In our previous two lessons, we studied about the special AGREEMENT that God made with the people of Israel and we discovered that;
That was an amazing study! In this lesson, we will continue where we left off and examine material that will show us that there were other reasons why God gave the OLD AGREEMENT!
The writers of the New Testament spent a lot of time talking about the agreement between God and Israel. The books of Galatians and Hebrews are especially important in this area. From them, we can understand many important things about that agreement.
We begin our lesson in the book of Galatians.1 Please read Galatians 3:24-29 three times, get a piece of paper, and list the main points. Here Paul is talking about something he refers to as “the Law”2. What does he say here about “the Law”? He describes the law as a guardian3 whose purpose was to lead people to the time of faith – which context seems to mean was the time when Christ would come and do his work. The point is that until Christ came, there was a need for a guardian, but once Christ arrived, the need for that guardian would cease. If the OLD AGREEMENT (the Law) was that guardian then once Christ came then there would be no more need for the Law.
This shows that there was purpose for the OLD AGREEMENT that went beyond the “great nation” promise God made to Abraham and his choosing Israel as his special people.
What we discover is that God giving Israel their agreement was part of his “SCHEME of REDEMPTION!” Please turn once again to Acts 2:22-23 and review what Peter told the crowd of people. He said that God had a PLAN, which he made a long time before Jesus ever came to the earth, and that PLAN was for Jesus to come and die! In the book of Galatians, Paul makes a connection between this PLAN of God and the OLD AGREEMENT. In Galatians 4:4 he mentions something about a timetable, “when the time was right”, suggesting that God PLANNED for Jesus to die at that particular time and in that particular place!
Okay, so what part did the OLD AGREEMENT have in God’s PLAN? HOW did it guide the people to Christ? Was it only through the 10 Commandments and the other laws on morality? We need to go deeper in our study!
The people in the Old Testament committed many sins! They were told that their sins made them LOST!4 HOW did they get rid of those sins once they got them? If we go back to the Old Testament, we find some very interesting instructions about this matter. The book of Leviticus, chapters 4-6, contains many details of what we commonly know as “animal sacrifices”. It turns out that sacrificing animals was the way in which the people of Israel were told by God to get rid of their sins. If you read this section, you will notice that there were different KINDS of sins and that each different KIND of sin had a slightly different sacrifice. The details of the sacrifice ceremony might differ a little from one kind of sin to another but two things are ALWAYS consistent. There is always DEATH and there is always BLOOD! The procedure for getting rid of sin ALWAYS included the death of an animal and ALWAYS included the placing of the blood of that animal upon a special altar!
We will look closely at one example. Please read Leviticus 4:27-31 three times, get a piece of paper, and list the main points.
This passage records the details of what to do if a person commits a sin without knowing it and then later realized what he or she had done. The person was instructed to bring a certain animal to the priest, who would then kill it and put its blood upon the altar. Please pay special attention to the portion that says that when the blood of the sacrificed animal was placed upon the special altar then the sin of the person was said to have been paid for! This is how the people of Israel paid for their sins under the OLD AGREEMENT.
Can you imagine what it might have been like to live during that time? How often did the people have to make these animal sacrifices? Since each kind of sin had a specific kind of sacrifice to be performed then it would seem that a sacrifice would need to be made every time a person sinned!
The New Testament book of Hebrews helps us better understand just how difficult this was for the people and so we will spend some time researching these details. The passage back in Leviticus mentioned PRIESTS. These priests were the ones who had the job of making these sacrifices on behalf of the people. Hebrews 10:11 tells us that the priests did their work on a DAILY basis. It was a bloody and smelly business! The temple was not a beautiful clean quiet place where people could go to meditate and pray. It was filled with the cries of dying animals and the smell of blood and burning flesh. It was a place of death! It was a place of MUCH death! Please do not forget that the nation of Israel had a population of over 2,000,000 at any one time throughout their history. Individuals would most likely have to wait in long lines to have their chance to make their sacrifices and receive their forgiveness, and who knows, they might have to stand in line again the very next day for the same sin!
