ONE PERFECT SACRIFICE
Whenever you think of the Day of Atonement, remember the importance of that day to Israel. Each year on the tenth day of the seventh month, God remembered all of the sins of that nation. Atoning sacrifices were connected with appeasing the wrath of God (Num. 16:41-46; 25:1-13), and it was imperative that this holy day be observed.
Consider how the observance of this day would have impacted the infant church. There were 3,000 who obeyed the gospel on Pentecost, and so many more afterwards. They were promised the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and it became a visible reality just four months after Pentecost. The Jews were assembled for the next annual feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, observed each year on the first day of the seventh month. It lasted for an entire week. Just two days after the feast ended, the Day of Atonement was kept. The high priest carried the blood of a bull and a goat into the Most Holy Place and appeased the wrath of God by sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat.
Perhaps those Christians in Jerusalem on that day would have clearly seen the difference between the blood of animals and the blood of Jesus. Every devout Jew would have been mindful of the blood carried by the priest that day, except those who had become Christians. They would have vividly seen the distinction now made between the two covenants. Christians did not need the blood of animals. Their salvation had nothing to do with the events happening in the temple. There was a new covenant, a new altar, a new priesthood, and a new blood sacrifice. That Old Testament Day of Atonement had been superseded by an offering of full atonement.
The new priesthood was not the Levitical priesthood established by Moses. The new High Priest did not need to first offer blood sacrifices for Himself, for the new High Priest was sinless. He did not need to offer a yearly atoning sacrifice, for the blood of Jesus obtained eternal redemption! The book of Hebrews sums it up with these words: “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb. 13:10-14).
by Steve Peeler
There are many words which describe our salvation. Each one emphasizes a particular aspect of that salvation. We talk about forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, redemption, and sanctification. The word that perhaps we least understand is the word atonement. We know about the Day of Atonement for the Israelites and believe in our atonement, but do we have an understanding of the meaning of this word? To help us have a better appreciation for our salvation, consider the meaning of atonement.
Numbers 16 tells of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. This resulted in the death of these men and about 250 others who followed them. The next day, the Jews slandered Moses and accused him of killing the people of God. God was so angry. His wrath was manifested in a plague which killed about 15,000 Jews. What stopped the plague? What was it that appeased His wrath? Aaron took a censer and stood between the Jews and the advancing plague. This action is described as making atonement for the nation (Num. 16:46-47). Wrath was appeased, and this is described as atonement.
In Numbers 25, the Jews were committing the sin of fornication with the Midianite women. God’s anger again sent a plague and killed 24,000 Jews. What stopped the plague? Phinehas took a javelin and thrust it through the bodies of a Jewish man and a Midianite woman who were committing fornication. God said, “Phinehas...has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel because he was zealous with My zeal among them...because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel” (Num. 25:11-13).