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The Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16:15

"Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat." (NASB) 

A study of the Day of Atonement gives us insight into two important things Jesus did for us when died for us on the cross. First, the Day of Atonement foreshadows Jesus spilling His blood on the cross. Hebrews 9:22 says, "And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (NASB) Jesus understood that this was His destiny. In instituting the Lord's Supper, He said, "for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28 NASB) The Children of Israel would have understood from the outset, that atonement-or being reconciled with God-could only be accomplished if blood was shed.

The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus the perfect sacrifice in Hebrews 9:12 "and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." His sacrifice used perfect blood-His own, not the blemished blood of animals.

John, the beloved disciple uses the same imagery in Revelations 5:12 "saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.'" According to John, Jesus was worthy to break the seals because he was "the lamb that was slain."

In his first epistle, John also calls Jesus the perfect altar. "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:2) The word translated "propitiation" has three possible meanings. It can mean that Jesus covered our sins. As the tide covers our footprints in the sand, so Jesus covers our sins with his blood. The English word "propitiation" best carries that meaning.

It can also be translated "expiation," meaning to "take away." I love the song, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Robert Lowry, the pastor of the Park Avenue Baptist Church of Plainfied, New Jersey in the late 19th Century wrote both the words and the music for the hymn. He based it upon Hebrews 9:22 "and without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins]." (Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal 238-9) It asks the question, "What can wash away my sins?" The response: "Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" The question and the response illustrate the principle of expiation-Jesus takes our sins away from us. Hebrews 13:12-13 says, "Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. [13] Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach." (NASB) By the shedding of His blood, Jesus takes away our sins.

Later in the message we'll talk more about Jesus being the expiation for our sins when we discuss the second symbol from the Day of Atonement that gives us background for understanding what Jesus did for us on the cross. But for now, let's look at the third way to translate the word-"mercy seat." Jesus is the altar upon which the perfect sacrifice is made. On the Day of Atonement, blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, but on Good Friday, Jesus' blood was poured out for our sins.

The imagery continues. Not only is Jesus the perfect sacrifice and the perfect altar, but He also is the perfect priest. Hebrews 4:14 says Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. The writer of Hebrews draws an analogy between the great high priest who "passes through the veil" to enter the holy of holies on the day of atonement and Jesus Christ, the perfect high priest who "passed through the heavens" then presented the sacrifice to the Father. 

In Hebrews 1:3, the author of Hebrews pictures Jesus, the perfect high priest, offering His sacrifice and then sitting down. "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;" Because the great high priest never sat down until his work was finished, the very act of setting down shows the completed work of Jesus. 

The job was done, never needing to be repeated. The Day of Atonement rolled around every year. The sacrifice had to be made again and again, but not anymore. Because Jesus, the perfect High Priest "passed through the veil (heavens)" and made the perfect sacrifice (His blood) on the perfect altar (Himself) the books were closed on the sacrificial system. Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."

That's one aspect of the Day of Atonement, now let's look at the second symbol that sheds light on what Jesus did on the cross.

Leviticus 16:21-22 says, "Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. [22] And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness." (NASB) 

This is the idea of expiation that we touched on briefly already. The goat that escaped death-the "scape goat," was banished from the people, forever to wander in the wilderness and carry the sins of the people.

Not only was a sacrifice made for their sins, but they were also carried away into the wilderness. The sins weren't just forgiven; they were carried away. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus paid the price for our sins, but He also "carried them away." That was the reason He was born. 1 John 3:5 says, "And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin." (NASB) That's why John the Baptist said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29 (NASB) His purpose wasn't just to pay for our sins; it was also to take them away.

In other words, our sins are forgiven and forgotten. Hebrews 10:17 "And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (NASB)

On the Day of Atonement, one goat died for the sins of the people, the other one carried them away. At Calvary, Jesus did both. I'm not sure which was more difficult. Before you saying dying, think about the price Jesus paid to carry our sins. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (NASB) Jesus had to become sin, to carry our sins. 

He carried the sins of the rapist and the mass murder, right along with the pedophile and the cannibal. The perfect lamb of God became sin as He died for our sin.

And this time, it wasn't symbolic.

No wonder Jesus died of a broken heart.

Your sin died with Jesus. You don't have to bear it anymore. Today you can accept the forgiveness He made possible and celebrate that your sins are no more. Or you can continue in them and bear them yourself. The choice is yours.

If you wish to accept the sacrifice Jesus made on your behalf, you can do so right now. With a simple prayer, tell Him that you've sinned and that you're sorry for you sins. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to take them away from you. Tell Him you'll live the rest of your life for Him and that you'll serve Him until your dying day. Tell Him that you are willing to exchange your life for His death. Ask Him to save you.

If you do. He will.

Romans 10:13 says, "Whoever will call upon the NAME OF THE Lord WILL BE SAVED." (NASB) 

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