Why did God institute the sanctuary services in the Old Testament?

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The Bible teaches that God’s way is fully illustrated in the sanctuary. “Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary” (Psalm 77:13). Everything in the sanctuary services and furniture is symbolic to the plan of salvation. And through these symbols, God showed His children how to reconnect with Him.

When our original parents first sinned, Adam and Eve would have died at once. But the Godhead planned a way of salvation. Jesus offered to give His innocent life as a sacrifice to pay the death penalty for humanity’s sins (Revelation 13:8). God gave people hope that they were not left on their own facing the judgement of God’s holy law.

The Son of God would sacrifice His life to redeem humanity. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Jesus would become the Substitute (Hebrews 9:28). And through faith in His atoning blood, people may restore their relationship with God. Faith and willing cooperation with, Christ (John 1:12) are the only requirements for salvation.

So, after sin, God commanded the sinner to bring an animal sacrifice (Genesis 4:3–7) and kill it to atone for his sins (Leviticus 1:4, 5). The sacrifices pointed to God’s Son who would die for man’s sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). The sacrificing of animals was essential to help the people see that without the shedding of Jesus’ blood, their sins cannot be forgiven. For the wages for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

The services in the temple of killing the animals, the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar of burnt offering, upon the altar of incense, on the veil, or upon the ark, all represented a part of God’s work on behalf of man.

In addition, the mediation and intercession of the priests pointed forward to the work of Christ who is now serving in the heavenly temple for the believers (Hebrews 4:14–16). Therefore, the saints today can “enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).

Thus, in the Old Testament, people looked forward to the cross for salvation. And in the New Testament, people look back to Calvary for salvation. Throughout the ages, Christ is the only way through whom people can be saved (John 14:6; 17:3). There is no other way of salvation (Acts 4:12).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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