And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord , ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord . And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
Leviticus 1:1-4 KJV
Have you seen the exceeding sinfulness of your sin and the overwhelming wrath of the Lord of Glory?
The Sovereignty and Judgment of God
In the whole burnt offering, as in the other sacrifices, something was laid on the altar. A life was laid on the altar. Because the whole burnt offering was a substitute, this meant that an animal was laid on the altar. This animal had to be perfect: no lameness, no blemishes, no defects of any kind. This was because the animal represented Christ Himself, our perfect sacrifice. The altar represented the holiness and judgment of God. Its fire represented the wrath of God against sin and the sinner. This fire was never to be put out, because Gods holiness and wrath are never ending. This is a picture of overwhelming terror to those who are unsaved.
Despite this picture, judgment is put out of most Christians minds today, let alone the heathen. Yet it is very often spoken of in the bible. Be ye perfect as I am perfect, says the Lord. Christ said we will be judged for every idle word we speak. Twice in the Old Testament it speaks of judgments so severe on Israel that God would brook no intercession, not even if the most exemplary saints of Israel were pleading to Him. The picture of Gehenna fire that Jesus gives us speaks of a wrath, judgment, and punishment that never ends. In the story of Lazarus and the rich man He paints a picture of a man whose tongue is on fire, representing that eternal punishment will encompass every part of the existence of men. We willingly become numb to these pictures, glossing over them because we do not want to face the heinousness of our sin. Every thought, every word, every deed of ours either gives glory to God or is an infinite offense to Him. Because we are thoroughly tainted with sin, no deed of ours can give glory to God in and of ourselves. Thus, each of us, left to ourselves, are infinitely worthy of wrath. As Paul says, we are children of wrath.
All of this (and more) is pictured on the altar.