The Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible written by Moses, has a reoccurring theme of the blood which is so strong, so central, and so important that not possible to separate it from the reoccurring theme of sacrifice and atonement for sins, because they are in fact, interrelated themes. They’re inseparable.
The Torah teaches that the consequence of sin is death. We think that’s savage and unfair, but it’s not only an Old Covenant teaching.
Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
People may think this unfair, but God rules the universe, God makes the rules and God determines the consequence of sin regardless of our views or opinions. He knows far more than we do, and if anyone knows just how destructive sin is, God does.
We’ve talked many times about the sacrificial, ceremonial Law – the Law of Moses – that required a blood sacrifice every time someone sinned. Some sins required the law impose the death penalty. For example, if someone committed murder, the murderer was to be executed, so God instituted capital punishment. (Gen 9:6) However, for non-capital crimes or sins, God required a variety of different kinds of sacrifices to be made in the place of the person themselves. These sacrifices were in the form of different kinds of animals and birds. Their lives were given, their blood spilled so that atonement and forgiveness could be given to the guilty party.
If anyone tries to tell you that substitutionary atonement is not Biblical or necessary, run a mile from them. Substitutionary blood atonement is seen right throughout the Bible and was ultimately completed and fulfilled through Christ’s work on the cross. Denying the substitutionary atonement of Christ is heresy.
Of course, we know that the sacrificial system that was undertaken in the Temple is no longer functioning because the Temple is no longer standing. Without the Temple there is no way to make atonement for sin. Judaism, since 70AD when the Temple was destroyed has had to adapt otherwise it would have simply evaporated. It’s morphed into a religion or works and layers and layers of traditions and rituals, based on the belief that if the devotee is pious enough in keeping a vast array of rituals and traditions that this will be equivalent to the sacrifices that are no longer available.
Many modern, progressive and liberal rabbis refuse to acknowledge or recognize the importance or central role or purpose of blood needed for atonement and forgiveness and some even see the central role of blood for atonement in Christianity as a pagan thing. That’s quite a shock when you consider the detail God gave to His people and the Levitical priesthood in all the many and varied kinds of blood sacrifices that were required of them on behalf of the people.
Right from the very beginning, from the very first sin, God demonstrated that blood was absolutely essential to cover sin.
Genesis 3:21, ‘The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.’
We can often simply read over that verse but please understand that for Adam and Eve to be clothed, for them to have their naked bodies covered, an animal had to die. God shed the blood of an innocent animal, and then ‘covered’ Adam and Eve. That was the first time death is seen in the Bible and it was connected with the sin and subsequent covering of the very people who sinned and as far as Adam and Eve were concerned, not only were they dealing with shame and regret and embarrassment before God, but they were faced with the fact that an animal they were responsible to care for died in front of them. I imagine they were sick to their stomachs over the consequences of what they’d done. They’d never seen or even comprehended the horror of death. We’re used to it. We even enjoy it for entertainment!
We’re starting to see a picture of how blood atonement and sin are inextricably connected, even though in our modern, enlightened, educated and supposedly intelligent societies find the concept of substitutionary atonement abhorrent…unless it’s in a movie of course.
What about the Passover in Exodus 12? On the eve of the Passover, God commanded his people to take the blood of an innocent lamb, that was perfect and without any kind of blemish and put its blood on the doorposts of their homes so that the angel of death wouldn’t kill the firstborn of their families. That is a perfect picture of a substitute shedding its blood for the sake of allowing others to live instead.
Not only were animal sacrifices required on a daily basis to make atonement for sin, but every year during Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, one of the seven mandatory feasts of the Lord, an annual and very specific substitutionary atonement was required.
Exodus 30:10, ‘Aaron shall make atonement on its horns (the altar) once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It’s most holy to the Lord.’
What’s missing from this verse regarding atonement for sin? God didn’t require prayer, good deeds, tithing, fasting or giving alms (charity) to the underprivileged. Repentance and fasting was part of Yom Kippur, but not in the sacrifice itself. Atonement was acquired through the shed blood of an innocent living creature. Atonement wasn’t something the people themselves could earn or acquire for themselves, it had to come through the shed blood of another.
If we were to ask the question again; is blood necessary for the atonement of sins, the answer according to the Bible is absolutely yes! But it’s not easy to accept. It doesn’t seem right that an innocent has to die and shed its blood so that the guilty can be atoned for and forgiven.
The word for atonement in Hebrew is ‘ka’far’ and it means to purge, reconcile, forgive, cleanse, mercy, appease, pardon. The point is that a guilty person cannot receive those things without someone interceding for them because the guilt remains. If you’re guilty, you’re guilty.
Any justice system worth its salt demands that criminal behaviour receive a just penalty. How often have we heard a victim say in regard to a criminal who has harmed them or a loved one, “I want blood!”. In other words, they demand that justice be done – the criminal must pay. Well, in the case of the human race who has committed every sin or crime against God first and foremost, God – who is the righteous, perfect Judge of the universe – says the same thing. “I demand blood!” Look at what human beings have done to God’s creation!
Here’s the miracle. Our God who demands justice be done, established a system that taught His people, going right back to Adam and Eve, that sin has an eternal cost and that cost comes in the form of blood. Even pagan religious systems understood that sin and wrong doing had to be paid for in blood sacrifices, but their systems were limited and didn’t solve the problem of sin and their gods never involved themselves.
Our God fulfilled the need for substitutionary atonement by being perfect, sinless, unblemished blood sacrifice, taking our place and paying for our sin on our behalf. So is blood required for substitutionary atonement of sin? Yes, and that atonement was paid for by Jesus our Messiah, through the shedding of His own blood.
Based in part on an article at oneforisrael.org