The Day Of Atonement
November 22nd, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-22-59 7:30 p.m.
Now, in our Bible, let us turn to chapter 9, the Book of Hebrews – chapter 9, the Book of Hebrews, beginning at the seventh verse and reading through the fourteenth verse: Hebrews 9:7-14. The first part of the chapter is a description of the tabernacle and its furnishings. Then where we begin to read is the veil and the Holy of Holies and The Day of Atonement.
And the sermon tonight closes these messages I have prepared as this author to the Hebrews has taken the sacrifices and the tabernacle itself as types of the atonement in Christ. And this last message is of the thing that he speaks of here: The Day of Atonement when the high priest, once in the year, entered beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies and there brought the blood by which expiation was made for the sins of the people. So we begin reading at verse 7 through verse 14. Now, together:
But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people;
The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.
Which was a figure for the time then present in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience–
Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh,
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
So the author says that these things on the Day of Atonement – the offering of the blood, the entrance beyond the veil, the high priest alone offering that expiation unto God – all of it, he says, was in type and in picture of the great substance and reality we find in the sacrifice of Jesus. This ninth chapter is one of the great chapters in the Bible, and it is built upon the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus which, in itself also, is one of the great and meaningful passages of the Word of God. So this evening, we are taking the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus and briefly following through those types, those pictures, those symbols by which God taught a sinful man how he could approach the presence of a holy God and yet live.
God has a way of approach that He Himself has devised: "No man can come unto the Father but by Me," [John 14:6] said our Lord. And the way of approach to God is by blood; it is by sacrifice. It is through an expiation of our sins for no man can live or stand or appear in the presence of God in unforgiven sin. As the man was cast out of the Garden of Eden when sin was found in him [Genesis 3:22-24], so the man is cast out of the beautiful celestial city of heaven in unforgiven sin [Revelation 21:8, 22:14-15]. He must be purged; he must be washed. An atonement must be made for his soul, and God teaches us that approach to heaven in this great Day of Atonement.
Now, the author of the Hebrews says the Holy Ghost doth signify in a figure [Hebrews 9:8]. That is, the thing that God taught the people here was an alphabet picture. It was a language we first had to learn before we could understand the reality of that atonement – that expiation, that grace and forgiveness – in the substance, the reality, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. For the author of the Hebrews says, "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin" [Hebrews 10:4]. All of these, he says, were pictures that God gave His people to prepare them for an understanding of and a trust in the great blood atonement in Jesus, our Lord.
Now, in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of [Leviticus], the Lord says: "This shall be a statute forever unto you" [Leviticus 16:29, 34]. The Day of Atonement carried with it in the letter the Mosaic institution that was observed by Israel until the day that Jesus came which was 1,400 years later. But the spirit of the Day of Atonement is forever. The Jewish family today observes it in Yom Kippur. A Jew may observe no other feast, no other fast, no other ordinance. He may not go to the synagogue. But if he is a Jew, he observes this Day of Atonement, which, in their language, is Yom Kippur. And it’s in the fall time – it has already passed – of the year.
The Jewish people observed that by rite, by ritual, by ceremony, as it here is in the Bible [Leviticus 16:1-34], until the great reality came in Christ. Then they had no officiating, sacrificing high priest. They had no holy place. They had no altar. They will never have until our Lord Jesus comes again and they receive Him as the expiation and the sacrifice and atonement for their own sins also. But the institution of this atonement is forever for without it no man can ever see God. In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, every year [Leviticus 16:29], for, as the author says: "The blood of bulls and of goats could not forgive sin" [Hebrews 10:4]. It was a type, and it had to be repeated because, in itself, it had no power of forgiveness [Hebrews 10:1-4]. So every year, on the seventh month, on the tenth day of that month [Leviticus 16:29], they were to afflict their souls [Leviticus 16:31]. That is, they were to look upon that expiation in contrition and in confession, in sorrow, and in tears.
So with God’s people today, we are to look upon the sacrifice of Christ in sorrow that we should have pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns and that our sins should have nailed Him to the tree [Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24]. And in all solemnity, we are to observe the memorial of the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup because it sets before our very eyes the sorrows and wounds and death of our Lord [1 Corinthians 11:23-30]. "Ye shall afflict your souls and on that day, ye shall do no work at all. It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you" [from Leviticus 16:29-31].
Now, in the ritual of the Day of Atonement, we are told in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus that:
There shall no man enter in the tabernacle of the congregation –
except Aaron, the high priest –
when he goeth to make an atonement in the Holy Place,
and until he come out and have made an atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.
