The Sacrifices Performed in the Millennial Temple are in Harmony with That of the Messiah


Many critics of the literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of prophecy attempt to discredit the hermeneutic by claiming that to believe in future animal sacrifices results in heresy and/or contradiction.  Let it be made clear: it is never a heresy to hold to authorial intent or to take God’s Word at face value.  If anything, it is so often the case that the doubting of God’s plain Word leads to heresies.  The supposed contradiction is with Hebrews 10:1-18, which teaches that the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover all sins.  Truly, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Heb. 10:11).  Reconciling future animal sacrifices with the atonement brought by Christ is only a prima facie or surface level problem.  The sacrifices performed in the Millennial Temple are in full harmony with that of Jesus.  Their simultaneous realities in no way discredit the literal interpretation of Scripture, including prophecy.  To some, this harmony is not immediately evident. Some explanation is helpful, and at the same time instructive on millennial worship.


What needs to be immediately understood is that the sacrificing of animals never provided the propitiation that resulted in eternal life.  Alva McClain explained, to the objection that a renewal of ‘expiatory’ animal sacrifices is unthinkable and would deny the complete efficacy of our Lord’s atoning death, the reply is very simple: no animal sacrifice in the Bible has ever had any expiatory efficacy.[1]  The blood of the animals simply had, and will have, a different purpose.  This is true whether the critic realizes it or not because there is a simple and logical difference between Messiah’s blood and that of sacrificed animals. There is no reason to believe that this will change in the Millennium. Even with this in mind, an understanding of the sacrifices based on Hebrews 10 alone could lead to the conclusion that there cannot be any animal sacrifices in the future.  However, to understand an issue completely we must look to all Scripture has to say on the matter.  Ezekiel is just as much a part of God’s Word as Hebrews is.  The prophet’s writings are inspired and cannot be read as meaning anything other than what they plainly say unless there is a clear and distinct internal mandate to do so.

Ezekiel 43:18-27 speaks directly to the nature of the sacrifices that will occur.  The passage begins with God telling the prophet that on the day the altar is built that burnt offerings are to be made in addition to sprinkling blood upon it (v. 18).  Blood from a young bull is to be put on the altar’s horns, on its corners and on the border around it (vv. 19-20).  By putting the blood on the altar in this way it is to make atonement for it (v. 20). The atonement here could either mean that the altar has been saved and has eternal life, or it could just mean that the LORD can accept it.  Because the altar is an inanimate object, this type of atonement obviously indicates the latter option.  Various uses of atonement do not all speak to that which Jesus provides the saints.  And so it is with Ezekiel’s use of atonement in his narrative on temple sacrifices.

Any normal reading of the text lends to the understanding that the blood from animal sacrifices only gives a meager type of atonement when contrasted to Christ.  On this lesser form of atonement, Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote, Though there is a translation of two Hebrew words, but one of them, kaphar, is generally in view and it is used about seventy times.  Its meaning is ‘to cover.’  This, the distinct and limited meaning of the Hebrew word, should not be invested with New Testament ideas, which contemplate a finished or completed work.[2]  As such, it is certainly not a contradiction to say that atonement will occur by the blood of animals during the Millennium.

Ezekiel further discusses the sacrifice of a goat and how the same use of its blood is supposed to follow the pattern of the bull in cleansing the altar (v. 22).  There are still more animals that must undergo ritual acts including being salted and burned (vv. 21, 23-25).  After seven days of animal sacrifices the altar is finally consecrated (v. 26).  Afterward, the priests are to offer burnt and peace offerings every day.  As long as the sacrifices are maintained the LORD God will accept the people (v. 27).  This is useful in understanding the millennial sacrifices, because it is clear that they result in the LORD simply accepting certain people in a limited manner and for a limited time.  It does not in any way teach that they have now gained the same sort of propitiation as one would through the blood of the Messiah.


The sacrifices described in Ezekiel are an integral part of the narrative.  If they are not to be taken literally then much of the final chapters of the book must be understood allegorically or vaguely symbolic.  Ezekiel would then become a very unusual book, as it is doubtful that the animal sacrifices discussed in relation to previous temples or the Tabernacle would be taken as allegory by any evangelical scholars.  Furthermore, Ezekiel’s description of sacrifices correspond quite well with other Biblical accounts on the matter.  At least four other prophets touch on these sacrifices to some extent.  The following examples cement the fact that the millennial sacrifices are a uniform teaching.  To dismiss all of their words as meaning something other than what they plainly say would result in several detailed swaths of Scripture being neglected or abused.


