Saturday, November 22, 2014

What About Animal Sacrifices? A Review of Chapter 3 of Tim Hegg's "Ten Persistent Questions" (Part 2)

The Heart of the Matter:  Animal Sacrifices Brought You Close...But Not Close Enough

In the last post, we had just begun to look at the apparent contradiction between the book of Hebrews and the Tanak, the former saying animal sacrifices do not take away sin, the latter indicating that they do take away sin.

How does Hegg resolve this?

He makes a distinction between temporal and eternal atonement.  For the idea of temporal atonement, he cites to Hebrews:
"For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?," (Heb 9:13-14).
Animal sacrifices never really changed the heart of a person and so they could never take away sins.  In order for sins to be taken away, something would have to be done about the heart.  Yet, even though animal sacrifices didn't change the heart, they did sanctify "for the cleansing of the flesh..." and provided the temporal atonement necessary for people to participate in the Temple service.  Additionally, the sacrifices served to foreshadow that G-d would need to send an innocent representative for Israel who could bear the full punishment for all of Israel's sins.  Hegg summarizes:
"We have seen that animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple did have a valid function, namely, effecting ritual purity and thus allowing the person or object that had become ritually impure to return to an acceptable status for participation in worship at the Tabernacle or Temple.  In this sense, the animal sacrifices made atonement for the ritual impurities that separated a person from participation in the Tabernacle or Temple services.  We have also noted that the sacrifices offered divine revelation about how God would forgive sins eternally (the innocent One paying the penalty for the guilty sinner), and how a person's heart or conscience could be cleansed from the guilt of sin.  We have seen the distinction between temporal and eternal atonement, the former dealing with the earthly Tabernacle or Temple, and the latter having to do with God's declaration of a sinner as eternally and completely forgiven on the basis of Yeshua's sacrifice for sins," (pgs. 32-33 of "Ten Persistent Questions").
So really the book of Hebrews parallels Jeremiah 31:31-34 in showing the insufficiency of the animal sacrifice system.  Jeremiah, by saying there will be a new covenant in which G-d remembers sins no more, implies that under the old covenant G-d does in fact remember sins.  Thus, animal sacrifices were always insufficient to take away sins.

But then how can Hegg say the following:
"...the manner of salvation...was the same for David as it was for the [audience of the book of Romans]"
Well, actually I was confused by that statement.  But then I noticed, buried within the previous paragraph, Hegg stated:
"...[David] understood that God had actually removed his sin on the basis of His promise to send the Messiah as the sin bearer..."
So perhaps Hegg is suggesting that the animal sacrifices served yet another purpose (in addition to the purificatory and revelatory)....

Stay tuned for Part 3...

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