The Most Important Book in the Bible?
 

Theological beginners, amateurs, and masters,
    Fun kisses from the Lord.

    Do you know why Jesus is called the Lamb of God? Or why the Judeo-Christian worldview is so astonishingly bloody? Or why Jesus bled in seven different ways from His arrest to His death? Why the church is called the ekklesia, "the called out ones"? Why the Antichrist and his assistant, the False Prophet, will call down fire from the sky in the temple complex? Here's a biggie: why did Jesus say the Mosaic law, Genesis through Deuteronomy, was "the key to knowledge" (Lk 11:52)? If those five books are the key to the mansion of divine knowledge and all spiritual truth, which book is the key's bit?

The key's bit is the part of the key that actually engages the lock...and unlocks it.


The Key to Knowledge, Jesus Said
 

One of the top five most important statements ever made in the kingdom of God was when Jesus said this to the first-century teachers of the Torah (Lk 11:52 NIV): Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge...
    Jesus said the Mosaic law--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy--are "the key to knowledge". He did not say this of any other book or section of the Old Testament, and the nature of His statement effectively ruled out any New Testament books to come. The other sixty-one books of the Holy Scriptures are a mansion of many rooms and precious treasures (think Proverbs 24:3,4), but the law, Jesus said, was the key to get into that house. (I am referring to deeper and wider spiritual intelligence, not basic salvation.) There is no Psalms, Isaiah, John, Romans, Hebrews, or any other sacred book without the Torah, the key. Of these five Mosaic books, Leviticus is the key's bit. To the uninformed and unilluminated Christian, Leviticus is the most boring, pedantic, irrelevant book of the Bible. To God, to the Holy Spirit, to the inspired writers of Scripture, to every theological father/mother, Leviticus is the key's bit, the part that actually engages the lock of the entire Scripture and opens it.
    Jesus used the illustration of a key knowing full well a key has a bit, knowing full well the discerning spiritual mind would ask, "If the Torah is the key, what is the bit?"


"Hebrew Roots" Clarification
 

Before I continue, let me set some of your minds at ease. Some of you have been harassed, belittled, pressured, and frankly, persecuted, by legalistic zealots in the "Hebrew roots" movement. And so, understandably, you have an emotional sunburn regarding topics in that theological zone. I can assure your heart, I am not a Hebrew roots zealot and this is not that. Let me briefly explain what the Word says and does not say about this.
 

Two Extremes
    At one extreme are Christians who try to import as much as possible from the Torah. They are the ones who acted silently constipated, or browbeat you with Mosaic scriptures, when you ate that bag of pork rinds or because of that jar of yeast in your cupboard during Passover and Unleavened Bread. If you are at that extreme, Paul wrote the book of Galatians and Colossians 3:13-23 to you personally.
    At the other extreme are Christians who pay little to no attention to the Old Testament, dismissing it as irrelevant, or largely fulfilled and finished. They are the ones who say, "But that is the Old Testament!" as their spiritual ringtone. If this is you, Paul wrote Romans 15:4, 1Corinthians 10:6,11, and 2Timothy 3:16 to you personally.

 

Romans 14, The Answer
    Christians who understand the covenants intricately know that an accurate, healthy New Covenant spirituality is somewhere in the middle zone, a zone in which God permits flexibility. In Romans 14, writing by the Spirit, Paul gave a measured explanation of this middle-zone flexibility. This important chapter tells us exactly how to process Mosaic distinctives as New Covenant Christians. Read Romans 14 multiple times in multiple translations. You will see that there is space and accommodation for different convictions and practices. Paul uses dietary practices and holy days as the examples to make his point, but the larger concept he is getting at is generalizable beyond these.

 

The Hebrew Root System
    There is no doubt Christianity is, fundamentally, a Hebrew religion. Paul said we, the church, are nourished by the Hebrew root system (Ro 11:16-18). The nature of a thing is determined by its roots, not whatever foreign branches were grafted in later. Paul even says, "Hey Gentile Christians, if you ever get a bit arrogant, realize the root supports you, not the other way around" (v18). He even said, "If you continue arrogantly, God will not spare you in the same way that He did not spare the Hebrew branches" (v20,21). Whatever that means, we are supposed to have a humble recognition and exploration of the distinctly Hebrew character of Christianity--and be nourished spiritually by it. This does not mean there are no Greco-Roman distinctives in New Testament Christianity, because there are. It simply means our faith system is filled with Hebrew concepts and idiosyncrasies far, far more than Greco-Roman ones.

Which brings us back to Leviticus.


