by Dr. Mark Spitsbergen
The Life | Spiritual Life | The Altars of Man | The Altars of the Sanctuary | The Golden Altar of Incense
The Ark of the Covenant | Sacrificial Offerings | Offerings For Sin | Yom Kippur | The Divine Detergent | Reconciliation
The Purgation Offering | Passover | Protective Power of the Blood | Redemptive Power of the Blood | Conclusion
Many today and throughout history have failed to realize why the subject of the blood is so important to both Judaism and Christianity. As blood is fundamental to physical life, it is also fundamental to spiritual life and redemption. The blood carries within it both the breath and the healing agents of physical life. Without blood a person cannot live; for the life is in the blood. But the life-giving power of the blood extends beyond physical life, and is central also to redemption. Man had ruined His life and wrecked it with the incurable disease of sin. The only way that man could be cured and redeemed to life again would be through the destruction of his sin-diseased life and the recreation of a new life in God. Rather, than wiping out sinful man and starting over, God brought forth a means of re-creating man: through a redemption that would transfuse the life of God into him, and thereby make a new creation! Without the blood there is no life, no forgiveness, no redemption, and no hope for mankind. The story of the blood’s role in redemption is first fully realized in the events of the Passover: when the blood served as the protective and redemptive agent for the people of Israel, on the night they were delivered from Egypt. Similarly, God became the Lamb for mankind, and offered His own blood to set us free. When He died on the cross, He poured out His life’s blood to both deliver us from the tyrannical reign of sin, and impart His life into us. The blood of Jesus became the means to wipe out the power of sin, as well as the source by which all humanity might live. God’s life destroyed death, and His blood cured the disease of sin. There is no power that can swallow up death and cure man from this disease other than the blood of God Himself. As a substitute, the blood of animals was used to represent what God Himself would do. The use of their blood would represent the blood of the coming Redeemer. It was only through faith in the blood of the Redeemer that men, who were dead in their trespasses and sins, could approach unto God.
Blood is the life of the body. It has been recognized as the embodiment of life from antiquity. The blood carries the breath of life to every living part of our bodies as it binds the needed oxygen to its hemoglobin and distributes it to every cell. The liquid fibrous substance we know as blood is in essence the substance of our life. The properties of the blood extend beyond what even modern medicine can comprehend. Yet there are certain physiological, biochemical and immunological things about blood that we can say with a relatively high degree of certainty. It is a complex matrix of red cells, white cells and platelets. Through this mixture of complex proteins every cell in our bodies are fed, nurtured and protected. The blood carries the important properties of life that protects us from every foreign and infectious agent providing us with a defense against the diseases that would otherwise kill us. The blood is not only protective but also healing and purifying as it supplies an even more complex matrix of B-cells, T-cells and their products to heal and cleanse the cells of our bodies. Thus through the blood we have been given the means by which the essentials of life are supplied to us as well as the means to remove every impurity and contaminate that would jeopardize our life.
T-cells, eosinophils, and basophils are a few of the hundreds of healing and purifying properties in the blood
Even the people of antiquity realized that blood was the substance of life. There equivalence of blood and life is underscored in the ancient languages of Hebrew, Ugaritic and Akkadian poetry which grouped blood and life as lexical pairs1. Yet, the Bible takes the value of blood and extends it beyond natural life and makes it essential for spiritual life as well. Because the blood is the life of the flesh it was the substance that would be used to intercede for mans spiritually sinful and dead state. The blood is referred to as the soul (nephesh) but only from the prospective that the soul represents the whole of an individual’s life and being (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11; Deuteronomy 12:23). Therefore, when the Bible speaks of the soul it is usually referring to ones life. It is in this light that we speak of the blood of Jesus, for His blood is His life that was offered up for our redemption so that it could be imparted to everyone who would receive.
It is only through the blood of Jesus that the life of God can be given to men who are all spiritually dead (Romans 5:12,19, 7:14, 17, 20, 24; Ephesians 2:1-3, 18; Colossians 2:13). Only through the blood of Jesus can the stain of sin be cleansed and the soul purified from its horrible disease (Matthew 26:28; John 6:53; 1 John 1:7, 9; Acts 20:28; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:1; Revelation 1:5). The Almighty God cannot interact with sinful men therefore a remedy for their sins was necessary. As long as sin and death are present God will not reveal His presence nor have a relationship with mankind (Genesis 3:24; Exodus 19:12; Leviticus 22:9; Number 4:15, 20, 18:22; Exodus 30:30; Hebrews 9:7). God’s judgment was that sin must be paid for by the death of the sinner (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4, 20, 24; Romans 5:12; 6:16, 24; James 1:15). Since it was impossible for man to pay for his sin and live God in His love paid for our sins with His own life. God also made a way for the disease of sin to be cured by imparting His life into us. God made it possible then for us to die through His death and then live again through the power of His resurrection (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 4:12). Through the act of redemption the life and blood of Jesus Christ poured out of His life and into ours.
