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The Purpose of OT Animal Sacrifices

by David A. DePra

     Under the Old Covenant, God instituted the animal sacrifices as

a temporary "atonement" for sin. Of course, these animal sacrifices

did nothing to take away sin. They were merely symbolic, pointing

to the real atoning work of Jesus Christ.

It is important to be clear about this:

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the

realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same

sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those

who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped

being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once

for all, and would no longer have been guilty for their sins. But

those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is

impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

     Note the clear statement: It is impossible for the blood of bulls

and goats to take away sins. Why? Why couldn't God simply say,

"I'm God, and I can accept any sacrifice I want as adequate for sin.

I will therefore accept the blood of animals as a sufficient payment

for the sin of man."?

      God could NOT say that. Why? Because sin is more than just

ACTS which violate the law. Much more. All "acts of sin" have a

cause or a root. ACTS of sin are the result of the sin NATURE.

     To put it simply, we are not sinners because we sin. Rather, we

sin because we are sinners. In other words, what we ARE, by

nature, sinners, produces the acts which correspond: Acts of sin.

     Jesus said, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad

tree cannot produce good fruit." This shows that it is all or nothing.

If you are not a new creation in Christ, you are still in Adam. You

cannot produce good fruit. Even what looks like good fruit at first,

will eventually develope into that which is bad -- given enough time

and development.

A Reminder of Sin

     The blood of animals cannot change the nature of the one

offering the sacrifice. "But," we might ask, "Doesn't the animal

sacrifice at least appease God? -- if only temporarily?"

     Hum. So in other words, animal sacrifices cannot take away

sin, but ARE able to take punishment for sin? Is

that what we would suggest? Is that what atonement is all about?

Taking away the punishment for sin? Appeasing the wrath of God?

     Nope. That is error. Neither the animal sacrifices of the Old

Covenant, or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself, took away the

PUNISHMENT for sin. Neither did either of them "appease God."

     Why? Because the sin issue isn't resolved by merely taking

away the punishment for it. How could that solve anything?

     Ask: If you lift punishment from sin, then what do you have? You

have sin WITHOUT punishment! The sin REMAINS. Only now

without consequences. That's worse than sin WITH consequences.

Such a thing cannot be possible in the purpose of a Holy God.

     So what purpose did the "shadow" of animal sacrifices serve?

The Bible tells us above: As a reminder of sin. But now ask: WHO

needed to be reminded of sin? God? No. US. The animal

sacrifices were therefore to remind US of the fact that we are

helpless sinners who have no salvation except it come through the

death of a substitute.

     Thus, we see that even the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant

were not a matter of "giving God the blood He needs" before He

will forgive. No. They are primarily a reminder to US of our sin; of

our condition in Adam. They remind us we are dead sinners in

need of a substitute. They point to the REAL Lamb without blemish

who would take away the sin of the world. They gave those who

sacrificed great hope, and pointed to God's full satisfaction in the

Redemption of Jesus Christ.

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