Appreciating the Sacredness of Life and Blood
“The Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life.”—Rev. 7:17.
1, 2. How do many persons show lack of appreciation for the value of life? (Ps. 115:17)
WHAT is more precious than your life? Without it, you could not enjoy anything. Yet, there is evidence all around us that many today have little real appreciation for the value of life—either their own or that of others.
2 Can we not see such evidence in the reckless driving habits of many? Or, what about those who drive under the influence of alcohol or another drug, bringing death to thousands annually? Then there are those who seek thrills in dangerous sports that admittedly take many lives each year. And how about the millions of persons who know that they may be impairing their health and shortening their lives by using tobacco or by gluttonous eating?
3. Why should we seek God’s view of life? (Ps. 25:4, 5)
3 But in the face of such attitudes, we each can ask, ‘Do I really have an appreciative outlook on life?’ A key to having real appreciation for life that even affects one’s thinking and actions is to recognize that life is a gift from Jehovah. He is “the living God” and the “source of [our] life.” (Jer. 10:10; Ps. 36:9) When speaking to some Greek philosophers, the apostle Paul testified about the Supreme One: “He himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things. . . . For by him we have life and move and exist.” (Acts 17:25, 28) Logically, our view of life should conform to God’s. Does it? To answer that, we need to know how he views life. We can then compare our view with his.
4. What evidence shows that Jehovah considers life to be sacred?
4 Jehovah considers life sacred, not something to be squandered. We can tell that from his repeated condemnations of murder and the emotions that often lead to it. (Ex. 20:13; 1 John 3:11-15; Rev. 21:8) Moreover, in ancient Israel, Jehovah arranged for cities of refuge to which a person could flee for sanctuary if he unintentionally caused another’s death. Why did an accidental manslayer have to take the major step of leaving his home and remaining, for perhaps years, in the city of refuge? Because he had caused loss of life, sacred life. You can see that the divine provision of these cities would promote further respect for the sanctity of life.—Num. 35:9-29.
5, 6. Why is blood appropriately linked with life?
5 After outlining that provision, God told the Israelites: “You must not pollute the land in which you are; because it is blood that pollutes the land.” (Num. 35:33) Why was that? The “blood” here mentioned stood for the life of the victim. God thus called to the fore the vital link between our life and our blood.
6 Even though blood may not be a common subject of conversation, who of us does not know that we need blood to keep alive? It plays a role in every one of our major body activities. Blood carries life-sustaining oxygen to our cells, removes wastes from these cells, helps us to adapt to varying temperatures and is a key part of our defense against disease. But most persons view blood as a mere necessary fluid. To others, it is business. It is bought from derelicts or the poor and sold to blood banks or hospitals. And much animal blood is processed for food, fertilizer and other commercial products. Clearly there are many persons who do not view blood as sacred.
7, 8. (a) Why should we look into what God’s Word says about life and blood? (b) What questions arise as to Ephesians 1:7 and the ransom?
7 God’s Word, however, helps us to appreciate that blood is much more than a necessary natural fluid. What our Creator says about life and blood should influence our present outlook and our actions. And it can have an effect even on our eternal destiny. How so? As an aid in seeing the answer, compare these quotations of Ephesians 1:7 from two modern Bible translations, noting particularly what we have italicized:
“By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one [Christ], yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.”—New World Translation.
“For by the death of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God.”—Today’s English Version.*
8 From either translation we can learn that God is interested in us, in our lives. To that end he sent his only-begotten Son Jesus as a ransom sacrifice that could free persons of sin, releasing mankind from condemnation. (1 Tim. 2:5, 6; John 3:16, 17) Jesus himself said: “I have come that [you] might have life and might have it in abundance.” (John 10:10) But does it make any difference that some Bible translations say that this is by means of Christ’s death rather than by means of Christ’s blood? And what bearing could the difference have on our life—on our thinking, actions and future? Let us see.
WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT LIFE AND BLOOD
9. How do we know that Jehovah views blood as representing life?
9 At the time when Jehovah first granted humans permission to eat animal flesh, he gave a noteworthy indication as to his thinking about life and blood. God said to Noah and his family, from whom all of us have descended:
“Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat. And, besides that, your blood of your souls shall I ask back. . . . Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.”—Gen. 9:3-6.
