What Can We Expect During the Millennium, Part 6?
Previously, we outlined the flavor of the upcoming Millennial Kingdom, which will occur immediately following the seven-year Tribulation, which will come to a close upon the physical return of our Lord Jesus from the heavenly realms. We covered the topic of A Renewed Jerusalem in part 5 and we now move onto cover the subject of A Renewed Temple, Priesthood, and Worship.
I believe it is extremely important for all Christians to understand as much prophetic discourse as revealed in Scripture as we possibly can. It serves a number of purposes. Too many people avoid the subject altogether because they find it confusing. It is only confusing when the wrong hermeneutic is used to understand God’s Word.
- It helps us understand and appreciate God’s sovereignty
- It helps us focus on things above, not here on earth
- It helps us understand that today is the day of salvation and we must be about the Father’s business spreading the gospel
- It causes us to become “purified” in our thinking, our actions, and our words (1 John 3:3)
The fact that there will be a physical Millennial Temple is clear from Scripture. This is seen in Ezekiel chapters 40 – 48. Though some individuals prefer to see any reference to such a temple as allegorical, we believe it is best to simply understand these Scriptures in their most plain, ordinary, and literal sense. That there will be a temple complete with sacrifices is an offense to many. They question how this could be since Jesus paid the price for sin when He was crucified. This is a point certainly worth nothing.
Ezekiel is not the only Old Testament prophet who saw a future, glorious Temple for God’s chosen people Israel, complete with animal sacrifices, in the Holy Land:
a) Prophecies of a Millennial Temple:
- Joel 3:18
- Isaiah 2:3
- Isaiah 60:13
- Daniel 9:24
- Haggai 2:7,9
b) Prophecies of animal sacrifices in the future Temple:
- Isaiah 56:6,7
- Isaiah 60:7
- Jeremiah 33:18
- Zechariah 14:16-21
Because the sin nature will still exist within individuals during the coming Millennial Kingdom, both by saved individuals entering into it at the start of it and those who are born during that time (and will need to receive Jesus as Savior the same way we must do so today), the sacrificial system implemented during the coming Millennial Kingdom will serve several purposes. It will primarily serve as a reminder of Christ’s tremendous sacrifice over 2,000 years ago that literally bought salvation so that it could be offered to all people. As we know, not everyone receives or embraces that salvation, with many entering into eternity without it.
What many fail to realize is that in some sense, times during the Millennial Kingdom will tend to revert somewhat back to the Old Testament times. With Jesus as Monarch, He will do things according to the Mosaic Law, to an extent. Of course, salvation will be gained then during the Millennium the same way it has always been received, through faith in Christ’s atoning work. Works did not help the Israelites gain salvation any more than our “works” today help gain salvation. Salvation has always been a free gift. Works plays no part in gaining salvation at all.
It is also important to understand that the people born during the coming Millennial Kingdom will have a unique vantage point regarding Jesus. Folks born during the Millennium will have no way of understanding what Jesus did for them unless they are shown and told. They certainly will have no firsthand knowledge of what life was like before or during the upcoming Tribulation, unless taught about it. They will be born into a society that is truly at peace, with no warring factions, which will seem odd to those born during the Millennium to learn that life prior to it was often filled with conflicts, wars, and seeming unending violence. But as we’ve stated, all forms of oppression will be nonexistent and Jesus Himself will see to that.
People born during the Millennial Kingdom will also need to be taught about Jesus, what He accomplished for us, the meaning of the sacrificial system itself and how it ultimately points to Jesus, and their personal need for salvation. It may be more difficult for people born during the Millennium reign of Jesus to receive salvation during that time than it is now because of the lack of problems faced during that upcoming time. Persecution often throws people to God. The lack of persecution in an environment that is truly peaceful may lead people to think that things are great and they don’t need anything further, and that may include the way they view salvation.
Think of how difficult it is for the average unsaved person today to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus in spite of problems and issues they face. They often laugh or scoff at the idea of need for a Savior. People born during the Millennium will be born into a global society that is virtually free of oppression and war. Can you imagine what that will be like? For those souls, the stated need for their salvation may seem very odd to them. Why would they need salvation when they have everything they could possibly want including long, healthy lives?
However, the Bible also makes it very clear that there will be a few potential difficulties between nations and possibly people at times. One of the ways these problems will be resolved, for the most part, is through the sacrificial system in operation at that coming time. Why will God use it, if Ezekiel 40 – 48 is to be taken literally?
Think of it this way. During the first century, while Jewish Christians were very well acquainted with the Mosaic Law and the Old Testament sacrificial system, Gentile Christians at that same time were generally not. They were often coming out of pagan practices of that day, which often included numerous forms of animal sacrifice. To many of these Gentile Christians, the practices of Judaism were on par with the pagan systems all around them that they were leaving as they became Christians. They had to be taught the true reality of the sacrificial system under Judaism. Paul and others in the New Testament took pen in hand to educate Gentile Christians as well as educating Jewish Christians that they should not put their faith in the sacrificial system. Yet Ezekiel indicates that a sacrificial system similar to the one under Moses will exist during the Millennium.
While Gentile converts to Christianity during the first century had to make an immediate break with their own previous pagan sacrificial rituals, because the offerings were to idols and false gods, they had to learn about the way the Old Testament sacrificial system was, in reality, pointing to the efficacy of Jesus and His perfect atonement on one hand, but they also had to learn what, if any benefit was gained by Israelites who used it. Aside from pointing to Jesus, were there any practical reasons why God used the sacrificial system under Moses? Did it personally benefit individual worshipers of Israel or the nation of Israel at all, or was all of it done to point the way to Jesus?
