Why the Old Testament Sacrifices Couldn’t Actually Take Away Sin

The preacher to the Hebrews put it like this:

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Heb. 9:22)

We see so much blood throughout the Bible because the Bible is ultimately about forgiveness. God forgives us in Christ, and we forgive others. But there are a lot of naysayers.

People will say that God is a cosmic child abuser for sending his Son to die on a Roman cross. Others will point to how silly it is for an all-powerful God to rely on something like an animal sacrifice in order to forgive people. What’s the deal?

Making atonement through blood is not arbitrary in the Bible. God is not some crazy, bloodthirsty deity. Why is there so much talk about blood in the Bible?

It’s simple, really. Blood represents the whole life of a person, and the just penalty for breaking God’s law is death (loss of life). Remember that original commandment in Genesis 2:17, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”? Death is what justice looks like.

This is why we see so much blood across the pages of the Old Testament. From the beginning—right after their fall into sin—God replaced Adam and Eve’s fig leaves with the skin of an animal (Gen. 3:21). God had taken the blood of the animal in the place of the blood of Adam and Eve so that they could be forgiven and once again stand unashamed before God and one another. Substitutionary sacrifice is viewed through actual animal victims taking upon themselves the sins of the people of Israel (see the Book of Leviticus).

These sacrifices ultimately foreshadow Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 10:10). John the Baptist was quick to announce the arrival of Jesus on the scene of history. The people of Israel had long waited for this Messiah to come, and so John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Thousands of lambs had been slain in the history of Israel, but now the last lamb to die had finally come to put an end to the sacrificial system. Thousands of people were crucified in the first century, but only Jesus was crucified for the sins of others.

God is gracious and forgiving. He talks about blood so much because he loves us that much more. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Photo of Nicholas Davis

Nicholas Davis

Nicholas Davis is lead pastor of Redemption Church (PCA) in San Diego, California. Nick has worked for White Horse Inn for several years, has written over one hundred articles for Core Christianity, and has work featured in Modern Reformation, Fathom Magazine, Mockingbird NYC, Church Leaders, Banner of Truth, and other places. Nick and his wife, Gina, have three sons. He blogs at nicholasmartindavis.com. Connect with Nicholas on Twitter @MundaneMinister.

Related Resources

Go Deeper

A continually growing library of Bible Studies to answer the most vital questions facing Christians today.

Core Studies

Get the Bible Studies