The Book of Leviticus, Chapters 16:17: The blood atonement foreshadowing the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the “scapegoat”, the tabernacle explained, the vail, the holy place and the most holy place.
Today, we’re continuing or sermon series in the BOOK OF LEVITICUS, chapters 16 & 17.
… Including the all-important Once-per-Year blood atonement …
… serviced by the High Priest of Israel, first in atonement for himself and his own family, and then for the whole nation of Israel.
Jumping ahead 1 chapter, to Leviticus 17:11, the Bible says: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
We see the counterpart to this verse in the NT in Hebrews 9:22, which says: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
And you often hear Christians say things like, “I’m saved by the blood” or nothing but the blood of Jesus!
And you have to wonder how many Christians actually understand WHY the blood of Jesus saves.
So today we’re answering the question: WHY DOES THE BLOOD MATTER?
Go ahead and turn to Leviticus 16:1-2 and let’s read.
So the first thing to notice is that the narrative picks right back up where Nadab & Abihu where consumed by the fire of God, back in chapter 10.
But there was a break in the narrative, In chs. 11 – 15, where God gave Moses the FOOD ORDINANCES, the PURIFICATION LAWS, and laws on LEPROSY …
But as far as the timeline or chronology of events, LEVITICUS picks right back up after the death of Nadab & Abihu, Aaron’s sons, who offered strange fire before God and were consumed in the tabernacle.
So God continued to give the INSTRUCTIONS FOR ENTERING THE TABERNACLE without any interruption …
… Becase Nadab & Abihu’s death were righteous judgments from God …
And so everything resumed as normal …
And in v. 2 God tells Moses that Aaron cannot enter the HOLY PLACE – WITHIN THE VAIL just any old time that he wants …
… that there is a specific time & way for him to enter INSIDE THE VAIL that separates the HOLY PLACE from the MOST HOLY PLACE, or the OUTER SANCTUARY from the INNER SANCTUARY.
So it helps to understand the general layout inside the tabernacle.
Inside the tabernacle … these two areas were separated by a THICK VAIL:
Exodus 26:31-33 explains the vail:
31 And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:
32And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.
33And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holyplace and the most holy.
So the VAIL separated the HOLY PLACE from the MOST HOLY PLACE.
Let’s first cover the HOLY PLACE (which is the outer sanctuary).
The HOLY PLACE contained 3 holy vessels:
The TABLE OF SHEWBREAD, THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK, and the ALTAR OF INCENSE.
Hebrews 9:2: “For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.”
And all three represented something and also served a practical purpose …
The CANDLESTICK was made of one solid piece of pure gold …
Exodus 25:31: And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestickbe made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
And the functional, practical purpose was to light the sanctuary, which otherwise would have been dark underneath the tent of the tabernacle.
So THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK provided LIGHT in an otherwise dark place.
Exodus 25:37 says: “And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.”
SPIRITUALLY, the CANDLESTICK represented the ILLUMINATION OF GOD …
In John 8:12 Jesus said: “… I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
The churches of God are also called CANDLESTICKS in the Book of Revelation … Jesus refers to the 7 churches in John’s apocalyptic vision as 7 candlesticks.
So “candlestick” can refer to a church in the Bible.
- Another holy vessel, was the TABLE OF SHEWBREAD.
The TABLE OF SHEWBREAD always had 12 loaves of bread on top it, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
And only the priests could eat it in the holy place, and this naturally provided sustenance to them:
In Leviticus 24:9, The Bible says: “ And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place.”
This signified that God would always feed and care for His people and be their sustenance & provision.
Jesus fulfilled this spiritually when He said in John 6:35: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
This was the same bread that King David ate when he was fleeing from Saul.
In 1 Samuel 21:6, the Bible says: “So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD …”
Jesus also defended His disciples when they plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath, when Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:
3 “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
This signified that the Temple was made for Jesus.
He was one greater than the temple. He was the master of the temple.
As we saw, all the sacrifices and vessels pointed to Jesus.
That’s why also in John 2:19, Jesus said to the Pharisees: “…. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” speaking of the temple of His body.
Lastly … THE SHEWBREAD represented Jesus’ own broken body at the last supper.
