The Blood of Christ Across the Centuries
John the baptizer introduced Jesus Christ as “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). In the concluding book of the New Testament, the apostle John depicts the Lord as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8, KJV, ASVfn). “From the foundation of the world” means that the death of Christ was an atoning sacrifice decreed from the very beginning of creation.
The Lamb’s blood flows from the book of Genesis all the way through the book of Revelation, and there are valuable lessons all along the way.
The Blood of Christ in Type
A type is a shadow cast upon the pages of the Old Testament which finds it fulfillment in a New Testament reality. It suggests in symbolic, picture form a glorious reality in the future.
The blood of Jesus is first typically portrayed in the offering of Abel’s sacrifice. Abel, who walked by faith, hence, according to Jehovah’s instruction (Heb. 11:4; Rom. 10:17) brought an offering before the Lord “of the firstlings of his flock” (Gen. 4:4). But his brother Cain brought the “fruit of the ground.”
One was offered in obedience, the other in disobedience. One had blood, the other did not.
As Jehovah prepared to send the tenth plague upon the wicked Pharaoh and his people, he instructed the Israelites to select a male lamb or goat one year of age and without blemish.
It was to be confined for four days and then, on the fourteenth day of the first month, the whole congregation was to kill it in the evening, or literally, “between the two evenings” (ASVfn on Ex. 12:6) i.e., between the 9th and 11th hours (Josephus, Wars vi, ix, 3).
The Hebrews were to apply the animal’s blood to the side-posts and lintel of their houses, and the Lord promised:
“And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you” (Ex. 12:13).
Now the blood of that blemishless lamb was a type of Christ’s. Paul, by inspiration, declares:
“For our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ” (1 Cor.5:7).
Yes, the perfect Lamb without spot or blemish redeemed us (1 Pet. 1:19).
The Blood of Christ in Prophecy
In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul affirms that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.
Not only did the Old Testament narratives foretell the death of the Son of God, they prophesied that he would die in a violent manner which would involve the shedding of his blood.
Isaiah spoke of the lamb that was to be “led to the slaughter” (Is. 53:7). It was a slaughter!
Zechariah wrote of him who would be “pierced” (Zech. 12:10; cf. Ps. 22:16) and announced that in that day “there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).
There are many ways of dying that do not involve the shedding of blood, yet, for some reason, it was determined within the divine wisdom that Jesus must die in a manner which entailed the pouring forth of his blood.
Why was this do you suppose? The answer is supplied in Leviticus 17:11:
“For the life of the flesh in in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.”
Man, by virtue of sin, has forfeited his life (cf. Gen. 3:4; Rom. 5:12: Eph. 2:1). And so, consistent with both the mercy and justice of God (Eph. 2:4; Ps. 89:14), it was necessary that an innocent life (symbolized by the blood) be provided as an exchange for the guilty.
Paul discusses this matter somewhat in Romans 3. Of Jesus, he says:
“whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25, 26).
The writer of Hebrews states that “apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22), yet, “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:4).
So, if man is to have the opportunity for salvation, the Son of man must be lifted up, i.e., crucified (cf. Jn.3:14; 12:32).
There is another interesting passage in Isaiah 53:12 that deserves consideration here. The prophet says of Christ: “he poured out his soul unto death.”
The word “soul” translates the Hebrew
nephesh, literally meaning “life”. Note Genesis 1:30 where the beasts, birds, and creeping things are said to have “life” (see ASV fn).
According to Leviticus, quoted earlier, “the life (
nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood.” So, actually, Isaiah foretells that Jehovah’s suffering servant (Christ—Acts 8:35) would pour out his life (his blood) as a sin-offering (cf. Is. 53:10).
When the Lord was instituting the communion supper, of the fruit of the vine—a symbol of his blood—he said:
“this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28).
Perhaps Isaiah’s very words were in the Savior’s mind at this point.
The Blood of Christ in History
Pilate knew what was coming when he hypocritically washed his hands and said,
“I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; see ye to it” (Mt. 27:24).
But the people answered, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (mt. 27:25).
Accordingly, Jesus was delivered for crucifixion. His hands and feet were pierced (Ps. 22:16; Zech. 12:10; Lk. 24:39; Jn. 20:27). And after he was already dead, one of the soldiers attending his execution “with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water” (Jn, 19:34).
Christ paid the price for peace with God by means of the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20).
The Blood of Christ and Conversion
The New Testament affirms that the sinner is “justified by his [Christ’s] blood” (Rom. 5:9).
A point of controversy among religionists, however, is exactly when this occurs. Is it at the point of “faith alone” as alleged by many.
Or is it when obedient faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26) consummates itself in submitting to the command to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
It is the testimony of God’s word that the latter is true. This may be demonstrated in a variety of ways.
For instance, Hebrews 9:14 asserts that the human conscience is “cleansed” by means of the blood of Christ.
However, elsewhere Paul observes that the cleansing is accomplished “by the washing of water [admittedly baptism] with the word” (Eph. 5:26).
Moreover, Peter says that baptism in water “doth now save you” and that by it one appeals to God for that “good conscience” referred to in Hebrews 9:14 (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21; ASV fn).
Too, it is said that the saints “washed [
nipto – used of things] their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).
This agrees wonderfully with Acts 22:16 where Saul was commanded to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away
apolouo thy sins.”
The Blood of Christ in Christian Worship
Shortly before his death, Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:17-20). He intended that it be observed by Christians (i.e., in his kingdom—Lk.22:29, 30) upon each first day of the week.
The disciples met upon the first day of the week “to break bread” (an infinitive of purpose — Acts 20:7). But they were meeting “every first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2 — Greek text). Hence, the communion was observed every Sunday.
The supper was to consist of bread (which symbolized his body) and fruit of the vine (which represented his blood — cf. Deut. 32:14).
Neither the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (which says that the bread and juice turn into the body and blood of the Lord) nor the Lutheran idea of consubstantiation (the flesh and blood of Jesus are mingled with the communion elements) is true.
The Lord’s supper is simply a memorial service (1 Cor. 11:25) which looks back toward the cross and reminds us of the deed accomplished there.
Further, it proclaims his death in view of his second coming (1 Cor. 11:26). It is to be observed in a solemn manner, worthy of the great event it portrays (1 Cor. 11:27).
The Blood of Christ and Apostasy
The book of Hebrews was written to inoculate Hebrew Christians against an impending apostasy from Christianity back to Judaism. False teachers were working among the brethren suggesting that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah, hence, the Christian system should be abandoned.
In addressing this matter the inspired writer stresses the consequences of accepting such a doctrine. It was in effect to tread “under foot the Son of God,” to count “the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing,” and to “insult the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29).
In practical terms, the apostate treats the Lord’s blood as an “unholy thing.” “Unholy” translates the Greek
koinon, literally, “common” yet it may possibly also suggest the notion of “uncleanness” (cf. Acts 10:14).
This context speaks, of course, of those who high-handedly repudiate the Savior and renounce his deity, but could it not in a practical way also describe those who, by the style of their lives, tell the world that they really are no longer interested in living the Christian life?
Such people, though once loyal to the Christ, have long since ceased to treat his word with any respect, and their conduct testifies to the world of their disregard for Jesus’ blood.