All humanity then alive was thus put on notice that, from God’s standpoint, blood represents life. Man’s blood would stand for his “soul,” or, as many Bible versions render it, his “life.” (TEV; Catholic Jerusalem Bible; translation by Rabbi Isaac Leeser) The divine Life-Giver later added to this picture, giving details that aid us to see the vital moral significance that he attaches to life as represented by blood.
10, 11. What was done with the blood of animals sacrificed by Israelite priests, leading to what question?
10 This especially was so in the covenant that God made with Israel, the Law covenant. At its inauguration animals were sacrificed and their blood employed in ratifying the covenant. (Ex. 24:3-8; Heb. 9:17-21) And among the covenant’s provisions were laws dealing with sin offerings; in such sacrifices, blood was shed, representing the life being offered to God to cover sins. (Lev. 4:4-7, 13-18, 22-30) Because of its sin-atoning power in the sight of God, the blood of animal sacrifices was used on the annual Atonement Day. First a bull and then a goat were sacrificed as sin offerings. The high priest took some of the blood of each into the Most Holy of the tabernacle (later, the temple) and sprinkled it before the Ark, or chest, that represented the presence of God. (Num. 7:89; Ex. 25:22; Lev. 16:2) Afterward he also put some of the blood on the altar of sacrifice.—Lev. 16:11-19.
11 ‘What does all of that have to do with me?’ some persons may wonder. It might seem to describe merely an ancient ritual that even the Jews no longer follow. How does it relate to our hope for the future and our appreciation of life and blood?
12. Jehovah stipulated what exclusive use of blood? Why? (Deut. 12:20-27)
12 In Leviticus chapter 17, Jehovah God himself explained the underlying principles of those sacrificial requirements; what he there stated has important meaning for us. God said: “The soul [or, life] of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: ‘No soul of you must eat blood.’” (Lev. 17:11, 12) Yes, our Creator and Life-Giver plainly stated his decision: Blood (representing life from him) was to be put to one use only—in sacrifice. God thus put a value on blood, setting it aside as sacred. Under the Law, it was not to be eaten or drunk, or put to any other use that men might devise. When an animal was killed just for food and not for sacrifice, the blood was to be poured on the ground; the animal’s life was thus in a sense given back to God, the Israelite hunter keeping only its flesh. (Lev. 17:13, 14) But how does this involve us since neither Jews nor Christians now have a divinely approved temple where animals could be sacrificed?
OUR PROBLEM—GOD’S SOLUTION—LIFE AND BLOOD
13. How do we know that we are burdened with sin?
13 All of us must admit that we are imperfect and sinful. The apostle Paul confirmed this and explained how it came about. “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men [including us] because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) This fact has a direct bearing on our appreciation of life and blood.
14. The sacrifices on Atonement Day foreshadowed what?
14 As the apostle Paul was inspired to explain in the book of Hebrews, the animal sacrifices of the Law covenant could not completely cover sin, or else they would not have had to be offered year after year. Those sacrifices, especially the ones on the Day of Atonement, were but a “shadow of the good things to come.” (Heb. 10:1-4; 8:5, 6; 9:9, 10) The reality that was foreshadowed was the ransom sacrifice of Christ that could fully atone for all our sins. In commenting on this, Paul wrote:
“When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come to pass, . . . he entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place [heaven itself] and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us. For if the blood of goats and of bulls . . . sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God? So that is why he is a mediator of a new covenant, in order that, because a death has occurred for their release by ransom from the transgressions under the former covenant, the ones who have been called might receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance. . . . Unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.”—Heb. 9:11-15, 22.
15. How is God’s view of blood involved in our hope of everlasting life?
15 Does this not help us to understand more fully why it is so vital to have God’s view of blood, representing life? One of the central themes of the Bible is that Jesus came to earth to give his life as a ransom sacrifice. Only by that ransom can we have the prospect of forgiveness of sin and the hope of “everlasting life.” (Matt. 20:28; Rom. 3:23, 24; 6:22, 23; 1 Tim. 1:15, 16) To receive those blessings, we must exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom, which involves having accurate knowledge of and appreciation for his giving up his life represented by his blood.—1 Tim. 2:3, 4; Gal. 3:22.