LUKE 22:19: “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it: and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
The last item in the HOLY PLACE was the ALTAR OF INCENSE, which I covered earlier in the series, representing the prayers of God’s people ascending up to God.
And practically speaking, the ALTAR OF INCENSE masked the smell of the sacrificed animals.
So these THREE HOLY VESSELS were in the HOLY PLACE or the OUTER SANCTUARY.
SO LET’S BRIEFLY COVER THE INNER SANCTUARY, or what the BIBLE CALLS, THE MOST HOLY PLACE.
This was INSIDE THE VAIL.
THE MOST HOLY PLACE CONTAINED 1 VERY IMPORTANT HOLY VESSEL:
The GOLDEN ARK OF THE COVENANT WHOSE TOP WAS OVERLAID BY THE MERCY SEAT.
EXODUS 25 starting at v. 10 describes the ARK:
READ EXODUS 25:10-11
And Exodus 25:17-18 Describes the MERCY SEAT.
And ON EACH SIDE of the ARK were also 2 CHERUBIMS OF GOLD, made WITH OUTSTRETCHED WINGS.
READ EXODUS 25:18-20
If you remember, when Adam & Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden for transgressing against God, cherubims were placed in the Garden to guard the way from them tree of life.
“So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
In EXODUS 25:22, God tells the Israelites that He would meet with them in the MOST HOLY PLACE between the CHERUBIMS:
“And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.”
NOW, it’s IMPORTANT TO VISUALIZE THIS, because the placement is important.
ON TOP OF THE ARK OF THE COVENANT was The MERCY SEAT, which was the covering of the ARK.
And INSIDE THE ARK, were the TABLETS OF THE LAW or “THE TESTIMONY” that God had given Moses.
READ EXODUS 25:21
And God would meet with AARON, the HIGH PRIEST, from above the mercy seat, between the TWO CHERUBIMS.
So the MERCY SEAT was situated ABOVE THE LAW.
It COVERED OVER THE LAW …
It’s a picture of GOD’S MERCY COVERING OVER HIS OWN LAW.
- By the blood of the Lamb, mercy is obtained, OVER the penalties of the LAW OF GOD.
All of us, according to the LAW, deserve death & Hell, because we all come short of the glory of God.
1 John 3:4 says: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
And James 2:10 says: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
But it’s GOD’S MERCY that saves us through the blood.
OK, so all the components are now in place to understand the BLOOD ATONEMENT.
SO TURN BACK TO LEVITICUS 16 and let’s keep reading.
READ LEVITICUS 16:3-6
So Aaron the HIGH PRIEST would first make atonement for himself and for his own family.
He had to be cleansed first as High Priest, before he could make restitution for God’s own people.
And that’s the difference between JESUS who is our HIGH PRIEST today, and the Levitical priesthood.
AARON, the High Priest, was a stand-in for the real HIGH PRIEST, Jesus Christ.
The priesthood itself foreshadowed Christ and was only a temporary setup until the REAL HIGH PRIEST could come.
So AFTER Aaron made atonement for himself & his family, he would then continue THE ATONEMENT for the rest of the nation.
So there were two goats required: one as a SACRIFICE for the sins of the people, and the second goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, would be the “scapegoat”.
The scapegoat would also bear the sins of the people, but instead of being sacrificed, it would be released into the wilderness.
- So there’s two things happening here.
The sacrificial goat bore the sins of the people and was killed as a substitute.
But the scapegoat represented bearing away the sins of the people … & removing it FAR FROM THEM.
READ LEVITICUS 16:21-22
We see this reflected in Psalm 103:12 which says: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
- So many people still struggle with the guilt of their past sins.
… but once you put your faith in Jesus, ALL YOUR SINS ARE REMOVED and FORGOTTEN.
GOD REMOVES THEM AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST.
How long is the EAST from the WEST? It’s endless. Forever. Eternal.
& it’s a great sin to bring up someone’s past sins to them once Jesus has cleansed them from it.
- And I’m seeing Christians today who do this …
- It profanes Jesus’ blood sacrifice!
- And the SCAPEGOAT would be selected based on the castings of lots …
And so to begin the ATONEMENT, Aaron would put burning coals on a portable censer for incense & bring it into the MOST HOLY PLACE.
