Blood Is The Life

The red fluid circulating in the body that takes nourishment to the body parts and carries away waste. The word ‘blood’ is often used literally in Scripture. Sometimes the word refers to the blood of animals, Genesis 37:31, at other times it refers to human blood, 1 Kings 22:35. The word is also used figuratively in the Bible. It may mean ‘blood red’, Joel 2:31 or ‘murder’, Matthew 27:24. The phrase ‘flesh and blood’ means humanity, Hebrews 2:14.

Blood Points To Life Or Death

The blood chiefly to be determined is whether ‘blood’ in biblical usage points basically to life or to death. There are those who hold that in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament ‘blood’ represents life liberated from the limitations of the body and set free for other purposes. The ceremonial manipulation of blood on this view represents the solemn presentation to God of life, life surrendered, dedicated, transformed. The death occupies a subordinate place or even no place at all.

On this view ‘the blood of Christ’ would mean little more than ‘the life of Christ’. The evidence, however, does not seem to support it. In the first place there is the statistical evidence. Of the 362 passages in which the Hebrew word dam occurs in the Old Testament, 203 refer to death with violence. Only six passages connect life and blood, 17 refer to the eating of meat with blood. From this it is clear enough that death is the association most likely to be conjured up by the use of the term.

Then there is the lack of evidence adduced in support of the life theory. Exponents of this view regard it as self-evident from passages such as Leviticus 17:11 ‘For the life of a creature is in the blood’.

But the Scriptural passages can just as well be interpreted of life yielded up in death, as of life set free.

More Insight

There are some passages in which life and blood are connected with the prohibition of eating meat with blood still in it, Genesis 9:4-6 / Leviticus 17:11 / Acts 15:29. This association has led some scholars to conclude that in the offering of sacrifice, the death of the victim is unimportant, sacrificial atonement doesn’t depend on an animal dying in place of the worshipper but rather on life set free from the body and offered to God Similarly in the New Testament it’s not the death of Jesus that is the atonement, but His life.

Such a view scarcely accords with the statistical evidence summarised above, nor with the obvious fact that it’s death that occurs when an animal is offered in sacrifice. Leviticus 17:11 and similar passages are to be understood in the sense that it is the life given up in death, rather than the life set free from the flesh, that is the atonement.

And in the New Testament, phrases like ‘the blood of His cross’, Colossians 1:20, cannot point to the release of life, for relatively little blood was shed in crucifixion. Similarly, ‘justified by His blood’ is parallel to ‘reconciled to God through the death of His son’, Romans 5:9-10. In the Bible, therefore, blood normally points to the undergoing of death rather than to the release of life.

This association of blood and death partially explains the concept of blood taboo. Just as those who had contact with a corpse became unclean, Numbers 11:11-13, so contact with the blood of the slain rendered a warrior ritually impure, 1 Chronicles 22:8 / 1 Chronicles 28:3.

It’s Significance

Blood has great significance in the Bible. It’s meaning involve profound aspects of human life and God’s desire to transform human existence. Blood is intimately associated with physical life. Blood and ‘life’ or ‘living being’ are closely associated. The Hebrews of Old Testament times were prohibited from eating certain food, Deuteronomy 12:23-24.

For agricultural people, this command stressed the value of life. Though death was ever-present, life was sacred. Life wasn’t to be regarded cheaply. Even when the Old Testament speaks of animal sacrifice and atonement, the sacredness of life is emphasised, Leviticus 17:11.

Perhaps because an animal life was given up, and animals were a vital part of a person’s property, this action taken before God indicated how each person is estranged from God. In giving what was of great value, the person offering the sacrifice showed that reconciliation with God involved life, the basic element of human existence.

How giving up an animal life brought about redemption and reconciliation isn’t clear. What is clear is that atonement was costly. Only the New Testament could show how costly it was.

When Was It First Shed?

In the beginning, it was not necessary to shed blood, because men had a good relationship with God. It was the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They didn’t have to worry, because they had committed no sin at all. The animals were not to be killed, this was allowed much later in the time of Noah, Genesis 9:3, as from then on it was allowed to eat animals.

As Adam and Eve sinned the first time, they saw that they were naked. They tried to hide their shame by covering it with leaves. As God discovered that they had sinned, He made things for them to wear from skins of animals, Genesis 3:21. This is the first-time blood was shed to cover men’s sin.

Later, we see Cain and Abel bringing a sacrifice to the Lord but only Abel killed an animal for sacrifice, Genesis 4:4. At this occasion Cain killed his brother Abel and the first human blood was shed, Genesis 4:8.

