A vital question is asked by Isaac in Genesis 22:7: “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” That same question needs to be addressed to the religious world today, when the pulpit has largely departed from the propitiatory blood of God’s appointed and provided Lamb. This should not be the case. The inspired scriptures give a very clear answer to the question, “Where is the Lamb?” It sets before us the principle of blood shedding for acceptance with God.
The blood is introduced on the altar of Abel (Genesis 4:4). The principle of a blood sacrifice is first implied in Genesis 3:21, where blood was shed and a righteous covering was provided for sinful Adam and Eve. Abel demonstrated the principle when he brought of the firstlings of his flock (no doubt lambs) to offer a blood sacrifice to God because of his sin. The blood of a lamb is introduced here as an absolute necessity for a sinner’s acceptance with God (Hebrews 11:4).
The blood is typified in all of Israel’s altars in the Old Testament. Consider the example in Genesis 22. Isaac’s greatest need was a lamb for a burnt offering. Without it Isaac must die for his own sins. The words of verse 13 are vital to a true understanding of the vicarious nature and necessity of atonement by blood. The ram must die in the place of Isaac. How clearly this teaches the doctrine of substitution and satisfaction. The centrality and necessity of the lamb appears again in Exodus 12 on the Passover night. They were to take a lamb for an house, kill it, and sprinkle its blood on the side posts and lintel of the door. And God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you,” emphasizing the principle of shed blood. Shelter and covering from death and judgment are possible only by the blood of an offered lamb. All the sacrifices of the tabernacle and temple likewise demonstrated the principle of blood shedding. Leviticus 17:11 teaches the central principle of these sacrifices: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” The life is in the blood and in order for that life to be given and taken the blood must be shed. So likewise in order that Christ’s covenant people in union with Him might be justified and saved, the life of Christ in His incorruptible blood must be offered.
The blood is fulfilled in the offering of Christ upon the cross. John the Baptist introduces God’s provided Lamb in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:29). He is the perfect fulfilment of all the lambs on Jewish altars slain. The Lord Himself at the last supper underlines the principle of the blood in relation to the covenant: “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many” (Mark 14:24). The eternal covenant is now confirmed and sealed with the Saviour’s blood as His life is yielded up as a ransom for many. The blood of God’s incarnate Son had been shed, the law of God was perfectly fulfilled, the wrath of a sin hating God had been propitiated, the guilt of every believer’s sins expiated, and the soul gloriously reconciled to God and by faith clothed in righteousness divine.
The blood is magnified in the ministry of the saints and apostles. The principle of the blood occupied a unique place in the ministries of the saints and apostles. The apostle Paul speaks of the attribution of the blood in Acts 20:28, saying God purchased the church with “his own blood.” This is a remarkable statement that only the Holy Spirit could make. The blood is properly related to the human nature of Christ and yet the union of the two natures in Christ are so related that what is proper to the human is addressed by the name of the divine. Does this not underline the value and efficacy of Christ’s precious blood? In Ephesians 1:6–7 Paul speaks of the acceptance of the blood. Our acceptance in the beloved rests upon the redemption we have in His blood. In the book of Hebrews we have the ascendancy of the blood; Christ’s blood ascends far above all the sacrifices of the Old Testament (Hebrews 9:12, 24).The apostle Peter speaks of the attribute of the blood, its sinlessness, in 1 Peter 1:18–19: “The precious blood of Christ” was “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” John the apostle speaks of the agency of the blood: it “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7–10).
Finally, the blood is glorified on the throne of God in glory. In Revelation 5:6–14 John answers our opening question for the last time. Where is the Lamb? He is in the midst of the throne in glory.
Christ and His blood is and will be the theme of the song of the glorified saints for all eternity. Unto Him be all glory “that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5–6).
Rev. James Beggs is minister emeritus of J. Kyle Paisley Memorial FPC and lectured in Systematic Theology at the Whitefield College of the Bible in Northern Ireland for 32 years until his retirement in 2012.