Monday, 21 January 2019
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Hebrews 10:4
This verse finishes summing up the need for Christ and His perfect work described in chapter 9. The statement is simple, but it carries huge significance for the ancient worshipers, and also for those around the world today – animal sacrifices are insufficient to take away sin. But this is exactly what was mandated in the Old Covenant sacrificial system, of which the Day of Atonement rituals were an integral and mandatory part. As the author says, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
The “blood of goats and bulls” was explicitly referred to in verse 9:13, and these sacrifices are that which was discussed in detail, both before and after that verse. Were these sacrifices effectual in accomplishing what they were given to do? The answer is an explicit, “No!” One might then question why they were done at all. The answer is that they were anticipatory in nature. God accepted them in anticipation of their fulfillment in Christ. Other than that, they were ineffectual and they had no ability to take away sin.
Why is this so important to understand? It is because such sacrifices went on continually even before the time of the law. They went from the time of Adam, through the time of Noah, Job, and Abraham. And then they continued under the Law of Moses right up to the time of Christ Jesus. And yes, they continue on today in parts of the world.
In various cultures or religions – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, etc. – there are sects of individuals who perform blood sacrifices in an attempt to appease God or cleanse themselves of sin. But the Bible is perfectly clear – animal sacrifices can never take away the feelings of guilt because they cannot remove sin. They can only remind people of their sin and guilt.
The very rituals which are conducted in an attempt to cleanse nagging feelings of wrongdoing only make things worse. We know this intuitively because many cultures of the past went so far as to perform human sacrifices instead of animal sacrifices. Such rituals are recorded in the Bible and in the history of many societies.
Modern cultures have forbidden this, but the fact that they were conducted shows an understanding that animals were insufficient to purge sin. However, even these human sacrifices couldn’t cleanse. Why? Because the humans that were sacrificed were stained with their own sin. It is impossible to transfer sin-guilt to an already sin-tarnished person.
Even infant sacrifices (such as mentioned in Jeremiah 32:35) were insufficient. King David records in Psalm 51:5 that we are sinful from birth, even from conception. There is no sacrifice apart from Christ Jesus that can take away sin. But the cross of Christ can cleanse from all sin. Only the sinless God/Man could truly atone for the sins of the world. Thanks be to God for Christ Jesus!
Life application: A temple is going to be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and the blood sacrifices of the Old Covenant are going to be reinstated. This is what the Bible says is coming. However exciting it is to see this prophecy coming true, Christians should not rejoice for the Jews that it is coming. Instead, they should mourn. They have already rejected what these animal sacrifices only pointed to, the Messiah Jesus. Christians should continue to get the word out to Israel that they have missed the mark, and that what they are doing, though prophesied in advance, is only a mournful last step on their way to finally calling on Christ.
Heavenly Father, though it is exciting to see prophecy being fulfilled in Israel concerning a coming temple and the sacrifices which will be conducted there, it is also mournful. They have missed what these things were intended to point to; they have missed the final and true Sacrifice of Christ. Lord God, open their eyes to the Messiah who has come and who has provided the full, final, and forever cleansing from sin. Open their eyes to Christ Jesus. Amen.