The Problem of Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel 40-48 -- By: Jerry M. Hullinger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 152:607 (Jul 1995)
Article: The Problem of Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel 40-48
Author: Jerry M. Hullinger


The Problem of Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel 40-48

Jerry M. Hullinger

[Jerry M. Hullinger is a Bible teacher in Monticello, Illinois.]

One of the most difficult passages to harmonize with dispensational literalism is Ezekiel 40–48 .1 In these chapters Ezekiel recorded a vision of a new temple in which sacrificial ritual occurred. This immediately places the dispensationalist in a dilemma. If the temple is viewed as in the eschaton2 and the sacrifices are literal, then this seems to be at odds with the Book of Hebrews, which clearly states that Christ’s sacrifice has put an end to all sacrifice. If, on the other hand, the sacrifices are not accepted as literal, this seems to oppose one of the cornerstones of dispensationalism, namely, the normal interpretation of prophetic literature.

With the exception of Peters,3 most dispensationalists have

explained the sacrifices in Ezekiel 40–48 through what is known as “the memorial view.”4 According to this view the sacrifices offered during the earthly reign of Christ will be visible reminders of His work on the cross. Thus these sacrifices will not contradict the clear teaching of Hebrews, for they will not have any efficacy except to memorialize Christ’s death. The primary support for this view is the parallel of the Lord’s Supper. It is argued that just as the communion table looks back on the Cross without besmirching its glory, so millennial sacrifices will do the same.

On the surface this solution seems to solve the problem. However, a number of objections can be raised against it. First, Ezekiel nowhere stated or even hinted at the idea that these sacrifices will be memorial in nature. Second, Ezekiel specifically wrote that these offerings will make atonement (45:15, 17, 20). The word for “atonement” in Ezekiel is the same as the word used in Leviticus. Third, the parallel between sacrifices and the Lord’s Supper intimates that animal sacrifices had no efficacy whatsoever.

In light of the weaknesses of the memorial view, critics of dispensationalism have been quick to bring up the problem of Ezekiel 40–48. Crenshaw affirms that “the passage most commonly mentioned that represents great difficu...

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