Many, many Christians who believe there will be a millennium and a temple during that millennium (a lot of denominations do not believe this), still have trouble with the idea that there would be animal sacrifices offered. Most believe that since Yeshua was the last and ultimate sacrifice for our sins, that there is no longer a need for sacrifices. They cannot comprehend how or why God would institute it again, as they see no point to it. In fact they see it as undoing Yeshua's sacrifice. To understand whether or not there will be, and why, we first need to see what the Scriptures say about that time period.
The last nine chapters of Ezekiel lay out the plan for the temple, the sacrifices and offerings, the land grants and all things pertaining to the millennium in that respect. After laying out the dimensions and showing Ezekiel the temple, God speaks to Ezekiel about the people. (chapter 43:5-11) “So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house. And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me. And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever. Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.”
We know that this temple has never been built or existed in the past. It is a future temple. One that God expects Israel to rebuild for Him. And how we know that this is a future temple is not only because the description tells us, but God tells us that it will be where He will dwell in the midst of Israel forever, and that Israel will no more defile it. As they did defile the other two with their whoredoms and Babylonian mysteries or Kabbalah, this again tells us that this is a future temple. God says that if they are ashamed of their iniquities that they will observe all the ordinances that He is laying out in these chapters and they will keep them. The temple will have Levites and priests to take care of the temple. They will have quarters there when it is their course's turn to serve, and houses in the area for their families (and them when not serving).
Ezekiel 40:45-47 “And he said unto me, This chamber, whose prospect is toward the south, is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the house. And the chamber whose prospect is toward the north is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the altar: these are the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi, which come near to the LORD to minister unto him. So he measured the court, an hundred cubits long, and an hundred cubits broad, foursquare; and the altar that was before the house.”
So not only are their chambers for the priests and Levites, but there is an altar. Part of these ordinances that God has said they must observe is the sacrificial system. There are a number of verses that refer to this. I will list below any that pertain in any way to sacrifices.
Ezekiel 40:38-43 “And the chambers and the entries thereof were by the posts of the gates, where they washed the burnt offering. And in the porch of the gate were two tables on this side, and two tables on that side, to slay thereon the burnt offering and the sin offering and the trespass offering. And at the side without, as one goeth up to the entry of the north gate, were two tables; and on the other side, which was at the porch of the gate, were two tables. Four tables were on this side, and four tables on that side, by the side of the gate; eight tables, whereupon they slew their sacrifices. And the four tables were of hewn stone for the burnt offering, of a cubit and an half long, and a cubit and an half broad, and one cubit high: whereupon also they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burnt offering and the sacrifice. And within were hooks, an hand broad, fastened round about: and upon the tables was the flesh of the offering.”
We are told there will be burnt offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings. There will be tables for the purpose of slaying these offerings and hooks to bleed them out.
Ezekiel 43:13-27 “And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar. And from the bottom upon the ground even to the lower settle shall be two cubits, and the breadth one cubit; and from the lesser settle even to the greater settle shall be four cubits, and the breadth one cubit. So the altar shall be four cubits; and from the altar and upward shall be four horns. And the altar shall be twelve cubits long, twelve broad, square in the four squares thereof. And the settle shall be fourteen cubits long and fourteen broad in the four squares thereof; and the border about it shall be half a cubit; and the bottom thereof shall be a cubit about; and his stairs shall look toward the east. And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon. And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering. And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it. Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering, and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary. And on the second day thou shalt offer a kid of the goats without blemish for a sin offering; and they shall cleanse the altar, as they did cleanse it with the bullock. When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish. And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering unto the LORD. Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin offering: they shall also prepare a young bullock, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish. Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves. And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.”
Ezekiel 44:10-15 “And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity. Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them. Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their iniquity. And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed. But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein. But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD.”
Ezekiel 44:27 “And in the day that he goeth into the sanctuary, unto the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin offering, saith the Lord GOD.”
