final reach for power.

The changes in the times are poorly perceived, because these changes have been so thoroughly woven into the prevailing legal and temporal fabric.  The apparent architect of these changes is the historic power coming out of Rome.  This power, since the second century, has assumed forms great and small, but always at the center of the of nations, appearing as a vast ecclesiastical empire, appearing as a vast temporal empire, appearing with both temporal and ecclesiastical power, even sporting the papal triple tiara which boasts power of church, of state, and of the heavens themselves.

Whatever the enemy who changes the times, he can only meet resistance from those who are faithful to the times instituted by our God, faithful to Yahveh, the God of Israel — times established in the foundation of the world and of his people.

If someone should come to the God of Israel through the knowledge of Yeshua the Messiah of Israel, and if someone should come upon the Scriptures which speak of honoring the Sabbath, it would be expected that he should respond by saying, “As God has commanded, I shall do.”  But we find that this is rarely the case inside the churches, where the traditions of Rome conceal the will of God.  In that space between God and his servants we often find the dark hand of the hierarchical church.   People do not know to do what the Scriptures prescribe: they are betrayed by their shepherds and led along well worn paths which are merely the traditions of the apostate church.

ii

God’s first expression of the importance of the Sabbath as the seventh day is quite clearly rooted in the fabric of Creation:

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”[2]

Although an understanding of the Sabbath was made known to men from the Sabbath rest which marked the days of Creation, the first formal codification of the Sabbath as a day apart appeared in the commandments of the Sinai covenant:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahveh your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days Yahveh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore Yahveh blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”[3]

Through the prophet Isaiah, Yahveh spoke of the delight he takes in those who honor his Sabbath:

“’If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of Yahveh honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in Yahveh, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’  The mouth of Yahveh has spoken.”[4]

Again through Isaiah, Yahveh asserted that both the Sabbath and the periods of the New Moon are periods of worship built into the universe for eternity:

“’As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares Yahveh, ‘so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says Yahveh.”[5]

Yes, even the New Moons are intended to be marked by prayer, in honor of the importance of the progress of time, the stations of time, the measurement of time, in honor of the God of our creation.

iii

What, by contrast, do we find in the catechisms of the church which governed the formation of Christian worship from the 4th to the 14th century?

“Question – Which is the Sabbath day?

 “Answer – Saturday is the Sabbath day.

 “Question – Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?

“Answer – We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, [A.D. 336], transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.”[6]

Or, from another catechism:

“Question – Have you any other way of proving that the church has power to institute festivals of precept?

“Answer – Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her – she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day, a change for which there is not Scriptural authority.”[7]

And we have this late 19th c. witness of Cardinal Gibbon:

“The Catholic church, by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday.”[8]

iv

It is not only the Sabbath which has been clearly prescribed as an element of the life of every person who belongs to the God of Israel.  In the very hours of preparation for the passing of the angel of death over Egypt, Yahveh commanded his people that the feast of the Passover was to be celebrated from that time on into eternity.  To further mark the importance of that moment, Yahveh set the lunar calendar year to begin with the New Moon antecedent to that Passover, and on the fourteenth day of that first month they were to celebrate the feast of Passover.  In celebration of the Exodus, they then from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day would celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread by eating only bread made without yeast.  These are the words Yahveh spoke to his people through Moses:

And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it a feast to Yahveh; throughout your generations ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”[9]

“And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore shall ye observe this day throughout your generations by an ordinance for ever.”[10]

“And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you: What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say: It is the sacrifice of Yahveh’s Passover, for that He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.”[11]

What has happened to Passover?  It has been expunged from the canon of “orthodox” Christian belief, even though it was important to Yeshua and his disciples to celebrate Passover, as it was for Paul and John and most Christians in the remainder of the 1st century.  However, radical changes in all of Christian practice began to appear soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  Because the Jews, as a nation, were now a defeated people — their feet not allowed to pass upon the streets of Jerusalem — and perhaps because they had pursued their rebellion with such self-destructive stubbornness, the Roman world was ripe with anti-Jewish feeling, from Jerusalem to Rome to Asia.

The apostles in their lifetime were already warning against the inroads of apostasy, the inroads of “another gospel.”  It is said that even by the end of the first century those who hoped to cast off the stigma of belonging to the Messiah of Israel started to cultivate a Sunday celebration “in accordance with the resurrection of Christ,” conveniently aligning their own habits with their neighbors’ Sunday celebration of the sun and the goddess Ishtar.  Consequently there developed many opportunities to color their worship with pagan ritual and content, including the spring festival of Ishtar, which amalgam became their Easter.

