There are teachings by some that the levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices will once again be placed into operation when Christ returns. This assumption is based on Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 40 – 48. Yet there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to support such claims. In fact, such ideology undermines the finished work of Jesus Christ because the sacrifices that Ezekiel references include the sin offering and are said to be for atonement (Ez 45:17 see also Ez 42:13 and 45:23).
Everything that Ezekiel saw was visionary in view of the pattern given to Moses which was only a type and a shadow. Therefore Ezekiel’s vision cannot refer to literal animal sacrifices in the Kingdom of Christ.
If Ezekiel’s vision applies to the millennium (a debatable topic) it certainly would not be predicting a return to animal sacrifices because that would go contrary to the whole counsel of scripture. It would mean a return to the shadow once the fulfillment has come.
The sacrificial system which employed animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ until he came and fulfilled all that was written of him. To suggest that we will return to the levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices is to suggest that we are returning to the old system that has been made obsolete. It also suggests a return to sacrifices for sins that could never take away sins after Christ has put away sin by the offering of Himself.
According to the scriptures, animal sacrifices were never desired by God and they never brought Him any pleasure. They were only given as a type and a shadow of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When Christ returns in all of his glory we will not be living in a Kingdom with types and shadows. We will be living in a Kingdom where the fullness of the light of the glory of God abounds.
When Jesus returns, he will come in all of his majesty, honor, and glory. According to the scriptures, the coming of Jesus is the “glorious appearing” of our great God and Savior. We will see him face to face, and we will be like him for we will see him as he is. The scriptures also tell us “we will appear with him in glory” (1 John 3:1-3, Phil 3:21, 1 Cor 13, Colossians 3:4).
Why would anyone be compelled to think that the glorious return of Christ will usher in a reinstatement of an obsolete system of worship which employed the offering of animal sacrifices? It is because of the lack of revelation of Jesus Christ!
It is not good idea to interpret scripture which was visionary in nature under the Old Testament with interpretive claims that are contrary to the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ. The New Testament writers are the authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament scriptures as they pertain to Jesus Christ. The ideology of a return to that which was only a foreshadowing of Christ now that Christ has come is a contrary to New Testament doctrine.
Many of the old testament prophecies have a spiritual fulfillment rather than a literal fulfillment. Many are symbolic of a greater truth. We have an example of this in Acts 15 when James says the following:
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; AS IT IS WRITTEN. After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”
If James had not said this someone could build a doctrine that the literal tent in which David placed the Ark of the Covenant would be rebuilt and we will worship the Lord there, or the literal Kingdom of David would be restored. Instead, James applies this particular old testament prophecy as being fulfilled in the salvation of the Gentiles.
It is so important to interpret the Old Testament scriptures in view of the revelation of Jesus Christ given to us by the New Testament writers.
The Old Testament sacrifices were only types and shadows pointing to a greater truth. The greater truth has been revealed and we are not going back to the shadow. We are not going back to animal sacrifices which never please God. It is Christ in whom God is pleased. He is our sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-14).
The writer of Hebrews tells us that as long as the first tabernacle/temple was standing wherein were offered animal sacrifices, the Holy Ghost was signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet manifested (Hebrews 9:8).
Those things which Ezekiel saw were based solely on the pattern given to Moses, and was only a figure or a foreshadowing of something much greater. Christ has entered that which is greater. With his own Blood he entered once and for all into the holy place of the greater and more perfect tabernacle (in the Heavens) and has obtained eternal redemption for us!