The book of Leviticus begins with several chapters describing the sacrificial services. God called to Moses from within the Tent of Meeting and delivered to him the laws of the sacrificial system.
In today’s world, when there is no Temple, the laws of the sacrifices seem obsolete and irrelevant. Nevertheless, devout Jews continue to diligently study the laws of the sacrifices.
New Testament readers understand that there are no sacrifices today and that the Messiah’s suffering provided the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Believers often erroneously assume a direct cause-and-effect relationship. We commonly hear that the sacrifices are no longer brought because the death of Jesus fulfilled the sacrifices and made them obsolete. In reality, the cessation of sacrifice and the atoning sacrifice of Messiah are unrelated. The Jewish people (including the apostles) continued to offer sacrifices in the Temple for forty years after the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
Yeshua’s sacrifice transcends the earthly sacrifices spoken of in Leviticus. In a sense, one might say that His death fulfilled the prophetic foreshadowing of the sacrificial services, but that does not explain the cessation of the sacrificial services. The Jewish people ceased offering sacrifices only because of the destruction of the Temple.
Even when the Temple still stood, it provided only a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Temple above. Therefore, the sacrifices on earth were shadows of a greater, higher, and holier spiritual worship in the heavenly Sanctuary.
In what respect does Messiah fulfill the sacrifices? We understand fairly well that His death functioned as a sacrifice for sin, but only one or two of the five types of sacrifices listed in Leviticus pertain to sin. Consider the burnt offering, the bread offering, and the peace offering—these sacrifices were not brought for sin. In what sense does Messiah fulfill them? As we proceed through this Torah portion, we will briefly consider each of the sacrifices and their messianic significance.
The Messiah’s sacrifice cannot make the Levitical sacrifices obsolete because the Messiah’s sacrifice was already at work before the LORD introduced the Levitical sacrifices. Long before the days of the Tabernacle, long before God called to Moses from within the Tent of Meeting, even before Adam’s first sin, the Messiah was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8, NIV.)