Until the fullness of time could produce the sacrificial body and blood of the Savior certain animals were offered in Christ’s stead. But the offerings of these animals were to always be done in faith of the redeemer who would give His life that we might live (Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 10:5; Genesis 22:4; Job 19:25; John 8:56). At the very beginning of mans sin and disobedience the blood of an innocent animal was poured out to provide a means to clothe man from his sin and shame (Genesis 3:21). The death of an animal would be the means whereby an acknowledgment of the righteous judgment of God against sin and disobedience would be made by the offerer (Genesis 2:13; Leviticus 4:3, 16:21). Through faith in the coming redeemer those like Noah and Abraham were allowed to worship God with the blood of a sacrificial lamb. Then God took it one step further and allowed Moses to enter into the realms of glory to show him more about the redeemer and the Holy Place where God dwells. In this revelation God showed Moses the Holies of Holies in heaven and how His people could interact with Him. He revealed to Moses how He Himself would come and remove the sin and death that ruled over the life of all mankind. Through faith in the blood of the covenant a place would be consecrated for God to dwell in the midst of His people Israel until the time that the redeemer could come and ransom man.
God taught Israel, through the sacrificial offerings, their need for redemption and the power of the blood to supply that redemption. They would learn that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). They would come to understand how the blood purifies, cleanses, sanctifies and protects those who are brought into covenant relationship by it (Leviticus 17:4, 14:1; Ezekiel 43:20, 45:18-20; Leviticus 16:15-16; Exodus 29:20, 12:7, 13, 22). Through the death of countless offerings they learned that only by the blood could sin be set aside so that they could come into a relationship with a Holy God who will not interact with sinful man. It is the blood that offers a means of forgiveness for sin and its deadly consequence. The blood that poured out of those offerings was the means to purify those things that had been contaminated by sins deadly power (Hebrews 9:22-23; Leviticus 16:11, 16). Yet under the law there were still things that no substitutionary sacrifice could provide a means of forgiveness for. If someone murdered a person then the ground was contaminated by the blood that was shed and the only way that contaminations could be removed was by the death of the guilty person (Numbers 35:31, 33; Exodus 21:14, 23; Deuteronomy 19:12). Of all things the blood was the most sacred because it was the life of the flesh and central to that glorious mystery of Christ being manifested in the flesh to redeem man from sin. Even when animals were being slaughtered for food the sacredness and limitations of how the blood was to be treated had to be observed with careful attention (Leviticus 16:13, 17:4; Isaiah 66:3).
God would not dwell in the midst of sin therefore God provided a means of removing its contamination. Because every sin is a capital offense against God everyone who sinned was under a penalty of death both then and now. But sin not only contaminates the lives of the individual but also everything that is around them (Joshua 7:24). The only possibility of removing the contamination of sin other than the death of the sinner was through faith in the blood of the redeemer. The only place that the blood could effect its purgation for sin was at the altar of God. It was there at the altar that God would meet with man and deal with his sin. God who was enthroned above the cherubims would look down upon the blood that was placed upon the altar and see that the righteous judgment of death had been paid for the sins that were committed.
The Meeting Place
Altars were built to meet with God. The word altar is derived from the Hebrew verbal root, which means ‘to slaughter’ and thus denotes altars were made to pour out the blood of the sacrifice so that the just payment for sin could be acknowledged and so that men could thereby worship God. Altars (ach’ -be-, ‘miz) could be built of stone or of earth to offer the burnt offerings and peace offerings (Exodus 20:24-26; Deuteronomy 27:5-7; Judges 13:15-20; 1 Samuel 6:14-15). The first altar that was built seems to have been built by Abel the son of Adam but no mention of the construction of an altar was given. Noah was the first person that the Bible definitely describes as having built an altar. The specific purpose was to worship God by offering those offerings just as Abel did which represented the blood of the Lamb. These offerings would ascend into heaven and afford man the privilege of interacting with God. God responded to the offering of Noah and made a covenant with Him (Genesis 8:20- 9:17; Hebrews 9:16). The only indication that we have concerning how man received the revelation of offering these animals to the Lord is found in Genesis chapter three (Hebrews 11:4-17). Adam and Eve watched as God made provision to clothe their shame and nakedness by making garments of animal hides (Genesis 3:15, 21). Obviously, in order for God to have made Adam and Eve coats of skins He would have had to kill an animal. It stands therefore to reason that God would have Himself demonstrated through this act the testimony of the Savior who was slain from the overthrow of man (Luke 11-50-51; Revelation 13:8).
