“And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people, for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible.”
These verses explain the theology of substitutionary atonement.
Israel was forbidden to consume blood because blood was symbolic of the life given by God and was reserved as God’s portion of each animal sacrifice.
God had also designated the sacrificial blood as the means of atonement. In other words, God’s grace permitted the life of the animal to be a substitute in exchange for the life of the human sinner.
The sacrifice of Christ on the cross follows this same pattern for substitutionary atonement as described in Leviticus with the exception that Christ’s sacrifice, because He was God Incarnate, was once and for all while the sacrifice of bulls and goats had to be made repeatedly.
The Hebrews writer put it this way: “With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:12-14).
The Hebrews writer argues from lesser to greater–if something is true in a lesser situation, it will be even more true in a greater situation.
So, if the blood of animals provided a transitory atonement, the blood of Christ provides a complete and lasting atonement.
Christ’s sacrifice, unlike the sacrifices of the old covenant, decisively cleanses us from sinful deeds so that we are no longer subject to God’s wrath but enabled to enter into fellowship with God.
“Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13, NLT)