Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Animal Sacrifices in the Millennium?

One of the most embarrassing aspects of Dispensationalism is their insistence that there will be a return to animal sacrifices during the Millennium. Most Dispensationalists have no idea that this is part of their system. The Progressive Dispensationalists have mostly abandoned this element. However, the hard-core Dispensationalists still hold to it.

If you recall, Dispensationalists believe that after his second coming, Jesus will reign on the earth for exactly one thousand years. This thousand-year period is often called the Millennium, taken from the Latin phrase "thousand years," found in Revelation 20.

Whereas all Premillennialists believe in a future Millennium on earth, Dispensationalists are unique in that they believe that the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, according to the vision given in Ezekiel 40-48. Herein lies the problem.

The vision in Ezekiel 40-48 includes animal sacrifices. Because Dispensationalists are committed to a literal, future fulfillment of Ezekiel 40-48, Dispensationalists believe that there will be a return to animal sacrifices during the Millennium.

Some Dispensationalists have tried to skirt the issue by arguing that the animal sacrifices are of a memorial nature. Thus, the animal sacrifices are simply pointing back to the death of Christ, in a similar way that the Lord's Supper points back to Christ.

However, the text of Ezekiel 40-48 belies this claim. These are not mere memorial animal sacrifices. Fourteen times, the text calls for a "sin offering" (Ezekiel 40:39; 42:13; 43:19, 21, 22, 25; 44:27, 29; 45:17, 19, 22, 23, 25; 46:20). Leviticus describes the sin offering as "making atonement" (Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35, etc.). These are animal sacrifices to atone for sin.

Thus, according to Dispensationalists, during the future Millennium, there will be a temple in Jerusalem with Levitical priests offering animal sacrifices to atone for sin.

Most Christians find such a belief unsustainable in light of the book of Hebrews. God repeatedly stresses that the Old Covenant is finished. It is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). The sacrificial system was "imposed until the time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:10). Christ's sacrifice was the once-for-all-time sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26).

Yet, Dispensationalists persist in their belief of a future Millennium with animal sacrifices. There are some other rather novel attempts to explain future animal sacrifices, but none has gained a wide following, and most find them woefully inadequate.

Rather than engage these point-by-point and getting lost in the details, I believe it is more helpful to look at the big picture. "Future animal sacrifices" is one of those Copernican Revolution issues about which I wrote in the early days of this blog.

Do future animal sacrifices make any sense, given the book of Hebrews and the rest of Scripture? Is this not an obvious fatal flaw in Dispensationalism? Should this not cause one to question the entire system?

I am not saying that Ezekiel 40-48 is an easy text to interpret, yet future animal sacrifices ought to be the last interpretive option. The book of Hebrews alone ought to cause us to take a fresh look at Ezekiel 40-48 and see if God meant something other than future animal sacrifices.

This is not a matter of changing the original meaning of Ezekiel 40-48. I am not going get into the details of the exegesis (perhaps in a future post), but Ezekiel 40-48 can be understood without violating authorial intent and without resorting to future animal sacrifices.

33 comments:

odmail said...

yes, I agree. sacrifices of any kind after the Cross contradict the value of Christ's finished work.

mlynch481 said...

Well my friend, this is Dr. Mark Lynch and I would like to explain to you this fact. When you think about Dispensationalism many times it simply refers to the belief that God deals with man in different ways in different time periods in scripture. This can be proven by the way God's wrath was administered to the ungodly in the Old Testament verses the grace, mercy and long suffering of God in the New Testament. Although I have dispensationalist beliefs in this aspect I do not however believe in a literal return to animal sacrifices during the Millennial rein of Christ or any future time in history.

Thomas said...

This was a fascinating post. Thank you. I have always interpreted the last section of Ezekiel as a description of the temple expanding outwards to such outsize proportions, that I sort assume it is talking about the breaking down of geographical boundaries where Israel goes out to the diaspora, enveloping the Exiled (re: humanity en masse), rather than the exiles returning to a geographically bounded Israel. Obviously that's pretty subjective, but then so is the selective literalism that downplays expressions in the book of Hebrews in favor of any hard nut of historical particularity of the sort that the end of Ezekiel may seem to imply. Thank you again for the interesting post, I have always found your meditations both bracing and refreshing.

RonnGJ said...

