“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
On Monday in Jerusalem, the largest crowd ever watched the reenactment of a full Passover ceremony, including the slaughtering a Korban Pesach (Passover Offering).
This seventh annual ceremony took place at the southern wall of the Temple Mount, where the ancient Israelites would ascend the steps to the Temple with their offerings.
While Passover does not begin until Friday night, this reenactment with about 20 kohanim (priests) in white vestments (some blowing authentic Temple trumpets) is necessary preparation for the day when the Temple will be rebuilt and sacrifices will resume according to the laws given in the Torah (instructions).
Secular Jews attended as well as the religious / Orthodox. who have been praying for the reconstruction of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and the re-institution of the Temple’s sacrificial service.
In fact, the Orthodox siddur (prayer book) includes prayers for the reconstruction of the Temple. The service in the siddur for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) even includes a description of the Temple sacrificial service carried out by the High Priest during Temple times.
These efforts are, perhaps, in keeping with end-time Bible prophecies.
The giving of Korbanot (sacrifices and offerings) are linked exclusively to the Temple service, and end-time Bible prophecy does indeed indicate that there will be a Third Temple when Yeshua HaMashiach returns. (See Daniel 9:27; Ezekiel 40–48; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4; Revelation 11:1–2)
Passover was one of the three holy days that required the people to go up (aliyah) or make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The other two were Shavuot (Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Tabernacles). In each case, a korban or sacrifice had to be offered up. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
Although some question whether the Passover lamb eaten on the first Passover was technically a korban, the practice of bringing the Passover lamb to the Temple in later times and the sprinkling of its blood on the altar fulfills the korbanot requirements. (Numbers 28:1–15; Deuteronomy 16:2–6)
Of course, the Korban Pesach was not the only korban dedicated to God in the Temple. The following Korbanot were regularly presented to the Lord:
- The Olah (Burnt Offering) represents complete submission to God’s will, the devotion of oneself to God, and expresses a desire to commune with Him. This offering of an unblemished male bull, ram, or goat is entirely burnt on the outside altar, and its blood was sprinkled on the four corners of the altar. This offering is not eaten, nor is it specifically offered for sin, although drawing close to God seems to imply some type of cleansing.
- The Mincha (Gift) is a mixture of flour and oil that is offered to the Lord. A portion of it is burned on the altar, and a portion is eaten by the priests. This gift offering signifies food and sustenance, and the fruit of one’s labor. This category includes libation offerings (nesekh).
- The Zebach Shelamim (Peace Offering) was offered as an expression of thanksgiving and gratitude for God’s blessings and mercies; for instance, it might have been offered after recovering from a serious illness or returning safely home after a long voyage. It includes thanksgiving offerings, free-will offerings, and offerings made after fulfilling a vow. An ox or cow, ram, or female sheep are offered. Part of this offering is eaten by the priests and part by the giver and his family. The Jewish Oral Law contends that only this sacrifice will continue in the Messianic Age.
The Chatat (Sin Offering) atones for unintentional sin committed through carelessness or ignorance. It does not atone for intentional sins such as adultery or murder. Those sins are in the category of blasphemy (see Numbers 15:27–30). In essence, there was no offering in this system for intentional pre-planned sin.
Still, the chatat was not enough for forgiveness; it had to be accompanied along with sincere repentance and often involved restitution. The Chatat was offered on the north side of the altar. Usually, this type of offering is to be eaten by the priests, although a few special Chatatot are not eaten.
- The Asham (Guilt or Trespass Offering) is the sacrifice of a male sheep to atone for sins that involved misuse of Temple items, breach of trust, and doubt as to whether or not a sin has been committed. If it is later confirmed that an unintentional sin has been committed, a Chatat is offered. The Asham is to be eaten by the priests.
- The Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) cleanses those who have been defiled through contact with the dead. Many believe that the Messiah will perform this ritual when He comes, since all of us are defiled by contact with death. For that reason, some feel that there must be a Red Heifer for the Messiah to come.
- The annual Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) sacrifice is to be offered by the Kohen HaGadol (High Priest) to atone for the sins of all the people. A bull and two goats were offered. The High Priest would lay his hands on the head of the bull, confessing his sins and the sins of his household. He would then take two identical goats (Leviticus 16:5) and draw lots: one that was inscribed “for the Lord” and the other inscribed “for Azazel” (scapegoat).
The goat on which the lot “for the Lord” fell would be sacrificed. This was the only time that the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies where he sprinkled the atoning sacrificial blood for the sins of Israel and the cleansing of the Tent of Meeting. The goat on which the lot “for Azazel” fell would be left alive to bear the sins of the nation. It would be sent into the wilderness.
The Temple Institute in Jerusalem is one of the nonprofit groups planning for the reinstatement of these korbanot in the end-time Third Temple.
It has already prepared all of the utensils required for the Kohanim (Priests) to carry out the formal sacrifices listed above, as required in the laws of Moses.
But why does God require such a system? When God gave Moses the sacrificial laws, the Israelites were already familiar with the concept, as sacrifice was commonly practiced in the nations and had been for some time.