What was the cost of sin for the people of Israel living in that time? Each person had to bring their own animal and, unless they raised them, had to buy them from a livestock merchant. If this were happening today, then we would have a very difficult time affording the cost of forgiveness! Suppose that you commit a sin that requires the sacrifice of a goat for the sin offering and suppose that a live healthy goat costs 500.00 Pesos in the market. Let us suppose also that you commit one of these sins every three days and so you will need one goat for your sin offering every three days, month after month during the year! If we add the money needed for all of those goats, then the total cost would come to around 60,500.00 Pesos in a year’s time! What if you do something that requires you to sacrifice a larger animal, such as a bull? A live healthy bull will cost around 15,000.00 Pesos in the market! If you only need one bull each month it will still cost you 180,000.00 Pesos for the year! If we add the projected costs for the goats and bulls together, we would need a yearly budget of 240,500.00, or right at 20,000.00 each month, JUST to get the forgiveness of our sins and maintain our relationship with God! Can you imagine how difficult that would be?
Why did God make it so difficult for the people? Why was it necessary to kill animals as sacrifices for sins? Why didn’t God just ask the people to say that they were sorry or something simple like that? Once again, the book of Hebrews will help us understand.
Please read Hebrews 9:22 very carefully. This passage tells us that BLOOD was very important in the time of the OLD AGREEMENT and that without BLOOD there can be no forgiveness of sin! We must think carefully about this because it seems that there is only ONE THING that can get forgiveness of sins and that thing is blood! If we go back to the time of the OLD AGREEMENT and look at some other passages perhaps we can get a clearer picture. Please read Leviticus 17:10-11. This passage speaks about a prohibition from God for eating blood, but in the process of explaining the rule about eating blood, he also explains the relationship between the shedding of blood and the forgiveness of sins. This agrees with what we just read in Hebrews 9:22.
If we summarize what we have seen so far in this lesson, here is what we have. The people committed sins and were instructed by God to kill animals and throw their blood upon a special altar in a special place with the assistance of special priests in order that they could receive the forgiveness of their sins. It was complicated, and very expensive!
The next question we will ask may seem strange. “Did the blood of the animals really forgive the people's sins?” Why ask a question like that? After all, didn’t God tell the people to offer those sacrifices, and didn’t he say to them that if they made the sacrifices that their sins would be forgiven? Nevertheless, THIS is a matter discussed by the writer in the book of Hebrews. Let us now look at a very interesting passage where he speaks about those animal sacrifices. Please read Hebrews 10:1-4 three times, get a piece of paper, and list the main points. He begins by mentioning something about the OLD AGREEMENT containing only a shadow5 of things to come and not the reality of these things. He goes on to suggest that an example of this shadow/reality point is the animal sacrifices. It is surprising to read what he writes as he points out that it is IMPOSSIBLE for the blood of those bulls and goats to take away sins! WOW! Isn’t this a direct contradiction of what we read earlier in Leviticus 4:31? How can this be? What is the problem?
If we stop and follow the reasoning of the writer then the problem is not so difficult to see. The problem with sacrificing animals is JUSTICE! Consider the two diagrams below as you read on.
What does justice say? “The one who does the crime is the one who must be punished!” This is illustrated in the diagram “Option A”. If a man commits a sin and the punishment is death then justice demands that he die! It is a simple idea. However, if an animal has no sin then he should live! This creates a problem.
Where is the justice in sacrificing animals for the sins of people?
Consider the diagram “Option B”. An innocent animal dies as a substitute in place of a guilty human!
Will justice accept THIS?
Certainly NOT, because it is definitely NOT FAIR for the animal and the REAL CRIMINAL gets away!
Where is the JUSTICE in that? Justice demands that if a HUMAN commits a sin and if the law says that the punishment for that sin is the shedding of his blood (death) then the human who committed the sin MUST DIE! You cannot satisfy the requirement for HUMAN blood by substituting ANIMAL blood! JUSTICE will not accept that! It must be HUMAN blood!
