Blood is life. We can’t live without it. Every living creature has it; it’s vital to God’s design for life.
The Bible tells us the same thing. In fact, various Bible translations use a new English term they coined to capture this concept: “lifeblood.” Here’s an example: “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man” (Genesis 9:5 NKJV).
Blood Is Necessary for Atonement
Blood has played an important part in God’s redemptive plans for humanity, ever since sin entered the world (Genesis 3).
After the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, sinned, lost their innocence and realized their nakedness, they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. But God had a different idea in mind. He provided animal skins to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:7, 21). We know that for God to do this, he had to kill an animal, which constituted the first time blood was shed to cover sins.
Thousands of years later, God provided the blood of the Passover lamb to be smeared on the Israelites’ doorframes, to protect God’s people from the destroying angel (Exodus 12:7, 13). This angel came to punish Egypt for their refusal to obey God’s word to free Israel from its bondage. Someone had to die that night for sin, but for everyone who had lamb’s blood on the doorframes, the sacrificial lamb died in their place.
Shortly after, God gave his law to Moses, which required shed blood from animals to cleanse God’s people from sin (Leviticus 17:11).
This principle carries over to the New Testament. In Hebrews God clearly explains: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV). Because God’s punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23), blood is required to atone for sin.
The New Testament draws our attention to blood as well. But it’s not animal blood. It’s the blood of one man: Jesus. It references Jesus’ blood just as often as it references his cross and resurrection. Why is Jesus’ blood in particular such a big theme in the second half of the Bible?
What Jesus Says about His Blood
When we open the New Testament, we discover several things about Jesus’ blood, taught by the apostles and by Jesus himself.
The most important is that Jesus’ blood is the only blood that can truly take away sins. All the sacrifices in the Old Testament foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of those who believe in him (Hebrews 10:1-4). God had promised that he would come and provide salvation for his people from their sin (Luke 22:20).
Jesus emphasizes two other important truths about his blood:
1. Jesus’ blood confirms the new covenant made between God and Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus had a meal with his disciples before he went to the cross. He took a cup of wine and said to them, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20 ESV). He was using the wine as an object lesson. From this point forward, God’s people would no longer shed animal blood. Instead, once-for-all, Jesus’ own blood was shed so that all who trust in his sacrifice would be forgiven and made right with God. The author of Hebrews writes, “He [Jesus] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 ESV).
This new covenant is God’s promise to save people from their sin through his Son. Jesus’ blood serves as the sign and seal of this promise from God that he would be their substitute.
2. People must drink Jesus’ blood to have eternal life.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53 ESV).
At first, this may sound strange, but earlier in this passage, Jesus makes clear that the way we receive him is to believe in him. He says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you…This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent (John 6:26-29 ESV). To believe in the death of Jesus on our behalf is to receive his death—his body broken for us and his blood shed for us—like food for our souls.
The drama of communion visibly display this invisible reality (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:25). When we celebrate communion, we are proclaiming that God’s judgment passed over us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:25). Instead of God’s judgment, we receive eternal life with him because, by faith, we have received his body and his blood as true food and life for our souls.
What the New Testament Authors Say about Jesus’ Blood
Paul, Peter, John, and the author of Hebrews all highlight the importance of Jesus’ blood, because the shedding of his blood on the cross accomplished many things for believers. Here are eleven things that Jesus’ “blood,” or the giving of his life, accomplished for all who believe in him.
- Purchased the church:
“Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28 NIV).
- Made us right with God:
“And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:9 NLT).
- Freed us from sin:
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1:7 NIV).
- Cleansed us from sin:
“The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 NLT).
- Brought us near to God:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 ESV).
- Secured our redemption:
“He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV).
- Cleansed our conscience:
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14 NKJV).
- Gave us access to God:
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19 NLT).
- Ransomed us from an empty life:
“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT).
- Purchased us:
“With your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9 NIV).
- Conquered Satan:
“And they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11 ESV).
What Can Wash Away Your Sins?
Friend, for your lifeblood, God will demand a reckoning. For he brings every person to justice (Genesis 9:5 NKJV). For all who trust in Jesus, he has given his own blood as the reckoning for our lifeblood. That’s why Jesus declared himself to be “the life” (John 14:6 NIV).
But this also means that if you don’t have faith in Jesus, God will still demand a reckoning for your lifeblood. You need cleansing from your sins; you need access to God, and you need to be reconciled to him—and Jesus offers this all to you. In the words of a famous hymn, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Are you covered by the blood of Jesus?