On every day, that tabernacle was alive. It was teeming with officiating priests and Levites. There were many, many ordinances to observe, many sacrifices made, many things to be done. But on the Day of Atonement, every priest and every Levite was to be outside and away, and the high priest alone entered into the presence of God to make atonement for the sins of the people.
There are priests many. There are priests now that say they are priests, many, but there is only one great Priest and there is only One that can make atonement for our sins who can mediate between us who are lost and the great God in heaven who cannot bear or endure to look upon evil [1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14; Habakkuk 1:13].
Alone, into the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement, went Aaron to perform all of the offices of that day [Leviticus 16:17; Hebrews 9:7]. If there was a lamp to be lighted, he must light it. If there was bread to be changed on the table of the shewbread, he must change it. If there is a victim to be slain, he must slay it. If there is blood to be brought before God, he must bring it. If there are sacrificial fires to be kindled, he must kindle them. If there is a censer of prayer and fragrance of frankincense to be offered unto God, he must offer it. All of the offices that day were to be done by that one great high priest.
That was sent to us of God that we might understand that it is Christ alone who mediates our salvation and in whose name we have forgiveness of sins [Acts 4:12]. He trod the wine press of the wrath of God alone [Isaiah 62:2-3]. No other could do it for us. He entered into the Holy of Holies with blood of expiation, His own [Hebrews 9:11-12]. No other could offer it. Our Savior met deity that day. He entered into the kingdom of darkness His own self, in His own body bear our sins on the tree [1 Peter 2:24], and no human eye and no human voice and no human presence when the High Priest met God on the Day of Atonement.
And it is impossible for us to enter into that mysterious darkness when Jesus poured out His life unto death. And when the representative of our sinful race met deity, an atonement was made for the sins of the whole family of Adam [1 John 2:2]. No man was there in the Day of Atonement when the high priest poured out the blood in the Holy of Holies unto God, and no human eye and no human heart and no human mind will ever be able to enter into the mystery of that expiation when Jesus poured out His life unto death and made atonement for our sins." There shall be no man in the tabernacle when he goeth in to make atonement for the people" [from Leviticus 16:17].
Will you notice a second thing in this Leviticus chapter? Notice these "alls – all":
Aaron shall lay his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins –
and then again –
And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities –
and then again –
That you may be cleaned from all your sins before the Lord –
and then again –
That Israel might be made atoned for in all of their sins once a year
[from Leviticus 16:21-22, 30, 34]
That word "all" is very, very noticeable in this chapter. What God is saying there is that all of His people have sinned – that all of us are in transgressions. He says that over here in the third chapter of the Book of Romans: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23]. All are guilty, the whole world, before God. As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one" [Romans 3:10]. On that great Day of Atonement, God was saying that all of His people, all of them, need saving – need atoning, need sin forgiven – all of us. And when you read the chapter, how God emphasized that all of us need this expiation for our sins.
For example, it starts off with Aaron himself in the third verse. Aaron shall come, the high priest himself, and before he can be God’s representative to bear the blood into the Holy of Holies, Aaron himself must make expiation for his own sins [Leviticus 16:3, 5-6]. So Aaron had to divest himself of his garments of glory and beauty. He bathed himself and put on the humble garments of linen [Leviticus 16:4]. Then he offered a sacrifice for himself and for his family [Leviticus 16:6, 11] and entered into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood of expiation on the mercy seat and seven times on the ground before it to make atonement for himself [Leviticus 16:11, 14]. For Aaron himself, the high priest himself, was a man; and being a man, he was a sinner even though he was the high priest, and he had to make atonement first for himself.
Then in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of [Leviticus], an atonement has to be made for the tabernacle of the congregation [Leviticus 16:16]. That’s the holy meeting place of God where God had His name in which God dwelt [Leviticus 16:2-13]. The tabernacle itself had to be atoned for because it sat in the midst of an unclean people, a sinful people [Leviticus 16:16]. Then next, he had to make an atonement for the holy place. There the most sacred of all rites and rituals were kept. But because the priests who ministered in the holy place were themselves unrighteous and unclean and sinners, the holy place itself was defiled and it had to have an atonement made for it [Leviticus 16:16-17].
"And then he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord and make an atonement for it" [Leviticus 16:18]. The holy sacrifices were burned upon the altar of God, but the men who offered them themselves – who ministered there at the altar – they were sinners also, and they made unclean everything that they touched [Leviticus 16:19]. And on the inside of the holy place, the golden altar of incense, of prayer, with the horns at each corner, the blood of atonement had to be placed upon the horns of the altar because the men who prayed there were themselves sinners.
