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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 

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