The temple and animal sacrifices

by James Johnson

Some sincere Christians believe that they should OBSERVE the FEAST of BOOTHS also known as the FESTIVAL of TABERNACLES. Far outnumbering these THOUSANDS of CHRiSTiANS though, are MILLIONS of JEWS who are keeping this Autumn Harvest Festival..

Whatever the DiFFERENCES may be between the various CHRISTIAN and JEWISH groups in the WAY the Feast is observed, ONE thing is CERTAIN: NO-ONE can observe the Feast in exactly the same way as the EARLY followers of Jesus did, say 1960 years ago. For the simple reason that in AD70, the TEMPLE was DESTROYED and animal sacrifices CEASED.

It is a fact that the FEAST has been kept by the JEWS for many more years WITHOUT a TEMPLE and the sacrifices, than WITH a temple.
But we could ask, "Why wasn't the temple DESTROYED BEFORE AD 70? God would have had every justification for erasing it from the face of the earth decades earlier. After all, the people had said to Pilate, (Matthew 27:25) "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

The reason is partly in answer to Christ's prayer, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." God extended their opportunity to repent. Eventually, Paul had to quote the words of Isaiah 6:9-10 to the leaders of the Jews: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers through Isaiah the prophet: Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused, they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I will heal them."

Let us look at all the temples mentioned in the Scriptures, and the SACRIFICES for each one of these temples. Far from being a dull, purely theological subject, like all Scripture, (2Timothy 3:16), "It is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

The first temple was built by King Solomon in about 950 BC. 2 Chronicles 7:5 records the details of the dedication of the temple.

ZERUBBABEL'S TEMPLE was built when the people were saying, "The time has not yet come for the LORD'S HOUSE to be built." God had given them the job of FINiSHING the TEMPLE but after 15 years they still had NOT COMPLETED it. They were more concerned about building THEIR OWN homes than finishing GOD'S work. They had to learn the LESSON that God's priorities are more important than THEIR OWN. If God gives us a task, we shouldn't be afraid to get started.

God had been very PATIENT. King Cyrus' decree allowing the exiles to return was in 538BCE. Work began TWO YEARS later, but was halted in 530 BCE for ten years. Eventually it was completed in 516 BCE, seventy years after Solomon's temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

The only hint we have from Scripture about the APPEARANCE of this second temple is at the time of the foundations being laid. It is in Ezra 3:12: "But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of the temple being laid...."

The younger people who had NOT seen the FIRST TEMPLE shouted with JOY when they saw it. No one could DISTINGUISH the sounds of the shouts of JOY from the sound of WEEPING. Solomonis temple had been much grander. In that same chapter, verse 4: "Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day." Verse 6 "On the first day of the seventh month they BEGAN to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, though the FOUNDATION of the Lordis temple HAD NOT YET BEEN LAiD." All they had was the ALTAR. I shall mention this point again later. Zerubbabel's temple was desecrated around the year 168BC, nearly 350 years after it was built. The man who defamed it was Antiochus Epiphanes. As a result worship stopped. it wasn't a case of cleaning up and starting again as if nothing had happened. It is an irrevocable maxim in God's dealings with His creation that, when once something is marred, it cannot be repaired. It has to be replaced or recreated. That is why when we become God's temple, we may have the same physical body, but we become a NEW CREATION.

Was Antiochus Epiphanes the man of lawlessness prophesized by Daniel? There are at least two reasons to answer "NO". Christ himself said 200 years AFTER that event, in Matthew 24:15, that the desecration was yet FUTURE.

Also when, in the future, the LAWLESS ONE accepts the world kingdoms from SATAN, he will set himself up as GOD. Antiochus Epiphanes, for all his wickedness, did NOT do this. At the time the lawless one sets himself up as God, the worship of YAHWEH must CEASE.

The next temple is not mentioned in the Scriptures. It is called the temple of the MACCABEES. In this study I want to speak only about the temples recorded in the Scriptures.

