The Dispensational Dilemma
Biblical Prophecy Studies: A Look At Biblical Sacrifices
A STUDY OF THE BOOKS OF LEVITICUS AND DEUTERONOMY
Years ago, as students attending a Dispensational Futurist Bible college, we were literally steeped in their theories, central of which is a belief that the Jews will rebuild the Old Testament Temple and reintroduce animal sacrifices. For those who are not familiar with their theology, the following is a typical statement: “Once a year a Jewish priest will walk into the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and offer an animal sacrifice for the sins of Jewish people everywhere throughout the world.” For those many people today who attend Dispensationalist churches, this may be what you have been led to believe is taught in Scripture. Yet there are nearly a dozen Biblical misconceptions in that single statement.
These were the "sacrifices and burnt offerings" during Old Testament times:
1. "Burnt Offerings" to atone for sin and to approach Elohim (see Leviticus 1; 6:8-13; 8:18-21: unblemished bulls, male sheep, goats, female doves or pigeons);
2. "Grain or Cereal Offerings" to demonstrate thanksgiving and dedication to Elohim (see Leviticus 2; 6:14-23: meal, flour or grain);
3. "Fellowship or Peace Offerings" to demonstrate Israel's appreciation and desire to fellowship with Elohim (see Leviticus 3; 7:11-34: unblemished bull, male or female sheep or goats);
4. "Sin Offerings" to atone for unintentional sin (see Leviticus 4; 5:1-13; 6:24-30;8:14-17: unblemished bulls, male or female goats); and...
5. "Guilt or Trespass Offerings to atone and provide restitution for a specific sin (see Leviticus 5:14-19;6:1-7;7:1-6: unblemished rams).
- In the Tanak (Old Testament) the sacrifices were quite involved. Dispensational-Futurists seem to have the idea that the Jews are going to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem and a Jewish priest will sacrifice a single animal “to cover and take away their sins.” Therefore, so the theory goes, Jews will be saved without the need for believing in Yahshuah: Christian believers in Messiah will be saved under the New Covenant, and Jews will be saved under their own Old Covenant. But it does not work that way for several important reasons:
- First, under the Old Covenant each individual was required to bring their own sacrificial animal to the Temple for sacrifice. If you stayed home, no one else’s sacrifice would cover your own sins and transgressions. We read about this in the first chapter of Leviticus:
Lev. 1:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto Yahuah, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
Lev. 1:3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before Yahuah.
There are supposedly about 12 million Jews or more in the world today. Can you imagine millions of people lining up with their animals waiting to perform sacrifices? Can you imagine the amount of blood and guts that would pile up? Imagine the unsanitary conditions and the potential for contamination and disease. This sacrificial system was obviously a temporary Old Covenant arrangement, not suitable to modern times with millions of people to atone for. People who advocate this are living in an unreal fairy-tale dream world. It is not practical, workable, or doable with millions of people involved.
- Secondly, we are sure some Dispensationalists will argue that the Jews could just substitute the GRAIN OFFERING instead of sacrificing animals. Problem solved? Not at all! Do you remember that important passage of Scripture in Hebrews chapter 9:
Heb. 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
You might therefore be asking, ‘what is the purpose of a grain offering if only blood offerings can expiate or remove sin?’ That is a good question, and it has a good answer! The GRAIN OFFERINGS were not a substitute for blood sacrifices, but IN ADDITION to them. As already pointed out, there were five different types of sacrifices, and in the sacrificial system ALL OF THEM were performed.
- Thirdly, we can imagine some diehard Dispensationalists insisting that most of the sacrifices could just be made locally wherever Jewish people live, and thus it would not require Jews to travel every year to Jerusalem for sacrifices. That would, however, contradict the strict commands in the Torah, the law of Elohim, that centralized worship and sacrifice in Jerusalem alone.
Deut._12:14 “But in the place which Yahuah shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.” See also Deut. 12:18; 16:2, 11, 15; 31:11, etc. That approved place was the Temple of Jerusalem alone.
- Fourthly, these sacrifices were not just once per year, but THREE TIMES (Spring, late Spring or early Summer, and Autumn). Can you imagine millions of Jews worldwide having to make a long trip to Jerusalem three times every year to offer sacrifices?