How then was the problem of the animal blood solved? We need to go deeper still in our study.
Please turn to Hebrews 9:11-12 and read it, get your piece of paper, and list the main points mentioned. According to the explanation, the problem of the animal sacrifices is solved with the death of Jesus, and it seems logical. With Jesus’ death, we have a HUMAN death for human sins, and so it is the right KIND of blood!
That sounds good, but what about the sacrifice of Jesus? Our study of the OLD AGREEMENT showed that every sin had to have an individual sacrifice. The animal sacrifices were offered again and again – on a daily basis! Therefore, should Jesus also be sacrificed MANY times for the many sins of the people? Again, we must go to the writer of Hebrews for the answer. Please read Hebrews 10:12-18, get your paper, and record the main points. The most outstanding thing he says is that the sacrifice of Jesus was “once for all time”!
Notice also how the writer of Hebrews, in these passages, helps us better understand how the sacrifices of the animals in the OLD AGREEMENT were only a “shadow” of what was to come. He mentions the animal blood, and how it was offered in a tent that was made with human hands and he then compares those things to Christ’s human blood that was offered in the real place where God lives.
If we summarize all that the writer of Hebrews says in chapters 8-10 of his book, all the details of the OLD AGREEMENT sacrifices represented and symbolized the future event of Christ’s NEW AGREEMENT sacrifice! Christ fulfilled those symbols and made them real! The animal sacrifices were only shadows projected into this world by God’s light shining behind the works that Jesus would some day come and do! This is what the Hebrew writer was talking about in 10:1, where he said that the OLD AGREEMENT was only a shadow of the good things to come.
There can be NO forgiveness through the “shadow” sacrifice of animals, but only through the “real” sacrifice of Jesus!
Notice also that the writer indicates that the result of Jesus’ one-time sacrifice is the complete payment and that it brings salvation for all time, or as the writer said in Hebrews 9:12, “eternal REDEMPTION”!
Please read Hebrews 9:25-28, get your paper, and list down the main points. This passage echoes the idea that Jesus’ sacrifice was a “ONE TIME” sacrifice. In fact, this passage tells us that IF it was necessary to repeat the sacrifice of Christ then he would have had to come to the earth in a human body and repeat the sacrifice, LITERALLY, again and again EVER SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD! However, the writer assures us that Christ died one time and that his one single death was enough for all time!6
Before we close this lesson, we still need to answer one final question. “What happened to the sins of the people of Israel?” They were told by God to sacrifice animals; however, we have since learned that it is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sins – because of justice! Therefore, does this CONTRADICT what God told the people of Israel in Leviticus? Were their sins NOT FORGIVEN? If the sacrifices of the OLD AGREEMENT could not forgive the sins of the people then what happened to their sins?
Please read Hebrews 9:15 very carefully!
It seems that the death of Jesus forgives the sins of the people of the OLD AGREEMENT! As the diagram below illustrates, aside from Jesus’ death reaching forward to those people who would live after him, his death also has some kind of RETROACTIVE7 effect - meaning that it reaches back to pay for the sins of people who lived before the time he came to the earth and died on the cross!
As we end this series of four lessons, we need to put everything into focus.
SIN came into the world when Adam and Eve decided to disobey God! Since that time, all people in all times have been facing temptations of all kinds. However, God’s promise to man has been there through all generations and no person has ever been FORCED to sin. Sin happens in a person’s life because they choose to sin. They could just as easily have chosen NOT to sin.
When a person sins they earn what sin pays; DEATH! This death is separation from God and unless they can get rid of that separation, they will be LOST forever.
However, God does not want people to be lost and so he made a PLAN. He made a PLAN for people to EXCHANGE their sin for the blood of his own son, Jesus. He made a “SCHEME OF REDEMPTION!”