What We Cannot Unlock without Leviticus
 

An entire book could be written (hint hint) on what we cannot unlock without Leviticus, the key's bit. Here are a few examples to stir your hunger. Believe me, there are many more that just keep going deeper and deeper and deeper into the infinity that is the reality of God. Let's start with an easy one.
 

Why Jesus is called the Lamb of God.
    Jesus is called "the Lamb of God" (Jn 1:29,36, Rev 5:6) because lambs were one of the featured animals in the Levitical sacrificial system (Lev 3:7, 4:32, 5:6, etc.). Compared to bulls, rams, and goats, lambs were the most harmless and innocent-seeming, a nice illustration of Jesus' First Coming nature and personality.
    There is, however, an even more specific reason. Isaiah 53:7 says (NIV), He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Bulls, rams, or goats are not that quiet. I go to zoos or petting zoos often and relish the different moos and behhhs they sound off, especially if they are being led somewhere. But lambs? When they are led they rarely make a sound. Silent. Docile. Resigned. Trusting. Stoic. Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would resign Himself to death with the character of a lamb.

 

Why so much blood and death.
    Why is the Judeo-Christian worldview so astonishingly bloody? Do you realize the sheer number of animals that were killed at the tabernacle compound on a weekly basis? Do you realize how much blood Jesus lost from Gethsemane to His final gasp on the cross? The bloody enterprise of humanity's salvation is explained for the first time in Leviticus, not Genesis or Exodus. About blood, Leviticus 17:11 (NIV) says, For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. Essentially repeating this verse, Hebrew 9:22 (YLT) says, And with blood almost all things are purified according to the law, and apart from blood-shedding forgiveness doth not come.
    Leviticus is telling and showing that a holy God must execute judgment on sin to remain holy. Death with bloodshed is the payment for your and my pride or prayerlessness or laziness or selfishness or sloppy agape Christianity. Whether He wants to or not, whether He likes to or not, is irrelevant. He cannot violate His nature as an immutable being. However, the good news is, He is willing to accept a surrogate or substitute to absorb His judgment. The animals in the Levitical sacrificial system served this purpose, but only temporarily. Jesus, the Lamb, would be the perfect, ultimate, once-for-all substitute, absorbing in Himself the death with bloodshed judgment for all humanity. Someone's blood had to settle the account with a holy God. Leviticus explained this for the first time, and began demonstrating it systematically.

 

Why Jesus bled in seven ways from His arrest to His death.
    From His arrest to His death, Jesus bled in seven ways. We would have no idea why if not for Leviticus.
    In Levitical law, there are three ceremonies in which the blood of a sacrificial animal is sprinkled seven times: during parts of the sin offering (Lev 4:6,17), during parts of the Day of Atonement (16:14,19), and to ceremonially restore one who has been healed of leprosy or other skin disease (14:7). Seven splashings of blood...atonement and restoration.
    There was another time in God's redemptive story in which blood went seven different ways to pay for forgiveness and restoration. From His arrest to His death, Jesus bled in seven ways.

 

(1) The bruising, which is internal bleeding, from the face-punches of the Roman soldiers.

Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV): He was bruised for our iniquities...

Matthew 27:30, Mark 14:65 (NASB): ...began to beat Him on the head...beat Him with their fists...
 

(2) The plucking or ripping out of His beard.

Isaiah 50:6 (NASB, underline mine): I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My
    face from humiliation and spitting
.

 

(3) The head bleeding from the crown of thorns.

Mark 15:17 (NIV): They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.
 

(4) The stripes from the whipping post flogging.

Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV): ...by His stripes we are healed.

John 19:1 (NIV): Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.
 

(5) The piercing of His hands.

Psalm 22:16 (NKJV, underline mine): For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands
    and My feet.

Isaiah 49:16 (NIV): See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands...
 

(6) The piercing of His feet.

Psalm 22:16 (NKJV, underline mine): For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands
    and My feet.

 

(7) The thrusting of the spear into His side.

John 19:34 (NIV): Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
 

    Seven sprinklings of blood, in the Levitical law, brought atonement in the sin offering and the Day of Atonement; seven sprinklings also brought ceremonial restoration for the leper who had been healed. Jesus' seven bloodsheds also accomplished atonement and restoration, but in spiritual, eternal, and far greater dimensions than the Levitical code ever could.
 

