Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Animal Sacrifice in the Millennial Kingdom

There is an interesting debate among dispensational premillennialists as to whether or not animal sacrifice is resumed during the millennial kingdom.

Uber-dispensationalist John Walvoord contends that it is,20which I gather is the majority opinion of at least the classic school.

In a nutshell, the argument is quite simple:

  1. The millennial temple is described in Ezekiel 40:1-46:24. It is identified as the millennial temple because the detailed specifications do not match either Solomon's temple or the post-exile temple. That is, since this temple has obviously never been built, it is taken to be a prophesy of the millennial temple.

  2. The same passage that describes the temple also gives details related to ritual sacrifice:

    39In the portico of the gateway were two tables on each side, on which the burnt offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings were slaughtered. 40 By the outside wall of the portico of the gateway, near the steps at the entrance to the north gateway were two tables, and on the other side of the steps were two tables. 41 So there were four tables on one side of the gateway and four on the other-eight tables in all-on which the sacrifices were slaughtered. (Ezek. 40:39-41)

If the temple prophesy must be taken literally, then so, it would seem, must the descriptions of sacrifice. (Further details are found in Ezekiel 43:18-46:24).

We non-dispensationalists view this "trap" as the dispensation of being hoisted with one's petard.

According to Walvoord, additional support for this future sacrificial system (and for observance of the Sabbath in the millennium) is found in Isa. 56:7, Isa. 66:20-23, Jer. 33:18, and Zech. 14:16-21.

Resumption of animal sacrifices is not affirmed by all premillennialists, but it seems to me to be a logical conclusion derived from their literal hermeneutic. One wonders if its rejection by some premillennialists is an inconsistency stemming in part from the knowledge of the revulsion the very idea of a reinstitution of sacrifices causes in amillennialists and postmillennialists.

Walvoord correctly anticipates the objections raised by the opposition, including pretty much the entire book of Hebrews. In particular the familiar passages:

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Heb 7:27)

Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Heb. 9:26)

The explanation of the dispensationalists is somewhat ingenious. Just as the sacrifices under Mosaic law looked forward to the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, the millennial sacrifices look backward, memorializing the same event. The sacrament/ordinance of the Lord's supper is gone, having vanished with the raptured church. The resumption of animal sacrifices, it is taught, is the new old way to memorialize Christ.

According to dispensationalist A. C. Gaebeleinas quoted by Walvood:
What a meaning these sacrifices will have! They will bring to a living remembrance everything of the past. The retrospect will produce the greatest scene of worship, of praise and adoration this earth has ever seen. All the Cross meant and all the Cross has accomplished will be recalled and a mighty 'Hallelujah Chorus' will fill the earth and the heavens.

Note that dispensationalists do not claim the sacrifices are any more expiatory than the Mosaic practice. They are retrospective in the same way that the sacrifices of antiquity were prospective.

20 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, Zondervan, 1959.


  1. http://www.kotipetripaavola.com/noanimalofferingsmillenialkingdom.html

    No animal offerings millenial kingdom!

  2. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son,cleanses from all sin. Is any more blood required?