Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament?

by Matt Slick

God required animal sacrifices in the Old Testament because they represented the true sacrifice of God in the person of Jesus later in the New Testament.  Those animal sacrifices were a temporary solution that pointed ahead to the permanent work of God in Christ.  The shed blood on the cross and of the O.T. animals was necessary because God told us in Lev. 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement."  Atonement is a cleansing, a removal of sin.  So, animal sacrifices were a temporary atonement that foreshadowed the real and permanent atonement of Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14).

Hebrews 9:11-14, "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

To be in God's holy presence we must be without sin because God is Holy (1 Peter 1:16).  When a person sins, there is a consequence for breaking the Law of God.  That consequence is death (Genesis 2:17; Exodus 20:1-17; Romans 6:23) and separation from God (Isaiah 59:2).  On the cross, Jesus bore our sins in his body (1 Peter 2:24).  Another way of looking at it is that he "became sin" (2 Corinthians 5:17) though he never committed sin (1 Peter 2:22).  So, when he died on the cross, the Law of God was satisfied; this is justice.  But, because God is merciful and gracious, he extends that death, that atoning sacrifice, to all who would receive it by faith, so that all believers are made right before God (Romans 5:1; Philippians 3:9).

Heb. 9:15, "And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."

Therefore, because Jesus died on the cross, we have a new covenant--a new contract with God where God gives us the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:9) and deliverance from eternal judgment.




CARM ison