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I was having a friendly discussion with a Jewish person about the Scriptures. He took issue with some of the verses in the book of Hebrews, chiefly this verse (bracketed inclusions and italics my own):

...but He [[that is, Christ]], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sᴀᴛ ᴅᴏᴡɴ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ʀɪɢʜᴛ ʜᴀɴᴅ ᴏғ Gᴏᴅ...
-Hebrews 10:12 (NASB1995)

He said that such a single sacrifice for sin was impossible, for the Prophets had said that animal sacrifice would continue forever. He then directed me to the following verses from the Prophets:

“All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered together to you,
The rams of Nebaioth will minister to you;
They will go up on with acceptance on My altar,
And I shall glorify My glorious house."
-Isaiah 60:7 (NASB1995)

"... and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offering and to prepare sacrifices continually."
-Jeremiah 33:18 (NASB1995)

"It shall be the prince’s part to provide the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the drink offerings, at the feasts, on the new moons and on the sabbaths, at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel; he shall provide the sin offering, the grain offering, the burnt offering and the peace offerings, to make atonement for the house of Israel... In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a bull for a sin offering."
-Ezekiel 45:17,21-22 (NASB1995)

The first seems to imply that the flocks/rams will be offered on God's altar in the future, the second seems to imply a continued Levitical priesthood with offerings, and the third seems to imply that all the Levitical offerings (including sin offerings!) will be celebrated in the future, as well as Passover!

I was quite stumped, then, for we (of course) hold that in the eternal state, no sacrifices will be made. The only answer I could find was from a premillenalist perspective, which held that memorial animal sacrifices would be made in the Millennial Kingdom. However, a thousand years is hardly "forever."

So, here is my question: how do Catholics reconcile these Scriptures with our conception of the World to Come?

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  • 2
    Change "for all time" to "in perpetuity" in that translation, and maybe his objection will change, too.
    – ken
    Nov 8 at 20:49
  • 1
    Thanks for that! It's been edited. Nov 8 at 21:38
  • Mary, Jesus' mother, was of the tribe of Levi. Luke (1:5) says her relative Elizabeth (cousin perhaps) was of the daughters of Aaron. Incidentally, the Jeremiah passage is chapter 33 not 22. Nov 8 at 21:39
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    Zechariah 14 is probably a more relevant chapter to this question, which says that all nations will come to Israel to participate in the Jewish festivals (which include sacrifices.)
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 8 at 22:43
  • Look at Ezekiel 44:10-14. The activity of the Levites in the temple being described appears as a punishment not as any kind of honor. Nov 9 at 12:57
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I'm not sure where the idea that sacrifices go on forever comes from when reading Isaiah 60:7.

Jeremiah 22:18 could be answered in this way: Jesus abolished the levitical priesthood by offering himself as the ultimate priestly atonement for sins. Since his atonement can be accepted at any time and any place, it is a continual sacrifice.

In conclusion, Jesus is the continual sacrifice for all time!

Amen.

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  • Thanks for your answer! The text specifically talks about Levites preparing sacrifices and offering burnt offerings, though; it seems to describe a continual Levitical priesthood, not an abolished one. If you could elaborate on that, I'd be grateful. I'll explicitly add the Ezekiel passage as well, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on it. Nov 8 at 21:41
  • I'm going to look at more of the context behind that verse. It feels like its taken out of context in some way. On the Ezk. verse, I feel that it's outlined under ceremonial law that is no longer required to be practiced.
    – Luke Hill
    Nov 8 at 22:02
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How do Catholics deal with prophecies of future perpetual animal sacrifice?

Who needeth not daily (as the other priests) to offer sacrifices first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, in offering himself. - Hebrews 7:27

The so-called perpetual animal sacrifices of the Old Testament no longer exists and have been replaced by the perpetual sacrifice of the mass. At least in Catholic thought and theology.

For Catholics the Sacrifice of the Mass is a perpetual sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross.

Chapter 9 of the Letter to the Hebrews addresses the sacrifice of Jesus: Verses 25-28 read, “Not that [Christ] might offer Himself there again and again, as the high priest enters year after year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so He would have had to suffer death over and over from the creation of the world. But now He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sins once for all by His sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that men die once, and after death be judged, so Christ was offered up once to take away the sins of many; He will appear a second time not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.” Further, Hebrews 7:27 states, “Unlike the other high priests, [Jesus] has no need to offer sacrifice day after day, first for His own sins and then for those of the people; He did that once for all when He offered Himself.” To isolate these verses from the rest of Sacred Scripture and simply take them for face value would lead one to conclude that there could be no other sacrifice– Christ sacrificed Himself, it is over and done with, and that is it period. However, such a view is myopic to say the least.

Please note that in no way do we as Catholics believe that Christ continues to be crucified physically or die a physical death in heaven over and over again. However, we do believe that the Mass does participate in the everlasting sacrifice of Christ. First, one must not separate the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross from the events which surround it. The sacrifice of our Lord is inseparably linked to the Last Supper. Here Jesus took bread and wine. Looking to St. Matthew’s text (26:26ff), He said over the bread, “Take this and eat it. This is my body”; and over the cup of wine, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” The next day, on Good Friday, our Lord’s body hung on the altar of the cross and His precious blood was spilt to wash away our sins and seal the everlasting, perfect covenant. The divine life our Lord offered and shared for our salvation in the sacrifice of Good Friday is the same offered and shared at the Last Supper. The Last Supper, the sacrifice of Good Friday, and the resurrection on Easter form one saving, life-giving event.

Second, one must have a nuanced understanding of time. One must distinguish chronological time from kairotic time as found in Sacred Scripture. In the Bible, chronos refers to chronological time– past, present, and future– specific deeds which have an end point. Kairos or kairotic time refers to God’s eternal time, time of the present moment which recapitulates the entire past as well as contains the entire future. Therefore, while our Lord’s saving event occurred chronologically about the year AD 33, in the kairotic sense of time it is an everpresent reality which touches our lives here and now. In the same sense, this is why through Baptism we share now in the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, a chronological event that happened almost 2,000 years ago but is still efficacious for us today. - Why do we say Mass is a sacrifice when the Letter to the Hebrews indicates that Christ offered only one sacrifice on the cross?

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  • Kairos is: a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action : the opportune and decisive moment. There is nothing about kairos that indicates ever present reality. At just the right time (kairos) Christ died for the ungodly. Chronos (qualitative) would be the calendar date of the crucifixion. Kairos (quantitative) indicates that it happened right when it should have...right when it was ordained to occur. To say Kairos recapitulates the entire past and contains the entire future is to say that Kairos recapitulates and contains all Chronos. Nov 9 at 12:38
  • In fact, among a list of questions and answers on an epigram carved into an ancient Greek statue of Kairos, we find the following : "And why, in Heaven's name, is the back of your head bald? Because none whom I have once raced by on my winged feet will now, though he wishes it sore, take hold of me from behind." Therefore our access to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is by faith and not by recapitulation of Kairos. Nov 9 at 12:43

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