God is teaching us that that element of sin enters into all of our lives and into all of our service. Our prayers are not perfect. Our sermons are not perfect. Our devotion and obedience are not perfect. In no wise can we offer unto God a perfect sacrifice, a perfect atonement, a perfect ritual, a perfect prayer, a perfect sermon, a perfect testimony. Our lives are filled with shortcoming and human error [Acts 15:10]. And God says on this Day of Atonement all of that has to be expiated before we can be received clean and pure and forgiven into the presence of the Lord.
Even these who share in the services are unclean because of that sin offering. Aaron had to wash himself after the atonement was made placing back on his beautiful garments [Leviticus 16:24]. But first, he must wash himself [Leviticus 16:4]. And the one that let go the goat out in the wilderness, he must wash himself before he can return [Leviticus 16:26]. And the one, the third person, that carried the sin offering outside the gate beyond the camp and burned it outside the camp, he himself had to wash his clothes and bathe his flesh in water before he could come back into the camp [Leviticus 16:27-28].
Sin everywhere: sin in our minds, sin in our hearts, sin in our souls, sin in our homes, sin in our lives, sin in our thoughts, sin in our words, sin in our deeds – all of us have that element of shortcoming in us. We are sinners before God, God’s Book says, and all of us need an atonement [Romans 3:23; Hebrews 9:22].
Now, the atonement for the people on this great day was made in a two-fold way that we might see how the expiation of our sins in Christ has been made effective for us in our Lord Jesus. First of all, there were two victims brought before Aaron – two goats [Leviticus 16:7]. And lots were cast: one goat for the Lord and one goat for the people [Leviticus 16:8]. And the lot that was cast for the Lord, Aaron placed his hands upon its head and confessed there all the sins of the children of God – all of them [Leviticus 16:9]. Every day, the smoke of the oblations arose to heaven, and the sacrifices were repeated and reiterated every day. But on this day, all of the sacrifices were gathered up into one meaningful ritual and offered unto God. Aaron confesses over the head of this victim all of the sins of the congregation – all their iniquities, all their transgressions – then it is slain there at the altar. Its blood is caught in a basin [Leviticus 16:9-11, 15, 21-22].
With an incense burner in one hand and the basin of blood in the other, the high priest enters into the holy place [Leviticus 16:12]. He pauses at the golden altar of prayer [Leviticus 16:13]. Then for the one and only time in the year, he draws aside the veil that separates the Holy of Holies [Leviticus 16:34; Hebrews 9:7]. And that one time in the year, he enters into the holy place with the blood of expiation, and he sprinkles the blood on the mercy seat [Leviticus 16:3, 14-15] on which the cherubim look down [Exodus 25:18-20] seeing the blood covering those Ten Commandments underneath – the ark holding the Ten Commandments that we violated [Exodus 25:16]. And the violation brings death – sin and death [Ezekiel 18:20]. He covers the mercy seat with blood [Leviticus 16:14-15], and the cherubim look not upon broken commandments but upon blood of atonement. Then he sprinkles the blood seven times on the ground before the mercy seat [Leviticus 16:14, 19]; this earth is a sinful earth.
Then, after making expiation in the blood of atonement, he comes back out; and the goat that was for the people, over that goat he confesses all the sins and all the transgressions and all of the iniquities of the people [Leviticus 16:21], and then that goat is led by a chosen man into the wilderness, into a place uninhabited, and is driven away [Leviticus 16:21-22]. It took two of those victims for God to teach His people the one great truth in Christ: that in the blood of Jesus, in the blood of atonement, all of our sins are carried away. They are taken away:
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us." [Psalm 103:12]
"He has blotted out our sins as with a thick cloud." [from Isaiah 44:22]
"He has buried our sins in the depths of the sea." [from Micah 7:19]
And that is pictured on the Day of Atonement in the slaying of one of the sacrificial animals and pouring out its blood before the altar and the other animal, taken and driven away, bearing away all the sins and the transgressions and the iniquities of the people [Leviticus 16:7-10]. That’s what Christ has done for us.