God’s plan was put into action over a long period of time. He used TWO AGREEMENTS and thousands of years to bring his plan to completion. Remember that the FIRST AGREEMENT was a temporary SHADOW agreement and was only designed to last until the time would be right for God to send down his son to make those shadows become realities! That was God’s PLAN!
When that time arrived, Jesus came down from heaven and became a human! He became just like us in every way! He lived his life as a human, fought against temptation as a human, he was completely obedient as a human, and he died a human death, giving his human blood as the real payment for sin to complete God’s PLAN!
He also brought the SECOND AGREEMENT, in which all people from all nations CAN8 become God’s chosen people!
Anyone who has their sins forgiven - in any time - will have those sins forgiven through the BLOOD of Jesus! Why is this so? It is because God has made the rule that states that ONLY BLOOD TAKES AWAY SIN and, he made the PLAN that ONLY the specific blood OF JESUS can pay for sins!
Perhaps we can now better understand passages that many teachers today like to quote when they speak about the subject of man being forgiven of his sins only through Christ. Acts 4:12 says that there is NO ONE ELSE who can save us and 1 Timothy 2:4-5 tells us that there is only ONE MEDIATOR between God and man. This is because only Jesus offers the one unique thing that can save us… HIS BLOOD!
In our next lesson, Lord willing, we will examine the death of Jesus more closely because there are still many unanswered questions left to explore.
Consider the diagram below. The situation we have with “Option B” is the same as the animal sacrifices, except JESUS is in place of the ANIMAL. Many teachers today explain that God’s PLAN was for Jesus to substitute for us in death. They say that HE takes our death so that WE can have his life! However, if JUSTICE will not allow the substitution of an innocent person to suffer punishment in place of the guilty one, then how can Jesus (who was innocent and sinless) die in the place of man (who is the guilty one)? This is exactly the same problem we had with the animals!
"Option B" IS NOT the answer!
HOW then can Jesus die and his blood pay for the sins that were done by other people in a way that JUSTICE can accept?
Do not worry because there IS an answer to this question in the Bible!
1 This is a letter written to Christians living in different towns located within the geographical region of that time called Galatia. This region was located in the northern part of the modern day country of Turkey.
2 This is a very common term used in the New Testament to represent the Mount Sinai agreement between God and Israel.
3 The word for “guardian” here in the verse is like a baby sitter who watches over a small child who cannot take care of himself. Are baby sitters permanent in the lives of the children they watch over? Do they still watch over the child when he becomes an adult? No! Baby sitters are TEMPORARY!
4 Remember what we read in Isaiah 59:2!
5 A shadow is a shaded image projected onto a surface by light shining from behind an object. The shaded area has a shape like the object the light shines upon but the shadow IS NOT the object, but only a copy of the object!
6 There are some teachers in religion today that claim that the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross was lacking something and that he needs to be sacrificed again, and again, every day until the end of time. These same teachers also claim that Jesus taught this and left behind a priesthood to carry out his continuing sacrifice. They deny that Jesus must come down physically in the form of a man for these sacrifices. They teach that he only comes down from heaven and becomes present in the form of bread and wine! They say that when this bread and wine are broken and consumed that Jesus is sacrificed! However, the writer of Hebrews is very clear. He insists that IF the sacrifice of Christ were lacking in any way then Jesus would have to come back physically again and again and die a real death, ever since the beginning of time and to the end of time! The writer says, however, that the sacrifice of Christ WAS NOT lacking anything! It was complete and good enough for all time! Therefore, these modern teachers and their claims are different from what the writer of the book of Hebrews says. Which one will you believe? You cannot accept BOTH because they are saying different, and opposite things!
7 This word carries the idea of some condition reaching backward to a time before the condition actually came into existence.
8 The NEW AGREEMENT, like the OLD, is conditional. Just because Jesus died, that does not mean that everyone is automatically saved. We will study about the conditions of the NEW AGREEMENT in our remaining lessons of this course.
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