Sacrifice is most of all, expiatory or atoning in its nature. What that means is that the slaying of an animal was for the vicarious atonement for the sins of the offerer. What that means is that people who offered the sacrifice knew they had sinned against God. There was no written heart but certainly their conscience condemned them for their wrongdoings. So, to remove the guilt, these people killed animals. Their suffering and death meant sinners should go through them. However, vicariously, these animals were killed as if they sinned and got punished.
After the Fall however, where did this idea of expiatory sacrifice come from? “It originated in a divine appointment.” Read Gen 4. The first act of worship after the Fall. God decides how he should be worshiped. He forbids all forms of artificial kind of worship that human invents. God was pleased to accept the sacrifice of Abel.
The sacrificial work of Christ was symbolized and typified in the Mosaic sacrifices.
- Their expiatory and vicarious nature (penal and substitutionary)
Christ appears as both priest and sacrifice. In the Old Testament, these two were separate.
“3. SCRIPTURAL PROOF FOR THE SACRIFICIAL WORK OF CHRIST. The striking thing in the Scriptural representations of the priestly work of Christ, is that Christ appears in them as both priest and sacrifice. This is in perfect harmony with the reality as we see it in Christ. In the Old Testament the two were necessarily separate, and in so far these types were imperfect. The priestly work of Christ is most clearly represented in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the Mediator is described as our only real, eternal, and perfect High Priest, appointed by God, who takes our place vicariously, and by His selfsacrifice obtains a real and perfect redemption, Heb. 5:1-10; 7:1-28; 9:11-15, 24-28; 10:11-14, 19-22; 12:24, and particularly the following verses, 5:5; 7:26; 9:14. This Epistle is the only one in which Christ is called priest, but His priestly work is also clearly represented in the Epistles of Paul, Rom. 3:24,25; 5:6-8; I Cor. 5:7; 15:3; Eph. 5:2. The same representation is found in the writings of John, John 1:29; 3:14, 15; I John 2:2; 4:10. The symbol of the brazen serpent is significant. As the brazen serpent was not itself poisonous, but yet represented the embodiment of sin, so Christ, the sinless One, was made sin for us. As the lifting up of the serpent signified the removal of the plague, so the lifting up of Christ on the cross effected the removal of sin. And as a believing look at the serpent brought healing, so faith in Christ heals to the saving of the soul. The representation of Peter, I Pet. 2:24; 3:18, and of Christ Himself, Mark 10:45, corresponds with the preceding. The Lord plainly tells us that His sufferings were vicarious.” (Berkhof, p.402)