In Isaiah 56:6-8, the prophet writes of Gentiles partaking in the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom:

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”

Some Gentiles will work right alongside Jewish people in serving and loving the name of the LORD (v. 6).  This is exactly the kind of equality we would expect among those in the New Covenant.  However, it would have been an unthinkable partnership in Isaiah’s day.  Gentiles will be brought to Jerusalem’s mountain, being made joyful in the temple as they offer sacrifices.  These offerings are distinctly said to be acceptable on the LORD’s altar.  In that day, the temple will be known as a house of prayer for every nation (v. 7).  This level of participation in temple ordinances is quite astonishing.  There is no other time in history in which Gentiles could make legitimate sacrifices in the temple.  Sacrifices were not even acceptable from an Israelite who was not also a Levite (cf. Deut. 33:10).  Recall that when Saul attempted a sacrifice, God removed his throne (1 Sam. 13:9-14).  King Uzziah was struck with leprosy because he offered incense to the LORD (2 Ch. 26:18-21).  Because Gentile sacrifices have not yet been accepted, it can only be that they will be so in the future.  Previously, you were either born a Levite or you were not.  During the Millennium, God will make new priests and Levites (Is. 66:21).  He will not only ingather the dispersed of Israel but will add to them ingathered Gentiles (v. 8).  Ezekiel places this final ingathering of the Jews and their inclusion in the New Covenant shortly before he considers the future sacrifices (Ezek. 36:24-27).  Isaiah’s narrative on temple sacrifices complements Ezekiel’s remarkably well, assuring us that the prophets agree.

A peculiar account that speaks of millennial sacrifices happening elsewhere is found in Isaiah 19:18-21:

In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.  In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border.  It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them.  And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them.

The five cities represent the whole of Egypt in the millennial Day of the LORD.  All of the inhabitants will speak Hebrew, the language of the Promised Land. (v. 18).  The City of Destruction, likely called so on account of the blood previously spilled there, is referred to as the City of the Sun in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Targums and some other manuscripts.  This is Heliopolis, a city where sacrifices used to be made to the sun-god Ra.  In the Millennium an altar will be erected, not for Ra, but for the LORD God (v. 19).  The altar will serve as a tribute and memorial to the LORD out of gratitude for Him sending Egypt a Savior, the Messiah Jesus (v. 20).  This follows the pattern of Abraham building an altar to the LORD out of appreciation and commitment to the LORD (Gen. 12:8; Jos. 22:34; 24:26-27), and that of Jacob raising a stone pillar in honor of his covenant with God (Gen. 28:22).  The LORD will reveal Himself to the Egyptians and they will come to personally know Him.  They will worship their Creator with sacrifices and offerings (v. 21).  Where once a city was dedicated to offering sacrifices to a false God, it will come to offer sacrifices to the one true God.  The Egyptians will not make these offerings to point to what the Savior will do, but out of remembrance for what He has done.


A key passage on the sacrifices relating to the Messiah reigning from David’s throne is found in Jeremiah 33:14-18:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’  “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

A promised time of future blessing is coming in which the King Messiah, a descendant of David, will rule in justice and righteousness on the earth (vv. 14-15; cf. Jer. 23:5).  Israel will finally be able to live in safety by virtue of the righteous Messiah ruling in Jerusalem (v. 16; cf. Jer. 23:6).  Jesus will fulfill the Davidic Covenant by sitting on the throne of the house of Israel (v. 17; cf. 2 Sam. 7:13).  Therefore, the priests will always have a man to present burnt and grain offerings and sacrifices before (v. 18).  Clearly the Messiah will not have a problem with these sacrifices somehow contradicting what He has done on the cross.  Verse 17 is broadly believed to confirm the Davidic Covenant based on what it plainly says.  Therefore, the rest of the statement into verse 18 should be believed based on what it plainly says.  The text continues with the LORD telling Jeremiah that if he could disrupt the cycles of day and night then the Davidic Covenant could also be broken (Jer. 33:19-21).  The idea of the covenant being broken is presented as an absurdity.  And the sacrifices are a direct result of the Davidic Covenant being fulfilled.


The book of Zechariah examines several facets of eschatology, including the millennial sacrifices.  Zechariah 14:20-21:

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar.  And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.

