We often have discussions regarding clean and unclean and how this impacts us. This is a fascinating topic and we can spend many hours studying it and still learn something every time. We have come to realize that these instructions on clean and unclean, were given for our benefit. You can read more about it in “ Uncleanness and separation…are these commandments still for us?” However, there is even more significance to it. YHVH’s commandments, including these on clean and unclean, were given to reveal His character and ways to us. We shall expand on this as well as spiritual uncleanness in this article.
Let us just re-cap what we have learned in the previous post. We have learned how being unclean will create separation. This separation from others includes separation from YHVH. A person could not enter the presence of YHVH, when he or she was unclean. The reason being, YHVH commanded His people to be holy, for He is holy (Lev 11:44-45).
We, as believers in YHVH, are a part of His people, we are a part of Israel, whether by genealogy or as strangers who chose to follow His ways. We are, for this reason, to set ourselves apart, and live according to YHVH’s standard, not according to the way of the world. These instructions about physical uncleanness were of particular importance when the tabernacle, and later the Temple, were YHVH’s dwelling place. A person could not enter His presence when unclean, it could cost that person his or her life.
We have, moreover, made a distinction between physical – and spiritual uncleanness. Spiritual uncleanness also brings about separation and is caused by being disobedient to YHVH’s instructions. In other words, when we sin, we become spiritually unclean. This will be our focus in this article, but we first need to understand the physical in relation to the spiritual realm.
The physical is a shadow of the spiritual
The commandments about clean and unclean, governing the physical realm gives us a picture of the spiritual realm. The physical is a shadow of the spiritual. What does this “shadow” mean, according to a Hebraic understanding?
Let us first look at what the Scripture says about shadows. In Col 2:17 and Heb 10:1, we find two passages that use the word “shadow” in the context of YHVH’s commandments. In these two passages, we find the words “mere” and “only” inserted by the English translators. When you read the verse, it would seem that this shadow is of unimportance, and that is exactly what they want us to believe. The basis for this interpretation is Platonism. “Platonism is the merging of biblical concepts with Greek Philosophy”.1 It originated from Plato, a Greek philosopher in the 4th and 3rd Century BCE. He taught, like his teacher Socrates, about the nature of reality.
He used the “Cave Analogy” to describe reality.
The “Cave Analogy” relegates man to a cave, with his only perception of what is true and real, represented as mere shadows on the cave wall – the shadows cast by “forms” of a higher reality. He concluded that man could never perceive truth until he perceived the forms. The shadows were a hindrance in this pursuit. Early church leaders like Martyr, Origin, and Augustine used Platonism to move the church away from a Hebraic understanding of Scripture. Christianity became a sort of Theistic Platonism, where thoughts superseded deeds.Shadows became relatively bad in theological terms.1
This is deception! So, now that we have exposed the error; what is the truth? We know that neither Paul, nor the writer of Hebrews was a Theistic Platonist, so what should we understand regarding shadows?
The Greek word “skia” is defined as follows by the Thayers Lexicon
σκιά, -ᾶς, ἡ, [(see σκηνή, init.)], fr. Hom. down, Sept. for צֵל;
o a. prop. shadow, i. e. shade caused by the interception of the light: Mk. 4:32 (cf. Ezek. 17:23); Acts 5:15; …
o b. a shadow, i. e. an image cast by an object and representing the form of that object: opp. to σῶμα, the thing itself, Col. 2:17; hence i. q. a sketch, outline, adumbration, Heb. 8:5; opp. to εἰκών, the ‘express’ likeness, the very image, Heb. 10:12
According to the Dictionary of Biblical Languages, which is a more modern dictionary, the understanding is added that it may be a foreshadow or a faint archetype.
5014 σκιά (skia), ᾶς (as), ἡ (hē): n.fem.;
- shade (Mk 4:32); 2.
- shadow (Mt 4:16; Lk 1:79; Ac 5:15+; 1Jn 2:8 v.r. NA26);
- foreshadow, faint archetype (Col 2:17; Heb 8:5; 10:1+)3
A shadow is often used as a metaphor for protection, but could also be an image cast by an object and representing the form of that object.
Is 51:15-16: Israel is under the shadow of YHVH’s hand – His outline defining them. A shadow reveals the Shadow-caster.
‘Shadows’ are the visible of what cannot be seen in the physical world. Shadows are part of reality.1
You may wonder what the point of this is…
The point is to show you that YHVH gave us His instructions to serve as a shadow to reveal Himself to us; His character and His ways. In Exodus (Ex 25:40), YHVH instructed Moses to build the earthly tabernacle according to the pattern of the heavenly tabernacle. In doing this the earthly tabernacle became a shadow of the heavenly.
5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by Elohim when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”
The commandments are, in the same way, a shadow of the good things to come.
1 For the Law, since it has only(added) a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?
(Remember to read this verse without the “only” as it was added by the translators to support their theology.)
However,sacrifices made in the physical cannot make perfect those who it was sacrificed for. It only covered their transgressions. However, we know that Y’shua, through His death and resurrection was made perfect. He became the source of eternal salvation.
8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,
Does this mean that the law, being a shadow, has been taken away by Y’shua? No, definitely not! The shadow remains a part of the reality in order to reveal YHVH to us. These “shadows,” which are YHVH’s instructions, were given by a loving Father to teach us about Him and His ways. These instructions include the Sabbath, the feasts, the laws on clean and unclean and all the other instructions. He is revealed to us through His commandments.