Ezekiel 45:13-25 “This is the oblation that ye shall offer; the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of wheat, and ye shall give the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of barley: Concerning the ordinance of oil, the bath of oil, ye shall offer the tenth part of a bath out of the cor, which is an homer of ten baths; for ten baths are an homer: And one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the fat pastures of Israel; for a meat offering, and for a burnt offering, and for peace offerings, to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord GOD. All the people of the land shall give this oblation for the prince in Israel. And it shall be the prince's part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the first month, in the first day of the month, thou shalt take a young bullock without blemish, and cleanse the sanctuary: And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering, and put it upon the posts of the house, and upon the four corners of the settle of the altar, and upon the posts of the gate of the inner court. And so thou shalt do the seventh day of the month for every one that erreth, and for him that is simple: so shall ye reconcile the house. In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. And upon that day shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin offering. And seven days of the feast he shall prepare a burnt offering to the LORD, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish daily the seven days; and a kid of the goats daily for a sin offering. And he shall prepare a meat offering of an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and an hin of oil for an ephah. In the seventh month, in the fifteenth day of the month, shall he do the like in the feast of the seven days, according to the sin offering, according to the burnt offering, and according to the meat offering, and according to the oil.”
Ezekiel 46:1-15 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened. And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons. And the burnt offering that the prince shall offer unto the LORD in the sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish. And the meat offering shall be an ephah for a ram, and the meat offering for the lambs as he shall be able to give, and an hin of oil to an ephah. And in the day of the new moon it shall be a young bullock without blemish, and six lambs, and a ram: they shall be without blemish. And he shall prepare a meat offering, an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and for the lambs according as his hand shall attain unto, and an hin of oil to an ephah. And when the prince shall enter, he shall go in by the way of the porch of that gate, and he shall go forth by the way thereof. But when the people of the land shall come before the LORD in the solemn feasts, he that entereth in by the way of the north gate to worship shall go out by the way of the south gate; and he that entereth by the way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of the north gate: he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth over against it. And the prince in the midst of them, when they go in, shall go in; and when they go forth, shall go forth. And in the feast and in the solemnities the meat offering shall be an ephah to a bullock, and ephah to a ram, and to the lambs as he is able to give, and an hin of oil to an ephah. Now when the prince shall prepare a voluntary burnt offering or peace offerings voluntarily unto the LORD, one shall then open him the gate that looketh toward the east, and he shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, as he did on the sabbath day: then he shall go forth; and after his going forth one shall shut the gate. Thou shalt daily prepare a burnt offering unto the LORD of a lamb of the first year without blemish: thou shalt prepare it every morning. And thou shalt prepare a meat offering for it every morning, the sixth part of an ephah, and the third part of an hin of oil, to temper with the fine flour; a meat offering continually by a perpetual ordinance unto the LORD. Thus shall they prepare the lamb, and the meat offering, and the oil, every morning for a continual burnt offering.”
Ezekiel 46:20-24 “Then said he unto me, This is the place where the priests shall boil the trespass offering and the sin offering, where they shall bake the meat offering; that they bear them not out into the utter court, to sanctify the people. Then he brought me forth into the utter court, and caused me to pass by the four corners of the court; and, behold, in every corner of the court there was a court. In the four corners of the court there were courts joined of forty cubits long and thirty broad: these four corners were of one measure. And there was a row of building round about in them, round about them four, and it was made with boiling places under the rows round about. Then said he unto me, These are the places of them that boil, where the ministers of the house shall boil the sacrifice of the people.”
So it can be seen that there most definitely will be offerings - burnt, sin, and trespass offerings. This is not optional, this is not lack of grace and back to having to pay for your sins by sacrifices, it is simply a fact of temple worship. There will be sacrifices made daily on behalf of the people. Why on earth is this necessary if Yeshua died for their sins? Is grace only a thing given for the church? Well, did the blood of bulls and lambs ever cover their sins to begin with?
Hebrews 10:1-2a, 4,11 “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered?...... For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins......And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”
These verses tell us that the blood of those sacrifices could never take away sins. If they could have, they would have ceased being offered as they would have done the job. We are told in Hebrews 11 that it was by grace through faith that God considered people righteous, not the sacrifices. Faith in the coming sacrifice of Yeshua for their sins.
Hebrews 11:1-2,6,13-16,39-40 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report (grace).....But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.....These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city......And these all, having obtained a good report (grace) through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
So then why bother with the offerings if they did not take away sins? God tells us in Hebrews 10:2b-3 “because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.”