Sacrifices And The Blood Of The Covenant

The great historic event of the Old Testament was the Exodus from Egypt. Central to that event was the offering of a lamb from the sheep or from the goats, Exodus 12:5. The blood of that lamb was put on the top and the two sides of the door-frame, Exodus 12:7 / Exodus 12:22-23. When the Lord passed through, Exodus 12:12, destroying the firstborn in Egypt, He would pass by the houses in Israel’s part of Egypt that were marked in this fashion.

In terms of its redemptive effects, none of the daily sacrifices made throughout the Old Testament were as dramatic as the Passover sacrifice.

Almost as dramatic as the Passover was the ceremony at the dedication of the covenant treaty at Sinai between Yahweh and His covenant people, the Israelites, Exodus 24:1-8. Moses took the blood of oxen and placed it in two bowls. Half of it he dashed upon the altar and half he dashed upon the people, Exodus 24:6-8. Moses declared, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD hath made (literally, cut) with you concerning (or in agreement with) all these words.’ The people solemnly promised to act in agreement with this covenant.’ Exodus 24:3 / Exodus 24:7

Jesus Initiated The New Covenant

When Jesus initiated the New Covenant after His last Passover with the disciples, He declared, ‘This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins’, Matthew 26:28. See Luke 22:20. Testament means covenant here. Jesus, the God-man, gave up His life and experienced the reality of death so that those who identify themselves with Jesus might experience His life and never taste death as He did. He died as a sin-bearer that we might live for righteousness and become healed, 1 Peter 2:24.

The Meaning And Effects Of The Blood of Christ

The term ‘blood of Christ’ designates in the New Testament the atoning death of Christ. Atonement refers to the basis and process by which estranged people become at one with God, atonement, ‘at-one-ment’. When we identify with Jesus, we are no longer at odds with God. The meaning of Christ’s death is a great mystery.

The New Testament seeks to express this meaning in two ways:

1. In the language of sacrifice

2. In language pertaining to the sphere of law.

This sacrificial language and legal language provide helpful analogies. However, the meaning of Christ’s death is far more than an enlargement of animal sacrifices or a spiritualisation of legal transactions. Sometimes, both legal and sacrificial language are found together.

In the language of sacrifice we have ‘expiation’, removal of sins, Romans 3:25, ‘sprinkling of the blood of Jesus’, 1 Peter 1:1-2, ‘redeemed by precious blood as of a lamb without spot and without blemish’, 1 Peter 1:19, ‘blood of His Son cleanses us from all sin’ 1 John 1:7, ‘blood that cleanses the conscience’, Hebrews 9:14 and ‘blood of an eternal covenant’, Hebrews 13:20.

In legal language we have ‘justification’, Romans 5:9, ‘redemption’, Ephesians 1:7, been redeemed to God by His blood, Revelation 5:9. Such metaphors show that only God could provide atonement, Jesus, the God-man was both Priest and Offering, both Redeemer and the One intimately involved with the redeemed.

Blood, A Symbol Of Apocalyptic Judgment

In Acts 2:19-20 the apostle Peter quoted from Joel 2:30-31. The text of Joel of which he spoke speaks of ‘wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath, blood and fire and vapour of smoke’, Acts 2:19, compare Joel 2:30.

In the next verse, Joel 2:31 / Acts 2:20, the sun is pictured turning into darkness and the moon into blood before the great day of the Lord comes.

Here the term ‘blood’ describes the physical changes both in the heavens and upon earth. Even the balance of nature will reflect God’s hand of judgment as Christ takes up His reign. Nature off balance reflects the disharmony between human beings and God. The bloody red colour symbolises this.


The most important biblical concept in regard to blood is the spiritual significance of the blood of sacrificial animals. Although some scholars believe the blood primarily means the animal’s life, most agree that blood refers to the animal’s death.

Most of the Old Testament passages that discuss sacrifices mention the death of the animal, not its life, Leviticus 4:4-5. The Bible makes it clear that the satisfaction or payment for human sins was made by the death of a specified animal substitute, Leviticus 17:11.

In the New Testament, this Old Testament idea of sacrifice is applied to Christ’s blood. References to the ‘blood of Christ’ always mean the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. References to the blood of Christ were made by Paul, Romans 3:25, Peter, 1 Peter 1:19, John, Revelation 1:5 and by the author of Hebrews, Hebrews 9:14.

Although ‘all have sinned’, Romans 3:23, ‘we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins’. Ephesians 1:7.


Jesus died for us at the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. One sacrifice, an everlasting one for our sins. Under the Old Testament, first the patriarchs sacrificed for the sins of their family, Job 1:5, later the priests would offer the sacrifices for the people. But these sacrifices were to be repeated time after time, Hebrews 10:11, and it was only possible to cover up the sin with blood.

The blood of Christ, however, wipes our sins out. The blood of Christ makes us stand blameless and spotless before God.

‘So, Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.’ Hebrews 9:28


"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.’"