Q: Why will people offer animal sacrifices in the Millennial Temple?

People often ask, “If Jesus’ sacrifice was the only efficacious, once-for-all sacrifice to expiate sin (Heb. 9:12), why should animal sacrifices, which could never take away sin (10:4), be offered in the Millennial Temple during the Millennium?”

It is true the sacrifices in the Millennial Temple will not expiate sin, just as the Mosaic offerings could not take away sin (v. 4). Many conservative commentators believe these offerings will be memorials, similar to communion that Christians take in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They believe the offerings will serve as visible reminders of Christ’s efficacious work.

Although true, it seems these sacrifices also will have an additional function. Scripture says they will be offered “to make atonement for the house of Israel” (Ezek. 45:17; cf. vv. 15, 20). This sacrificial system will not constitute a return to the Old Testament Mosaic Covenant or Law but will be a new system set up by the Lord with a dispensational distinctive applicable to the Millennial Kingdom.

The Hebrew word for atonement means “covering.” The blood sacrifices that made atonement never removed sin; they simply covered it, staving off God’s divine anger and punishment by providing a ransom. Christ’s death on the cross—not the Levitical sacrificial system—made it possible for people’s sins to be taken away.

The animal sacrifices during the Millennium will primarily remove ceremonial uncleanness and prevent human defilement of the Millennial Temple. This system will be needed because God’s glorious presence will again dwell on Earth in the midst of sinners.
This purging act propitiates God, enabling Him to dwell among
His people.

The atonement-cleansing was necessary in Leviticus because the Shekinah Glory dwelt in the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34). God resided in the midst of sinful, unclean people. Similarly, Ezekiel predicted the return of God’s glory to the Millennial Temple. Thus people worshiping at the Temple will need to atone for their uncleanness, so it won’t cause defilement.

The future animal sacrifices will not deal with eternal salvation but, rather, with finite cleansing of impurities from everyone who survived the Great Tribulation (they will have mortal bodies) and the children born to them during Christ’s thousand-year reign. Those born will still have to trust Christ by faith to become saved.

For a more in-depth study of this issue, see Jerry M. Hullinger’s “The Problem of Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel 40—48,” Bibliotheca Sacra 152, no. 607 (1995), pages two through six.

25 thoughts on “Q: Why will people offer animal sacrifices in the Millennial Temple?

  1. Mr. Levy, this is a great read as I am noticing some very stark differences in the sacrificial statutes between Ezekiel’s account vs the Mosaic account. If you don’t mind, I have a quick question and anyone that reads this can offer input as well.

    In Ezekiel’s account it appears the Prince (I believe to be Jesus) will be offering the sacrifices Himself. The animal’s sacrificed are different, the Passover is different and it also says the gentiles will be priests. All of which are in direct contrast to the sacrificial statutes that Moses implimented.

    So it does appear that this is an entirely new sacrificial system in the millennial kingdom. That being said, as I prayerfully try to understand, can you provide additional clarity regarding the sacrifice and covering of sin for those who survive the tribulation in leu of Matthew 24:13 which says “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

    If they who come out of the tribulation are saved and made fully righteous, why would any “finite cleansing of impurities from everyone who survived the Great Tribulation” be needed?

    Thanks for your response and anyone who responds. Much appreciated 🙂

    Best,

    1. That was my first thought too. Why would we need cleansing? We been made clean. Unless it might be the earth itself is unclean? That’s why He re-creates the earth?

      1. in the old test the Holy spirit did not indwell a person permanently. this happened only during
        the church age. perhaps this is the reason for the animal sacrifice during the mill.
        just a thought. maybe somewhere in this fact is the answer.

        margie monroe

    2. Sacrifices as a form of outward ritual cleansing for pre-millennial converts, is not much different than water baptism as a form of outward ritual cleansing for church-age converts. Neither are salvific, and neither compete with salvation by faith.

  2. I have struggled with the sacrifices since I learned of them, and at least the cleansing of defilement gives a reasonable reason for them. However, I too have a question as to the need for cleansing of those who survive the tribulation, the millennium reign and refuse Satan’s ploy to oppose Jesus. I would think standing with Jesus would constitute salvation, thus cleansing. I know, I know — too much earthly logic. I hope I will be given a chance to see the answers to these questions.

  3. Fourteen times in Ezekiel (40:39; 42:13; 43:19, 21, 22, 25; 44:27, 29; 45:17, 19, 22, 23, 25; 46:20) the text calls for a “sin offering.” Leviticus (4:20, 26, 31, 35, etc.) clearly describes the sin offering as “making an atonement” . Ezekiel’s animal sacrifices are to atone for sin not “ceremonial uncleanness”. “Many conservative commentators believe these offerings will be memorials, similar to communion that Christians take in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.” Seriously? If Christ is ruling on earth, why is there any need for any “memorial” animal sacrifice? Are not the print of the nails in His hands and feet sufficient (Jn.20:24-28)? The whole confusing series of events with this temple view stems from an eschatological view that disregards the appropriate interpretation of literal scripture literally and figurative scripture figuratively. It also presupposes a highly contrived theological system of interpretation in contrast to the Bible’s clear teaching of God’s willingness to condescend to bring man back into favor through the ONE and ONLY acceptable sacrifice for sin -HIS ONE AND ONLY SON!! No other blood is any longer qualified to atone for sin or make ceremonially unclean.

