May 24, 2009

Animal Sacrifice in the Millennium

By Jack Kelley

Every time I answer a question on animal sacrifices in the Millennium, I get more questions about them. If Jesus died once for all time, the righteous for the unrighteous, they ask, then are we sure that animal sacrifices will again be a part of the daily routine, as they were in the Old Testament? And if so, why? Let’s find out.

We’ll take the easy one first. The most prominent feature of Millennial Israel will be its Temple, so in our search for an answer, let’s begin there. The Temple will have an outer court and an inner court. Each has gates facing East, North and South. Inside each inner gate is a room for preparing animal sacrifices (Ezek. 40:38-39), which will clearly be the order of the day during the Kingdom Age. There will be sacrifices for the year, the month, the week, and the day, in addition to those for the three remaining Levitical Feasts, Passover (bulls and goats but no lamb), Unleavened Bread, and Tabernacles. These are all discussed in detail in Ezekiel 45:13-46:15.

So now we know that animals will be sacrificed regularly throughout the Millennium. They’ll be called sin offerings, guilt offerings and burnt offerings, just like in Leviticus. What Ezekiel didn’t discuss is why they’ll still be necessary. For that we have to look other places.

It’s the Law

First, a little review. The Old Testament sacrifices, though required, were only of benefit to those who understood their symbolic purpose. In Psalm 51:16-17 David wrote,

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Unless they were presented with the proper attitude, animal sacrifices were not pleasing to God. Men who offered sacrifices had to admit their fallen nature and believe that the animals they were offering symbolized a coming Redeemer who would one day restore them.

But over time the motive was forgotten and just the motions remained. In Isaiah 29:13 God said,
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
And in Isaiah 66:2-3 He explained just how repulsive the sacrifices are without contrition and faith, the only proper motives.
“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol.”
From these examples, it’s clear that Old Testament believers were required to offer sacrifices both as an admission of their sinfulness and of their belief that a Redeemer was coming to save them. While the Law of the Lord is perfect (Psalm 19:7) natural man cannot keep it. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by keeping the Law. Rather, through the Law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20) The Law was given to teach us that we can’t meet its requirements and need a Savior to redeem us from its penalty. We can’t do it ourselves.

Then Comes Grace

The Age of Grace began at Pentecost and will end at the Rapture. This makes sense when you consider that in Ephesians 2:7 Paul said that through the Church God wants to demonstrate the incomparable riches of His grace in the ages yet to come. To accomplish this, He made our relationship with Him different than anyone else’s before or after. In Ephesians 3:8-10 Paul said that he was chosen by God to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. This was a mystery in the past, but God’s intent was that now, through the church, His manifold wisdom would be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm. That means angels, both faithful and fallen, learn something of God’s wisdom by studying the Church.

So both the angels in Heaven and future generations of men on Earth will see in the Church the perfection of God’s love. In Ephes. 2:10 Paul called the Church God’s workmanship. The Greek word means to make something from something else. It’s used only twice in the New Testament and both times it describes the work of God as our Creator.

In our case, He took something worthless and made it into something priceless. He forgave all of our sins in advance, (Col. 2:13-15) making His pardon free for the asking (Matt. 7:7-8). When we ask, He begins from that moment on to see us as if we’re as righteous as He is, (2 Cor. 5:17,21) and guarantees our inheritance. (Ephes. 1:13-14) At the Rapture He’ll transform us to become in fact that which we already are in His sight. (1 Cor. 15:51-53) Then He’ll reward us with a portion of His inheritance (Gal. 4:7), and a seat with His Son in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Ephes. 1:20-21 & 2:6).

In the coming age, men on Earth will look up into the sky and see the New Jerusalem, home of the Church, in orbit nearby. It will be their source of light and though they’ll never be able to visit it, descriptions of its beauty and majesty will stagger their imaginations. All of creation will stand in awe of this display of the incomparable riches of God’s grace.

This is why the Church is God’s workmanship, not ours, and why the Bible is so clear on the fact that we can do nothing to earn or keep our salvation. In order to be the ultimate example of His grace, our salvation has to be 100% dependent on Him. Anything we do in an effort to help ourselves diminishes His workmanship. No other group in the history of man has deserved so little and been given so much, and that’s just the way He intended it.

