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Sabbath School Lessons on The Atonement and the Cross of Christ
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 7: Atonement in Symbols: Part 2 *
Introduction: Last week we learned that only Christianity, of the
three major world religions which accept the Old Testament as the
inspired word of God, fulfills and follows the Old Testament pattern
for dealing with sin. That is history. What about today and the
future? What does the Old Testament sacrificial system teach us
about Jesus' current work, if any, on the problem of sin? What is
Jesus doing for our sin? Or, is His work complete and He is currently
enjoying retirement? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and
- Day of Atonement
- Read Leviticus 16:1-2. Should we be concerned about
approaching God in prayer? Are these texts talking about
prayer? (No, these verses are talking about something
quite different. The sanctuary in which the sacrifices
took place had two compartments. These were the "Holy" and
the "Most Holy." A curtain separated the two. God said
that He appeared in the Most Holy Place. A human would die
in His presence.)
- Aaron is told not to enter the Most Holy compartment
whenever he wants. When can he enter it? (Read
Leviticus 23:26-28 and Exodus 30:10. There is a "Day
of Atonement," once a year, during which Aaron can
(and should) enter the Most Holy compartment.)
- Last week we discussed how the blood of the
sacrificed animal made atonement for the sins of the
person who sacrificed it. How does this "Day of
Atonement" fit into this picture?
- Read Leviticus 16:11-14. When the text says that Aaron
was going "behind the curtain" what does this mean? (This
chapter in Leviticus gives the details of the Day of
Atonement. Going behind the curtain is a reference to
entering the Most Holy compartment of the sanctuary on the
Day of Atonement. It was the only time the High Priest
- Why was this animal sacrificed on the Day of
Atonement? (It was to atone for the sins of the High
Priest and his family.)
- Read Leviticus 16:15-17. What else is being atoned for on
the Day of Atonement? (These three verses capture the
essence of what is going on. They capture the "arrow of
sin." When a person sacrifices an animal for his sin, the
blood of the animal - which represents its life - removes
(cleans) the sin from the person. The priest then
sprinkles the blood of the animal in the sanctuary, so the
sin then moves to the sanctuary. On the Day of Atonement,
the sins of the people (and the High Priest) are
transferred to the Most Holy compartment. In the end the
whole community and the sanctuary are cleaned from sin.)
- A practical way of thinking about this is to imagine
you walked into the house with dried mud on you. You
notice it, brush it off, and it falls on the carpet.
You vacuum up the carpet and the mud is in the bag.
You empty the bag into the trash can. At the end of
the week you haul the trash can outside your house.
Sin is on a journey of removal.
- Read Leviticus 16:20-22. What is the final destination of
all of this sin for the year? Where does the "arrow of
sin" end up? (It ultimately gets transferred to a goat
which is sent out into the wilderness. The sin is now gone
from the community.)
- How does this goat logically fit into the idea of
atonement? This goat was never killed. Its blood
never covered any sin. (Read Matthew 4:1 and
Deuteronomy 32:9-10. The desert or wilderness are
representative of the place where Satan lives. A
place without God. The mental picture I see is that
sin gets "returned to sender." Sin returns to Satan
- where it started. The goat is like your trash can -
headed towards the dump of sin.)
- There is great detail and symbolism in what happened
on the Day of Atonement. We have merely scratched
the surface of all of the symbolism. Instead of
discussing all of these symbolic details in more
depth, let's move forward to try to understand what
they teach us is happening today with Jesus.
- The Prophecy of the Day of Atonement
- Read over Hebrews 9:1-7 as a summary of what we just
learned from Leviticus. Read Hebrews 9:8. What does
Hebrews say is the purpose of the Old Testament sanctuary
system? (It says that God was trying to teach us something
- What was He teaching? (We cannot get to the ultimate
Day of Atonement as long as the sanctuary on earth
was still standing.)
- How can Hebrews say "the way into the Most Holy Place
had not been disclosed?" It was just the other side
of the curtain! (Remember that Aaron was warned not
to go into the Most Holy Place anytime he wanted
because God was there and Aaron would die? I think
this is telling us the way for sinful humans to
approach God had not yet been revealed. Something
about the process of cleansing us from sin was still
not properly understood.)
- What does the destruction of the sanctuary on
earth have to do with this mystery? (We learned
last week that the Old Testament sacrificial
system was symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus
the Messiah. Apparently what Jesus came to do
could not be completed while the sanctuary on
earth was still standing.)
- Does this mean the ultimate fulfillment of the
Day of Atonement did not take place until after
the Jewish sanctuary was destroyed (by Rome in
70 A.D.)? (It certainly suggests this - or at
least suggests humans did not understand what
was going on until after that time.)
- Read Hebrews 9:9-10. How can this be? We just learned
about how the atonement took care of the sins, and how the
sins ultimately headed out to the desert. Is Hebrews
saying this did nothing? ( Hebrews 9:9 tells us it was "an
illustration for the present time." The whole sanctuary
system was to teach us a spiritual lesson.)
- What is the "new order?"
- Read Hebrews 9:11. What tabernacle is not "man made" - not
"part of this creation?" (Read Hebrews 8:5 and Exodus
25:8-9. God showed Moses the pattern for the sanctuary on
earth. It was patterned after a sanctuary in heaven. The
idea of a "new order" and "illustration" must refer to
something happening in the sanctuary in heaven.)
- Wait a minute! I thought the lamb symbolized Jesus.
How can this be right that Jesus is the High Priest?
(Read Hebrews 9:12. In this new order, Jesus is both
the High Priest and the Lamb.)
- Read Hebrews 9:13. What is Jesus doing for us in the
heavenly sanctuary? (He is offering His blood to atone for
our sins! This is the "new order.")
- Read Hebrews 9:23-26. Does the sanctuary in heaven need to
be cleaned of sin? (Seems it does.)
- When is this heavenly Day of Atonement? When is the
heavenly sanctuary cleansed? (It is only once.
Hebrews 9:8 suggests that it was after 70 A.D. and
Hebrews 9:26 says it is "at the end of the ages."
That is a pretty big time frame, but it seems obvious
the timing is not the big issue, what Jesus is doing
and has done to permanently take away our sins is the
- Read Hebrews 9:27-28. Notice the parallel in this chapter.
Humans die and then they face God's judgment. Jesus died
to atone for our sins and then He comes to bring
salvation. When will Jesus do this? (This is the Second
Coming! Do you see the time-line here? Jesus came to
earth, lived a perfect life, died in our place, was
resurrected and returned to heaven. In heaven He entered
the sanctuary where He atones for our sins with His blood.
On the heavenly Day of Atonement He removes sin.
Thereafter, Jesus returns to take us home with Him.
Purified of our sins we can face God and live!)
- How should we react to that good news? (Read Hebrews
10:19-22. First, we should have confidence about our
salvation. Sinful humans died if they entered the Most
Holy Place of the sanctuary. That was entering into the
presence of God. We can confidently enter into the
presence of God through Jesus who takes away our sins.)
- Read Hebrews 10:23-25. What is the second reaction that we
should have to this good news? (We need to live like we
believe it. We need to believe this message. We see that
the sanctuary on earth revealed to us God's way of
removing sin. It revealed to us how Jesus is the Messiah.
It revealed to us what Jesus is doing for us now. We need
to hold onto this message. We need to spur ourselves and
others to be loving and to do good deeds. We need to
worship together and encourage each other in this hope.)
- Friend, are you convinced that Jesus is standing up for
you in the sanctuary in heaven? Are you convinced that
Jesus has atoned for your sins? If so, will you commit to
living like it?
- Next week: Born of a Woman - Atonement and the Incarnation.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.