Jesus & The Day of Atonement (Jesus’ Work in Leviticus 16)

Intro: The Old Testament is like a room with dim light. In the New, the furniture is the same but all is seen in a clearer light. The New Testament is not only the fulfillment of promises, in the book of Hebrews, it is an advanced explanation of truth, already present in the Old. We are going to investigate an O.T. event as it is seen in the clearer light of the N.T.

The Work of Christ in Leviticus 16 – The Day of Atonement

The events prescribed in Leviticus’ 16 provide the most detailed picture of the work of Jesus Christ in the O.T., and possibly even the N.T. Here God sums up the primary provision he has made for reconciling His people to himself.

What Happened on the Day of Atonement?

  • The High Priest washed completely & put on his plain linen garments
  • In response to his own sinfulness he sacrificed a bullock
  • Even after the sacrifice was made he could not enter through the veil of the inner sanctuary before he filled the Most Holy Place with smoke of incense (hide him from the face of God?)
  • Once inside he stood before the 2 cherubim on each side of the Ark of the Covenant. He poured the blood on the mercy seat.
  • He did not stay, but immediately returned outside to cast lots over two goats that had been provided by the congregation. God would chose the fate of these two animals, not the priest.
  • He killed one of the goats as atonement for the people & the tabernacle. All things had to be ceremonially cleansed, because the sins of the people had contaminated God’s place.
  • Returned inside & sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. This was the atonement for all of the sins of the people.
  • Returned outside and sprinkled blood on the altar.
  • Laid his hands on the other goat, confessing the sins of the people, and transferring the sins to the living goat.
  • Living “scapegoat” is driven into the wilderness, out of sight of the people. (12 miles)
  • Washed again & changed his clothes before offering the other sacrifices (9 more animals) of the day without assistance. The offering of the burnt offering symbolized God’s reunion with His people.

I. THE PERSON OF THE ATONEMENT: Aaron, the high priest was the appointed one. Vs. 3 – “Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place; with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.” Aaron was appointed. Jesus was both qualified and appointed. We shall see how this is true.

  • Lev. 16:1-4 – 1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the LORD, and died;2 and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.3 “Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.4 He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.

A. A Humbled High Priest: The High Priest was a powerful and influential person in Israel, but on this day, in coming before God, he was to be absolutely humble. You have the word high in your title?

1. “Lest he die” – After God reminds Moses & Aaron about the exact punishment given to Aaron’s sons, Nadab & Abihu, He warns Aaron to not be presumptious – he cannot come anytime, anyway he wants – lest he die. It was a fearful, humbling work.

2. Come into the Holy Place with blood… Aaron could not presume to come except with a propitiatory sacrifice. The blood represented a necessary death that had to precede the approach.

3. Even his attire was to denote humility before the people vs. 4–“He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body… On other days he wore “the golden garments”; the mitre with a plate of pure gold around his brow, the splendid breastplate, studded with gems, adorned with pure gold and set with precious stones; the glorious ephod, the tinkling bells, etc. But on this day he had none of them. He came out simply with the holy linen coat, the linen breeches, the linen mitre, and girded with a linen girdle. The attire of holiness and humility.

4. Jesus Christ, when he made atonement, was a humbled priest. Matthew Henry statesChrist, our high priest, made atonement for sin in our nature; not in the robes of his own peculiar glory, but the linen garments of our mortality.” Hebrews 10:5-7 “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come — In the volume of the book it is written of Me — To do Your will, O God. His self-humiliation was the true backdrop to His atoning death.

B. A Spotless High priest; Aaron, being a sinner himself as well as the people, Aaron had to sanctify himself and make atonement for his own sin before he could go in to make an atonement for the sins of the people.

o   Lev 16:6 Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.Lev 16:11 – 11 “And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself.

1. Jesus needed no such propitiation. Heb 7:26-28 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

C. A Solitary High Priest: alone and unassisted. Lev 16:17 – There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel. No other man was to be present, so that the people might be quite certain that everything was done by the high priest alone.

1. It is remarkable, as Matthew Henry observes, that no disciple died with Christ. When he was put to death, his disciples forsook him and fled; they crucified none of his followers with him, lest any should suppose that the disciple shared the honor of atonement.

2. Isaiah 63:3 – 3 “I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes. None but Jesus has wrought the work of our salvation. Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

III. Spiritual Impact of the High Priest’s Work:

A. The It was a day of ATONEMENT: the O.T. term atonement comes from the word “Kapar” that literally means to cover over, atone, propitiate, pacify.” Its noun form was the word used to describe the actual cover of the ark of the covenant “mercy seat”. The division of the English word into At – One – Ment has been suggested to portray the goal of atonement to make God and man one.

1. The only place where the noun atonement is used in the N.T. is Rom. 5:11 (ASV has reconciliation). Rom 5:10-11 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. The concept of reconciliation through propitiation are intertwined in the atonement of sins.

B. The blood of Jesus (and the goat in representation) is a propitiation for sin. The word propitiation means an offering that turns away wrath. Some view the atonement in the concept of expiation, as opposed to propitiation. (Some deny the reality of God’s wrath). Expiate means to cancel or remit. This is what is done to sins (so our sins are expiated).

1. But the scriptures teach that God’s judicial wrath is real and must be satisfied. The blood of Jesus is the only element that will propitiate God. Rom 3:24-26 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Concepts Inherent in the activity of the Day of Atonement

  • Distance & closeness. God dwells in light unapproachable. Yet a man ordained as high priest was allowed and commanded to approach the unapproachable God. He was not welcome to stay. Here is the anomaly of a God who loves His people so was unwilling to forsake them. Yet because they were covenant breakers, He could not in His holiness walk with them. He is like a faithful spouse who will not sleep with an unfaithful partner and yet will not leave. Distance and closeness coexist when His people are His people by covenant, yet are morally unclean.
  • Mercy and the law. The cover of the ark of the Covenant was known as the mercy seat (made of gold). This was the final destination of the blood of the atonement sacrifice. It represented not only the presence of God, but His mercy or willingness to forgive. But on each side of this cover were the gold cherubim (like those that prevented the return of Adam and Eve to the garden) – this was the judgment of God. Remember that inside this ark were the tablets of stone containing the law of Moses – the law that condemned them. It was between the gaze of the avenging angels and the broken law where the blood would go. So the ark and the mercy seat represent both God’s Law — His requirements for holiness — and God’s mercy, his forgiving love for his people. The activity of the High Priest touches both.
  • Reconciliation & Substitution. of an innocent victim. Old Testament ritual leads the mind to accept that One will die in the place of others. A man may die for his own sin, but if so, it is never a reconciling death; such a death is one of reprobation, where an unreconciled state becomes permanent. Jesus’ death had a purpose. He died for us to bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

Conclusion: What does the High Priesthood of Jesus mean to you? Does your confidence in heaven rest upon the work of Christ on Calvary. Heb 8:1-2 – “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.”

  • Christ entered the real sanctuary in heaven. (the place of the atonement) There He sat down, after His offering had been made and His blood presented. He had accomplished real atonement all by Himself,
  • He shared our humanity and became like us in every way but sin, that He might make atonement for the sins of the people, (Heb. 2:17).
  • Our hope is in our priest, anchored in the place where He has gone – the inner sanctuary. Heb 6:19-20 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Have you benefited from the work of Christ as the true High Priest?