“SACRIFICE” is defined as the offering up of something precious for a cause or a reason i.e. making atonement for an offense committed.
To understand why blood sacrifice is specifically required for the atonement of our sins, we must see what God Himself declared regarding blood in the Old Testament, as recorded in the Torah:
“For the life of all flesh is its blood” (Leviticus 17:14).
Here God tells us that blood represents the essence of life (viz. blood carries life-sustaining nutrients to all parts of the body.)
In contrast, the shedding of blood represents the shedding of life, i.e. death.
Leviticus 17:11 is the Old Testament’s central statement about the significance of blood in the sacrificial system.
God, speaking to Moses, declares:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for your souls upon the altar; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.Leviticus 17:11
Blood is used in the Bible to represent spiritual life. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God, they experienced spiritual death (i.e. separation from God).
Their blood—their lives—were now tainted by sin. In His gracious plan, God provided a “way out” of their dilemma by providing for sacrifices of blood to be sufficient to cover the sin of fallen mankind and restore us to spiritual life.
The Sacrificial System
He instituted the sacrificial system, beginning with the animals He himself killed to provide the first garments, thereby “covering” the sin and shame of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21).
By the way, atonement means “covering”!
God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10). Animal sacrifice is an important theme found throughout Scripture because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
After Adam, his son, Abel sacrificed; Noah sacrificed; Abraham sacrificed; Moses sacrificed….
All of the numerous blood sacrifices seen throughout the Old Testament were foreshadowing the true, once-for-all-time sacrifice to come so that the Israelites would never forget that, without the blood, there is no forgiveness.
This shedding of blood is a substitutionary act. Therefore, according to Leviticus 17:11 “the blood ‘makes atonement’ at the cost of life” (i.e., the animal’s life).
The Final Sacrifice
All the Old Testament blood sacrifices were temporary ones, needing to be repeated over and over…Until the coming of the one true and final sacrifice, Christ, whose blood shed on the cross would pay the penalty of sin forever.
That is why John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). Jesus Christ makes atonement in place of the sinner’s life by being the One giving life through His shed blood.
In fact, the whole of the Old Testament, every book, points toward the Great Sacrifice that was to come—that of Jesus’ sacrificial giving of His own life on our behalf. Those who are covered by the blood sacrifice are set free from the consequences of sin i.e. spiritual death, eternal separation from God. That is how we can know that we have received salvation.
When Christ, as the perfect Lamb, sacrificed Himself and offered His own blood as atonement once for all time, He made future blood sacrifices unnecessary. His death made any further bloodshed unnecessary (Hebrews 10:1-10).
This is what Jesus meant by His dying words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Today, we no longer offer animal sacrifices. Animal sacrifices have ended because Jesus Christ was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice.
You may be asking yourself, “But why animals anyway? What did they do wrong?” That is the point—since the animals did no wrong, they died as an innocent, in place of the guilty.
Jesus Christ also did no wrong but willingly gave Himself to die, as the sinless One, for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus Christ took our sin upon Himself and died in our place. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, ‘He (Jesus) who had no sin became sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ Through faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, we can receive forgiveness of our sins. If we reject His sacrifice for us, then we must pay the sacrifice ourselves, dying in sin i.e. eternal separation from God. This is the only way we can be saved from our sins!
That is why I told you that you would die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”John 8:24
Sin is serious. God takes sin seriously and gives a death penalty for it. Sin is not a small matter. It is the simple sin of pride that turned Lucifer into a demon. It was the simple sin of jealousy that caused Cain to slay Abel, etc. And in Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, they believed the deceiver over a good and loving God, choosing to rebel against His love and denying the goodness of His character. The harshness of blood sacrifice is required a holy God views sin seriously.
Also, God is just. Sin requires a penalty. God cannot merely forgive in mercy until the demands of justice have been met and punishment meted out. But Islam teaches, “Nah, he is merciful, he can just forgive your sins.” Does a Judge simply forgive you when you have committed an offence? That would make him unjust and corrupt. This is what Muslims want us to believe about Allah!
There is a need for sacrifice before forgiveness is possible. The shedding of the blood of animals, as Hebrews points out, could only “cover” sin for a time (Hebrews 10:4) until the intended and sufficient sacrifice was made in Christ’s atoning death. Thus, Christianity is different from other religions in that it alone provides a sufficient sacrifice to take care of the sin problem.
The opposite of death is life. In Jesus’ death, He brought life as is shown in so many verses. And in trusting Christ and His atoning sacrifice for one’s sins, one is saved from death and has passed into life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14). In Him is life. All other paths lead to death (Acts 4:16; John 14:6).
Doesn’t the Bible prohibit human sacrifice? So, if God hates human sacrifice, why is the death of Christ the payment for our sins?
There are several reasons why the sacrifice of Christ on the cross does not violate the prohibition against human sacrifice. First, Jesus wasn’t merely human. If He were, then His sacrifice would have also been a temporary one because one human life couldn’t possibly cover the sins of the multitudes who ever existed. Neither could one finite human life atone for sin against an infinite God. The only viable sacrifice must be an infinite one, which means only God Himself could atone for the sins of mankind. Only God Himself, an infinite Being, could pay the penalty. This is why God had to become a Man and dwell among men (John 1:14). No other sacrifice would suffice.
Secondly, Jesus, as God incarnate, sacrificed Himself. No one forced Him. He laid down His life willingly, as He made clear speaking about His life: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).
God the Son sacrificed Himself and thereby fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. Unlike the temporary sacrifices, Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice was followed by His resurrection. He laid down His life and took it up again, thereby providing eternal life for all who would ever believe in Him and accept His sacrifice for their sins. He did this out of love for the Father and for all those the Father has given Him (John 6:37–40).
“I have come to give my life as a ransom.“Jesus Christ, cf. Mark 10:45
adapted from Gotquestions, “Why did the sacrificial system require a blood sacrifice”, “Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament”, “If God hates human sacrifice,,”, “Why is Christianity such a blood religion”.