Old Testament Christ symbolism: the burnt offering.

In the first five chapters of Leviticus, God gave the people of Israel a system of sacrifices—a burnt offering, a meal offering (or tribute offering), a peace offering, a sin offering and a guilt offering. “This was the Old Testament way of gaining access to God and was the way of maintaining fellowship with the Lord” (Edwards, 109). What is sometimes less easy to see to many new Christians and casual Bible readers is that these sacrifices also symbolically represented Christ.

Let us take a closer look at one example of Christ symbolism—that of the burnt offering.

First, we can more easily see the symbolism of the animal itself that is to be burnt on the offering. As The Lord instructed, a male without blemish was to be presented and was to be accepted on behalf of a person’s sins. Christ, who had no sin, became sin for us, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

This sacrifice is sometimes referred to as “The Whole Burnt Offering” simply because it is a whole, not part, of an animal. This symbolizes Christ, who was wholly devoted to God (John 8:29), and who sacrificed his whole self, his whole body. In the same sense, the aroma of the burnt offering was pleasing to God, reflecting the affectionate devotion Christ had to the Father.

In addition, according to Scofield, “The non-sweet savour offerings typify Christ as bearing the whole demerit of the sinner. Both are substantial. In our place Christ, in the burnt-offering, makes good our lack of devotedness, and, in the sin- and trespass-offerings, suffers because of our disobediences” (biblestudytools.com).

Scofield also points out the symbolism of burning the offering. Fire has had different distinctions throughout the Bible: judgment (Hell; Rev. 20:15); the manifestation of God Himself (Exodus 3:2, 13:21); and purification (1 Cor. 3:12-14).

Here, fire and wholeness go hand in hand. “So, in Leviticus, the fire which only manifests the sweet savour of the burnt-, meal-, and peace- offerings, wholly consumes the sin-offering” (Scofield, biblestudytools.com).

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