Many verses discuss physical sacrifices in Ezekiel’s temple. But does the Bible interpret them as physical or spiritual sacrifices? Would there be any reason why physical animal sacrifices would be going on during the Millennium?
Let’s notice some key verses in Malachi: “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:7-8). We know that the book of Malachi is prophecy for the end time. God is addressing His own Church and its spiritual problems. God relates that the people offer lame, blind and sick sacrifices. Obviously He is referring not to physical animal sacrifices but to the quality of their spiritual sacrifice. You are a spiritual sacrifice for God today—good or bad (Romans 12:1). We can see by the context in Malachi 1 that God is rebuking His own Laodicean people in this end time. Their eternal lives are in jeopardy! They are “blind” (Revelation 3:17). They are also lame and sick—spiritually!
If Christ had been a sick and lame sacrifice, you and I would have no future. God wants us to imitate His sacrifice (Philippians 2:5).
Are you giving God a lame sacrifice? A sick sacrifice? Or a royal, Christ-like sacrifice? God isn’t interested now in animal sacrifices. He is deeply concerned about you as a sacrifice (i.e. Romans 12:1).
“Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand” (Malachi 1:10). This passage portrays a people who kindle fire in offering animal sacrifices. That means the Laodiceans still act very religious, but God says He has no pleasure in them. The altar refers specifically to the ministers today. They are leading God’s people astray.
God says we should just shut the temple, or church, doors if we offer sick sacrifices. When He discusses the kindling of a fire, He is referring to the spiritual lamp in His Church—in you.
House of Prayer
How fervent is your prayer? “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:11). Incense is a type of our prayers (Revelation 8:3). Here God is saying prayers should be offered to God in every place—all over the world.
Ezekiel’s temple is called a house of prayer. The whole world will be focused there. That is how we are going to make God’s name great among all the spiritual Gentiles. We must teach the whole world how to pray. God is discussing an earthshaking revolution in this world! Finally the world will learn how to pray and get results. This is the main way we stir up God’s Holy Spirit of power (2 Timothy 1:4-7).
Can you even imagine the whole world intently praying to God? Whether we can or not, it is going to happen very soon. We must know how to pray effectively so that we can teach all humanity.
Do we live by every word of God? Do we love God’s spiritual food? “But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible” (Malachi 1:12). Is any of God’s spiritual meat, or food, contemptible to us? Christ’s greatest passion was doing the will of God. His most intense passion was to please His Father—not just obey Him, but to please Him!
“Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (verses 13-14). God demands that we not give Him a lame or sick spiritual sacrifice.
The Laodiceans offer polluted sacrificial meat. They offer the “torn, and the lame, and the sick” animals. But again, this is really discussing their terrible spiritual condition. They offer God corrupt sacrifices. They fail to give their best to God. They have forgotten how “dreadful” God can be if He has to punish us!
So we can see that even when God uses physical sacrifices in prophecy about His Church today, it applies spiritually. Isaiah also uses physical sacrifices to prophesy about an end-time spiritual condition (see Isaiah 56, especially verse 7).
Isaiah 66 is also a prophecy for the end time (see verses 8, 12-13). “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (verses 1‑2). God says He will look to this man, or this individual. This is a very humble person who trembles at God’s Word. God doesn’t look to men of powerful stature, unless they have a great fear of disobeying His Word. These verses are obviously discussing the type of spiritual leaders God chooses.
But then He discusses sacrifices, offerings and incense. “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations” (verse 3). Again, these statements are made in the context of the end time. This too is talking about spiritual sacrifices.
“I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not” (verse 4). God says that when He spoke they didn’t hear. When did God speak? God is speaking now through His Philadelphia ministry and Church. We are knocking on their door for God as we warn the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:20).
“Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed” (Isaiah 66:5). Instead of listening to God, the Laodicean ministers cast out those who spoke for God! God’s loyal people feared God and obeyed. God says the Laodiceans will be deeply ashamed in the future.
The subject has nothing to do with animal sacrifices. God says His Laodicean ministers will not fear Him in this end time (i.e. Malachi 1:6). That is why they are a blind, lame and sick spiritual sacrifice!
