Since Jews haven’t accepted Christ as having come and as being their Messiah, why aren’t they still sacrificing animal offerings today?
There are several factors. First, having been taken captive to Babylon, the Jews were hindered from sacrificial worship. Although their later return from captivity resulted in sacrificial worship to a degree (Ezra 6:19–22), that practice ebbed as well. From that time forward, synagogue and rabbinical worship began to take its place, although we know that some sacrificing was still being done in Jesus’ time (Luke 2:21–24). The birth of the early New Testament Christian church resulted in Jews’ turning to Christ; thus these people left Jewish traditions and sacrifices too (Hebrews 10:26). Then the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 certainly added to this ceasing of sacrificing, since the temple was destroyed in the process.
So we might say that the dispersion of the Jews, the conversion of Jews to Christ, plus the destruction of the temple primarily caused the demise of sacrificial worship. Sacrifices couldn’t be offered anywhere except at the holy temple (1 Kings 9:3). However, repentance can be substituted for sacrifices (Psalm 51:16, 17; Hosea 14:2).
Too, the Jews were often unfaithful in the sacrifices and feasts, even in the centuries before the Captivity. During the time of the prophets, these men of God would reprimand the Jews for their backslidden condition (Isaiah 43:22–24). Today’s attitudes concerning convenience, slaughter, and animal rights would affect people’s worship in this way, as well; and these attitudes would go back quite a ways.
Sacrificial worship may be revived in the rebuilding of the temple, which hasn’t been built because Muslims control the spot where the temple is to be. It appears, though, that the temple will be rebuilt before the Antichrist comes on the scene (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Just how future temple sacrificial worship will play our remains to be seen. Ezekiel 45 and 46 speak of millennial sacrifices being observed. They will look back upon Christ’s atoning work, a memorial.
This article appeared in the “Q & A” column of the Baptist Bulletin (November 2005) by Norman A. Olson.