By James Groce
Editor Apostolic Standard
“For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” Lev. 16:30
The sixteenth chapter of Leviticus describes the most solemn and interesting of ceremonies in the Hebrew ritual. It presents God’s law for the great Day of Atonement, the most impressive day in the Jewish calendar, the day when the high-priest was to go into the Holy of holies, and to make an atonement for all the sins, irreverences, and pollutions of Israel, from himself down to the lowest of the people, for the entire year–a day of solemnities connecting directly with Calvary and the whole redemption work of Jesus Christ.
By referring to the 29th verse, you will find that this day of atonement was appointed for ” the seventh month.” Seven is a symbol of completeness. This would therefore seem to refer to the fact noted by the apostle, that it was only “when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son to redeem them that were under the law.” His appearance, therefore, to take away our sins, was in “the fullness of time.” He, therefore, put the day of atonement in “the seventh month.”
You will also notice that this great service occurred but once in a complete revolution of time–“once a year.” A year is a full and complete period. There is no time which does not fall within the year. And the occurrence of the day of atonement but once in the entire year plainly pointed to another great fact noted by the apostle, that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” There is no repetition in His sacrificial work. In the whole year of time there is but one atonement day. The common sacrifices were repeated every morning and evening, to show that men are constantly in need of atoning services; but the great transaction in which that atonement was really effected was performed but once in a complete period. When our High-priest made His great sacrifice in the seventh month, it referred back to all the past months of the world’s age, and forward to all months to come. There is a beautiful picture in this thought. It throws a grandeur around the cross of Calvary, for it was there that the ages met. There are no days for man which were not presented in that one atonement day. It is the keystone of the arch which spans from eternity to eternity. The events of that day have no parallel in history. They constitute the one, great, and only transaction of the sort in all the revolutions of time. To gaze upon the scenes of that occasion is to behold what the world for four thousand years was waiting for, and what shall be the chief theme of the songs and celebrations of everlasting life. “Christ was once offered;” and in that one offering of Himself, all the eras of human existence were condensed and included. It was the event of this world’s year.
Let us look a little more particularly into the transactions of this important day and at the high-priest that officiated in it.
It was to the high-priest a day which imposed numerous inconveniences, anxieties and humiliations. Seven days before it came, it severed him from his family and home, and confined him to the work of preparation for what was coming. The humbler duties, which at other times fell upon the ordinary priests, all were on that day to be performed by him. He was put upon slender diet, and, on the atonement day, was required to fast entirely until evening. In order to enter upon the atonement services, he had to divest himself of all his high-priestly attire and put on the simple linen clothing of the common priests. And so was it with our great High-priest when He undertook to expiate the guilt of man. “Being in the form of God, and thinking it not robbery to be equal with God, He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death.” He became a suffering, laborious, self-denying servant. No gold glittered upon His brow, or mingled its glory with royal colors to adorn His robe. No stones sparkled on His shoulders or on His breast. No chariots of fame bore Him to the place of His mighty deeds of love. He did have on a robe of purple; but it was a robe of mockery. He did wear a crown; but a crown of thorns, pressed on his brow by malicious enemies. He had in His hand a scepter; but it was “a reed,” placed there in contempt to deepen His abasement. “Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty
might be made rich.” And thus amid privations, humiliations, and anxieties which made Him sorrowful even unto death, did He go through with the services of the great day of the Atonement.
It was to the high-priest a day which imposed all its services upon him alone. He was neither to be accompanied nor assisted by any one. Everything to be done was to be done by himself, with his own
hands. The law said, “There shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.” Even the ordinary services on this particular day, the trimming of the lamps, the reviving of the fires, the daily sacrifices, the slaying of the
animals, the carrying and sprinkling of the blood, the burning of the sacrifices and incense, everything had to be done by himself alone. Thus, when Jesus undertook the expiation of the world’s guilt, “of the
people, there was none with Him.” No one shared in the labor. Isaiah says, “I looked, and there was none to help.” His “own arm brought salvation.” He “his own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” When His soul was made an offering for sin, it was He alone that officiated. On that solemn day, all helpers were withdrawn. All alone He wrestled in the garden. All alone He hung upon the cross. “I have
trodden the wine-press ALONE; and of the people there was none with Me.”
We come now to look at the atonement itself. Here we find that several kinds of offerings were to be made. The object was to make the picture complete by bringing out in different offerings what could not
all be expressed by one. They were only different phases of the same unity, pointing to the one offering of Jesus “Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” There was a ram
for a burnt offering, and a kid for a sin offering, not to signify that Christ was offered more than once, or that there was another offering besides His; but to set forth the fact, that Christ’s one offering was for all kinds of sin; as it is written, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” There is a multiplication of victims, that we may see the amplitude and varied applications of the one great atonement effected by Jesus Christ.
The most vital, essential, and remarkable of these atoning services was that relating to the two goats, as provided for in the seventh through the twenty-second verses. One of these goats was to be slain as a sin offering, and the other was to have the sins of Israel laid upon its head, and then to be taken away alive and left in the wilderness. The goats to be used on the day of atonement were kids of the first year, without blemish — pictures of our Propitiation, spotless, perfect, and elected to bleed on God’s altar in the freshness, prime and vigor of His manhood. They were to be furnished by the congregation of Israel, procured at the expense of the public treasury, and brought forward by the people. So there was a price paid by the Jewish officials for the apprehension of Jesus. At thirty pieces of silver they procured Him. And the people brought Him forward to the altar saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” The sacred lot was to decide which one should die. So, after all, it was God who made the selection. The Jews acted out their own malicious counsel when they brought Him to the slaughter; but He was, at the same time, “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23.)
The lot having designated the victim, it was to be slain. “Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” Israel’s sins demanded an offering, and the sacrificial blade soon left that spotless lamb quivering in the agonies of death. The law said to Aaron, “Kill the goat of the sin-offering;” “and he did as the Lord commanded.” And thus was the blessed Savior brought as a lamb to the slaughter. The guilt of ages was crying out for blood, and He was taken, and with wicked hands was crucified and slain — slain as the sacrifice for the sins of the world!
Jesus, our Passover, was slain for us; “that for the transgression of my people was He smitten;” that “His soul was made an offering for sin;” that “we were not redeemed with corruptible things …but by the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot;” and hence, that in the crucifixion of Jesus, the great foundation was laid which is the stepping stone to glory and eternal life.
But, the mere slaying of the victim was not all. Its blood had to be carried and sprinkled upon the Mercy seat in the Holy of holies.
The mere death of Christ was not all of the atonement. It was the preparation, material, groundwork, for the atonement; but not the full atonement itself. He needed to rise from the dead, and ascend into Heaven, and “appear in the presence of God for us,” before all the requirements of the case were met. Hence, Jesus, made an High-priest for ever, has “for us entered within the veil” — “passed into the
heavens” — “not into the holy places made with hands, which are figures of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;” — “not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place.”
The obedience of an Israelite to God’s redemption plan assured him of approval. Just as now an individual’s obedience to the gospel will assure that individual of approval. This plan is found in Acts chapter two and verse thirty-eight. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” There is no other plan for atonement.