Everything will be so holy in the millennial Jerusalem that even the common cooking pots will be as sacred as the bowls used to sprinkle blood on the altar (v. 20).  Anyone offering sacrifices will be permitted to use any cooking pot to boil them in (v. 21).  Zechariah 14 prophesies the Second Coming (v. 4) and the inauguration of the Messiah as King over all the earth (v. 9).  During His reign, representatives from the nations must travel there annually to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  Those nations ignoring this mandate to worship the King during this period will cease to have any rain fall on their land (vv. 16-17).  It will be a curse on them just as the plagues were on Egypt (vv. 18-19).  This illustrates that unbelievers living in the Millennium can keep God’s anger at bay through obedience.  Coming to worship the Messiah is a way to keep God from punishing you.  By applying this same line of reasoning to the verses that follow, it is natural to conclude that the millennial sacrifices may also keep God’s wrath away for a short period.


Finally, Malachi also mentions what can only be millennial sacrifices in 3:2-4:

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

After the Messiah returns, He will become a purifier of the sons of Levi (vv. 2-3).  He will burn off the priesthood’s impurities and wash them clean.  This will bestow upon them the righteousness that will be required in presenting sacrifices before the LORD (v. 3).[3]  The sacrifices will please the LORD as they did before the priesthood became the corrupted class Malachi knew (v. 4).  The prophet expects a time in which sacrifices will be re-instituted in a state of purity, taking place after the coming of the Lord Jesus and under His auspices.


In more than satisfactorily answering this question, Thomas Ice explained:

We do not believe that re-instituting sacrifices in a future dispensation will be a return to the Mosaic system of the Old Covenant. The Mosaic Law has forever been fulfilled and discontinued through Christ (Rom. 6:14-15; 7:1-6; 1 Cor. 9:20-21; 2 Cor. 3:7-11; Gal. 4:1-7; 5:18; Eph. 2-3; Heb. 7:12; 8:6-7, 13; 10:1-14). The millennium will be a time in which Israel’s New Covenant will become the ruling jurisdiction (Deut. 29:4; 30:6; Isa. 59:20-21; 61:8-9; Jer. 31:31-40; 32:37-40; 50:4-5; Ezek. 11:19-20; 16:60-63; 34:25-26; 36:24-32; 37:21-28; Zech. 9:11; 12:10-14). Therefore, it will not be a time of returning to the old but of going forward to the new. “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also” (Heb. 7:12).[4]

Ice identified a glaring fallacy of composition: just because the sacrifices will be reinstituted does not mean that the entirety of the Mosaic Covenant will be as well.  The New Covenant made the Mosaic Covenant obsolete (Heb. 8:13).  The verses provided by Ice make it plain that the New Covenant is the governing agreement over law and practice in the Millennial Kingdom.  In fact, sacrifices being made under the New Covenant reveal their distinction and unique purposes in a radically different age.  And what is done under the New Covenant cannot be rightly understood as a return to the Mosaic, for the two are incompatible.

Also important in understanding that no return to the Mosaic system is being envisioned is that the sacrifices described in Ezekiel are quite different than those administered under the Mosaic Covenant.  Many of these differences are made apparent when juxtaposing the consecration of the altar in Exodus 29:1-37 against the consecration of the altar in Ezekiel 43:18-27.  For example, in the Mosaic system, no goats were offered, while in the Ezekiel system a goat is offered on each of the seven days (Ezek. 43:25).  Another example is that the Mosaic called for applying blood on the horns of the altar (Ex. 29:12), while Ezekiel’s instruction goes further with the blood also being applied to the corners and on the border around it (Ezek. 43:20).

Other differences between the two sacrificial systems are found throughout Scripture.  Most notably is that in the Mosaic System the Ark of the Covenant played a critical role, while it will not be missed or even remembered in the Millennium (Jer. 3:16).  The Ark was only ever a placeholder for the Messiah.  In the Mosaic, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies (e.g. Heb. 9:7).  In Ezekiel’s system, all priests are permitted to enter (Ezek. 44:15-16).  In the Mosaic, only a Levite could be a priest, while Isaiah prophecies a time when Gentiles will occupy the office (Is. 66:18-21).  In the Mosaic, Passover ordinances were performed by the male head of house (Ex. 12:3), while Ezekiel mandates that the Prince oversees the feast for the nation as a whole (Ezek. 45:21-24).  There are still many more differences to be observed in Ezekiel.[5]  It was these very differences that kept the rabbis from accepting Ezekiel into the Hebrew Canon for some time.[6]  These differences highlight the fact that the prophet obviously foresaw a new system and not a return to the old.      