HEROD'S TEMPLE included parts of Zerubbabel's. He added to it and it was made more IMPRESSiVE. John 2:20 says that it had taken HEROD 46 YEARS to build the temple. HEROD'S temple did not have SHEKHINAH glory because CHRiST was there. Neither did the temple have the manna, because Christ was there as the bread of life.

Each temple was associated with a PROPHET, priest and KING. In the FiRST temple, the prophet was Nathan; Zadok was the priest. The king was SOLOMON.

In the next temple, the prophets were Haggai and Zechariah, the high priest was Joshua, the kingly representative was Zerubbabel. He was a descendant of David and heir to the throne of Judah.

In HEROD'S temple, the prophet associated with the temple was John the Baptist (Luke 7:28), and the priest was John's father, Zechariah. This is what Luke 1:5,6 says: "There came to be, in the days of Herod the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the routine of Abiah, and his wife, of the daughters of Aaron, and her name is Elizabeth. Now they were both JUST in front of God, going in ALL the PRECEPTS and just STATUTES of the law BLAMELESS."

A prophet, a priest, but where was the TRUE KING? Was it HEROD? Herod was NOT a Jew, nor even an ISRAELITE. Deuteronomy 17:14-15 says that GOD will set a king over them, one whom God chooses. One from among your BRETHREN, you may NOT set a foreigner over you. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold to himself.

So Herod cannot be considered the true KING associated with the TEMPLE commonly named after him. Herod restored the temple for his OWN glory and to please the people. The true king was IMMANUEL - God with us. Christ was not born a PRINCE born to BECOME A KING, He was BORN a KING.

Many people do not realize that CHRIST CLEANSED the temple TWICE. In the Book of John, (2:15) Christ cleansed the temple shortly after the miracle of turning water into wine, right at the beginning of his ministry. "it was almost time for the Jewish Passover," it says in John 2:13. He told those selling doves, "How dare you turn MY Father's house into a MARKET!" (John 2:16). The other accounts state it was AFTER the so-called Palm Sunday when Christ rode into Jerusalem with shouts of "HOSANNA." That is when Christ called it "YOUR" temple. Matthew 23:37-38 records Jesus' words: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who killed the PROPHETS and stone those sent to you, how often i have longed to gather your children together, as a HEN gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were NOT WILLING. Look, YOUR HOUSE is left desolate."

Matthew 24:1 continues: "Jesus left the TEMPLE and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings." How IRONIC that just as the SHEKINAH glory was LEAVING the temple, the disciples pointed out the MAGNIFICENCE of the BUILDINGS.

Christ's words were deliberately twisted at his trial, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again" (John 2:18-19). Verse 21 continues: "But the TEMPLE He spoke of was His body."

It is easy to see how Jesus could be the HABITATION of Godis Spirit. But how about us? We are born in sin and shaped in INIQUITY. Paul says to the church at Corinth (1Corinthians 6:19), "Are you not aware that your BODY is a TEMPLE of God and the holy spirit in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own?"

Just in case we didn't get it the first time, he repeats it in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: "Are you not aware that you are a temple of God and the spirit of God dwells in you? The foundation is Christ, build on it with gold, silver, costly stones, not wood, hay or straw." Paul takes up the same theme in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18: "Now what agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, according as God said, that I will be making my home and will be WALKING in them, and I will be their GOD, and they shall be My people."

The fact is that these bodies of ours are merely "earthen vessels" covering a treasure within (2 Corinthians 4:7). They are "bodies of humiliation" waiting to be transfigured, to conform them to the BODY of Christ's GLORY (Philippians 3:21).

Not only are we temples individually, but collectively as the Ekklesia of God we are one temple. Ephesians 2:19-22, "Consequently, you are no longer FOREIGNERS and ALIENS, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the FOUNDATION of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.

"In Him the WHOLE building is joined TOGETHER and rises to become a HOLY TEMPLE in the Lord. And in Him too, you are being built TOGETHER to become a dwelling in which God lives by His spirit."

Our minds are too dull to take in fully the depth of this Scripture. Not only do we have God's SPiRiT, we also have CHRIST'S spirit as it says in Galatians 4:6: "Because you are sons, God sent the SPIRIT of his SON into your hearts, the Spirit which calls out, "Abba, father". So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."

