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Why animals as sacrifices?

Query for the Month

of April 2002


Next up-date: May 1st 2002 (God willing).

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Genesis 4:

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:5 but to Cain and to his offering He had not respect.

Genesis 3:

21 to Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Why did animals have to be used as sacrifices of the Old Testament?  Why were Adam and Eve covered by the skins of the first sacrifices?


The question regarding the use of animals for the sacrifices is a good one.  In the first place, animals were used because they were pictures of the LAMB of God who was “slain from the foundation of the world.”  Revelation 13:8.  It was a lamb because although it showed strength of character, it did not portray brute force, because there is none of that in our Saviour.

In a secondary sense it applied to Adam (and all of us) for “we are crucified with Him.”  Romans 6:6.  In a certain sense we are all animals, because that word covers the flesh and blood creatures on the earth.  We are all made of the earth.  This the wise man recognised.

 Ecclesiastes 3:

18 I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them [to themselves], and that they might see that they themselves are beasts [animals]. 19 For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man has no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity.  20 All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

So why an animal?  As mentioned, it was a lamb at the beginning, but later, when Moses was given an upgrade in the way sacrifices were made, sometimes a goat and at other times a bull or cow was used, of various age groups.  Each one had a special significance for the ritual in which they were used.  In some offerings, an animal was not required, flour and other ingredients could be used.  But in NEARLY all cases where sin was concerned, the offering had to be a living creature which could then be killed.  Why?

Hebrews 9:

16 For where a testament [or a will] is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives. 

18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood [this is referring to what we call the Old Testament, which is here described in terms of a will]. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the testament which God has enjoined to you.” [Here is the proof that this will is ready to be probated.  The "LAMB" of God is already dead!!] 

21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle [the building], and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And [because] ALMOST all things are by the law purged with blood [the record of a death]; and without shedding of blood is no remission, 23 it was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these [animal blood]; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands [the tabernacle on earth], which are [only] the figures of the true ; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us [having made His new "will"].

There we learn that the "old" will was re-written, or brought up to date.

The reason for killing animals was so that a "death" could be recorded.  Otherwise, the desires of the person making the "last will and testament" could not happen.  It was not possible in the conditions of the Garden of Eden to show the "death" of the Son of God, so animal substitutes were called for.

How it should have happened I do not know, but we can be sure of one thing, our Saviour did not wish them to be brutally executed.  Consider the fact of the fish with the coin in its mouth - it chose to take the hook.  Matthew 17:27. But it was absolutely necessary that humanity in its fallen condition should be taught very thoroughly the lesson that sin brings death, and animals played their part in this.

Romans 6:

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD.

James 1:

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted of God”: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man. 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15 Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. 16 Do not err [on this very important point], my beloved brothers.

Another thing we should realise too, is that just as Jesus is only required to die "once" for our individual salvation, so there was only a necessity of ONE sacrifice, ONCE in a lifetime, for ONE person.  This was shown through a "burnt" offering which for the first 2,800 years was completely burnt on the altar.  Then in Moses' time it became incorporated into the passover lamb which was eaten once a year.

 Sin offerings were extra to that one.

Romans 6:

8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: 9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over Him. 10 For in that He died, He died to sin once: but in that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise [in the same way] reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin [once], but alive to God through Jesus Christ our LORD.

12 Let not sin therefore reign [or have control] in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.

It is only our ACTIONS of sin that necessitate an increase into the sin offerings, and this translates into an increase in the pain Jesus bears for us.  But, as the last verse indicates, we should stop sinning when we become Christians.

Hebrews 10:

5 Wherefore when He [Jesus] comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering [of animals] You would not, but a body have You prepared Me. 6 In [the multitude of] burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have had no pleasure.” 

7  “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Your will, O God.”

8 Above [or before] when He said, “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin You would not, neither had pleasure therein"; which are offered by the law; 9 then said He, “Lo, I come to do Your will, O God.”   [By this] He takes away the first [the animal sacrifices], that He may establish the second [the sacrifice of Himself at Calvary, which is required by His new “will”]

10 By the which "will" we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL. 11 And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same [animal] sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered ONE sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool [by His followers].

14 For by ONE offering He has perfected FOR EVER them that are sanctified.

15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days [after Calvary], says the LORD, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them"; 17 and [then He adds] "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” [Jeremiah 31:33-34].

J B Philipps' 1960 translation of Hebrews 10:12-18

But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins for ever, took his seat at God’s right hand, from that time offering no more sacrifice, but waiting until “his enemies be made his footstool”.  For by virtue of that one offering he has perfected for all time every one whom he makes holy.  The Holy Spirit himself endorses this truth for us, when he says, first:

                   This is the covenant that I will make with them

                  After those days saith the Lord;

                  I will put my laws on their heart,

                  And upon their mind will I also write them.

         And then he adds:

                   And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

 Where God grants remission of sin there can be no question of making further atonement.