& then Aaron would sacrifice the goat of the sin offering for the people. This would be the blood sacrifice to atone for sins.
This is described in LEVITICUS 16:15.
And then after that, they would transfer the sins of the people onto the head of the SCAPEGOAT and released it into the wilderness.
Finally, all of this would be followed by a BURNT SACRIFICE of the bullock & the goat that was already sacrificed.
READ LEVITICUS 16:27
This represented Jesus Himself, who after His death, would also suffer in Hell to pay for the full penalty of our sins which also included the 2nd DEATH …
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT would then be considered a DAY OF REST, OR SABBATH, whether the day of atonement fell on the regular Sabbath day or another day …
READ LEVITICUS 16:29-31
This further highlights the fact that Jesus is our final Sabbath rest.
FINALLY, in v. 34, Leviticus 16 ends with the DAY OF ATONEMENT as a perpetual statute that would be performed ONCE EVERY YEAR.
READ LEVITICUS 16:34
This reveals that THIS WAS only a TEMPORARY atonement, which had to be repeated from year to year, as a foreshadowing, an anticipation, of JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF …
… who would make the ultimate, ONCE-AND-FOR-ALL PERMANENT sacrifice to make atonement for our souls.
So let’s put this all together with Scripture from the NT.
The Book of Hebrews is one epistle in the NT that really explains the BLOOD in detail.
1 Peter 1:18-20:
And so Jesus initiates the NEW COVENANT or the NEW TESTAMENT.
This is saying that when you have a will & testament, that the testament doesn’t go into effect while you’re still alive … it becomes effective only after your death …
For example, when you’re passing on your worldly goods to your children as an inheritance … the will & testament only comes into effect at after your death.
Likewise, the New Covenant came into effect at the shedding of the BLOOD of Jesus.
And you get some debate among Christians as to when the New Testament era really began, some say it began with John the Baptist, others with Jesus’ ministry.
But it’s very clear: The New Covenant undoubtedly began at the shedding of the BLOOD of Jesus.
That’s why the VAIL OF THE TEMPLE, which separated the HOLY PLACE from the MOST HOLY PLACE was TORN ASUNDER at the death of Jesus!
50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
This signified that the OLD COVENANT had ended & the NEW COVENANT had begun, at the precise moment of Jesus’ death.
And that’s why Jesus said that unless we DRINK HIS BLOOD, as in the Lord’s Supper, that we will have no part in Him …
… because HIS BROKEN BODY & BLOOD and the ATONEMENT is what saves.
Jesus said in John 6:
So when people ask, why did Jesus have to die to save us?
What does His dying on the cross have to do with MY ETERNAL SALVATION?
It really does come down to THE BLOOD!
1 John 4:10 also says: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
So we are now able ourselves to enter into the Most Holy Place, into the midst of the Presence of God, and worship before Him.
Hebrews 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
That concludes the Blood Atonement.
Let’s close w/ just a key points from LEVITICUS 17.
So v. 1-6 establish that the sacrifices & offerings had to be done at the tabernacle, not out in the open field …
In v. 7 we find out why.
READ VERSE 7.
The Israelites had picked up pagan customs from the false religions around them, to offer sacrifices unto devils in the open fields.
Another interesting point in Leviticus 17, is v. 10-11.
This covers the restrictions for drinking blood of animals and draining the blood prior to cooking flesh.
This is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 12:23, where the blood is literally called “life”.
Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood [is] the life; and thou mayest not eat the LIFE with the flesh.
That’s an interesting statement from the Word, when you think about how DNA is contained in white blood cells.
And as we saw, the Blood represented the sanctity of Life and the Blood Atonement.
It’s also interesting that in the Book of Acts, when the apostles were determining what, if any, parts of the Mosaic Law the gentiles were required to follow under the New Covenant, they focused only on 3 things:
1 was fornication, the other was meat offered to idols, and the other was BLOOD.
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
That concludes Leviticus 17 and our sermon for today, as the rest of Leviticus 17, details the restrictions of consuming blood.
In the next sermon, we’ll cover a very important and controversial portion of Leviticus … THE MORAL LAWS …