Today there are NO temple BUILDINGS in Jerusalem, so there are no sacrifices and rituals in the SAME WAY. But that doesnit mean there are NO temples and sacrifices. Circumcision is of the heart. (Romans 2:29, Colossians 2:11). There is now MUSIC in our hearts (Ephesians 5:19). Christ DWELLS in our heart by FAITH (Ephesians 3:17). God has CLEANSED our heart by faith (Acts 15:9). That the previous temple buildings existed is a matter of historical FACT. We know this apart from the Scriptures. Although people argue about the future temples, we need to accept in FAITH that what God has clearly revealed WILL happen. For example, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 reads: "... [the man of lawlessness] is seated in the temple of God demonstrating that he himself is God."

These words were written about 200 years AFTER Antiochus Epiphanes, so cannot refer to him. Politically, it would seem IMPOSSIBLE today for a temple to be built on the site of the Mosque of OMAR. Of course, when GOD wants His temple built, it WILL be, despite what HUMANS may do to PREVENT it.

However, consider this: Many Jewish Zionists believe that the Dome of the Rock is NOT the exact site and a new temple could be built ELSEWHERE on the temple platform. Also SACRIFICES were offered before the FOUNDATIONS of Zerubabel's temple had been LAID. So there would be NO historical PRECEDENT to prevent at least STARTING the evening and morning SACRIFICES before the temple was built.

Let us compare Daniel 9:27 with Matthew 24:1. Daniel 9:27: "He will confirm a covenant with many for one SEVEN. in the MIDDLE of the SEVEN, he will put an END to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of the temple, he will set up an ABOMINATION that causes DESOLATION, until the END that is decreed, is poured out on him." Matthew 24:15-16: "So when you see standing in the holy place, the ABOMINATION that causes DESOLATION, spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader UNDERSTAND - then let those who are in Judea flee to the MOUNTAINS."

Do the Scriptures reveal details of a future temple? Yes, in Ezekiel 41 - 48. God has already provided the details of the design and measurements, etc. for the millennial temple.

But what will happen AFTER the THOUSAND YEARS? A priesthood, whether Melchizedek or Aaronic, is a barrier between God and his people. God's ancient people never had UNRESTRICTED access to the tabernacle or temple. Only the high priest had access once a year to the Most Holy Place. Even during the 1000 years, when "all nations will stream to the Lord's temple" (isaiah 2:2) they will not have the WARM closeness of God's COMPANIONSHIP.

But AFTER the 1000 years it is different. Revelation 21:22: "And a TEMPLE I did NOT perceive in New Jerusalem, for the Lord God Almighty is its temple and the Lamb." Revelation 21:3: "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and HE will live with them. They will be his people and God Himself will be with them and HE will be their GOD."

Instead of the Shekinah dwelling WITHIN a temple, the Lord God Almighty Himself, and the LAMB, will BECOME the temple. All humanity will DWELL within that blessed sanctuary.

Now that we have discussed the temples, past present and future, let us look at the sacrifices. Temples are built for worship. Inexorably connected with worship is sacrifice. When King Darius searched the archives in Babylon, he found a scroll. Ezra 6:3b records what it said: "Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid." To the modern Western mind, the whole idea of ANIMAL SACRiFiCES is REPULSiVE. When Solomon's Temple was DEDICATED there were 22,000 cattle and 122,000 sheep and goats SACRIFICED, a total of 144,000 ANIMALS! And that was only the FIRST DAY!

To cope with all that spilt blood, there was a VAST reservoir under the ALTAR to collect the blood of all those animals. When we think of the DETAiL, it seems even MORE repulsive to us. We recognize that animal sacrifices are a SHADOW of Christ's sacrifice. They were a "SCHOOLMASTER" to teach that SIN requires the SHEDDING of blood. Although there ARE SIMILARITIES between animal sacrifices and Christ's sacrifice, there are some BIG DIFFERENCES.