Note of Clarification
    Some Bible teachers start the count of seven from Gethsemane, when Jesus sweat drops of blood in gut-wrenching prayer (Lk 22:44). Sincere and noble as they may be, there is a crucial hermeneutical flaw with this. Jesus' sacrificial lamb mode did not actuate until He was "led away to the slaughter", according to Isaiah 53:7. Read this verse carefully. Although Jesus was, is, and always will be the Lamb of God (Heb 9:14) in an immutable sense, He did not actuate that role until, Isaiah declared, "he was led like a lamb to the slaughter" (similar to how He is King of kings now and always, but He will not actuate that role until after the Second Coming). That "leading away" happened, quite logically, at His arrest. Therefore, we start counting the seven ways in which He bled beginning with His leading away, or arrest, when He shifted categorically into the role of a lamb.

 

Why Jesus died on Passover, was buried on Unleavened Bread, and rose again on Firstfruits.
    Without Leviticus, we would never understand why Jesus was crucified on Passover, was buried or entombed on Unleavened Bread, and rose again in resurrection glory on Firstfruits (1Co 5:7,8, 15:20). These are three (of seven total) festivals, i.e. God-centered parties, described and commanded in Leviticus (Lev 23:5,6,9-11). These festivals celebrate God's activity in Hebrew history, but they double as prophetic illustrations of the Messiah's First Coming and Second Coming and what He will do in each. The Christological aspect of these festivals is what Paul celebrated, and encouraged the Corinthians to do so too (1Co 5:8). It is unclear, however, if Paul and his first-century readers celebrated them exactly as Leviticus describes, or, in a looser, more flexible, more spiritualized way. Judging by what Paul said in other parts of the New Testament--like Galatians, Romans 14, and Colossians 3:13-23--the latter is probably how.
    The nonsense terms of "Good Friday" and "Easter" were manufactured and pushed by post-Constantine Roman Catholicism in an effort to distance Christianity from its Hebrew essence and pull it towards Roman-centricity. Do a little research. The term "Easter" and the idea of Easter eggs are entirely pagan. Remember Astarte? Ishtar? When your kids go on an Easter/Ashtarte/Ishtar egg hunt you may want to know they are inadvertently practicing an ancient sexual and fertility ritual to a pagan goddess.
    Jesus was crucified on Passover, entombed on Unleavened Bread, and rose again on Firstfruits in prophetic fulfillment of these three spring festivals. Leviticus and Paul tell us that, not Rome.

 

Why Jesus is called the Messiah.
    The term "messiah" engenders images of a dreamy superman figure who will solve the world's problems and right all of our wrongs. Or, on a darker level, a savvy and brazen figure who will win religious, ethnic, racial, or nationalistic superiority for our in-group. What is the original spirit and meaning of messiah from the Word of God? Where in Scripture is "messiah" first used and developed? Leviticus. The most unmessiah-ish book.
    In Old Testament Hebrew, messiah is mashiyach, which actually means "anointed one". It refers to one God has selected for a unique or rare task, and is empowered in a special way to fulfill that task. Mashiyach first appears in Leviticus 4:3,5,16, and 6:22, all referring to the high priest. It is not until 1Samuel 2:10 that mashiyach begins to refer to other positions and tasks, namely the Hebrew kingship, and eventually to prophets beginning in 1Chronicles 16:22. It is not until Psalm 2:2 that mashiyach begins to be used about Jesus (also Daniel 9:25,26). Mashiyach is even used of Medo-Persian king Cyrus (Isa 45:1) and God's people collectively during the time of the final Antichrist (Hab 3:13).
    What does all this tell us, especially mashiyach's first use in Leviticus? That Jesus is first and fundamentally our High Priest, before He is our King, Prophet, or any other special role. He is the one who mediates between humanity and God and makes an eternal relationship with Him possible. While many men and women throughout history have presented themselves as messiah figures for the world or their country or their race, none of them fulfilled the most fundamental meaning of messiah, which is to be a mediating high priest between a holy God and a fallen humanity. 1Timothy 2:5 (NASB): For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Hebrews 4:14 (NASB): Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God...

 