Pastor - great great posting. I have studied myself out of Disp/Scofieldism years ago [70s ans 80s], and am sure glad I did. Rapturists have no clear proof to go on. I used the 'catching away' in Thess. but that has nothing to do with a so-called rapture. This sacrifice idea once again is a weird view [but I once embraced this] ... Why reinstate OT sacrifices when Christ fulfilled all rituals and laws in 30 ad - what a slap in the face of God ... Does God smile on these people who think the Old will come back again ... What a travesty!! ... This 'memorial view' is new concept to try to justify Disp. views ... Pastor hit it on the nose - absolutely correct ... Ronn Johnson

RonnGJ said...

Pastor - great great posting. I have studied myself out of Disp/Scofieldism years ago [70s ans 80s], and am sure glad I did. Rapturists have no clear proof to go on. I used the 'catching away' in Thess. but that has nothing to do with a so-called rapture. This sacrifice idea once again is a weird view [but I once embraced this] ... Why reinstate OT sacrifices when Christ fulfilled all rituals and laws in 30 ad - what a slap in the face of God ... Does God smile on these people who think the Old will come back again ... What a travesty!! ... This 'memorial view' is new concept to try to justify Disp. views ... Pastor hit it on the nose - absolutely correct ... Ronn Johnson

Folken Family said...

I appreciated your post; however, I don't think it destroy the dispensationalists view at all.

I would not be surprised at all if sacrifices continued into the millennium as they would then point back to Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. It just seems to me that sacrifices were done before the appearance of Christ because they pointed forward to the death of Christ.

Whether before or after the life of Christ, the sacrifices never had redeeming power; however, they certainly are reminders of the work of Christ on the cross.

God Bless

Eric Adams said...

Folken Family, your memorial view of future animal sacrifices fails to account for the text of Ezekiel, which explicitly refers to these as "sin offerings." Please re-read my post for the details.

ZDENNY said...

It doesn't change my position because Paul says that sacrifices never did forgive sins so your point is lost. Even the writer of Hebrews argues in this fashion. He calls it an "annual reminder of sin" Do you think the writer of Hebrews was wrong too just so you can hold your theological position?

Hebrews 10:1-5 says, "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."

Eric Adams said...

ZDENNY, it sounds like you have never wrestled with the language of Leviticus 4:20, 5:13. etc., in which the animal sacrifices are repeatedly called "sin offerings" that "make atonement" and "secure forgiveness." Look up the verses. This is a thorny problem for Christians of all theological persuasions because we also believe every word of the book of Hebrews.

You can read my analysis in this post: http://dispensationalist.blogspot.com/2007/09/jesus-and-law-of-israel.html

ZDENNY said...

Just as I thought. You nullify the Word of God in order to maintain your philosophy. Hebrews couldn't be more clear; yet, you want to maintain that the writer of Hebrews is in error.

If you really believe that sacrifices forgave sins, then Jesus death on the cross was unnecessary.

Just think about what you are saying. Jesus death on the cross was completely and totally unnecessary!!!!!!!

I can't accept a view that says the writer of Hebrews was wrong and that Jesus death and resurrection was not necessary for our salvation.

I would really spend some time in prayer if I were you!! You are called to preach the truth and it appears that you are very, very far from it not even aware of the fact that you no longer need Jesus because you could obtain forgiveness through sacrifices.

ZDENNY said...

If Hebrews is wrong and sin is more than a reminder. If sacrifices actually did forgive sins, then Jesus death on the cross was unnecessary.

Wow! I don't really think you recognize how far you are from the truth of Scripture.

I will have to use this argument to show that the covenant position actually is a denial of our need for Jesus!

Thanks for your post as I learned something here

Eric Adams said...

ZDENNY, please read what I actually wrote and stop jumping to baseless conclusions.

I specifically stated that "we also believe every word of the book of Hebrews." I believe that the entire Bible is inerrant, including Hebrews.

I also believe that Leviticus is the inerrant Word of God. Leviticus 4:20 reads, "And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them."

What does Leviticus 4:20 mean? I am attempting to harmonize Leviticus with Hebrews because I believe both books are the Word of God. Apparently, you just throw out Leviticus.

My broader point is that Dispensationalists who believe in Millennial sacrifices are diminishing Christ and his work on the cross.

ZDENNY said...

Lev 4:20 is also very clear. It says, "And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven"

What does atonement mean? "to make amends or reparation, as for an offense..." (dictionary.com)

The sacrifices are all a shadow of Christ who is the one who forgives sins. The sacrifices were used to atone (amend) for one's sins. The sacrifices had no power to forgive. It simply states that after they did this that they were forgiven. The text does not state the source of forgiveness but it is implied that God is the one who forgives sins and we now know that God forgives sins through the blood of Christ.

Your method is to deny Hebrews and say he was wrong so you can support your theological position. I honestly want to know the truth so I simply look at the propositions in the text and they are both clear. Sacrifices made atonement only, it did not forgive as forgiveness comes from God through Christ. (Always has and always will until sin is abolished) :)

God Bless.

