Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

Introduction

According to the Bible, God instituted animal sacrifices shortly after The Fall of Man - when the first humans, Adam and Eve, rebelled against Him. The purpose of sacrifices was to illustrate the following:-
  • Sin is serious in the light of God's holiness, and calls for punishment - death.
  • Apart from the death of the guilty party, the only other means of making restitution for sin is the death of someone else in place of the guilty one.
http://www.messianic-torah-truth-seeker.org/Torah/Midbar-Mishkan/alter.gifOf course, animal sacrifices are only a reminder of sin and an illustration of the remedy for sin. The grand, effectual sacrifice is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But God instituted animal sacrifices of various kinds, and these sacrifices illustrate different aspects of Jesus' sacrifice. The institution of these symbols more than a thousand years before the crucifixion as also their accurate portrayal of Christ's death show that the latter was not an ordinary event, but the execution of God's sovereign plans. Only God can plan and execute events over a period of more than a thousand years.

The following are the sacrifices and offerings that God instituted to the Jews, His chosen people, in around 1450 BC. You can read about them in detail in the book of Leviticus. The image shows the brazen altar that was used for burning the sacrifices.

The burnt offering

It illustrates God's delight in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. If there ever was a perfect, flawless act of service to God, it was this. This interpretation is supported by the following:-
  • The word "qatar" used for burning in connection with the burnt offering in verses like Leviticus 1:9 signifies burning as in fragrant incense.
  • No part of the sacrifice was to be eaten by the priests - it was wholly for God.
  • The inner parts of the animal were washed with water. Since water is symbolic of God's word, this indicates that the innermost, finest aspects of Jesus' death were all governed by God's requirements as put forth in His word.
Eight centuries after the burnt offering was instituted and seven centuries before Christ, God led the Hebrew prophet Isaiah to anticipate Christ's fulfillment of the burnt offering:

"He [God the Father] shall see the travail of his [Jesus'] soul and shall be satisfied." (Isaiah 53:11)

A few decades after Jesus' death, Paul reviews:-

"Being found comprised as a man, Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name." - Philippians 2:8-9

Thus, Jesus fulfilled the burnt offering when he died. His death was one act which completely satisfied God.

The sin offering

It illustrates how the death of Jesus Christ dealt with the root of sin. When God, who is holy, looks at us to judge us, His first reaction would be to immediately destroy us, since our sinful nature is repulsive to Him. The sin offering element in Jesus' death atones for our sinful nature. This interpretation is supported by the following:-

  • The blood is poured on the ground - since this aspect of Jesus' sacrifice specifically concerns us.
  • Part of the offering was burnt outside the camp - signifying something repulsive. Jesus had to take upon himself our sin, (and thus be repulsive to both God and man) to atone for it. "For God hath made Jesus who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." - 2 Corinthians 5:21. Note that Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem.
  • The Hebrew word Saraph (burnt to consumption) is used for the sin offering (in Leviticus 4:12) - referring to the judgment of God that falls on the sin offering.
  • Part of the offering was eaten - again showing that it concerns our needs.
  • The richest part, the fat, was not eaten but burnt on the altar. This shows that we will never fully understand the depths of Jesus' travail as our sin offering. That is a realm that only God can enter into.

The sin offering is in view in the testimony that Jesus got from his cousin, John the Immerser: "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin [singular, not plural] of the world." - John 1:29

Similarly, Isaiah wrote: "Jehovah has laid upon him the iniquity [singular] of us all" (Isaiah 53:6)

The trespass offering

This offering illustrates the necessity for restitution to be made for individual sins - acts of sin.

This can be concluded because in Leviticus 5:1-19 and 6:1-7, the trespass offering is the prescribed procedure to be followed if certain persons have committed specific acts of sin.

The trespass offering is in view in 1 Peter 2:24 which says: "Jesus himself bore our sins [plural, not singular] in His own body on the tree [the wooden cross on which he was crucified]". This was written a few decades after Jesus died.

Similarly, Isaiah wrote: "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities [plural]" (Isaiah 53:5)

The peace offering

This offering illustrates the peace and fellowship that we can have with God because of Jesus' sacrificial death.

This can be concluded because the intense searching process typified by flaying, cutting up the body, and washing the inward parts is omitted here. The entire priestly family could eat of this sacrifice together. This shows the communion and enjoyment that disciples of Christ (symbolized by the priests) have today as a result of Christ's sacrifice. The sons of Aaron would have stood and watched the flame of the burnt offering consume it to ashes, but they did not get food from it. The peace offering however, furnished for them a rich provision.

In the first century AD, Paul alludes to this aspect of Jesus' death when he writes: "Jesus was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 4:25, 5:1)

Isaiah wrote: "the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5)

The food (meat) offering

Here, an animal is not killed. Thus, the meat offering does not typify Jesus' death but his life. Jesus' life was a flawless act of utter service, consecration and devotion to God the Father. Jesus was not only God, but completely human, and he was the one person who lived on this earth in the way God wants every human to live.

Jesus' fulfillment of the meat offering is shown in passages such as:-

"Jesus said to his parents, Did you not know that I need to be in the things of My Father?" - Luke 2:49

"Jesus said unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." - John 4:34

"While Peter was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him." - Matthew 17:5

In anticipation of this fulfillment, the Old Testament prophets wrote about the Lord Jesus:-

"Your throne, O God [that is, the Lord Jesus], is forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God [that is, God the Father], has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows" - Psalm 45:6-7, written about a thousand years before Christ.

"Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delights" - Isaiah 42:1

Conclusion

The Bible says that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a momentous event in history, because when he suffered and died, he paid the price for the sins of the whole world. During the three hours of darkness, God heaped His wrath on Jesus. God treated Jesus like we sinners deserve to be treated so that He can treat us how Jesus, His spotless, beloved Son, deserves to be treated.

If this is so, it is only fitting that God would institute animal sacrifices that would illustrate different facets of Jesus' death. Testimonies to how Jesus would fulfill or fulfilled these animal sacrifices are scattered in the Bible, written by various authors separated from one another in time by centuries.

Historically, animal sacrifice been an integral part of all ancient religions. This is consistent with the Bible's claim that God instituted animal sacrifices at the start of history (but inconsistent with evolutionary theory - if cultures developed separately all over the world shortly after homo sapiens spread out from Africa, there is no reason why all of them should have become religious, much less why all of them should think that killing animals serves a spiritual purpose). However, the Bible is the only religious book which records the institution of various types of sacrifices in painful detail and also how these sacrifices were fulfilled in One Grand Sacrifice that is the basis for sinful people to have access to a sin-hating, infinitely holy God. This is evidence that the Bible is indeed God-given (as it claims to be), and that turning to Jesus Christ is your only hope to avoid God's wrath.