Deut._16:16 “ Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before Yahuah thy Elohim in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before Yahuah empty.”
- Fifth, notice that it is only the MALES that were allowed to offer sacrifices for sin. The Old Covenant was a PATRIARCHAL system in which the fathers of the household offered sacrifices to cover the sins of their wives and children. Patriarchy does not set well with most 21st century ladies, especially Jewish women who tend to be much more liberal than the general population. Dispensationalists also need to tell us what to do with the single, unmarried, and unattached Jewish ladies who have no male family member to cover their sins. Remember that Dispensationalism teaches that this is the Divine system for Jews to be saved from damnation to an eternal punishment in hell, so it is not an unimportant matter we are discussing.
- Sixth, Most Christians have the erroneous idea that all the sinner had to do was drop off his animal at the Temple gate and his requirement was done; he could then go off to the pub, leaving all the dirty work of killing the animals to the priests. Not so! It was the task of EACH INDIVIDUAL SINNER TO SLAY AND DISECT HIS OWN ANIMAL himself; the priest then laid the pieces on the altar with the blood. We read about this in Leviticus chapter 1:
Lev. 1:3 “If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before Yahuah.”
Lev. 1:4 “And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”
Lev. 1:5 “And he shall kill the bullock before Yahuah: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”
See also Leviticus 1:6-17. Honestly, for millions of Jewish sacrificers, this all would take, not hours or days or weeks, but months to accomplish. Slaying the animals, removing the inner organs, carefully cutting up the carcass into pieces, carefully collecting the blood slowly draining out and hauling the carcass away would be slow and time-consuming. This is not a ten-second operation, nor ten minutes. It could easily take over an hour per person, per sacrifice to do all of this. Again, we are living in a mystical dream-world if we think millions of Jews are going to be doing all of this three times every year with up to five types of sacrifices involved. Please, let us get real about all of this!
In case there may yet be someone who thinks that we are misinterpreting this Leviticus passage of Scripture, and contradicting the common thinking that the priests did all of the sacrificing of animals, we will briefly quote reputable mainstream Bible commentaries concerning this:
The Pulpit Commentary outlines the duties of those involved in the sacrificial ritual:
“In offering it he [the offerer] must place his hand firmly on its head, as a ceremonial act. He must kill it. He must flay it. He must divide it into separate portions. He must wash the intestines and legs.”
The Popular Bible Commentary states very clearly:
“And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord,” [Lev. 11:5] each worshiper, in a case of this kind, performing the function of a priest of the Lord, as a member of the kingdom of priests, Exo_19:6.”
Bible Knowledge Commentary:
“…the worshiper was to slaughter the young bull before the Lord.”
- Seventh, how many animal sacrifices would be possible at full capacity at a rebuilt Jerusalem Temple? Dispensationalists point to the prophet Ezekiel’s so-called Millennial Temple described in Ezekiel chapters 40 to 48 as awaiting a literal future fulfillment. Yet we read in Ezekiel 40:41 that there are only eight (8) sacrificial tables. Do the math! In a seven-day feast operating 24 hours per day, allowing a minimum one hour each, only 1,344 animals maximum could possibly be sacrificed (8 x 24 x 7). Divide that number by an estimated 3.5 million Jewish adult males in the world (allowing 25% of 14 million), yields a grand total of .00038 of the world’s Jews could possibly have their sins covered, even with the males covering the women and children. Well over 99.9% of the world’s Jews might end up in hell for eternity if they make the mistake of following the Dispensationalist scheme!
- Eighth, another important point: Can you imagine the uproar from ANIMAL RIGHTS activists if millions of animals were brutally killed inhumanely with a knife to their throats? Dr. Katherine Houpt of Animal Behavior Consultants of Northern Michigan says, “You don’t have the right to injure…then it becomes cruelty,” and is subject to prosecution. This is not just a local law. Houpt adds that “several states across the U.S., including Michigan, have discussed or have increased fines and prison terms in animal cases.”