But what does Y’shua’s death and resurrection have to do with clean and unclean?
Purification from uncleanness through Y’shua
We have learned in the previous post, that we can become ritually and or spiritually unclean. Spiritual uncleanness is caused by sin. Ritual uncleanness, on the other hand is caused by illness, physiological functions, death or coming into contact with any of these, either direct or transferred from another person. It is also caused by eating or touching the carcass of an unclean animal. The aforementioned ritual uncleanness, except for eating or touching the carcass of an unclean animal, is not sin and will therefor not cause spiritual uncleanness,. However, eating or touching the carcass of an unclean animal is prohibited! This is will therefore cause both physical and spiritual uncleanness.
So, what does Y’shua purify us from? Does He take away ritual uncleanness or spiritual uncleanness, or both?
We believe that Y’shua takes away spiritual uncleanness. Sin, which causes spiritual uncleanness is the transgression of the commandments. This is also called lawlessness. If we are spiritually defiled by sin, we cannot enter the presence of our Heavenly Father. However, we learn from Scripture, that Y’shua purifies us. He makes it possible for us to stand in the presence of YHVH.
3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to Elohim, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living Elohim.
This passage can easily be misunderstood. Purification through the blood of Y’shua’s did not replace the other. It is a case of “how much more” Also, what are we purified from? From works leading to death…sin! Not from dead works which are often erroneously interpreted as the commandments.
The Complete Jewish Bible gives us a more understandable translation.
13 For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; 14 then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to Elohim as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living Elohim!
From this, we see that Y’shua purifies us from our sin. He takes our spiritual uncleanness away. This brings us into right standing with YHVH. We may come into His presence through and in Y’shua.
10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Y’shua Messiah once for all.
This is confirmed by this verse in Titus and the next one in Hebrews:
14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of Elohim, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us indeed draw near, because Y’shua has purified us from our spiritual uncleanness. We are also called Temples of Elohim in various passages in Scripture (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21.). What does this mean?
We are Temples of the Living Elohim
Before we go further into this, please answer two questions. If you are a Temple of YHVH, is it a physical Temple and does it replace YHVH’s physical Temple? What do you think? What does Scripture teach?
We do not become physical temples when we become believers, and for this reason, we cannot replace YHVH’s Temple. However, what does the Scripture teach about us being temples?
1 Corinthians 3:16
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of Elohim and that the Spirit of Elohim dwells in you?
The word “temple” could also be translated as “sanctuary” which means being dedicated to YHVH, and if we are dedicated to Him, we are to be obedient to His commandments. We would otherwise defile our “Temples.”
1 John 3:24
24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
This means that the Spirit of YHVH will dwell in a Temple that is clean according to YHVH’s standard. YHVH’s standard is in accordance with His word, His commandments. This is also the standard that Y’shua modelled for us. He also had the Spirit of YHVH dwelling in Him.
Does this now take the laws about clean and unclean away?
The answer is no! Y’shua even instructed lepers, He healed, to go and show themselves to the Priest and to follow the required purification rituals (Mark 1:44, Matt 8:4).
14 And He ordered him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Some would say that this is because it was prior to His death and resurrection. That is not true, as we see Paul also keeping the commandments regarding purification.
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them. 27 When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him,
We also know from Scripture that there will be another temple…
In Ezekiel, we read a description of what will be a future temple. We also read that sacrifices will be done in this Temple: peace offerings, guilt offerings and sin offerings (Eze 42:13, Eze43:21, Eze 44:29, Eze 46:20). We find further proof that sacrifices will continue in Isa 56:7 and in Zech 14:21. These are but a few references and not our focus of this study. We merely wanted to point out to you that Y’shua’s death and resurrection did not make the Temple service obsolete. Furthermore, if the temple service remains, the laws about clean and unclean remains. Y’shua also stated that He did not come to abolish anything, but He came to fulfill.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Here is some good advice from Paul!
2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Messiah with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of Elohim with idols? For we are the temple of the living Elohim; just as Elohim said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. 17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says YHVH. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says YHVH Almighty. 1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Elohim.
Our part …repentance
We have learned that these commandments of YHVH are still in place. Ritual cleanness and spiritual cleanness are required when we want to go before YHVH. We do not currently have a Temple, and are all ritually unclean as a result. We cannot follow the instructions for physical purification. To give you an example: when we have been in contact with a dead body, we need to be separated for seven days and sprinkled with water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer. That is not available, so physical cleansing is impossible.
Even so, through Y’shua’s death and resurrection, we are purified of spiritual uncleanness. We do, however, have a part in this; we are to repent of all transgressions and start living in obedience. If you would like to learn more, you can also read “What does YHVH require of us” and “Obedience follows repentance.”
We would like you to consider what we have presented to you, not only consider, but pray about this and ask YHVH how He would want you to apply this and to broaden your understanding. This is a vast topic, and this is probably not our last study on the subject. Please share with us what you know and what you have learned about clean and unclean and its application to us. May YHVH lead us all in His truth!
21 May Elohim equip you with every good thing you need to do his will; and may he do in us whatever pleases him, through Yeshua the Messiah. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- Thayer, J. H. (1889). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti (578). New York: Harper & Brothers.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Tags: clean and unclean, commandments, defiled, Holy Spirit, physical uncleanness, Platonism, purification, repentance, replacement, ritual uncleanness, set apart, shadow, spiritual uncleanness, Temple of God, Theistic platonism, Y'Shua, Yhvh
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