Foundational Framework Part 34 - Perfecting a Tainted Picture


Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.

God’s desire is to dwell with people. He loves His special creation and seeks to have intimacy with every single person. Our sin has created a great divide between us and our Maker. Throughout the Bible, we see YHWH taking the steps necessary to teach men and women was it is to be in relationship with Him. This calls for understanding.

When one comes to believe what God has said, most particularly about His Son Jesus Christ, they are brought into a relationship with Him; a relationship that was previously impossible because of the condemnation resting upon man due to sin, thus separating men and women from God. Once that separation has been annulled, YHWH’s desire is that the relationship would develop into fellowship/intimacy. God seeks to paint this picture in various ways while at the same time providing instruction for the restoration of that fellowship when we have entertained sin in our lives (1 John 1:9). It is important to see that the Law does not just give commandments that (if followed by Israel) would demonstrate fellowship with the Creator, but it also provides instructions regarding the proper sacrifices that were required to renew that fellowship when sin occurred. While a relationship with YHWH can never be lost, fellowship with Him is something that can be suffer when sin enters the picture.

Exodus 25:1-9. YHWH calls for contributions for a sanctuary so that He can dwell among His people. The phrase “whose heart moves him” speaks to the willingness of the people of Israel to give freely so that they can be in intimacy with YHWH. The elements and materials requested would be from plundering the Egyptians (12:36), and from Israel’s altercation with Amalek (17:8-16). To get an idea of the spoils of


these campaigns, the total weight of gold used for the Tabernacle is 1.65 tons (3,300 lbs) and is valued at a little more than $64 million dollars.[1]

YHWH “wished a dwelling where He would become part of the daily life of His people.”[2] This desire is found in the Tabernacle. This Tabernacle consisted of a courtyard that was 150 feet long and 75 feet wide. It was covered in solid walls of cloth and skins and had only one entrance at the east so that the one entering would be facing west when doing so. This is in direct opposition to those who worshiped the sun in those days,[3] and goes against the teaching of the pagans who believed that there were many ways to the gods that they served. Within the courtyard was another structure that contained the holy place where the showbread, the golden lampstand and the altar of incense were, while the Holy of holies was located behind a thick veil, containing the ark of the covenant with the mercy seat upon it.

The Tabernacle would become a place where Israel’s sin could be forgiven, but also in how they could draw near to the presence of God. The Bible contains 50 chapters of detailed instructions involving the Tabernacle. The specifications are exact drawing attention to His word, noting the importance of paying attention to everything that YHWH said, exactly as He said it. To cut corners on YHWH’s instructions was to distort how a sinful Israelite could come to a Holy God.

Exodus 25:10-11, 17-22. The ark of the covenant (also known as the “ark of the testimony”) is the first item mentioned. In it would be the testimony that Israel had agreed to, the conditional Sinaitic Covenant. On top would be a lid to the ark made of pure gold (no wood) that is known as the “mercy seat” or the “propitiatory.” It would be at this place that YHWH would receive the atonement for sin through sacrifice.

Every piece of furniture in the Tabernacle pointed to Jesus Christ. “The brazen altar pointed to His sacrificial death. The laver typified His cleansing ministry through the Word. The table of showbread pointed to

Christ as the Bread of Life. The golden lampstand spoke of Christ as the Light. The altar of incense pointed to Christ as our Intercessor.”[4]

While the pieces of furniture are highly significant in pointing to God, our main concern is the sacrifice needed to make atonement for sin.

Leviticus 16:2-17. This section details the priest and the offering in relation to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This was a time, once a year, when the High Priest would offer a sacrifice for the totality of the sins of the people. Entrance into the Holy Place was a serious matter. The offerings required were specific (v.3), while the priest was to bathe thoroughly before dressing in a special attire of “linen,” being all white, and symbolizing purity (v.4). Selecting two goats served to communicate two separate but conjoined pictures of YHWH’s dealing with sin (v.5). The word “atonement” (expiation) in Hebrew is kippur meaning “cover over, pacify, propitiate,”[5] and also carries the meaning of “satisfaction.” It is understood as a “covering” or “satisfaction” for the sins of Israel.

Without first being pardoned by blood, Aaron could not serve in sacrificing for others (v.6). The bull offered for him and his family (v.11) is from v.3. The casting of lots is an ancient practice involving pebbles and was employed for deciding difficult matters. This was done for the two goats, one being for YHWH, in which the goat was sacrificed for sin (v.9), with the other being listed as the “scapegoat.” The word for “scapegoat” is azazel in Hebrew which has suffered some difficulty in interpretation, but most likely means “complete removal.” The High Priest would place his hand on the head of the scapegoat and the sins of the people were confessed, symbolizing a transference of the people’s sins to the goat. The goat was then sent out into the wilderness, showing that the sins of Israel were “completely removed” (v.22).

