From the very beginning, the altar is a prominent figure in the Old Testament. The altar is a dedicated place of worship. The first altar ever built signified the growth of God’s relationship with His people. It moves from a simple earthen altar by Abel through Abraham, and the more detailed structure that the Israelites structured after the Exodus. Prophets like Elijah raised altars to God. Altars may have varied in look and structure, but the features of worship remain true even today.


One feature of the altar is it was raised in obedience to the commands of God. They represented a commitment to worship Him according to His prescribed order. They are actually allowing God to tell them how He wants them to worship Him. People never added any décor or embellishment that God did not prescribe. God instructed that the altar contain no man-conceived marking or shape. The altar was intended to be pure and set aside for worship. The altar never doubled for some other practice object in daily life. It’s one purpose is to be a place of worship.

In the New Testament, the altar of God remained the center of worship. God still requires His altar to be kept pure, holy, and set apart for Him. Unless we follow these commands, we cannot claim true worship. The difference is in the New Testament, the altar has nothing to do with physical altars. Grace has done away with a physical altar, but not the principles it embodies. The finite mind of the person needs physical representations of abstract truths. Thus, in order for us to truly understand how we are to set up altars in the modern day, we must understand the principles, purpose, and reverence people had for altars in the ancient times.


The New Testament altar is personal, because the Bible said we erect an altar for the Lord in our hearts. Each of us are required to raise up an altar to the Lord. We give Him our hearts; we raise up a temple. Because of the abstract nature of altar-building in the New Testament, as we cannot literally take out our hearts and offer it to God, we tend to disregard the true essence of worship and sacrifice.


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