Eric Adams said...

ZDENNY, I do not "deny" Hebrews. Please stop bearing false witness.

www.ncbookz.com said...

matter = matrix = mother

this is why they have to sacrifice in the millenium

matter is corrupt

jesus died for our souls not our bodies

for bodies to live they must have a blood sacrifice

the 666 mark of the beast will promise no blood sacrifice to keep matter together

your flesh is evil your world is fallen and you must have a sacrifice to keep matter from falling apart into chaos

www.ncbookz.com said...

matter = mother = matrix

matter is evil needs a blood sacrifice to exist otherwise it will go into chaos

you must have a blood sacrifice for sin and the flesh is sin

jesus died for our souls not for our flesh

no flesh enters heaven so there must be a divine service to keep matter together in the millenium

the anti christ will offer a 666 system to keep you alove without a need for blood sacrifice, your lips are red to cover the sin of your foul words

all sin has to have a blood covering woman still has monthly curse so likewise earth has to have a blood covering to continue in an orderly process

Eric Adams said...

ncbookz, that's pure gnosticism. Jesus became a man (matter), and he was not corrupt.

alowe said...

Zdenny, Why would God want us to offer sacrifices to remember our sins, when he's already forgotten them? There is no longer any offering.

Hebrews 10

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts and will write them on their minds,

17 and I will never again remember their sins and their lawless deeds.”

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these sins,there is no longer any offering for sin.

Mr. Settecase said...

This was very helpful. I'm currently writing a position paper on Amillennialism, and you've highlighted a key problem I have with dispensational premillennialism. Blessings!

The Squirrel said...

odmail said...
"yes, I agree. sacrifices of any kind after the Cross contradict the value of Christ's finished work."

So, what do you do with the fact that Paul offered sacrifices in the temple in Acts 21?

[Acts 21:26] "Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them."

The Squirrel

Eric Adams said...

The Squirrel,

Fair point in response to the overstatement by odmail. What did you think of my post?

Evan Plante said...

I cut my teeth on dispensationalism, but I abandon it more every day. On a good day, it's a kludge. On a bad day, it's literalism gone bad. Good thread here, Thanks!

Annel Hill said...

I`m a bit late with a comment, but My understanding of this is, that during the Millennium there will be people there that have made it through the tribulation that do not know Christ as their Savior, also pregnant Women who will bear Children that will not accept Christ as their Savior so the Sacrificial Altar will be for the unsaved. Lucifer will entice a multitude of unbelievers to go with Him.

Annel Hill said...

The sacrificial altar will be reestablished for the unsaved that made it through the tribulation and the children born during this time that will not accept Christ as their Savior, it is not for the Believers. Satan will lead a rebellion and entice many unbelievers to follow Him.

M. Blanco said...

I find the opening statement on this blog interesting. It is stated that the dispensationalists insist that there will be animal sacrifices in the millennium.

It seems to be lost that God is the author of that scripture....not the dispensationalists.

I personally do not understand why we would ever need animal sacrifice again....but how can we justify dismissing God's word because of our inability to understand His great plan for us?

I am very interested to hear your interpretation of the Ezekiel scriptures...if you think that God did not mean what He said.

Xapis said...

I wish I had the time to really discuss this with y'all; however, at the moment, I cannot. I will say this as a PhD candidate in both Hebrew Bible and Philosophy: You are walking on very dangerous ground as a Covenant theologian holding to an allegorical hermeneutic (and, yes, without a doubt that is what y'all use). Understand in all of my rabbinic studies the hermeneutic used by the Tannaim onwards was in no wise different from the hermeneutic used by Reformed ministers and theologians. Sorry for the quick and probably grammatically horrible post. Just something to think about.

Brian VanTubergen said...

There is an assumption that the Church Age would be worse off if there were sacrifices. Not true, there are no animal sacrifices because there is no Temple. Jesus in his foreknowledge and because of Israel's rejection allowed for a periodic "sacrifice" using wine(blood) and bread (body). The Church Age sacrifices (communion) serve the same purpose as the Mosaic sacrifices - building fences (continually reminding us) around our old sin nature so that the scapegoat mechanism that crucified our Lord, doesn't engulf us.

prince davis said...

Prince said;
Let's just wait and see if there will be sacrifices or no sacrifices.
If there will still be sacrifices God has a reason for it, if not no problem. Let's face it, some things we just can't understand in scripture. I am sure that this blog was not intended to divide brethren. We should all just hold on to what the cross has done for us and not argue about the future events that we can't understand. The secret things belong to God.