Three separate times in verse 11, the point is made that Aaron, the High Priest, needed atonement for his sin, as well as his family’s sin. This is also in v.6 and once more in v.17, stressing the impure person of the

High Priest and their need for covering just like that of the people. Two things are clear from v. 11: First, sin brings death and the bull given was a substitute for Aaron’s sin. Second, blood is necessary to cover the sin.

In v.12, Aaron takes a firepan filled with coals from the altar of incense, along with two palms full of incense with him into the Holy of holies before the ark of the covenant. There he would sprinkle the incense over the coals in the firepan and the smoke would “cover” the mercy seat before the presence of YHWH. This would be a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord but is also believed to serve as protecting the High Priest from seeing YHWH due to the smoke. This would keep him alive (v.13b; Exod. 33:20).

The blood of the bull was sprinkled on the east side of the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat seven times with his finger. Seven is the number of divine perfection, coupled with the blood to mean “full covering.” The goat that is sacrificed in v.15 is the second goat in v.9 whose lot fell to YHWH. This goat’s blood is for the atonement of the people, which is also brought into the Holy of holies and sprinkled upon the mercy seat. The sin of Israel is the reason for such measures (v.16). YHWH makes it clear that only Aaron, the High Priest, is to be in the Holy of holies, making atonement for the sins of the people only once a year. This signifies that Christ alone is our High Priest. There can be only one, and He alone is sufficient to atone.

From the examples shown here, atonement was made for the totality of the people. The High Priest was not only atoning for the sins of some of the Jews and not others. No, the atonement was for the totality of the sins of the children of Israel. This example shows that a belief like “limited atonement,” which states that Jesus only died to pay for the sins of certain people, has no merit in the Old Testament example that is put forth. Jesus has “tasted death for every man” (Heb 2:9), therefore salvation can be freely offered to everyone!

Leviticus 23:26-32, The Day of Atonement. This passage has three main points that are most significant for our study. First, the “holy convocation,” being a time of solemn assembly before YHWH, was to be one of fasting. This is described in the NASB as “humble your souls” and is seen in the ESV and NKJV as “afflict yourselves/your souls” respectively (v.27, 32).

Second, no work was to be done on the Day of Atonement (v.28). NONE! This was a day of “complete rest” (v.32) where one is to do “no work at all” (v.31). To work on this day corrupted the point being made: The works of man were insufficient to make atonement. Only the work of the High Priest would bring atonement, pointing to Jesus alone being the sufficient means of atoning for sin.

Finally, if anyone refused to humble themselves, or took up work on that day, severe consequences awaited them (v.29, 30). The one who would not fast would be “cut off from his people” (v.29), while the one who worked would be destroyed, meaning that they would be put to death (v.30). Both penalties are severe because of the message that YHWH is seeking to communicate with His people. V.32 is a summation.

The Gospel accounts of the actual moment of Jesus crucifixion are nothing short of strange, only because such a monumental event in all of history is communicated with very few words. Notice:

Matthew 27:35- “And when they had crucified Him,…”

Mark 15:24- “And they crucified Him,…”

Luke 23:33- “…there they crucified Him and the criminals…”

John 19:18- “There they crucified Him…”

The very moment where the sins of the entire existence of mankind were completely paid for, drawing blood from the veins of God happens in a fraction of a sentence. Yes, much more goes on around it, but the actual moment is put rather plainly. He was crucified.

What was YHWH doing with this moment in relation to all that He had previously shown the children of Israel?

Hebrews 9:1-7. The author of Hebrews is reminding his audience of the Tabernacle and its furniture. He identifies the Holy Place which contains the golden lampstand and the table with the 12 unleavened loaves. From Exodus 30:6, we learn that the altar of incense was placed in front of the veil in the Holy Place and not in the Holy of holies. However, in Hebrews 9:3-4, we read that the altar of incense seems to be behind the second veil, making it a part of the Holy of holies. Is this a contradiction? Not at all.

The Greek word used for “altar” is thymiama which is always translated in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) as “censer,” being “a utensil for fumigating or burning incense.”[6] This word can also be understood as “the altar on which incense was offered (Exod 30:1–10).”[7] Earlier we noted that in Leviticus 16:12, the High Priest was to take a “firepan” full of coals from the altar of incense along with two palms full of incense which were sprinkled over the coals before the mercy seat so that it was covered, preserving the priest’s life (Lev 16:13). The incense is released in the Holy of holies.