And it says here in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, on that Day of Atonement: "Thou shalt do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country or a stranger that sojourneth among you" [Leviticus 16:29]; and then again, "It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you" [Leviticus 16:31]. The way a man’s sins are forgiven are altogether without his works, without his merit, without his goodness. It is a work done for us by Christ. On this great Day of Atonement, "Thou shalt do no work . . . It shall be a Sabbath of rest" [Leviticus 16:29, 31]. Our sins are forgiven not by what Christ has done and then by our works, not by what He has done and then some of our merit, but this matter – this revelation – of how God saves us and how God forgives us is altogether the work of Jesus Christ [Galatians 2:21].
We receive salvation as a gift [Ephesians 2:8-9]. We don’t work for it. We don’t buy it. We’re not smart enough to enter into it. It is something God does for us. Not by works, lest any man should say: "See what I have done? I have earned it. I have bought it. God’s going to let me into heaven because see how worthy I am. I can force the hand of God to let me into those beautiful streets and beyond those beautiful gates because see what I have done!"
No man shall boast in that day. When he stands in the presence of God, if he’s saved, it will be "All glory to the Lamb! Praise the name of Jesus! It was in His goodness, in His mercy, in His love, in His sobs, in His tears, in His wounds, in His cross, in His sacrifice, in His blood that I have found forgiveness of sin and now have opportunity to enter with the redeemed into the beautiful city of God."
"Ye shall do no work at all . . . it is a Sabbath of rest unto you" [Leviticus 16:29, 31]. Our great High Priest, in this matter of atonement and forgiveness, has done it all for us:
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
[From "Jesus Paid It All," by Elvina M. Hall, 1865]
In my hand, no price I bring
Simply to thy cross, I cling.
[From "Rock of Ages," by Augustus Montague Toplady, 1776]
It is something God has done for us in Christ Jesus." In that day, thou shalt do no work . . . It is a Sabbath of rest," [Leviticus 16:29, 31]. We are resting in the promise and in the mercy and in the grace of Jesus. It is a gift we receive from His gracious hands.
Then the day closes. After the atonement is made and after the scapegoat is sent away, then Aaron comes and he washes himself in the holy place and he puts back on his garments of glory and beauty [Leviticus 16:23-24]. And then for himself and for the people, he offers a burnt offering unto God [Leviticus 16:24-25]. That is the surrender of his life and the life of all of the people unto the Lord.
We are now forgiven. Atonement is made. Our sins have been washed away. We are clothed now with the garments of glory and duty in the forgiveness of our sins. And the offering of the burnt sacrifice that closed the day [Leviticus 16:23-28]was a picture of the offering of ourselves [Romans 12:1]: a sweet and acceptable and a spiritual sacrifice unto God.
And that’s what God asks and pleads for and invites on our part." See what I have done for thee: life everlasting [John 3:16], forgiveness for sin [Ephesians 1:7], an open entrance into the glory of heaven [John 14:2-6], the presence of God now [Matthew 28:20], and the promise of His keeping care through the years that unfold [Romans 8:37-39]."
And now we, at the conclusion of the day, we offer unto God ourselves." Lord, my heart, my soul, my life, my house, my home, the work of my hands, the love of my heart, the devotion of my mind and life: here, Lord, for Thee." Ah, how beautiful, meaningful, and how the Spirit of God whispers now into our hearts. "This have I done for thee. What hast thou done for Me?"
What does He ask for? Just that we thank Him, just that we remember Him, just that we offer in return the love of our souls, the confession of our lips, the thanksgiving of our hearts, the gratitude of our lives. "Thank You, Jesus. If I have any hope for heaven, it’s in Thee. If I have any glory in the world to come, it’ll be from Thy blessed face, any riches from Thy gracious hands: to Thee, Lord – to Jesus."
That’s what it is to receive fullness of life from the precious hands of our Savior. Would you receive Him now? "Here I come, pastor, and here I am." Somebody in this balcony, down one of these stairways, would you come? On this lower floor, somebody you for whom prayer has been made, would you come tonight? Into the aisle and down here to the front: "preacher, the best I know how, the best I can, I too bow in the presence of our Lord. I own His sacrifice for me, and I offer unto Him the gratitude of my soul."
Would you? Would you make it now? Would you make it tonight? On the first note of this first stanza, would you say, "Yes, Lord, here I am"? Into that aisle and down to the front – you won’t take that first step until something has happened in your heart. It will come. God will speak. The Holy Spirit will enter. The very moment you make that step, it’s to God, and the Lord will be there to welcome and receive you [Matthew 11:28]. Would you do it?
Is there a family tonight to put your lives in the fellowship of our church – one somebody you or a family you? Would you come? In any way the Spirit of God shall open the door and lead the way, will you make it now while we stand and while we sing?