As Dr. Randall Price notes, “It is Protestant and evangelical Christianity that has the greatest difficulty with the return of animal sacrifices in a future temple. Here it is popularly assumed to be equivalent to a denial of the finality and sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice…If Christ’s sacrifice was the final sacrifice, it is argued, then the need for animal sacrifices ended at the cross, and any resumption of this system is a return to Mosaic legislation which repudiates the completed work of Christ (see John 19:30)…For this reason, it is thought, a return to sacrifices in the future can only be interpreted as a return to Judaism and a renunciation of Christianity.” 
The reality though is that the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic system of legislation were something far greater than being a convenience (notes Dr. Price), for human beings in their approach to God. “As sacrifices they function in the service of their Creator to preserve sanctity and restore the divine order. Furthermore, they were not offered capriciously out of a desire to harm animals or for personal pleasure, since financial loss is incurred by their sacrifice, but in obedience to God’s commandments and to please Him. For this reason, such objections are of no consequence to ultra-Orthodox (or Hasidic) and many Orthodox Jews. They accept Maimonides’ 13 Articles of Faith and his legal code, which envision a return to animal sacrifice and the literal building of the Third Temple on Mt. Zion.” 
The only thing that every student of the Bible must decide for themselves is whether all the references to the sacrificial system in the last nine chapters of Ezekiel (except chapter 47) are to be understood as literal or allegorical. As Dr. Price and other conservative scholars note (like Dr. Thomas Constable in his Notes, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum in Footsteps of the Messiah, and others), this decision will have tremendous theological implications and should not simply be a decision that is decided upon with haste or as a matter of fact. Price quotes the late German prophetic scholar Erich Sauer, who stated:
We stand here really before an inescapable alternative: Either the prophet himself was mistaken in his expectation of a coming temple service, and his prophecy in the sense in which he himself meant it will never be fulfilled; or God, in the time of Messiah, will fulfill literally these prophecies of the temple according to their intended literal meaning. There is no other choice possible. 
If we understand the institution of the sacrificial system during the Millennial Kingdom as literal, then the question needs to be asked as to the purposes of those sacrifices. Dr. Randall Price posits that the reason for these renewed sacrifices during the Millennial Kingdom is ceremonial purification and substitution. It cannot be shown from Scripture that the Israelites viewed the sacrifices as pointing forward to the perfect atonement of Jesus. Certainly from God’s perspective, this was always the case, but it is not something He necessarily revealed to those living at the time the sacrificial system was first instituted.
At best it could be biblically stated that the Israelites understood that when they brought an animal as a sacrificial offering, there was a transference through identity. This is why the Israelite would place his hand on the animal.
“This rite symbolized an investiture of identity (understood from transfers of human authority – see Numbers 8:5-11; 27:18-23) so that the animal now stood representatively in the place of the owner himself (see Leviticus 8:14, 18, 22). The Jewish sage Nachmanides explained this act as something of an ‘execution in effigy,’ for the burning of each body part of the animal and the sprinkling of the blood is reckoned as if it were the person’s own. In his commentary on Leviticus 1:9 he then goes on to express the penal nature of the substitution involved…according to Nachmanides’ interpretation, the sacrificial rite should be understood as the punishment the owner should have rightly received and viewed by him as a punitive act against his own body. The idea of substitution is strengthened by the fact that blood is shed as part of the sacrifice – especially the burnt offering…” 
This is a complex subject that Ezekiel writes about as it relates to the Millennial Temple and the sacrificial system that will exist during that time. The prophet covers the following sacrifices:
- Burnt offering (Ezekiel 40:38-39, 42; 43:18, 24, 27; 44:11; 45:15, 17, 23, 25; 46:2, 4, 12-13, 15)
- Sin offering (Ezekiel 40:39; 42:13, 19, 21-22, 25; 44:27, 29; 45:17, 19, 22-23, 25; 46:20)
- Guilt offering (Ezekiel 40:39; 42:13; 44:29; 46:20)
- Grain offering (Ezekiel 42:13; 44:29; 45:15, 17, 24-25; 46:5, 7, 11, 14-15, 20)
- Peace offering (Ezekiel 43:27; 45:15, 17; 46:2, 12)
We know that these sacrifices were made “by those who were in covenant relationship with God that required obedience as part of its stipulations and especially the maintenance of ceremonial purity so that the relationship (or fellowship) could continue between a Holy God and a sinful people…it is clear that while the offerings symbolized something, they also accomplished something that was more than symbolic. They had a particular efficacy in either rendering the worshiper or the sacred objects of worship as ceremonially acceptable.” 
Ultimately, the sacrifices offered were efficacious in removing ritual impurity so that the worshiper was again able to approach God. Dr. Price notes that the best way to understand the word “atonement” is that it actually purified or cleansed the worshiper due to its wider usage in Leviticus.
We’ll continue this next time and then move onto the next item in this list we noted in our previous installment in this series.
 The Temple and Bible Prophecy, Dr. Randall Price (1999, Harvest House), pp. 535-536
 Ibid, p. 539
 Ibid, p. 540
 Ibid, p. 551
 Ibid, p. 553
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