1 November 2021 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
I recently heard from a member of another denomination that there will be animal sacrifices in heaven or the new earth. I thought it was crazy, but there are verses to back up the idea, such as Zechariah 14. Weren’t Old Testament sacrifices supposed to point forward to Jesus’ sacrifice?
Signed, Animal Lover
Zechariah 14:16 is only one of the passages about animal sacrifices that some Christians interpret as happening in the “millennial kingdom.” (See also Isaiah 56:6-8; Jeremiah 33:15-18; Ezekiel 43:18-46:24.)
But there are several problems with that for a Seventh-day Adventist.
First, Adventists don’t teach that the events of the millennium are described by these Old Testament passages. This is a teaching characteristic of dispensationalist eschatology, and includes the notion that the temple is going to be rebuilt. In Seventh-day Adventist eschatology, the 1,000-year period sees the saved safely in heaven, and the earth during this period merely a prison for Satan (Revelation 20:1-2).
Second, as you correctly pointed out, we Adventists (along with many other Christians) see these Old Testament sacrificial rituals fulfilled in Jesus Christ, never needing to be repeated. Citing Psalm 40:6-8 that “sacrifice and offering” were never what God really wanted, but instead people who “desire to do your will,” and whose “law is within my heart,” the author of Hebrews reminds us that now “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.…” (Hebrews 10:10).
This leaves the question, though: what is being described in these Old Testament passages? According to Raymond Cottrell in his pivotal essay “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy” in volume 4 of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, “the original subject of the Old Testament predictive prophecies was the nation of Israel, their fulfillment being conditional on the response of the Jewish people to the covenant and on accepting the Messiah” (this accurate description from Wikipedia.)
In other words, these things may have happened had Jesus been accepted by the Jewish people. He was not, so instead he became the once-for-all-time sacrifice for our sins.
Aunty reminds you again: it is very dangerous to pull individual passages out of the Old Testament and try to apply them without being constantly aware that we are reading them on the other side of the cross from when they were written. The life and death of Jesus changed everything—even the meaning of the Old Testament! So no, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, there will never again be animals sacrificed!
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published — always without identification of the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.