The first of two likely purposes for sacrifices in the Millennium is that they are performed as a memorial of Jesus’ death on the cross.  John Whitcomb explained:

Even in the age of grace, God deems it necessary for Christians to be reminded of the awful price that Jesus paid, through the symbolism of the bread and the cup. Drinking of this “cup of blessing” (1 Cor.10:16) does not involve a re-offering of the blood of Christ in contradiction to the Book of Hebrews, but serves as a powerful “remembrance” of Christ and a powerful proclaiming of “the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:25-26). Likewise, in the context of distinctive Israelite worship, the five different offerings, four of them with blood-shedding, will serve as a constant reminder to millennial Jews (who will not yet be glorified) of the awful and complete sacrifice which their Messiah, now present in their midst, had suffered centuries before to make their salvation possible. In view of the fact that there may be no other bloodshed in the entire world, because of a return of semi-Edenic conditions (cf. Isa. 11:6-9), such sacrifices upon the Temple altar would be doubly impressive.[7]

In the observance of the Lord’s Supper or Communion, we demonstrate the death of Jesus as a way to remind us of what He has done.  Likewise, the millennial sacrifices will look back to the death of the Messiah just as the Mosaic sacrifices looked forward.  After faith, so much of what God wants from us is to simply remember Him and His deeds.  Future temple offerings will implement the principle of observing communion on full display for the world.  There will not be any getting away from the regular spilling of blood in a world otherwise free of such violence.

The Biblical evidence for shadows that looked forward to the works of the Messiah later being used to look back at them is not limited to Communion observance.  Passover was a picture of the blood of Jesus becoming a mercy seat for those who received Him by faith (e.g. Rom. 3:23-25).  Passover will be observed in the Millennium and it will require sacrifices (Ezek. 45:21-24).  Passover pointing to the shed blood of the Messiah will not change and the animal blood will play a part in that remembrance.  This signals that the animal sacrifices in general are for the same overall purpose.  Paul taught that both the feasts and the Sabbaths are shadows of the things to come, with their substance being found in Christ (Col. 2:16-17).  The apostle also wrote that it was still acceptable to observe them (Rom. 14:5).  Some feasts and Sabbaths were not rendered useless simply because Jesus had fulfilled what they were looking forward to.  The feasts and Sabbaths will be observed in the Millennium (e.g. Ezek. 44:24; Zech. 14:16), and would of course remain as shadows of the Messiah’s great works.  It is most reasonable to conclude that the millennial sacrifices will also continue to point to the Messiah.

Horatius Bonar, the 19th century Scottish minister and hymn writer, ended his treatment of this subject with the following powerful summation:

The temple, the worship, the rites, the sacrifices, have all their centre in the Lamb that was slain.  To Him they point, and to Him they speak.  Why should they not be allowed to do so in the millennial age, if such be the purpose of the Father?  They are commemorative not typical.  They are retrospective then, not prospective, as of old.  And how needful will retrospection be then, especially to Israel?  How needful, when dwelling in the blaze of a triumphant Messiah’s glory, to have ever before them some memorial of the cross, some palpable record of the humbled Jesus, some visible exposition of his sin-bearing work, in virtue of which they have been forgiven, and saved, and loved,-to which they owe all their blessedness and honour,-and by means of which, God is teaching them the way in which the exceeding riches of His grace can flow down to them in righteousness.  And if God should have yet a wider circle of truth to open up to us out of His word concerning His Son, why should he not construct a new apparatus for the illustration of that truth?[8]   


The second likely purpose for sacrifices in the Millennium is that they will appease God for a time and keep Him and His home pure in the midst of a still sinful world.  The most operative passage on this topic is Ezekiel 45:18-20:

“Thus says the Lord God: In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a bull from the herd without blemish, and purify the sanctuary.  The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and the posts of the gate of the inner court.  You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple.

On the very first day of the year, the blood of a perfect bull must be used to cleanse the temple (vv. 18-19).  This suggests that over the previous year, the sin from outside will begin to dirty the temple.  The same ritual is repeated six days later to cover those sins committed out of ignorance or by accident (v. 20).  This not only reminds us that the Messiah must keep His home separate, but also that the annual making of atonements or house cleanings are only temporarily effective.