Jerome Anderson said...

I am 57 years old and all my life I have been a Dispensationalist and I believe they are correct, but we could be wrong. I recently began attending a church that holds to the view of this blog, I find it very challenging to accept the view of pretty much sailing over the book of Revelations with its very, very spelled out step by step teachings of what will happen in the end times. If we are not to take that in a literal sense, then what a waste of time to look at it. If there is only Ezekiel to point at and say that this has to be proof that there is not going to be a literal reign for a thousand years, then that is no different than reform covenant groups saying that there are weak suggestions about a rapture before the second coming. Like one said earlier we all will know one day and I hope it's soon. I do know that the blood of Jesus has cleansed me from all my sin and still does continually.

Jeff said...

It appears I've been calling myself a dispensationalist without knowing the scope of what that means...

When I discovered recently the dispensational position on the millennial temple and animal sacrifices, I was shocked. I thought, "It can't be true, doesn't make sense. It contradicts everything I know about Salvation." Yet, there it was staring me right in the face (Ezekiel 40).

What I do know about dispensationalism is that the hermeneutic is based on a literal interpretation of Scripture. And there it is, in painstaking detail, the temple in Ezekiel's vision.

Now, "literal interpretation" is used in the pejorative by non-dispensationalists. Some folks go so far as to call dispensationalists bibliolators, a sweeping and unfounded accusation. Because of its pejorative usage, Ryrie suggests to use "historical grammatical interpretation" and I can't think of a good reason not to honor that.

Back to the discussion... When confronted with so much detail in Ezekiel 40, how can the non-progressive dispensationalist write it off as symbolic or figurative? We can't. It's there.

Trying to reconcile the apparent diminution of the cross that the non-dispensationalist sees so clearly in the dispensationalist position with the one path to Salvation position that dispensationalists like Ryrie articulate equally clearly is difficult, just like reconciling the antithetical nature of grace and law is difficult (for dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists).

I'm no theologian, so what follows isn't corroborated by any literature I'm aware of and it may be offensive, but that's not intended. What if? What if this passage is part of Israel's judgement? What if the millennium isn't supposed to be about making Israel happy? What if it's about, "You rejected the kingdom I offered you in Matthew 4, so let's have that kingdom now that I've been exalted by the Father. You want to make animal sacrifices? Do it for 1000 years. Yeah, that sounds like a good complete number. I'm all about giving you the desires of your heart. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

Just sayin'.

Jeff said...

It appears I've been calling myself a dispensationalist without knowing the scope of what that means...

When I discovered recently the dispensational position on the millennial temple and animal sacrifices, I was shocked. I thought, "It can't be true, doesn't make sense. It contradicts everything I know about Salvation." Yet, there it was staring me right in the face (Ezekiel 40).

What I do know about dispensationalism is that the hermeneutic is based on a literal interpretation of Scripture. And there it is, in painstaking detail, the temple in Ezekiel's vision.

Now, "literal interpretation" is used in the pejorative by non-dispensationalists. Some folks go so far as to call dispensationalists bibliolators, a sweeping and unfounded accusation. Because of its pejorative usage, Ryrie suggests to use "historical grammatical interpretation" and I can't think of a good reason not to honor that.

Back to the discussion... When confronted with so much detail in Ezekiel 40, how can the non-progressive dispensationalist write it off as symbolic or figurative? We can't. It's there.

Trying to reconcile the apparent diminution of the cross that the non-dispensationalist sees so clearly in the dispensationalist position with the one path to Salvation position that dispensationalists like Ryrie articulate equally clearly is difficult, just like reconciling the antithetical nature of grace and law is difficult (for dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists).

I'm no theologian, so what follows isn't corroborated by any literature I'm aware of and it may be offensive, but that's not intended. What if? What if this passage is part of Israel's judgement? What if the millennium isn't supposed to be about making Israel happy? What if it's about, "You rejected the kingdom I offered you in Matthew 4, so let's have that kingdom now that I've been exalted by the Father. You want to make animal sacrifices? Do it for 1000 years. Yeah, that sounds like a good complete number. I'm all about giving you the desires of your heart. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

Just sayin'.

Steven Nelms said...

ZDENNY, are you a farmer? Because that was an excellent Straw Man!

T. I. Miller said...

is it plausible to place this at the beginning of the 7 year tribulation rather than in the actual 1000 years?
The Jews repent and return to God, yet still reject Jesus, rebuild the Temple and the Jews follow the OT sacrificial Laws. This also places the events of Ezek. 36-39 prior to the Tribulation.