Had the sacrifices taken away their sins, they wouldn't have needed to continue to offer them and they would no longer be conscious of their sinful ways. But they did not take their sins away. God instituted the sacrifices to make people have a conscience about their sins. Every year, every sacrifice, they were reminded of their sins. When Yeshua died, our sins were covered, and faith in that sacrifice saves us, just as it did everyone from Seth on down who looked for the promise, but never saw it. However look at how we live. We have exactly what God knew would happen without the constant sacrifices to remind us of our sin. We have no more conscience of sin. We sin with virtual impunity (although God does have his ways of chastising us). We do not really consider every single sin we commit, but on occasion throw up an “I'm sorry” prayer to cover ourselves. Most Christians these days live carnal lives without a second thought. God said we would be in total apostasy at the end of this age, and we most certainly are. We are supposed to be convicted by the Holy Spirit when we sin, but how many people have dulled that conscience and quenched the Holy Spirit? Something we are warned not to do. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 “Quench not the Spirit.” How much more conscious would we be of our sins, if every time we committed one we had to go to the temple and offer a sacrifice? Especially if it were a cute little lamb. I know that would make me far more conscious of what I was doing. And my conscience would bother me. I would have to remember every sin I committed, because every one would require a sacrifice and that would be hard to forget. I would most certainly feel “the blood on my hands”, so to speak. This was always the main purpose of sacrifices. They never really took away sins. In fact, when the sacrifices are only done out of obligation or duty, and our hearts and lives are far from God, He considers them an abomination and prefers we not do them. What He wants is a pure heart. One that is willing and obedient. Then He will accept the sacrifices.
Isaiah 1:11-19 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.”
God does not want sacrifices as much as He wants obedience. He always wanted obedience. Faith in the Messiah's sacrifice, and obedience to God is what has always been the source of salvation, not the blood of animals. Read Hebrews 11 to see this.
Lastly there is a practical reason for sacrifices. As mentioned at the beginning, the Levites and priests live at the temple during their course of service. They have to eat. These sacrifices are not just thrown on the fire and all burned up. These sacrifices and offerings provide the food for the priests and Levites and always did.
Ezekiel 42:13 “Then said he unto me, The north chambers and the south chambers, which are before the separate place, they be holy chambers, where the priests that approach unto the LORD shall eat the most holy things: there shall they lay the most holy things, and the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; for the place is holy.”
Ez. 44:29-30 “They shall eat the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs. And the first of all the firstfruits of all things, and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest's: ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.”
So now we see that God will have several practical reasons for having animal sacrifices again. First it will be to twinge people's conscience and make them remember their sins, unlike today when we sin without even thinking about it. Then it is to provide sustenance for the priests and Levites. It never really did cover the people's sins, and thus that is not the reason it is re-instituted during the millennium. Had Yeshua not been rejected by the Jews, and had He set up His kingdom right after His resurrection, the temple never would have been destroyed. It was destroyed out of punishment and the gospel was given to the Gentiles. As the gospel was to go out into the whole world, and the Laws of Moses and all the sacrifices and Feasts that were demanded by the Law to be observed in Jerusalem at the temple could not be observed simply out of practicality of the distance being too far (they didn't have airplanes and jets in the apostles' day), God destroyed the temple so that the gospel might prosper. The resurrected saints will be living in New Jerusalem, not on earth, and will not be a party to temple worship. We will no longer be in sinful corrupt bodies. It will be those who live on into the millennium who will need to offer sacrifices. As the people remaining at the end of Daniel's 70th week will be gathered for the sheep and goat judgment in Jerusalem, and the world will be devastated with people living in a non-technological state again until at least a few generations probably pass, it is probable that since it will be required of every man to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (to commemorate the Second Coming and Wedding of the Messiah), that people will stay in that area and not spread out until transportation gets to the point where they can get to Jerusalem in a timely manner and not spend months traveling back and forth between their homes and Jerusalem. So unlike when the temple was destroyed so that the gospel could go out into an already populated world, the temple will be restored for worship, as people will not live so far away at the beginning of the millennium that they cannot get there to sacrifice.
Hopefully this answers the question people have as to the reason there will be animal sacrifices at the temple during the millennium.