The Old Testament sacrificial system served as an illustration of substitutionary atonement. An innocent, spotless, unblemished lamb would be sacrificed as a substitute in the place of sinning Israelites. This served only as an illustration because it was impossible that the execution of an innocent animal could legally and actually be a substitute for guilty capital offenders. The Bible says, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). We all understand this. We know that it would be wrong to set free a death-row-convict by executing an animal in his place.
No one was ever saved simply because he participated in the Old Testament sacrificial system. Only those that understood and believed that the lamb being sacrificed was an illustration of an innocent, sinless, perfect man who would come and die for their sins were saved. These were saved by grace through faith in the coming Christ. By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice (Hebrews 11:4). What was Abel’s offering? Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock . . . . (Genesis 4:4). Abel understood and believed that the lamb he offered was an illustration of an innocent, sinless, perfect man who would come and crush the devil’s head and whom God had promised to send (Genesis 3:15).
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac . . . He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type” (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham understood and believed that the Lamb of God would be an innocent, sinless, perfect man. As Abraham and Isaac were walking to Mount Moriah where Abraham was going to offer Isaac as a burnt offering by God’s command, Isaac asked his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering” (Genesis 22:7)? “Abraham said, ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son’” (Genesis 22:8). Abraham was not speaking of the ram caught in the thicket that day (Genesis 22:13) but of the Lamb who some 2000 years later would be an innocent, sinless, perfect man walking up the same spot carrying the wood for the offering on His back (Genesis 22:6; John 19:17). And instead of a ram caught in a thicket by his horns that would be offered up in His place, this Man’s head was caught in a thicket with a cruel crown of thorns pressed around his brows because He was the offering (Genesis 22:13; John 19:2-5).
It was this Man, the innocent, sinless, perfect man, with a crown of thorns on His head and carrying His own cross that Abraham believed in. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Isaac asked, “Where it the lamb?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the Lamb.” Then some 2000 years later, John the Baptist was confronted by a committee from the religious leaders wanting to know if he was the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet (John 1:19-28). He confessed that he was not but that the Christ indeed was among them (John 1:26). And, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’” (John 1:29). This Man, Jesus, the innocent, sinless, perfect man – the Son of God (John 1:34), would be the sacrificial Lamb not for believing Israelites alone but also for any non-Israelite who would believe (John 3:16).
How did John the Baptist know that Jesus was the Lamb of God and Son of God? Remember, Jesus and John the Baptist were physical cousins. There was nothing so extraordinary about Jesus at first-glance that would cause anyone to know and understand that He was the Christ. Twice, John the Baptist said that he did not recognize Him (John 1:31, 33). He did not mean that he did not know that Jesus was his cousin and that he did not know him in that manner. What John the Baptist meant was that he did not recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Lamb of God and Son of God, until God revealed it to him (John 1:31-33).
The Man who would be the Lamb of God would have to be innocent, sinless, and perfect. In order for this to be true of Him, He would have to have a sinless nature and be born into the human race without the agency of a human father. The Son of God would have to take on flesh in order to be the Lamb of God (John 1:1-14). Jesus is the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:29, 34).
Isaac asked, “Where is the Lamb?” Abraham answered, “God will provide for Himself the Lamb.” John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb.” Then in Revelation 5:1-14, the apostle John said, “Worthy is the Lamb.” We could summarize the progressive revelation concerning the Lamb of God like this: Where is the Lamb? Wait for the Lamb! Watch the Lamb! Worship the Lamb!