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Messianic Pictures in the Temple Sacrificial System


The first why might well be, “Why have sacrifices at all? Certainly God could have ordained a more humane way of making atonement!”

Ultimately he did, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Messiah. But just like our own American justice system, there must always be precedent. In Scripture, our God of justice always builds “his case” on previous Divine revelation. The Almighty magnifies–or builds upon–something already in place; whether in the creation account where the Spirit is hovering over the waters, or when Jesus takes a few loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes. God always starts with something and fashions more out of it. This is a key concept in our own legal system. By understanding the foreshadows we can more easily grasp and appreciate the substance, which is Christ our Lord (Col. 2:17).

“While we may not appreciate the concept of sacrifices, they were the means by which our Creator brought life and light into the world.”

Even we are recreated when we come to faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. God takes us and makes us a new creation in Messiah, molding and building upon this new foundation. This precedent setting is part of the changeless character of the Creator in the past, the present, and in the future.

It is no less is true with the sacrifices, which begin in the Garden of Eden: “And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) There was a sacrifice made in order for Adam and Eve to be “covered.”1 Cain and Abel teach a little bit more about proper attitudes in the sacrifices. Noah demonstrates clean and unclean animals and the sacrifices of thanksgiving. Along comes Abraham and we have a greater glimpse and comprehension. The Passover lamb in the great Exodus from Egypt augments our appreciation. Leviticus 1-5 continues in this biblical tradition, as the Most High follows His own custom, to build on precedent. Even in the millennial temple, Ezekiel demonstrated that the Messiah himself will offer up the sacrifices, no doubt building upon precedent already formed in the Old and New Testaments.

The term sacrifice is weak in our English language, but very powerful in the original Hebrew. The script of the Older Testament for sacrifice or offering is korban, the root of which means, “to draw near.” The substitutionary sacrifice of animals was instituted by the Judge of all the earth so that sinful man could “draw near,” and enter into relationship with Him. This is the precedent Jesus would build upon. upon which Jesus would build.

“He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled ,separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices… because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” (Hebrews 7:25-28)

The Levitical sacrifices permitted God’s people to “draw near.” Our sacrifice, Jesus, fulfilled this in a more complete way, permitting each of us, even among the Gentiles to “draw near” to the King of kings and LORD of lords with convenience undreamed of by the ancient Israelites!

With these foundations in place—that God builds on what has gone on before, and that His desire is to draw near to His creation—mankind—we are ready to plunge into the teachings revealed in the sacrificial system.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 1999

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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