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Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament?

God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering for sins and to foreshadow Jesus Christ's perfect and complete sacrifice (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10). Animal sacrifice is an important theme found throughout Scripture because "there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood" (Hebrews 9:22). God killed animals to provide clothing for Adam and Eve after they sinned (Genesis 3:21). Noah sacrificed animals to God after the flood receded (Genesis 8:20-21).

God commanded the nation of Israel to offer numerous sacrifices in accordance with God's instructions. First and foremost, the animal had to be spotless. Second, the person sacrificing the animal had to identify with it. Third, the person who offered the animal had to kill it. This sacrifice, when performed in faith, provided a temporary covering for sins. Another sacrifice required on the Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus 16, shows forgiveness and the removal of sin. The high priest was supposed to bring two male goats as a sin offering. One of the goats was sacrificed as a sin offering for Israel (Leviticus 16:15), while the other was released into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22). The sin offering offered forgiveness, while the other goat offered sin removal.

So, why do we no longer perform animal sacrifices today? Because Jesus Christ was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice, animal sacrifices were abolished. When John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching to be baptised, he exclaimed, "Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). You may be wondering, "Why animals?" What went wrong for them? That is the point: because the animals did nothing wrong, they died in place of the sacrificer. Jesus Christ did nothing wrong, but willingly gave Himself up to die for mankind's sins (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus Christ bore our sins and died in our place. "God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us," 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." We can receive forgiveness by believing in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.

In summary, God commanded animal sacrifices so that individuals could experience forgiveness of sin. The animal served as a substitute, that is, it died in the place of the sinner, but only temporarily, which is why the sacrifices had to be repeated. Animal sacrifices ceased with the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ served as the ultimate sacrificial substitute once and for all (Hebrews 7:27), and he is now the sole mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). The sacrifice of animals foreshadowed Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. The only basis for sin forgiveness that an animal sacrifice could provide is Christ, who would sacrifice Himself for our sins, providing the forgiveness that animal sacrifices could only illustrate and foreshadow.


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