A Question I Was Asked:

Will Animal Sacrifices Return in the Future?

The Question:

Jesus' death on the cross was the final sacrifice for the remission of sins. We are taught that in the future the lion and the lamb shall graze together in the millennial kingdom. This is after we have been freed from the 'yoke' of Old Testament bondage.

So how is it there will be animal sacrifices in the millennial Kingdom?

Won't this annul the above three truths?

UK Apologetics Reply:

I largely agree with you but you are assuming that I too teach a "millenial kingdom," and that I teach that animal sacrifices will return. I certainly teach neither. The teaching, in my opinion, is a result of misapplying certain verses, mainly in Ezekiel, so I will point you to an article on that.

Christ was and is the final, and complete, sacrifice - no further sacrifice is necessary. Moreover, the Great Commision sends us into the world to preach the gospel - not to teach people how to sacrifice animals! Some millenialists, however, teach that there will be many thousands of unconverted people still upon this earth during a literal 1,000 year "millenium" (not a biblical word), who will bring animal sacrifices to a new priesthood (although Jesus plainly abolished that), this - in my honestly held view - is due to a lack of understanding when reading Revelation 20, to say nothing of Ezekiel.

These people believe that those people (that is, the unconverted who live on into God's kingdom) must - initially at least - be taught along the lines of the old covenant - Paul the Apostle would turn in his grave!! The teaching is that both the saved and the unconverted will live side-by-side. This view, while often held by sincere people, is scripturally erroneous. It finds virtually no support in the writings of Paul, for example; Paul obviously saw no gap between the Second Coming, the resurrection and the restoration of all things (see 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, for example). Neither did Matthew (see Matthew 25:31-46), or John, or Peter (see 2 Peter 3:7-12). Paul also taught that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 15:50), but the proposed millenium upon earth schema has a real 'kingdom of God' in which the unconverted also live. Put this together with the fact that such a future earthly kingdom was a Jewish belief which Jesus clearly refused to buy into (Acts 1:6-9), and the fact that 'a thousand' is only ever a poetic/symbolic phrase in Scripture - never literal, and the problems become all too obvious. The church fathers (with just one or two exceptions), and all the great Christian expositors all saw the '1,000 years' as a symbolic phrase in a symbolic book which refers to the age of the Church upon earth.

The 'literal millenium' teaching only really took off with the writings of people like Edward Irvine, John Nelson Darby, William Miller, Cyrus Scofield and a few others in the 19th century; in that century the cults and sects really embraced the theory. It was only through the influence of Cyrus Scofield in the United States that the belief really took off among certain American fundamentalist Christians. Today most U.S. teachers/evangelists embrace some sort of variation of millenial theory (there exist numerous and often confusing variations). Outside north America, it remains the case that most Christians either don't accept the theory, or feel it is an unnecessary add-on.

The Scofield Reference Bible first appeared in the States in 1909. Scofield was a sincere man but he was a lawyer who was substantially untrained in biblical exegesis. The book isn't all bad by any means but it lamentably introduced errors such as 'the gap theory,' and the millenial teaching was strong. American baptists, especially, embraced this 'dispensationalism.'
Another form of 'people must firstly be taught to embrace the old covenant' came from the reconstructionists and theonomy, Greg Bahnsen being a leading teacher. This is somewhat different because it is not 'millenial,' but is what is sometimes termed, 'post-millennialism' (Christians must convert the world before Christ can return and before a 'millenium' can start). This idea grew among a very legalistic branch of Presbyterianism for a while but has now lost a lot of ground.

So, in answer to the question, 'will animal sacrifices return in the future?' I would say no, nothing in Scripture would require such a thing.

Robin A. Brace. October 24th, 2012.

Here are a few articles which might help:

Can You Explain Ezekiel's Temple?

How Long is a Thousand Years?

Why Are You Literalist In Genesis, But Not Literalist in Revelation?

The Symbolical Numbers of Revelation

The Seven Parallel Sections of the Book of Revelation