To put it simply, the sacrificial cult does not work. It never has worked. All those animal sacrifices were completely unnecessary. Even if the original tabernacle were put in place by God to teach a sacrificial people about having peace with God, the atonement of sins and even the coming messiah, the people have not listened, ever. They go and make sacrifices, literally get blood on their hands and then, nothing.
Whether the sacrificial cult was of divine origin or human will, people have high jacked this religious ritual for their own purposes. It is used to condemn the vulnerable, to make sinners appear righteous and to maintain order over an impoverished and demoralized people. Jesus does not attack just a singular aspect of the temple establishment. He attacks everything. The whole system is finished. Jesus is going to be the one who ends it all. And he does it. “It is finished”.
The damming message to be found within Jeremiah’s prophecy is that God is going to bring about the destruction of the temple.
“Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the LORD. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel… …therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh.” (Jeremiah 7:11-12, 14, emphasis mine).
What did God do to His house in Shiloh? For a long time the tabernacle was to be found in that location and for that reason it was a very special and holy place to the people of Israel. However because of the sins of the people He allowed an invading enemy force, the Philistines, to destroy it. The story is found in Psalm seventy-eight.
“He abandoned His dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where He dwelt among mortals, and delivered His power to captivity, His glory to the hand of the foe. He gave His people to the sword, and vented His wrath on His heritage. Fire devoured their young men, and their girls had no marriage song. Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation.” (Psalm 78:60-64, see also first Samuel 4-6).
The temple that Jeremiah was condemning was Solomon’s temple, and just like the Tabernacle in Shiloh, was destroyed by an invading enemy force, the Babylonians. However by using the prophecy of Jeremiah, Jesus is pointing towards the destruction of Herod’s temple at the hands of yet another invading enemy force. Through the scroll of Jeremiah, Jesus prophesies the destruction of the temple.
In the synoptic Gospels Jesus also spoke very directly about the destruction of the temple in the immediate aftermath of His protest in the temple. After leaving, His disciples were admiring and pointing at the temple buildings. Jesus asked them,
“You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2. See also Mark 13:1-2 and Luke 21:5-6).
History has proven Jesus prophetic teaching to be true. Approximately forty years after Jesus had said these things, in 70 A.D., in response to a Jewish revolt the temple was destroyed by the Romans. The sacrificial cult ended and for the people of Israel animal sacrifices ceased. Incidents like Jesus attack upon the temples animal market and statements about the future destruction of the temple made Jesus somewhat unpopular with the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, priests and anyone else who had a vested interest in protecting this system of violence.
In addition to Jesus prophetical teaching Jesus also told them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). At that time the people did not understand what Jesus was teaching them. They remind Him that it took forty-six years to build the temple, how could He raise it up in three days? However, Jesus was of course referring to Himself as the temple. The temple building was meant to have been the place where God’s manifest presence (His glory) literally dwelt among His people. It was God’s house. Indeed, Jesus own body was quite literally where God’s manifest presence dwelt. Jesus said of His body, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ In other words ‘kill me’ and in three days something new and far greater than the temple will take its place. The old covenants, the old ways of doing things were about to be abolished and replaced by something far greater.
For century’s people had killed animals in the temple, but now Jesus, the Lamb of God, challenges them not to kill animals, but to kill Him instead. Something greater than the temple is here, if they destroy His body, ‘this temple’, He will rise again in three days as victor over death itself. Atonement from sins, peace with God and the reconciliation of all things will now be possible. Not through the pointless death of animals but through Jesus own death on the cross. His blood, shed for us. The old human ways of coping with religious guilt and fears are to be no more. Jesus death has meant that the blood of animals need not be shed. As Charles Spurgeon, once preached,
“It is finished. There is no more need of the blood of bulls or goats, or any other sacrifice, that one sacrifice hath ‘perfected for ever them that are sanctified…’ Look then to Jesus, and remember that Christ needs nothing to supplement His blood.” (‘The Blood’ – a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon, cited in ‘Familiar Strangers’, by John M. Gilheany).
Thank you for reading and sharing, we pray our articles are a blessing! Comments are welcome. God Bless ~ Phil Guyott