We think of animal sacrifices as being BARBARIC, but God's LAW ensured that the animal had a quick and PAINLESS death. To this end, the BLOOD was DRAINED at the BEGiNNiNG of the ritual. But when we turn to Christ's sacrifice, we see that Christ's blood was DRAINED much later. In fact, just BEFORE He gave up his SPIRIT to God. This had followed a SLOW, PAINFUL death.

The Chief Priest was RESPONSIBLE to ensure that the ritual was done in accordance with the LAW. And also it was his DUTY to make sure the animal was PERFECT, without blemish and NOT HARMED in any way. The Chief Priest did NOT supervise Christ's sacrifice; this responsibility was passed to an ALIEN GENTILE ruler. Christ's body was beaten. His VISAGE marred more than any man. There was NO SHAME attached to the animal sacrifice. Nor was there a CURSE.

But in Christ's sacrifice, it was necessary for Christ to suffer the SHAME of the CROSS. Nearly every painting or statue of Christ's crucifixion is inaccurate. By that I don't mean that He didn't wear a beard or that He died on a stake. I mean that He was naked; He didn't wear a loincloth. Galatians 3:13 says: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a CURSE FOR US, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'". Instead of having crucifixes to remind us of Christ's SHAME on the cross, we should remind ourselves of Christ's glorious LIFE NOW.

If the JEWS had carried out the PUNISHMENT, Jesus would have been STONED TO DEATH. But THAT would NOT have fulfilled God's purpose. Christ wasn't just a GOOD man and CLEVER teacher, who was fighting for God's cause but failed. If Christ had been stoned to death, He would have died a MARTYR, NOT a SAVIOUR. Our Saviour had to be cut off from the Father, while OUR SINS and the sins of the WHOLE WORLD were placed on him.

Another difference between the sacrifice of an animal and Christ's sacrifice is that when the ANIMAL was sacrificed the SKY was not DARKENED for 3 hours. You will notice that the sky was NOT DARKENED for the WHOLE six hours Christ was on the stake. Towards the end of that three hours of darkness, Christ called out in a loud voice, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" The darkness indicated that God had WITHDRAWN His presence. This was far more awful than the OPPOSITION of His ENEMiES, or the DESERTION of His FRIENDS. Crucified by MAN at the behest of SATAN and ABANDONED by God, He was the most FORLORN and FORSAKEN creature in the UNIVERSE.

But just BEFORE He VOLUNTARILY gave up his SPIRIT, it became LIGHT again. Christ then KNEW that His sacrifice was ACCEPTABLE. When he DiD give up his SPIRIT, at that very moment, the CURTAIN in the temple was torn in two from TOP to BOTTOM. This indicated that GOD did the rending, NOT MAN. These things never happened with an ANIMAL sacrifice.

For MY sake and YOURS, Christ endured not merely the PHYSICAL pain, the MENTAL torture, the MORAL degradation that MEN inflicted, but the DEEPER DESPAIR of the awful ENMITY of God. Shortly before Christ returned to His Father, He told MARY not to TOUCH Him, because he had NOT yet presented His body as a sacrifice. Later, on earth, He allowed His disciples to TOUCH His HANDS and feet. We are told in Hebrews 9 that the TABERNACLE was a copy of the one in heaven, not made by hands. He didn't need to enter the heavenly tabernacle each year, but only once. The animal sacrifices, on the other hand, had to be made continually. Christ's is once for all time. Not only that, but note what it says in Colossians 1:20: "And through Christ to reconcile to Himself ALL things, whether things on EARTH or things in HEAVEN, by making peace through His BLOOD shed on the CROSS."

We tend to forget that not only is the world on EARTH a mess, but there has been rebellion in HEAVEN as well. God has said He will make a NEW HEAVEN and a new earth. He would only do that if there were something WRONG with the OLD one.

We have noted that the animal sacrifices pointed to CHRIST, and that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away SINS (Hebrews 10:4). Christ HUMBLED Himself to be our Saviour. Even in the HEBREW Scriptures, God through the Psalmist says, "The sacrifices of God are a BROKEN spirit; a broken and CONTRITE heart you will not despise." Paul when he urges US to present our bodies as LIVING sacrifices says: "Do not think of yourself MORE HIGHLY than you ought." OUR SACRIFICE will only be HOLY and PLEASING to God, if we do NOT CONFORM any longer to the PATTERN of this WORLD. Just as the animal sacrifice had to be PHYSICALLY SPOTLESS, so does OUR sacrifice need to be SPIRITUALLY SPOTLESS.

