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.