So where did the idea that multiple sacrifices would please God come from?  Satan watched with interest as the Son of God instituted the original sacrifices, and soon figured that a way to confuse and horrify many would be to increase the offerings.  He simply insinuated that, "If one is good, then two or three are better."  In this he was very successful until all the world, Pagan and Christian alike, believed in "pleasing" God by slaughter!! 

But as we have just read, God did NOT have pleasure in such a situation where animals are "offered by the law".  So why did He go along with human desire and set up an entire ceremonial system?  Because through it He taught a lot about the sacrifice that His Son was making, and this helped many to be saved.

Many devout Christians at first learned what God wanted through the rituals, but the mindset to kill was so strong in fallen humanity that eventually even they accepted the false idea, and, aided by Satan it became a hindrance.  After a time, the only remedy was to do away with the whole system.

Today we do not offer animals sacrifices.  Why not?  Because we can do what all the genuine Christians did in the old times, accept the gift of the Son of God in our hearts without them.  How did they do it?  By killing the animals with their own hand.  How do we do it?  Through the picture of the Son of man dying at Calvary.  We do not have to personally kill an animal (which in a certain way is a pity, because we might appreciate the "death" more fully) but can relate to our Saviour's "death" through the experience of the cross, the "one" sacrifice.

The death of the Son of God as the Son of man at Calvary 4,000 years after the first sin, was only a picture and did not alter anything in the plan of salvation.  It was simply a sign to men and angels of what the Son of God had been doing since that experience in the Garden of Eden, for it was then that He began to die the death of spiritual crucifixion. 

Revelation 13:

8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the beast], whose names are NOT written in the book of life of the Lamb SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.

This “death” is not yet finished, for crucifixion is a slow and painful way to die.  It will not cease until there is no more need of it.

There is no “release for all”, or universal salvation, at any time, for each one of us must come to Christ individually as we are convicted of our sinful state, and ask Him for the experience of rebirth when we recognise that His "death" was for us.  That, of course, can happen, and has happened, at any time in the lives of all those who have ever have been born on earth.  It is NOT a group salvation made at Calvary, but a slow steady process by which Christ has built up His kingdom since the fall of Adam.   The guilt and “reward” (the second death) of the actions of sin are not “paid for” by us but transferred to Him and He will one day pass them on to their rightful originator, Satan.  Leviticus 16:21-22.  Our sinful “nature” He will keep forever as part of the deal of redemption. 

That's why God could accept Abel's offering but not Cain's.  To make an offering without blood was to deny the fact that the Son of God was already dead!  The act of the offering is to prove the death!! 

It is this truth which is missing in so many of today's gospels.  They tell us that Christ died at Calvary 2,000 years ago and that the Old Testament Christians looked forward "in faith" to that event, while we today look back, neither of which is true.  Jesus was Saviour to the patriarchs in the same way He is Saviour to us - by a personal experience in which we become "reborn" into His kingdom in our lifetime.  He is the God of the living, not the dead, as He told us.  Matthew 22:32. 

It was, and is, an infinite sacrifice He is making.

The Son of God then used the skins of the burnt offerings Adam and Eve had made as coverings for them in place of their fig leaves.   Genesis 3:21.  He did this in the garden BEFORE they left it as a symbol of the fact that they were living in Him from that moment on.  1 John 4:9.

This was a temporary covering because we are only “engaged” to Jesus when we become converted.  2 Corinthians 11:2.  The final stages of the "marriage" take place after the resurrection when we get the permanent covering.  See Matthew 22:1-14.  The same picture is shown in the story of the prodigal son.  Luke 15.  There the father covers his son with his own garment while he is still on the road.  When they get inside the house (heaven) he is bathed and a new, the best, robe is placed on him.

Luke 15:

22 But the father said to his servants, “Bring forth the BEST robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet…”

The father in the story permits no contemptuous eye to mock at his son's misery and tatters. He takes from his own shoulders the broad, rich mantle, and wraps it around the son's wasted form while the youth sobs out his repentance, saying, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son." The father holds him close to his side, and brings him home. No opportunity is given him to ask a servant's place. He is a son, who shall be honoured with the best the house affords, and whom the waiting men and women shall respect and serve. 


Why animal sacrifices?  Because it was important that the offerer recognised the fact that the "will" of God cannot be put into effect until AFTER the death of the maker of the will.  Hebrews 9:16-17.  The blood of the animal served as notice that they understood that the Son of God had already "died" for them.  The body was burnt completely, but the skin was used as a covering to show the nature of salvation.  It is by virtue of the covering of righteousness supplied by our Saviour that we can live in this world of sin.  Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10.

The Old Testament "proof" was the blood of an animal.  The New Testament "proof" is that of a human body at Calvary. But the reality is that the death of the Son of God is a continuous one.  Although finished for those who are "born again", it has not yet begun for those who may still choose.

Unfortunately, to many this truth has been obscured by Satan.

Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Next thought. To be discussed from May 1st 2002.

Deuteronomy 6:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down [evening prayer], and when you rise up [morning prayer]

 How can we put these words regarding the education of our children into effect?

Anyone interested?

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