16 With a background of these points concerning sacrifices, atonement, blood and Jesus’ ransom, let us turn our attention again to Ephesians 1:7. Most English translations of this verse show that it says, “we have the release by ransom through the blood of” Christ. Yet some modern versions substitute “death of Christ.” Does it make much difference?
17 In the original Greek, Ephesians 1:7 uses the word haima, which means “blood.” Why, then, do some translations render it here and elsewhere as “death”? The translators understood that in certain texts mentioning “blood,” the death or the responsibility for the murder of someone is implied. (Luke 11:50, 51; Acts 5:28; Rev. 6:10) For example, in front of Jews clamoring for Jesus’ execution, Pilate went through the gesture of washing his hands, and then declared: “I am innocent of the blood of this man.” The Jews replied: “His blood come upon us and upon our children.” (Matt. 27:24, 25; compare Revelation 7:14.) But some versions have taken the liberty of rendering these verses: “I am not responsible for the death of this man,” and, “Let the punishment for his death fall on us and on our children.” (TEV) What, though, is the effect when “death” is substituted for “blood” in verses where Jesus’ sacrifice is involved? Could something possibly be missed that God wanted to convey to us?
18 There is no denying the emphasis that the Bible places on the death of Jesus. Paul wrote: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Also: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3) His dying, willingly giving his perfect human life, paid back or balanced what Adam had lost for us and which led to our sinful state.
19, 20. What features, beyond just the death of Jesus, are included in references to Christ’s blood? (Heb. 4:14-16)
19 However, the Bible’s references to the “blood of the Christ” should convey to us important things that might not be appreciated in speaking of just his death. (Eph. 2:13) Christ did not, and could not, simply die and remain dead.* In fulfillment of the Atonement Day pattern that Jehovah originated, Jesus then had to enter heaven, into the very presence of God. There Christ could present the value or merit of his lifeblood, just as on Atonement Day the high priest took the sacrificial blood into the Most Holy. Paul clearly sets out this parallel: “Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands, which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.”—Heb. 9:24, 11, 12; 13:11.
20 Furthermore, in heaven Jesus Christ is alive and able to plead for all who exercise faith in his ransom and assist them toward salvation. Accordingly, Paul wrote: “For if, when we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have become reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”—Rom. 5:10.
21, 22. How are our lives involved in the expression “blood of the Christ”?
21 With good reason, then, the work “Religion in History and in the Present” states that in most instances “one cannot substitute Blood of Christ with death. The Blood of Christ means more than this. It stresses the close links between the death of Jesus and both his life and his triumph in his resurrection and exaltation.” The book adds that the expression “Blood of Christ”
“adopts the Old Testament Jewish concept of the atoning power of blood, which is the basis for the way sacrifices are viewed and for the idea that the death of the righteous one has atoning power. . . . On one hand this term reminds us of the fact that we have been bought with a high price, of the one who paid the ransom and of what it consisted. On the other hand, we are freed from sin and death forever by faith in the covenant concluded over his blood. The Blood of Christ encompasses the effect of his death and resurrection.”*
22 How meaningful, then, how full of blessed implications for us, are many of the Bible passages mentioning Jesus’ blood! By means of it our sins can be forgiven. (Rev. 1:5; Heb. 10:29) It is possible to be delivered from fruitless conduct. (1 Pet. 1:18, 19) We can be among a congregation of people whom God approves of and guides. (Acts 20:28) And there is the hope of perfection and everlasting life under the rule of a kingdom incorporating persons bought with that blood.—Rev. 5:9, 10; 12:10, 11; Col. 1:20.
23. What should be our view of blood?
23 All who have an appreciation of the value of their own life thus need to appreciate what God says about blood. He views it as sacred. He determined its exclusive usefulness and acceptability for sacrifice on the altar. And he clearly showed in his Word that all our hopes for a lasting future rest on the sacrificial blood of his Son. But how can we personally manifest our appreciation for and recognition of the sacredness of blood? These are important matters to be taken up in the following article.
A like rendering is found in the equivalent versions in Spanish (Versión Popular, 1966) and German (Das Neue Testament in heutigem Deutsch, 1967).
See The Harp of God (1921), pp. 138-142.
Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3rd ed., vol. 1, pp. 1329-1331.