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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 find out!

  1. Day of Atonement

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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?

    2. 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 could enter.)

      1. Why was this animal sacrificed on the Day of Atonement? (It was to atone for the sins of the High Priest and his family.)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.

    4. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.

  2. The Prophecy of the Day of Atonement

    1. 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 about sin.)

      1. What was He teaching? (We cannot get to the ultimate Day of Atonement as long as the sanctuary on earth was still standing.)

      2. 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.)

        1. 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.)

        2. 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.)

    2. 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.)

      1. What is the "new order?"

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    4. 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.")

    5. Read Hebrews 9:23-26. Does the sanctuary in heaven need to be cleaned of sin? (Seems it does.)

      1. 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 big issue!)

    6. 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!)

    7. 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.)

    8. 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.)

    9. 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?

  3. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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