In the late 2nd century Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, wrote:

“But Polycarp [a direct disciple of John the apostle] also was not only instructed by apostles, and acquainted with many that had seen Christ, but was also appointed by apostles in Asia, bishop of the church of Smyrna….He was also in Rome in the time of Anicetus and caused many to turn away from the heretics [the growing Roman “orthodoxy” surrounding the bishop of Rome] to the church of God.  While at Rome, Polycarp discussed the matter of Easter with the Roman bishop… Anicetus could not persuade Polycarp not to observe it [The Passover] because he had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated.”[12]

Polycarp, disciple of John, became the mentor of Polycrates, who also in time travelled to Rome to dispute with Victor, the Roman bishop of his own time:

“That province [John’s pastorate] was the only portion of Christendom which still adhered to the Jewish usage [the celebration of Passover], and Victor demanded that all should adopt the usage prevailing at Rome…Victor proceeded to excommunicate Polycrates and the Christians who continued the Eastern usage.”[13]

[Irenaeus himself later intervened and persuaded Victor not to excommunicate the churches in the East.]

This whole schism was finally addressed not merely by the bishop of Rome, but by the combined temporal and ecclesiastical power of the Roman emperor Constantine, in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea.  Constantine had issued the edict of toleration, with which he had eliminated the stigma which might prevent a marriage between church and empire.  He had turned full face and had outlawed any religion but Rome’s “orthodox” version of faith, turning his religious tolerance into a vendetta against everything that disagreed with the status quo.  Then, for the sake of unity, he called the bishops of the realm to Nicea.  Here, among his other accomplishments, he outlawed Passover and declared Easter to be the feast of the faithful.  This is an excerpt from the letter of Constantine to the bishops following the Council:

“When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; …it was declared particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom of the Jews, who have soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded….  We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, … in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast.  …they do not possess the truth in this Easter question; a Divine Providence wills that this custom should be rectified and regulated in a uniform way; and everyone, I hope, will agree upon this point. As, on the one hand, it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord; and as, on the other, the custom now followed by the Churches of the West, of the South and of the North, and by some of those of the East, is the most acceptable….You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right we should have nothing in common with the Jews.”

Today in the ranks of those who seek to know Yeshua, nearly all are ignorant of the significance of both the seventh day Sabbath and the feast of Passover, ignorant of the  roots of Sunday worship and Easter.

Now many would say that the observance of feasts and days, even the Sabbath, is out of keeping with the spirit of the new covenant.  Does it matter?   If people will not respect the response of God’s commandments, then the answer can be found in looking at “the church” of Yeshua as it is found in the world today.  It does not hear the call to holiness.  It is fat and comfortable in the world, to the point that it is asleep and unaware that the great battle with darkness is now in the time of final maneuvers.  God has warned us that in the end the first tool of Satan will be deception, and at this time it is a matter of life and death to differentiate between the appearance of piety and the gnarly truth of fealty to our king.

There is not only stigma in the Catholic church which is the great Harlot which rides the Beast of world government.  It is also given to us that she, the great Whore, is the Mother of Harlots.  Yes, the churches of the Reformers have wandered from the truth and have become little harlots.  They have made themselves at home with their desires and their lusts and they no longer set themselves apart as a holy people.  One of the salient purposes of the true and ancient Sabbath, and of Passover, and of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is to facilitate God’s instruction of us in the great truth that we are a holy — i.e. set apart –people, not to be at home in the world.  But only the frailest minority of people are able to enjoy the benefit of this instruction.

Has the man of sin undertaken the change of laws along with the change of the times?  Sadly the greatest of the laws has been undone: the new gospel of the churches is that there is no law, that we are now so bathed in endless grace that law is of no consequence.  The law, this covenant articulator by which we are to discern new and separate and holy lives…this defining gift of the covenant is thrown to the ground.  What remains is a world glutted with worldly churchgoers who lust and divorce and quarrel and go to war in exactly the same way as their brothers, no different from those who are devoted to rebellion against the God of Israel.

Certainly it is true that it is not an observance which differentiates the servant of Yeshua from the imposter.  The servant of Yeshua is quite simply someone whose heart and mind and soul are bound to Yeshua.  Such a person God rewards and seals with the intimate knowledge of his Spirit.  But the call of God and his Spirit is that we recognize the parameters which he has set out for us as a gift, as tools for our protection, not as burdens.  We must not be deceived by the New Age mantra that every form of “faith” is okay.  We are in a battle and we must hold to the truth in its purest form if we are to survive the deceptions of the enemy.

Lawrence S. Jones

email: lstewartj@sbcglobal.net


[1] Revelation 13.2,5,6,7

[2] Genesis 2.2,3

[3] Exodus 20.8-11

[4] Isaiah 58.13

[5] Isaiah  66.22,23

[6] The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, p.50, Third edition, 1913, a work which received the “apostolic blessing” of Pius X, Jan. 25, 1910.

[7] Rev. Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism, p. 174

[8] The Catholic Mirror, official organ of Cardinal Gibbon, September 23, 1893

[9] Exodus 12.14

[10] Exodus 12.17

[11] Exodus 12.24,26,27

[12] Irenaeus, The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers

[13] Encyclopedia Britannica

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