    1. I wonder if not everyone going into the millennium is saved, that is, in particular the Jews. Perhaps they recognize Jesus as their Messiah and world ruler but not yet as God; and this is a progressive revelation during the time they minister at their promised temple during their promised world reign.

    2. Are you proposing that this material should not be taken as clearly describing a literal temple to built during a literal thousand year reign? I don’t see how this can be anything other, I mean there are triple the number of times that the angel is discussing literal measurements for the building as there are texts calling for a “sin offering”. Don’t get me wrong, you voiced exactly my challenge with the text. What followed confuses me, I can’t follow what you propose as the proper way to handle the text.

  4. I definitely have a hard time wrapping my head around all this. but I personally tend to agree with this comment myself that why would we need any more sacrifices of animals since Christ said it was finished.

  5. I don’t see how animal sacrifices help with defilement or uncleanliness. At least taking a shower has medical benefits. We know eating kosher is healthy. I see no benefit in sacrificing animals aside from food.

    I wonder if God allowed animal sacrifices because of hardness of heart. Namely, in a time where human sacrifices were prevalent. This could’ve been a substitute. I don’t know. I’m not saying I’m right. We don’t really know. Personally, I think sacrificing animals for ritual uncleanliness is silly…

    1. I think animal sacrifice is silly since Yeshua already gave His life once and for all. I pray that does not happen during His reign. I love animals and it seems cruel to kill them. I love God YHWH but this is the only thing that bothers me out of the whole Bible.

  6. Not all people living in the Millennial Kingdom will be saved. There will be those who enter the kingdom in their earthly bodies and continue to marry and have children. Those children will have to come to faith like anyone else. Many will continue to reject Christ.

  7. Is there a scripture verse in regards to the Animal sacrifices will be reinstated as in the days of old.
    I remember reading that years ago. Not sure if it was in the Bible or a book on Judaism that I read.
    Thank you for your help on this one.
    Shalom,
    David

  8. No explanation I’ve seen given on this topic has satisfied me thus far. I mean, my reaction has been, ‘What on earth are animal sacrifices doing in what appears in context of the Book of Ezekiel to be the Millennial age? Hebrews 10: 11-18 makes it clear Jesus has provided one sacrifice for all sins, and there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Hebrews 10:4 clearly states it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
    This sounds more like a move backwards into legalism than forward into the deliverance and salvation and grace provided by our savior Jesus and I just cant see myself in the kingdom age that Jesus would want me to participate in that. For the situation where there are still unbelievers living into the kingdom age, I can’t see why they wouldn’t come under the new covenant (Jesus as only High priest and sacrifice as described in Hebrews 8) since it supersedes the old covenant. What on earth good will that do for them to do an animal sacrifice when Jesus forgiveness and redemption is available?
    No other place that I’m aware of in the Bible specifically states that animal sacrifices are still needed after Jesus made His perfect sacrifice for all sin. I believe in the inerrancy of scripture, but I think this area of Ezekiel (Chapter 40 and beyond ) is something I do not (yet) understand.

    1. Just a thought, Hebrews 9:15 says Jesus is the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament. Possibly the sacrifices have to be made until the times of refreshing come, in which national Israel’s sins will be blotted out.

  9. I need to remember that like Daniel, who couldn’t understand his own prophecy and made himself sick trying to figure it out, there are some Scriptures written to serve another people at another time and thus it is sealed to me until the time comes. For some reason, I couldn’t rest thinking about these chapters of Ezekiel. But here is a thought that satisfied me after praying over it, which allowed me to let it go. Maybe it’s not right, but it gave me peace of mind. Here it is: Ezekiel’s language is literal, in great detail – not metaphorical. He writes not in the form of commands from God but in the form of a prophecy – a vision, where he describes what he sees in the future. What I think he sees is a national turning back to God by Israel, to roots, to the law of God established eternally under the Old Covenant (never abolished but fulfilled in all its requirements by Christ). The law will be a means of a national coming to recognize the Messiah – a schoolmaster to bring Israel to Christ as was always intended. Ezekiel sees Israel picking up again where they left off after the axe was put to the root of the tree (to use John the Baptist’s words) or the unfruitful branch removed from the vine to use Jesus’s words, when the Gentiles were grafted in and actually became the temple of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but now the Jews pick up the law where they left off in their idolatry and will be grafted in again, with the eventual result of being cut to the heart in seeing Him whom they pierced as the true sacrifice for their sins.

  10. Why were James and other devout Jews still going to the temple for sacrifice in Acts 21? They had trusted in Christ. Paul paid for the sacrifices of certain men he had taken a vow with at the Temple. The gospel of the circumcision was committed to Peter, James and John(Galatians 2) Perhaps it is the same as The Gospel if the Kingdom, which is primarily to Israel. Point is Christ had already died, rose again and ascended by Acts 21. This gospel was ultimately rejected by Israel as a nation and they were temporarily set aside as the Age of Grace was ushered in and Paul preached the gospel of the circumcision. In the tribulation the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached and the long promised redemption of the remnant, all true, spiritual Israel will be saved.

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