The Crimson Thread of Scripture
The Crimson Thread, as we will speak of it, refers to the bloodline of the Bible that shows God’s redemptive acts and purposes. It’s a way to see how God has acted to bring life after the death sin causes.
The First Promise (Genesis 3:15) - “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.””
Couched in the curse reflected in Adam and Eve’s sin pronounced by the Lord is the protoevangelion (first gospel). The serpent’s offspring is Satan and the woman’s offspring is Jesus. Satan will strike Jesus’ heel, putting Him on the Cross. This perhaps refers to the nails in His feet. But Jesus will strike the head of Satan with the ultimate victory of destroying him.
The First Sacrifice (Genesis 3:21) – “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
It’s not obvious the first time you read it, but God sacrificed an animal for Adam and Eve and the sin that made them feel their nakedness. They covered themselves with leaves that weren’t enough. We try to fix our sins but are covering is not enough. How could God make garments for them? Where did he get the skins to make garments? He had to sacrifice an animal to get skins to make garments. Many believe this animal was a lamb.
Cain and Abel know to make offerings to the Lord. Adam and Eve probably told them about God’s first sacrifice for their sin. So far, God does not require these offerings to be animal sacrifices. They do not require the shedding of blood yet. God has regard for Abel’s offering not because it is from his flock, but because his heart was pure before the Lord. The Lord tells Cain that his offering would be accepted, “If you do well” (Genesis 4:7).
Blood is important to the Lord because our life is in our blood. When Cain kills Abel, the Lord tells him that his brother’s blood cries out to Him from the ground (Genesis 4:10). So blood will be the ultimate sacrifice for sin, which leads to death. The only way to pay for sin is to give the lifeblood.
When God establishes His covenant with Noah, He tells Noah he can eat animals. But he must not eat an animal with its life in it, that is the blood.
“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:4–6, ESV)
God initiates eternal covenants with humans with the lifeblood. God is always the initiator of these covenants, and they last as long as the initiator lives. Thus, all God’s covenants with humans are still in effect today.
God initiates a covenant with Abraham and an animal is sacrificed to initiate the covenant (Genesis 15:9-11; 17-21). Once again, blood was shed to make the covenant.
Exodus and Leviticus
When God makes His covenant with Moses and Israel on Mount Sinai He witnesses Moses and the Israelites making sacrifices as Moses reads the book of the law (the covenant) to all the people and they respond they will do everything in it. The shed blood of the animals drawing sacrifices is the next thread in our Crimson Thread.
“Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”” (Exodus 24:3–8, ESV)
Every covenant begins with blood. The first covenants God made with humans shed the blood of animals. Because the people would break God’s law (His covenant) with Him regularly, the book of Leviticus outlines how the people could make atonement (be “at one” with) to maintain relationship with the Lord.
So for every sin committed, a sin offering had to be sacrificed. This was the blood of an animal, the life given for the sin of the person. This allowed the person to continue living despite sinning against God, the penalty for which was death. Many of the Laws of Moses demanded the death penalty for offenses. This is because of the eternal truth that sin leads to death.
Because the covenant and the laws it enacted demanded a blood sacrifice, a life for a life, when sin was committed, the people of Israel offered sacrifices throughout the Old Testament. “Testament” is the Old English word for “covenant.” Thus, the Old Testament is the entire period of the old covenant.
The law was harsh in demanding a life for life for every sin. God put the sacrificial system in place as a grace to His people. Instead of offering their own lives and blood for their sins they could substitute an animal in their place. This is where you get the idea of substitutionary atonement, substituting the blood of another for your own when you sin against the Lord.
When a sinner brought their sacrificial animal to the priest, they placed their hands on the animal as the priest cut the animal’s head off. The person understood they transferred their sin to the animal as they put their hands on it. The blood the animal shed was for their sin. The animal died in their place.
Blood is always required for sin. This is an eternal truth. It is a law of God that never changes. Since the rules cannot change, God must bring a sacrifice that does not need to be continually brought before Him.
The only time the Israelites did not sacrifice animals was during the exile in Assyria, Babylon, and Medo Persia. When they returned to Israel, they rebuild the Temple and offered sacrifices until New Testament times.
The New Testament (New Covenant), like every other covenant must be enacted by blood. But this new covenant prophesied in the Old Testament is like no other covenant God has ever begun.
As the New Testament explains, this new covenant was inaugurated not with the blood of animals but with the blood Of God’s Own Son. Jesus paid the ultimate price and gave the ultimate sacrifice for sins.
He talked about the inauguration of the new covenant at a ceremony we repeat until His return. The Lord’s Supper contains this inauguration of the new covenant.
“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27–28, ESV)
Jesus does not talk about His blood and the covenant by accident. His blood, shed on the Cross, initiates the new covenant. This brings God’s freedom to anyone who accepts His new covenant by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross in his or her place.
Unlike the old covenant that required the blood of animals over and over for sins committed, the new covenant relies on the blood of Jesus as a one-time sacrifice for sins. Sins committed after the acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross need only be confessed by the sinner. Jesus promises His forgiveness for all sins committed (1 John 1:9).
Hebrews describes how Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice is different from the blood of old covenant animals (Hebrews 9:12-16).
“he 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. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.” (Hebrews 9:12–16, ESV)
We must not take Jesus’ sacrifice lightly. When we sin without caring how our sin affects God and Jesus we make light of Jesus’ sacrifice made for us. We make light of the glorious promises of the new covenant prophesied in the old covenant.
The writer of Hebrews speaks harshly of anyone who falls away from Christ And Ignores His sacrifice made for them. He says anyone who falls away from Christ is crucifying Jesus all over again (Hebrews 6:4-6).
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4–6, ESV)
So the crimson thread of Scripture refers to the shedding of blood for salvation from sin. The only way to not offer one’s own blood in depth for sin is to trust in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. God’s way of salvation has always been through shed blood. He accepted the blood of animals in the old covenant. But this had to be repeated.
The only way for us to not continually offer blood sacrifices of animals for our sins was to send His own Sinless Son to die in our place. He did not have to die because He did not sin. But because He did not sin, Jesus’ death had the power to reverse the curse of sin for all who believe in Him. And those who believe in His sacrificial death receive His life everlasting.
Jesus takes away the sins of those who trust in His sacrificial death on the Cross. Anyone who trusts in Him in their place is free from sin, and therefore free from the penalty of sin, death. They experience Jesus’ resurrection power. Though they may physically die, they will never suffer the second death in the lake of fire, eternal Hell (Revelation 20:14; 2:11).
A book by the title “The Crimson Thread of the Bible” is a valuable and helpful resource. In the last several chapters, the author goes into more detail about the Crimson thread of Scripture, God’s plan of redemption.