- Ninth, Dispensationalist advocates believe that Jews can be saved without faith in Messiah by fulfilling the requirements of the sacrificial system. To the contrary, the New Testament flatly contradicts that idea, as we read in the Book of Acts, chapter 4, verse 12:
Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
The New Testament also makes it crystal clear that there is no longer other any other offering for sin than the blood of Messiah: “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Heb. 10:18)
Indeed, there are no more sacrificial offerings for sin because the Old Covenant is abolished and gone. When Yahushuah was crucified, the veil of the temple was ripped in two (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45), signifying the final end and replacement of the sacrificial system. It is absolutely unBiblical for the Dispensational-Futurists to teach that Jews can be saved under the Old Covenant system of sacrifices.
- Tenth, yet we still constantly hear the claim that the Jews anxiously want to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple and reinstitute animal sacrifices. Instead, modern Jewish theology in nearly all Jewish denominations teaches that animal sacrifices are no longer necessary. Encyclopedia Judaica (vol. 17: 648) in an article on “sacrifice” says:
“With the destruction of the Temple and the automatic cessation of the sacrificial system, it was laid down that prayer was even more efficacious than offerings (Ber. 32b)… The Reform movement entirely abolished or modified the mustaf service and other liturgical references to sacrifice… Some Conservative congregations also have rephrased references to the sacrifices, so that they indicate solely past events…”
What about Orthodox Jews, constituting a small minority of only about 7% of the Jewish people? In an article, “The Position of Orthodoxy,” by Michael Friedlaender, reprinted in Encyclopedia Judaica (17:649) we read: “The revival of the sacrificial service must, likewise, be sanctioned by the voice of a prophet. The mere acquisition of the Temple mount of Palestine by Jews, whether by war or political combinations, could not justify the revival [of sacrifices].” However, the prophetic period is long past over!
- Eleventh, Jewish theology replaced the sacrificial system immediately after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, led by a Jewish scholar and leader of the Sanhedrin named Johanan ben Zakkai. According to an article in the Jewish Encyclopedia (7:214), he was a prominent Pharisee living at the time of the New Testament apostles, and an associate of Simon ben Gamaliel, who is mentioned twice in the Book of Acts (5:34 and 22:3).
After the fall of the Temple, Jews came to Johanan and asked how they could practice the Jewish religion, worship and sacrifices with the Temple destroyed? The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (6:165-166) says, “When one of his [Johanan’s] disciples, on viewing the site of the destroyed Temple, broke into lamentations at the loss of the atoning power of the sacrifices, Johanan comforted him with the assurance that CHARITY AND GOOD DEEDS have the same atoning force as sacrifice, quoting HOSEA 6:6, ‘For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’ (Aboth de Rabbi Nathan 4:5).”
Notice that animal sacrifices have been officially abrogated in Judaism! Over and done with! Johanan decreed that from that point forward, sacrifices were finished; they were not needed according to Scripture and would not be a part of the observance of Judaism. He based this on several verses of Old Testament Scripture. For example, here is his explanation of Proverbs 14:34: “Benevolence [hesed] on the part of a nation has the atoning power of a sin-offering.” This is still the teaching of modern Judaism today, with the emphasis on benevolence, or doing good. It is encapsulated in a popular Jewish term, “tikkun olam,” meaning “repairing the world,” as a permanent substitute for sacrificial offerings to cover one’s sins.
Both the Tanak and Brit Hadesha (Old and New Testament) command mercy rather than sacrifice, but our mercy is found in Messiah’s blood which has been shed for our sins. Yes, Johanan was correct about the necessity of good works, but these were not the source of our salvation, but the result! In conclusion, the Dispensationalists have a dilemma in teaching something that is opposed to the New Covenant and opposed to Jewish teaching of nearly two millennia. In fact, it is more than a dilemma, it is a delusion to think that the Jews should want to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple so that they can engage in bloody, pointless animal sacrifices that were abrogated by the prophets of the Tanak/Old Testament, abrogated again by the great Jewish theologian and spokesman for the Sanhedrin, Johanan ben Zakkai, and abrogated legally for all time by Yahushuah by His sacrificial death on the cross. It is a great delusion to think that anyone can be saved either now or in the Millennium by attempting to perfectly perform ritual and sacrifice. This Dispensationalist error of salvation by works contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible. It is heretical nonsense. Let us warn people against Dispensational delusions!