The Blood of Christ
Jesus Christ not only labors over us today, He gave His own life as a sacrifice for us. “And one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the fat pastures of Israel; for a meat offering, and for a burnt offering, and for peace offerings, to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord God. All the people of the land shall give this oblation for the prince in Israel. And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 45:15-17).
Twice the expression “to make reconciliation” is used. The death of Christ reconciled us to His Father (Romans 5:10). That is the subject discussed here in Ezekiel. This is prophecy for the end time. Only Christ’s sacrifice can reconcile us spiritually. Physical sacrifices were still extant when Ezekiel wrote this prophecy. However, those sacrifices only pointed to Christ’s supreme sacrifice. The physical sacrifices were no longer required when Christ gave His life.
Why did the physical sacrifices cease? Because we can’t be made perfect by animal sacrifices. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Christ’s sacrifice removes our sins, if we repent. Only the blood of Christ can do that—never the blood of bulls and goats. We will never go back to sacrificing bulls and goats!
Animal sacrifices cannot pay for our sins. But they pointed to the sacrifice of Christ. When He came, the sacrifices were discontinued. “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second” (verse 9). Christ came to take away the first, the Old Covenant and the physical sacrifices, and establish the second—the New Covenant revolving around Christ and His first coming to Earth. God took the sacrificial system away. He didn’t remove it so it could be reinstated in the Millennium. That would bring confusion. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (verse 10). When Christ was sacrificed, the physical sacrifices became obsolete. The sacrificial system was replaced by Christ’s sacrifice (Hebrews 8:13).
Because of what is stated in Ezekiel 40 through 48, I thought for years that physical sacrifices would be offered in the Millennium. That is simply not true.
Those sacrifices were to deal with carnal people only. Now God gives His Holy Spirit—after His Son was sacrificed—to make us perfect (Matthew 5:48).
Christ gave His precious blood for us! And He won’t accept a lukewarm response to such a majestic, total sacrifice. He sweat blood for His Church and the world before He gave His blood! (Luke 22:44). Now it is time for us to do some sweating in gratitude for what He did for all of us.
The physical sacrifices were taken away for a great purpose!
The Levitical priesthood was removed and replaced by the Melchizedek priesthood (Hebrews 7). “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12). It doesn’t make sense to go back to physical sacrifices that can never take away sins. The comma in verse 12 should be after sins, not after forever. If we overcome our sins now, Christ is offering us a share of His throne—forever!
“Whereof the Holy [Spirit] also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (verses 15-17). God never wrote His laws into their hearts and minds through physical sacrifices. That could only be done after Christ’s sacrifice.
“Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (verse 18). There is “no more offering for sin”—either physical or spiritual sacrifices! “No more” means no more. “By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God” (verses 20-21). We have a new way to live and a High Priest over God’s house. We will not go back to the old way.
Spiritual Sacrifices Forever
I have never read or heard where any man taught that the sacrifices in Ezekiel 40-48 were spiritual. But God has revealed this truth to us now to expand the great vision of our future jobs.
Why would God write it this way in the prophecy of Ezekiel’s temple?
First of all, we need to understand that Ezekiel wrote his book before Christ came. Israel was still sacrificing physically. If spiritual sacrifices had been taught, the people could not have understood without God’s Holy Spirit. But they could understand the physical sacrifices discussed in Ezekiel.
Secondly, writing about the sacrifices this way keeps the world from understanding, until the time when God wants to reveal it. The Bible is a coded book. God has hidden His truth from the wise and the prudent (Matthew 11:25). How did He do that? One way is that He discusses the sacrificial system in end-time prophecies. These sacrifices are only a type of the spiritual sacrifices God requires.
Thirdly, Spirit-led people can easily understand and implement the spiritual counterpart to the physical sacrifices. For example, incense is a type of prayer. The Bible clearly states that we are to offer spiritual sacrifices in God’s spiritual house today: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Christ is the High Priest of the spiritual temple, the Church.
God can reveal this precious understanding to His “babes,” or those with a humble, child-like attitude. So when God inspired the writing about physical sacrifices in the book of Ezekiel, it could be understood by both ancient Israel and God’s Church today. When Christ stopped the physical sacrifices, it was forever.