The Scriptures speak of sacrifices offered by Cain and Abel and by Noah and his sons following the flood.
But the pagan sacrifices practiced during Moses’ time, including by the Canaanites and Egyptians, were often conducted in a horrific manner, such as the sacrifice of male children to the god Moloch.
God set parameters of the sacrificial laws to maintain a high degree of holiness. Through this system, He removed all elements of idolatry. The sacrificial system effectively saved the Israelites from the paganism of Egypt and the nations.
The Holy Intentions of Korbanot (Offerings)
Through korbanot, we return to God a portion of what is already His, since He owns everything in the world. To avoid the temptation of increasing the size of the offering in order to attain greater favor, God gave clear parameters regarding the sacrifice. (Aish)
By chanting psalms and playing instruments, the Levites and musicians prepared a spiritual atmosphere that would motivate sinners to worship and praise God as they repented of their sins, rather than merely perform a ritual. Such rituals without repentance are not pleasing to God. (Chabad)
Sacrifice is meant to be a deeply spiritual and personal act.
It is thought that the sprinkled blood on the altar represented a person’s passions and the burnt fat, pleasure. Through sacrifice, we are making sure that our passions and pleasures are righteous and holy rather than carnal and sinful.
In this line of thinking, the animal brought to slaughter for the korban was symbolic of our own inner self, our instincts and our base primal desires. Through our physical sacrifices (such as financial offerings and fasting) and spiritual sacrifices (such as prayer and turning from sin) we are bringing our entire being, including our bodies, into alignment with God’s will. (Chabad)
That alignment allows us to draw near to God, which is the meaning of the Hebrew root of korban — K-R-B. Therefore, the primary function for each of our physical and spiritual sacrifices is to draw us closer to God.
The apostle Paul highlighted this when he told the new Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) to offer themselves as a living sacrifice, perhaps an Olah:
“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13; see also Romans 12:1)
Yeshua, Our Unblemished Korban Pesach
“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. … The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.” (Exodus 12:3–6)
In Temple times, each family sacrificed an unblemished lamb for the ceremonial meal in remembrance of the first Passover when the lamb’s blood was placed on the doorposts of the homes of the faithful in Egypt the night before they left Pharaoh’s enslavement.
No bone of this lamb was to be broken and no portion was to remain uneaten. (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; John 19:36)
All those who “covered” their homes with the blood of this Pesach lamb were spared the death of their firstborn when the Angel of Death “passed over” their homes.
Later, however, this sacrifice could only be performed “in the place He will choose as a dwelling for His Name [that is, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem].” (Deuteronomy 16:6; See also Exodus 20:24; Leviticus 17:3–6)
With the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, performing an authentic Korban Pesach as prescribed by God is no longer possible.
Today, the Passover Seder (ritual Passover meal) is in some aspects a temporary substitute for this important sacrifice. In fact, in Yeshua’s day, the Seder already contained established traditions, although some perhaps grew in significance after the destruction of the Temple.
We know that Yeshua participated in both the Scriptural and the traditional observance of the Passover Seder, during which He revealed that He was the fulfillment of this holiday:
“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:17–19)
One important tradition found in the Jewish Oral Laws recorded in the Mishnah (in Pesahim 119a) describes the matzah (unleavened bread) replacing the Passover sacrificial lamb. One piece of matzah is broken in two during the Seder and one half is saved as the last thing eaten at the meal (dessert).
That matzah is found on the Seder table in a grouping of three special matzot. One half of the middle matzah is eaten and the remaining half is hidden in the house. The children at the table search for it and receive a prize for its discovery. This hiding of the middle matzah, called the Afikoman, can be seen as symbolic of Yeshua resting (hiding) two nights and a day in the grave before being raised up (discovered).
Therefore, the Afikoman, which is Greek for “that which comes after” or “dessert” may in fact be a profound symbol of Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, hidden in the traditional Seder.
Some believe that the Afikoman was a new tradition added by the early followers of Yeshua. But even during Yeshua’s day, many of these traditions seemed to have been already developed.
When Yeshua broke the matzah and shared it with His disciples the night before His own sacrifice, He symbolized for all that He would become the Korban Pesach and that His blood would seal a new covenant for the forgiveness of sins and redeem the repentant sinner from the curse of the law.
“Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the Covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:27–28)
Yeshua, The Final Guilt Offering
Yeshua indicated during that final Passover Seder that He was the Suffering Servant of God who would “render Himself as a guilt offering [asham]. (Isaiah 53:10)
And as the Lamb of God, He would take away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)
He bore our sins upon His own body: “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
His sacrifice was once and for all:
“For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
We now have direct access to God our Father that no korban before Him could provide:
“…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Yeshua HaMashiach once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:10–12)
Yeshua paid a high price for our sins, suffering terribly on the Roman execution stake. But the forgiveness that His sacrifice ensures does not help us unless we turn to God and sincerely repent (change our behavior) and get back on the path that God has for us.
May His offering on our behalf cause us to draw near and give ourselves more fully to the God of Israel, who loves each of us so much that He provided the Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, to bring salvation to all who would come to Him.