No-one today can go to JERUSALEM to offer an animal sacrifice. Thankfully, we do not NEED to go to Jerusalem to worship God. There are NO HOLY mountains. Those BURDENS are not REQUiRED of us today. God is SEEKING those who will WORSHIP Him in SPIRIT and in TRUTH. And we CANNOT do that in OUR OWN strength. We need God's Spirit - which is GIVEN to those who have been called of God and ACCEPTED CHRIST'S SACRIFICE.

Today, there is no TEMPLE building, so there are no animal sacrifices. What do we think of a person who deliberately chose a young bullock, a perfect specimen, and killed it for no other purpose than to BURN it up? it did not deserve DEATH and its death served no USEFUL purpose. Such an act would surely be a mistake, a SIN. Whether it happened today, without a temple, or 2,000 years ago IN the temple does not matter. In fact, God himself calls it SIN. 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads: "God made Him who knew no SIN to be a sin (offering) for us.... ." The words "sin offering" are literally just "sin" in Hebrew and Greek. The CLV has the word 'offering' in light type.

For years I puzzled over WHY sacrifices would need to be offered during the MiLLENNIAL REIGN of Christ. If sacrifices are a SHADOW pointing us to Christ, WHY are they needed when the REALITY - CHRIST, is there?

We have to remember that in the thousand years, MOST people will be ORDINARY fleshly human beings. The LEADERS WILL BE SPIRIT FILLED resurrected saints, but they will RULE over the same sort of people who lived in Ancient Israel. The people in the future will need to LEARN the SAME lessons the people in the PAST had to. We have already seen that the blood of animals cannot forgive sins. So WHAT DO they do? They cover sins OUTWARDLY, but they do NOT CLEAR the sinner's CONSCIENCE. We read that in HEBREWS 9:9,13 and 10:22.

9:9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and SACRIFICES being offered were NOT able to CLEAR the CONSCIENCE of the worshipper.
9:13 The blood of GOATS and BULLS and the ashes of a HEIFER sprinkled on those who are CEREMONIALLY UNCLEAN sanctify them so that they are OUTWARDLY clean.
10:22 Let us draw NEAR to God with a SINCERE HEART in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a GUILTY CONSCIENCE and having our bodies washed with PURE water.

So the SACRIFICES sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. Similarly, the blood of the LAMB on the door lintels protected the occupiers of the house, just before the EXODUS of Israel out of Egypt. But what if there wasn't a TEMPLE and the sinner couldn't make a SACRIFICE?

Before he did anything, with or WiTHOUT a temple, the procedure was the same. He had to REPENT before he could be PARDONED. A sacrifice WITHOUT repentance was just an empty RITUAL. These were the sacrifices that God was sick of. King David said that what God wanted was a BROKEN contrite HEART - that was BETTER than endless SACRIFICES.

Don't forget that although God was sick of ritualistic sacrifices, it was God Himself who had instituted the sacrificial system through Moses in the first place. So they must be good and for a purpose. In summary we can say then that: (a) they teach us the necessity of spilt blood to pardon sin. and (b) they were a covering for sin so that the sinner was CEREMONIOUSLY clean.

The SINNER is DYING. Only ONE sacrifice can bring LiFE; the One who said, "I am the resurrection and the LiFE."

The temples and sacrifices, PAST, present and FUTURE all point to CHRIST. Even now are HEARTS are DULLED. We DO NOT see, we CANNOT see, the full GLORY of Christ's sacrifice. We CANNOT fully comprehend the MAGNiTUDE of God's love shown through His purpose for His creation. ONE DAY, we shall EXPERIENCE the reality of what we have only READ about and postulated about.

One day, God will reap His HARVEST. One day, DEATH, pain and suffering will be no more.

I say with all creation, "MAY GOD SPEED THAT GLORIOUS DAY."

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