Saved by Faith, Obedient to the Law

But that all comes to a crashing halt at the Rapture. Even during Daniel’s 70th Week it’s clear that life on Earth will be a lot more like it was in the Old Testament than it is in the New. For example, the Jews only need to build a Temple in order to conduct animal sacrifice. Their worship system requires it. Remember, in the middle of the 70th week the Abomination of Desolation will cause an end to the sacrifice and offering (Daniel 9:27). That means sacrifices will have begun again with the construction of the Temple, because they aren’t being done now.

In an earlier study, The Nature Of Post Church Salvation, I made the case that post Church believers, whether Jew or Gentile, will not enjoy the seal of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of their inheritance. Eternal Security is a blessing for the Church alone and ends with the end of the Age of Grace at the Rapture. Two passages from Revelation illustrate this.
1. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (Rev. 14:12)
Speaking of the perilous times after the introduction of the Mark of the Beast, the Lord had John say that both obedience and faith will be required of Tribulation believers, whereas the Church is saved by grace through faith alone.
2. “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” (Rev. 16:15)
When used symbolically, clothing always stands for righteousness. Note that it’s the Tribulation believer’s responsibility to maintain his righteousness. It’s not imputed to him solely by faith as ours is.

Immediately after the 2nd Coming, the Temple will be cleansed and on Earth animal sacrifice will begin again. The fact that there were animal sacrifices before the Church and there will be animal sacrifices after the Church shows that they were not eliminated forever when Jesus came, but only suspended during the Age of Grace. (In the New Jerusalem, home of the Church, there is no Temple. (Rev. 21:22) Having been the Lord’s Temple for the last 2000 years, we’ll see that He’s become ours.)

Life In The Millennium

In the Millennium, the people of Earth will once again offer sacrifices in admission of their fallen state, just like in the Old Testament, but now it will also be evidence of their belief that the Redeemer has come. According to Psalm 2 their relationship with the Lord will also be like it was for Israel in the Old Testament.
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD : He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. (Psalm 2:7-12)
So much for gentle Jesus meek and mild. And remember, in our recent study of Isaiah we saw that it won’t be just Israel that comes under the rule of the Lord, but the whole Earth.
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations (Gentiles) will stream to it. (Isaiah 2:2)
The word mountain is symbolic of government. All of Earth will be a theocracy with the Lord as King.
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
The Hebrew word translated Law in verse 3 is Torah. So the Law being spoken of here is the Law of Moses, and all the world will have to comply.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)
This verse is often quoted in the context of peace. But it also means that there won’t be any United Nations or World Court. Nor will any nation have the sovereign right to contend with another. The Word of the Lord will be the Law on Earth and there won’t be any recourse. This will be the Lord’s “New World Order” and He won’t brook any alternatives.

Zechariah also gives us a glimpse of His Millennial rule.
Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16-19)
But Why?

Seeing the emphasis given to the Law both before and after the Church only serves to underscore the the Lord’s declaration that He didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17) So, animal sacrifices have been suspended during the Church Age to demonstrate the extent of God’s grace. But our study of the Millennium shows that they weren’t eliminated forever. Here’s why.

When the Church studies Israel we see that man came to believe He didn’t need a Savior. He thought that keeping the Law and offering the sacrifices were sufficient payment for his sin, even though the Old Testament doesn’t teach that. When Millennial believers study the Church they’ll see that being freed from the Law and its sacrifices slowly took away our distaste for sin, allowing us to become far too comfortable in its presence, even though the New Testament doesn’t teach that either.

Maybe natural man needs both. Maybe, like Israel, he needs a strict application of God’s Law and the bloody, barbaric ritual that comes from his failure to keep it so he never forgets the awful consequences of sin. And maybe, like the Church, he needs to know for sure that God sent a Savior to do for him what he cannot do for himself. And that’s to save him from those consequences.

In Israel God demonstrated the perfection of His Law. In the Church it’s the incomparable riches of His Grace. In the Millennium, the people of Earth will experience both simultaneously. Next time we’ll see if that does the trick, or if, like all of God’s other attempts to dwell among His people, this one also ends in man’s failure and God’s judgment. Stay tuned.

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