Why the church is called the ekklesia, "the called out ones".
    We call Leviticus Leviticus because that is the title used in the Septuagint; it means "pertaining to the Levites" (a rough derivative of the ancient rabbinic phrase "instructions for the priests" or torat kohanim). Ultimately, the Hebrews call the book Vayikra, which means "And He called", from the opening words in 1:1 (YLT): And Jehovah calleth...
    At the end of Exodus, Moses could not enter the tent where God's presence was (Ex 40:35). At the beginning of Leviticus, the Lord called Moses into the tent (Lev 1:1). At the beginning of Numbers, the Lord spoke to Moses while he was in the tent (Num 1:1).
    These three salients show us God is the initiator and lead communicator in our relationship with Him. He called us for the very first time at the born-again event and leading up to it (Jn 6:44,65, 1Co 1:9, 2Th 2:14), however, He continues to call us to come and meet with Him every day in a private intimate meeting where He will speak to us (Mk 1:35). The title and phrase "Vayikra" presents God as the caller, the initiator and lead communicator in His dynamic with humanity, the One who calls to us first and keeps calling to us, to come and tabernacle with Him in intimacy and dialogue. Think of all the men and women in Scripture the Lord called to and gave them their Vayikra moment.
    If God is the caller, we who hear and respond are the called out ones. This is precisely the New Testament Greek word for the church, ekklesia, which literally means "a calling out". In the Greek vernacular ekklesia meant "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into a public place for an assembly" (as in Acts 19:32,39,41). The inspired New Testament writers adopted and adapted ekklesia to refer to the born-again community, the church, as in "those called out from the world to tabernacle with God". It is the perfect Greek word for church. It captures the concept of vayikra or God calling, yet advances the storyline into those who responded to that call, the church.
    Israel consistently rejected that call across the Old Covenant era (Isa 26:18, Mt 23:32,37, Ac 7:51-53), forcing Jesus to say to them, "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (Mt 21:43 NIV). Peter tells us "the people" referred to here is the New Covenant church or ekklesia, the ones who responded to the call and therefore became the called out ones (1Pet 2:9). This does not mean God is finished forever with Israel. Not at all. Paul emphasizes this in Romans 11, telling us God has not rejected Israel forever (v1,2), but rather, she is in a state of spiritual hardness until the full number of Gentiles come in (v25). At the end, in conjunction with the Second Coming, God will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication on Israel and she will mourn for the one she pierced, Jesus (Zec 12:10). At that time Israel will finally respond to the Caller in a way she never did throughout the Old Covenant era.

 

Why the book of Hebrews was written.
    I call the book of Hebrews "Leviticus Part II". It explains, in extensive and sometimes complex theological detail, how Jesus and the New Covenant fulfill Leviticus Part I. To put it simply, you will never understand and master Hebrews without understanding and mastering Leviticus.

 

Why the Antichrist and his assistant will call down fire from the sky.
    Why will Antichrist and his assistant, the False Prophet, call down fire from the sky? See 2Thessalonians 2:9 and Revelation 13:13. There are several answers to this question, one being, to mimic, compete with, and outdo God (think Pharaoh's magicians). What does this have to do with Leviticus? Ever heard the phrase "strange fire"?
    Read Leviticus 10. Nadab and Abihu, two associate priests under Aaron, kindled "strange fire" in the temple complex and were killed by God because of it. This event foreshadows and illustrates what Antichrist and the False Prophet will do. Listen closely.
    The name Nadab means "generous, benevolent". The Antichrist will charm Israel by emerging as a generous and benevolent figure to them. He will present himself as a white knight (Rev 6:2) and confirm a covenant with them (Dan 9:27). Antichrist will first emerge as a "Nadab".
    The name Abihu means "he is father". The False Prophet, Antichrist's assistant, will point the world to Antichrist and say, essentially, "He is father. He is messiah. He is mahdi. He is instead of Christ. He is God." This seems to be his only job, John says (Rev 13:12-14), to be a demonized propaganda minister. Think Joseph Goebbels, a talented speaker and culture-creator, whose sole purpose was to say of Hitler, "Here is the father of your fatherland!"
    Like Nadab and Abihu, Antichrist and his deputy will kindle and call down strange fire in the temple complex for international cameras. When Antichrist sits down in the temple "showing himself that he is God" (2Th 2:4 NKJV), one of the ways he accomplishes this is by miraculous fire. While Revelation 13:13 says the assistant calls down fire, 2Thessalonians 2:9 suggests Antichrist does too. All the verses fit together nicely if we understand one way Antichrist shows himself as God is with fire miracles.
    This fire is not God's fire, of course, it is strange fire. It is the kind foreshadowed by Nadab and Abihu and repeated on a much larger scale by Antichrist and False Prophet. Once again, Leviticus fills us with wonder. It even foreshadows eschatology and what a future demonic duo will do.


Response
 

When I say, "and many more", believe me sweet friends, there is no end to the gems of wisdom and revelation hiding in Leviticus, gems in a seemingly endless variety of realms. I urge you, then, take the key to all knowledge, which Jesus said is Genesis through Deuteronomy (Lk 11:52), and take the key's bit, which is Leviticus, and have your Vayikra moment. The Lord is calling you in.