Animal Sacrifices in the Millennium
Three passages in the description of Ezekiel’s Temple are sometimes taken as justification for the belief that the practice of ritual sacrificing of animals to God, as known to ancient Israel, will be restored—and apparently continue permanently. There is no similar reference anywhere else in the Scriptures.
The impression stems from the literal interpretation of the entire passage describing the Temple of Ezekiel’s vision and all that is associated with it. Now although it has been fully demonstrated that the Temple as described by Ezekiel is an architectural possibility and could conceivably actually be built it is not necessary to insist that all the related portions of the vision must necessarily be interpreted literally, and cannot be accepted as metaphors for the spiritual truths characteristic of the Age which the Temple represents. In some cases a literal interpretation is physically impossible, as, for instance, in the case of the River of Life which flows from the Sanctuary. That river, says Ezekiel, flows into the Dead Sea and makes the salt water fresh, bringing life wheresoever it comes. That, as an expression of a spiritual truth, is a wonderfully apt simile; in practice no stream running into the Dead Sea could ever turn its saline waters fresh, for that salinity is caused by the minerals carried by the rivers themselves—at present principally the Jordan and the Arnon. The Dead Sea can only be made fresh by giving it an outlet to the ocean and this is not envisaged by Ezekiel.
There are fundamental objections to the idea of animal sacrifices in the next Age. In the first place such an institution would be a retrograde step—such practices were in line with the level of human development three or four thousand years ago but certainly not today or tomorrow. God’s distaste for sacrifices and offerings of that nature has long since been put on record and appreciated by devout men. The "sacrifices of a broken and contrite heart" and "the sacrifice of praise continually" are the offerings He desires and one cannot imagine his deriving much satisfaction from symbols of devotion fitted only to a semi‑barbaric people only just escaped from Egypt. (Psa.51:17; Heb.13:15)
A more telling point is the fact that in Ezekiel these sacrifices are sin‑offerings, burnt offerings and so on, presented as satisfaction for sin. But in that Age all offering for sin has long since been abolished. Christ gave himself for that purpose and from then onwards "there is no more offering for sin." (Heb.10:18) And in the Millennial Age, as in this present Christian Age, "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins." (Heb.10:4) This points to a symbolic rather than a literal application of these particular verses.
There is also the well‑known fact that every prophetic picture of the Millennial Age depicts it as a time when "they shall not hurt nor destroy" and the animal creation is at peace. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid"; "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. " (Isa.11:6‑9; 65:25) Such passages are likely to have a metaphorical intention much more important than the literal, but even so the general impression of order and peace without the prevalence of violent death in all God’s earthly creation is predominant. And if there is in fact to exist such a condition of peace and harmony amongst the lower creation and still there persists the practice of animal sacrifice, then man has become the killer whilst the lion has become peaceful and this does not seem very logical.
All in all, it seems that Ezekiel’s description of sacrifice associated with the Temple worship is intended to show in a figurative manner how men will come spontaneously before God to acknowledge their faults and shortcomings of the past and declare their full acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ and their future whole‑hearted loyalty to him. The reality behind the symbols is found in those offerings of contrite hearts, of praise and prayer and devotion, which are so much better and mean so much more in the Lord’s sight than offerings of slain beasts.
If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.
Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings...
He shall offer one out of the whole oblation for an heave offering unto the LORD, and it shall be the priest’s that sprinkleth the blood of the peace offerings.
And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning.
But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten: but the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire. (Leviticus 7:11‑17)