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Sabbath School Lessons on The Sanctuary
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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 6: The Day of Atonement *
Introduction: If you had to pick the most important day of the year,
for God's people in the Old Testament that would be the Day of
Atonement. Today, the Day of Atonement might bring a big yawn for
God's people. Since the sanctuary teaches us important lessons for
today, I believe that is also true for the Day of Atonement. Let's
plunge into our study of the Bible to take away that yawn and see
what we can learn!
- Approaching God: the Preparation
- Read Leviticus 16:1-2. Would you take this instruction
seriously? (Yes! Two people have already died. Death is
the penalty for getting this wrong.)
- What is the danger zone? (The sanctuary had two
compartments, a Holy and Most Holy place. A curtain
separated the two. The ark of the covenant was in the
Most Holy place and above it is where God would
appear in a cloud. These verses tell us that the Most
Holy place is the danger zone.)
- Why is the Most Holy place dangerous? (God is there.)
- Why is God dangerous to humans - even those doing His
- Read Leviticus 16:3-4. Does this modify the text that we
previously read? (It expands the instructions. This deals
with the sanctuary area generally, not just the Most Holy
- How must Aaron prepare? (He has to bathe and put on
special garments. He also has to bring offerings.)
- Read Leviticus 16:5-6. What groups are covered by these
offerings? (Aaron's family and Aaron himself. Later, we
will see that the entire Israelite community is also
- Why did Aaron's sons die if Aaron could make
atonement for them? (God is in the sin forgiveness
business, but we must not take Him lightly simply
because He forgives sin. A healthy fear of God is
- Read Leviticus 16:7-10. One goat dies and the other goal
lives. Why? (We discussed this last week. The one goat
symbolically died to transfer the sins of the people to
the sanctuary. The second goat symbolically took the sins
from the priest and the sanctuary and disappeared into the
desert with them.)
- Approaching God
- Read Leviticus 16:11-12. What is the most interesting part
of this instruction? (This is where Aaron goes into the
Most Holy place. Behind the curtain means the Most Holy
place, and this is the place where Aaron would die if he
- When did this happen? What date? When you have something
as dangerous as this, you want to carefully read the
invitation! (Read Leviticus 16:29-30. We are given a
specific date, and it is called the Day of Atonement.)
- What is the purpose of the Day of Atonement? We
already have some clues about this? ("The Lord ...
will ... clean [them] from all of [their] sins.")
- I thought we learned that the sacrifice of an animal
in the sanctuary took away all a person's sins? What
role does the Day of Atonement play in this?(This
deals with the transfer that we have been studying in
the past. The animal died instead of the person. But,
the person's sins transferred (through the blood of
the animal) to the sanctuary. The Day of Atonement
was the day that the sanctuary was cleaned up from
all of the sins. What we are studying is the process
for that clean up.)
- Why would you need such a clean up? As long as the
sin transferred away from the sinner, what does it
matter about the building? (The symbolic point is
that sin will end. In addition, why would God want
sin where He lives?)
- Read Leviticus 16:13-14. What is the purpose of the smoke?
(To conceal God from the High Priest - so that the High
Priest would not die.)
- If the atonement cover of the ark represents the
presence of God, where is the blood going? (The point
seems to be that the sin (this time the sin of the
High Priest) is transferred to God.)
- Read Leviticus 16:15-17. Whose sins are atoned for on the
Day of Atonement? (The High Priest, his household, all the
people, the Tent of Meeting and the sanctuary.)
- Let's skip forward to Leviticus 16:20-22. Where are all of
the sins transferred on the Day of Atonement? (To the goat
which is released into the desert.)
- As you think about this method of getting rid of sin, what
does this suggest about the relationship between God and
the people? (The people approached God through the
priests. On the Day of Atonement, it was through the High
Priest that sins were permanently transferred to the
desert. The High Priest had to take this very seriously,
because otherwise he would die. The people did not
directly deal with God.)
- Does the relationship between humans and God seem to
be fear based ?
- If you say, "yes," then how do you explain that all
of this fearsome activity is illustrating God's death
for the sins of His people?
- Read Romans 5:9-11. What has Jesus done for us? (Justified
us by His blood so that we are not only saved from "God's
wrath," but we are no longer God's enemies.)
- If we believe in the Trinity, then how do you explain
that God was our enemy? He was angry with us? Yet, He
was willing to die for us so He would not be angry
any more? (This is a difficult thing for me to
understand, but I believe it has a lot to do with the
nature of sin. God is the enemy of sin. God hates
sin. When we were sinners we were God's enemy.)
- Read Matthew 11:19. Before the cross, Jesus is a
friend of sinners. How do you explain that? (Romans
5:9-11 explains that Jesus reconciled us to God. This
helps to isolate the problem. People are the same
sinful beings they have always been, it is the sin
problem that Jesus fixed. Therefore, God is not angry
with the people. He was angry over sin.)
- Since Jesus has done everything for us, what
does this suggest to us about the way we should
live? (Sin is no small matter. Our gratitude
for what Jesus has done should cause us to
- Approaching God Today
- Read Mark 15:37-39. The curtain separating the Holy from
the Most Holy place in the sanctuary was torn upon Jesus'
death. What do you think that means? (It means at least
that the sanctuary service culminating in the Day of
Atonement is finished in the temple on earth.)
- What do you think it means about approaching God?
Recall that if the High Priest passed through the
curtain "whenever he chooses" ( Leviticus 16:2) he
would die because God was there. (It means a new day
for approaching God.)
- Read John 16:7-11. Who convicts the world of sin? (The
- Read Romans 8:9. What is our new relationship to God?
(This text says that the "Spirit" is the Spirit of Jesus
and of God." God's Spirit lives in us.)
- Notice the huge change in our relationship to God, the
huge change in approaching God. We came from having a
human priest represent us, a priest who could die if he
failed to follow instructions when approaching God. Now,
because of what Jesus has done for us, God's spirit lives
in us! As a result, we have become temples for God. 1
Corinthians 6:19-20. What should be our reaction to all of
- Is all of this temple stuff just a somewhat frightening
memory from the past? We are now all temples, we can all
approach God, so is the priest-temple thing is gone?
- Read Hebrews 8:1-2 and Hebrews 7:23-25. What does
this suggest about the present-day temple and High
Priest? (Jesus "always lives to intercede" for us!
The temple, the sanctuary service, the Day of
Atonement teach us lessons about what Jesus is doing
right now on our behalf in heaven!)
- Read Hebrews 7:26. "Our need." What need do we have that
makes what is going on in heaven relevant to us today?
(Our need is to have our sins removed. Since sin is an
ongoing problem in my life, I have an ongoing need for a
High Priest in heaven.)
- Friend, do you want to face the wrath of God? I surely do
not! Why not today accept Jesus as your Savior so that you
are reconciled to God. Why not ask God to send His Spirit
into your temple to guide your ways? Why not have Jesus
intercede on your behalf in heaven?
- Next week: Christ, Our Sacrifice.
* Copr. 2013, 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.