Within the Holy of holies, the ark of the covenant rested with the pure gold mercy seat upon it. Within the ark lay three items: A jar of manna, symbolizing Christ as the Bread of Life, being our Sustainer, Aaron’s rod that had budded, representing Christ as our High Priest who makes atonement for sin, and the “tables of the covenant” which contain the Ten Words given to Israel. The first set of tablets were broken by Moses in his anger at the sin of the people (Exod 32:19). This is a perfect picture of man’s inability to keep God’s Law. The 2nd set of tablets (Exod 34:1-28) are the ones deposited into the ark. The mercy seat, being the place where atonement is made for sin, sits on top of the law, concealing it from view. This is another perfect picture of Christ’s sacrifice for the penalty of sin covering over the righteous demands of the Law (Rom 3:21-22; 10:4).

While the priests were continually in and out of the Holy Place, only the High Priest entered into the Holy of holies, and that only once a year. When he enters on the Day of Atonement, he must take blood, both for himself and for the people, to propitiate for their sins (Heb 9:6-7).

Hebrews 9:11-14. Christ is a High Priest of an eternal Tabernacle in the heavens. That which was commanded by God for the Israelites to set up and tear down repeatedly in the desert, calling upon them to observe

the measurements and practices in a strict manner, were only a type of eternal things in the heavenly realm. This would explain the precision that was commanded, the strict penalties for disobedience, and the pictures of redemption that were constantly painted. YHWH was using earthly means to communicate heavenly realities foreshadowing the perfect redemption that is found only in our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ the righteous! He alone can enter once, without any further obligation to offer sacrifices again for the sins of humanity.

This redemption is secured from His own blood and not the blood of any animal. While the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could make one clean on the outside (v.13), the perfect blood of Jesus Christ can actually cleanse the conscience from any obligation to do “dead works” (v. 14) in order to merit acceptance with God. One will also note the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in this verse.

Hebrews 9:24-25. Jesus’ role as High Priest finds Him entering heaven and not the Tabernacle, which is a “copy” of the heavenly realm. He appears before the Father on our behalf, offering His blood as a perfect atonement. This is superior to the former system tainted by the flesh.

Hebrews 10:1-3. The Law could never perfect those who abided by it. Due to an unquenchable bent to sin, the offerings had to be made repeatedly, slaying the conscience with guilt every time.

Hebrews 10:10-14. Christ came to do the will of the Father (John 5:30; 6:38). We are told that because of His commitment to do God’s will, “we have been sanctified.” The word “sanctified” in v.10 is the Greek word hēgiasmenoi meaning “set aside something or make it suitable for ritual purposes.”[8] The author of Hebrews uses the word “sanctify” differently than what many in the church today are used to from reading Paul’s letters. Hodges explains that this word “occurs in a tense that makes it plain, along with the rest of the statement, that the sanctification is an accomplished fact. Nowhere in Hebrews does the writer refer to the ‘progressive sanctification’ of a believer’s life. Instead sanctification is for him a functional equivalent of the Pauline concept of justification. By the

sanctification which is accomplished through the death of Christ, New-Covenant worshipers are perfected for guilt-free service to God (cf. 2:11).”[9] So when we see “sanctify” in Hebrews, we must note the tense and consider that the author is speaking of what we commonly understand as justification.

Jesus Christ is not only the High Priest, but His body of flesh is the offering for atonement. Before, the offering of the priests could only cover sin, but they could not remove it. But this one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ completes the atonement for sin, seeing that He “sat down” now that His work was finished (John 19:30). He now awaits the future time in which all enemies will be under His feet. His sacrifice has relieved the “sanctified” one from the guilt of sin. Those who believe in Him are perfected both in God’s sight, as well as in conscience!


[1] Accessed 3.22.2018.

[2] Edward W. Patton, The Way into the Holiest: A Devotional Study of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), p. 15.

[3] John C. Cross, By This Name (Alberta, Canada: Good Seed International, 2015), p. 185.

[4] Theodore H. Epp, Portraits of Christ in the Tabernacle (Lincoln, Nebraska: Back to the Bible Publications, 1976), p. 133.

[5] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 497.

[6] Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889), p. 293.

[7] Leon Morris, “Hebrews,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, Vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 81.

[8] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 9.

[9] Zane C. Hodges, “Hebrews,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, Vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), p. 804.