Animal Sacrifices Prefigured Christ

The temple rituals and animal sacrifices pointed to the awesome sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Part 6 of the “Has God’s Law Been ‘Done Away’?” series.

One final change in the law pertains to the sacrifices and rituals connected with the temple service.

Prior to its destruction, Christians frequented the temple and even participated in many—if not all—of its services. They continued “daily with one accord in the temple” (Acts 2:46). Paul prayed there (Acts 22:1-17). Christ’s followers were zealous for the law (Acts 21:21-24). They cherished the temple and their relationship with it.

The destruction of the temple

However, Christ said of the temple, “‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down’” (Matthew 24:2). When Titus destroyed the temple in A.D. 70, it necessitated a change in the way Christians worshipped their Creator.

In anticipation of the temple’s destruction, the book of Hebrews addresses the issues that watershed event would cause.

Sacrifices pictured Christ’s sacrifice

The book of Hebrews shows that temple sacrifices and rituals are no longer necessary because they all pictured Christ, who has fulfilled their imagery, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

Only Christ’s blood could do that, because He was God in the flesh (Philippians 2:6-8), lived a life of obedience to God’s law and has entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).

Christ’s priesthood now supersedes that of the Levites (Hebrews 7:11-28). Everything that pertained to them foreshadowed Him, and that required a change in the law, from administration by the Levites to administration by Christ: “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law … by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. … But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (verses 12, 22, 24).

None of this indicates a change regarding clean and unclean meats or the observance of the annual festivals or the Sabbath. Paul wrote that we should “let no one judge you in food, or in drink, or regarding a festival, or a new moon, or sabbaths: which are a shadow of things to come; but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

No man can judge us regarding our observance of the Sabbath or holy days, or in not eating certain meats, Paul said, because God is our Judge and He has determined what we should and should not do. He has ordained that we keep the Sabbath and the festivals. Why? Because these things are—not were—a shadow of things to come. They foreshadow what God will do in the future!

The Sabbath

Jesus Christ Himself kept the Sabbath: “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Luke 4:16). Therefore He could say that “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). That is, the Sabbath, not Sunday, is the real Lord’s Day.

Paul also observed the Sabbath: “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). It was Christ’s and Paul’s “custom” to observe the Sabbath. And Paul wrote, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, King James Version).

In other words, Paul kept God’s law, including the Sabbath, because Christ did, and urged Christians everywhere to keep it as well.

Christ’s words—that nothing would pass from the law until all has been fulfilled—remain true, although the administration of that law has been changed because God has given the Holy Spirit so His people can keep His law with a greater spiritual understanding.

With these facts in mind, we need to turn our hearts and minds to keeping God’s law as magnified and fulfilled—filled full—by Jesus Christ.

In the next installment we will see what all this means to us today and into the future.

This is the sixth in a seven part series on God's Law. To read part 5, see “Civil Laws Now Administered Differently.” To continue the series, see part 7 “God's Law and the Future.”

About the Author

James F. Guy Sr.

James Guy is a deacon serving the Youngstown, Ohio, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, with his wife, Carla.