When the Messiah returns He will do so as the Lion (Rev. 5:5), ruling with a rod of Iron (Rev. 19:15).  He will not allow sin to go unchecked in the same realm where His holiness will reside.  Put simply, the King will not tolerate sin in the Kingdom.  And yet, there will be sinners living throughout the Millennium.  This includes children born to parents (Is. 65:20; Ezek. 47:22), that do not have glorified bodies and thus retain their sin nature (cf. Rom. 5:12).  In explaining how the blood of the Messiah purifies the conscience from dead works, animal sacrifices were said to ritually purify the flesh (Heb. 9:9-10, 13-14).  Just as the offering of animals will continue to point to the Messiah, so too will they continue to provide atonement in the form of ritual cleansing.  The sacrifices in this regard are essentially a stall tactic that allows for sinful people to live in the Messiah’s world until the sin-free Eternal State begins.


Messianic Temple experts John Schmitt and Carl Laney wrote: Ezekiel himself believed it was a reality and the future home of Messiah. Then, it becomes not heresy to believe that a Temple and sacrifices will exist; rather, it is almost a heresy to not believe this, especially because it is a part of God’s infallible word. The burden on us is to determine how it fits-not its reality.[9]  The profoundly simple reason to accept that there will be sacrifices in the Millennial Temple is because God said that there would be.  It is a colossal special plea to ignore all of the temple and sacrificial accounts as general allegories or vague “spiritual” teachings, from which any details are of little or no interest.  This does not afford Scripture the respect it deserves.  It is not the role of the student of Scripture to figure out why what God said is not really what He said (cf. Gen. 3:1).  Instead, the student should seek to understand how what God says fits together.  Only then, will he or she come to appreciate God’s Word as a whole.


[1] Alva McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: Moody Press, 2009), 250.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), 25.

[3] The sons of Levi descending through Zadok will present the sacrifices (Ezek. 45:15) while the rest of the Levites will serve as temple caretakers (Ezek. 44:11, 14).

[4] Thomas Ice, Why Sacrifices in the Millennium, in the Pre-Trib Research Center, (accessed November 24, 2015).

[5] Arnold Fruchtenbaum lists some of these examples and more in The Footsteps of the Messiah (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2011), 456-457.

[6] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2011), 456.

[7] John Whitcomb, “The Millennial Temple of Ezekiel 40-48,” The Diligent Workman Journal (1994): 21.

[8] Horatius Bonar, The Coming and Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (Edinburgh: J. Rutherfurd, 1849), 222-223.

[9] John Schmitt and Carl Laney, Messiah’s Coming Temple: Ezekiel’s Prophetic Vision of the Future Temple (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), p. 181.




  1. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s articles (Ariel Ministries Magazine- Summer & Fall 2013) on this were very enlightening. They did more than confirm my vague assumptions, they challenged and corrected them.

    Thanks for this entry. I like the organization (dealing with individual prophets within their overall framework).

    • I was unaware that Arnold had so recently written on this subject. I will have to read the articles.

      Thank you for the encouragement brother.

      In Christ,

  2. A confusing mix of priesthoods and covenants. Resurrecting the Temple sacrifices now would only obscure not highlight Messiah’s finished work, even more than the Mass does, which at least points to its proper Author.

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      Thank you for the comment. Agreed that the Mass detracts from the work of Jesus being complete. I believe I dealt with your concern satisfactorily in looking to the nature of the sacrifices and that they were never of the same substance as Christ’s. Ultimately though the concern is how are we to understand several chapters of unfulfilled prophecy that describe sacrifices occurring? Appreciate you taking the time to read. Blessings to you brother.

  3. Excellent work. I have tried to explain this numerous times to my a millennial and preterits friends who just can’t wrap their mind around a future temple, let alone animal sacrifices that must accompany the feast and rituals. These are the Feast of the Lord are they not? Furthermore, I understand and conveyed that it is not about salvation, that these sacrifices do nothing for the people, but that it itself is pleasing to the Lord, when the heart of man is right with God. But, this is by far one of the best articles that put it altogether. Thanks again!

  4. Joyce gaurschi says:

    Also I believe they will be a teaching for israel to show them how Christ was the fulfillment of the sacrificial system.

  5. Mike Vlach says:

    This is well written.

  6. An excellent article, Matthew. Thanks much for your efforts. I plan to share this with my Revelation SS class on Sunday.

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