Abraham built an altar to God after God had appeared to him. It would be at these altars that Abraham would call on the name of God (Genesis 12:8, 13:4, 22:9). We are able to gain insight to the way that the burnt offerings were offered to God through Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Genesis 22:9). Abraham built the altar of stone, laid the wood upon it and then tied Isaac and laid his body on top of the wood. Abraham then prepared to kill the sacrifice with the knife so that first the blood would flow out upon the altar. The offering would then be burned in the fire so that it could ascend into heaven. It was here that God once again reached out in His grace and revealed the sacrificial Lamb that He would provide not only to bless Abraham but all of the nations of the earth (Genesis 22:8, 17; Galatians 3:16).
Isaac also built an altar to the Lord after the Lord had appeared to him in Beersheba (Genesis 26:25). Jacob set up a pillar after that the Lord had appeared to him in Bethel and thereby dedicated a house to God (Genesis 28:18-22). Afterwards he would return to this same place and build an altar by the direction of YHWH ( Genesis 35:1, 7). Later Moses would build an altar in Rephidim and at Horeb, Baalam in Moab, Joshua on Mount Ebal, the Ruebenites, Gadites and Manasseh at Transjordan, Gideon at Ophra, David’s family in Bethlehem, David at the threshing floor of Araunah, Elijah at Mt. Carmel and Zerubbabel in Jerusalem (Exodus 17:15, 24:2; Numbers 23:1, 14, 29; Joshua 8:30-31; Deuteronomy 27:4-7; Joshua 22:10-16; 1 Samuel 20:6, 29; 2 Samuel 24:25; 1 Kings 18:30; Ezra 3:2). All of these altars were for the blood of the whole burnt offerings to deal with sin and worship and honor God in faith of the coming redeemer.
The Brazen Altar
The first altar built that needed blood manipulated upon it or its foundation was built by Moses. It was at this time that God would not just meet with a single person but with a whole nation. The opportunity to meet with God was expanded to anyone no matter who they were in the nation of Israel. God invited all of Israel to come and meet with Him at the door of the Tabernacle ( Leviticus 1: 2). This altar was called the Brazen Altar and stood in the courtyard just outside of the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:1-8, 38:1-7; 2 Chronicles 4:1). Every offering would be killed before the Brazen Altar. The blood of these offerings would be used to remove the sin that contaminated the altars of God. It would be through the application of the blood upon the altar that the sins of Israel would be removed so that God could continue to dwell in the midst of Israel. A continual whole burnt offering would also be offered upon the Brazen Altar every morning and evening.
The sanctuary that Moses built was a copy and shadow of the heavenly one (Hebrews 8:5; Exodus 25:40; Revelation 11:19). Therefore, everything that was inside of the sanctuary represented what God was doing in heaven and revealed how mankind would be allowed to come into that realm. There would be no sacrifices offered inside of the sanctuary. The only thing that would be brought into the sanctuary pertaining to the sacrifices was the blood of the sin offerings.
There are divisions of sacredness taught to us in the design of the tabernacle. The innermost room where the Ark of the Testimony was placed would be where God would visit the people of Israel. It was a place cut off from the rest of the world and its sin and corruption. It was here that the High Priest would come once a year with the blood to remove all of the sins of the people that had contaminated God’s sanctuary (Leviticus 16:8, 15-16; Exodus 25:22, 29:42-43).
The holy place outside the veil, but still within the sanctuary, was where the priests were allowed to do the service of God’s house. It was a place that the priest had to be endowed with a special anointing and consecration in order to be permitted to do this service. Knowing that the sanctuary was a sketch of the heavenly sanctuary we can grasp the idea that this was actually a heavenly ministry that they were engaged in as they took care of the table of bread, the menorah and the golden altar of incense (Exodus 25:40; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5). To walk around in the sanctuary of God they had to be holy unto the Lord, which God made possible through the blood that was upon them (Exodus 29:20-21; Leviticus 8:23-24, 30). Yet even though they were sanctified, having been made holy through the ritual of faith that God had taught Moses, they were still unable to come in behind the veil, which was the most holiest place of all. It was there that God would be enthroned upon His mercy seat separated. The dwelling place of God was separated by a veil which signified that even though the blood made a provision for sin there was still a separation that existed until such a time that the Redeemer would come (Numbers 17:8; Exodus 25:21-22; Numbers 7:89; Hebrews 9:4)!
God made a way to come and dwell in the midst of His people that were spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins. It was imperative that they realize that they were unable to truly fellowship with Him because of their sins. They were allowed to come only so close and then they would hear draw not nigh! The veil was embroidered with figures of cherubims, a reminder that sinful man was not allowed back into the presence of God (Genesis 3:24). The fellowship that was once on the level of a walk through the paradise of God’s garden was no longer available. However, through a strict mediation by the priest and the law God would dwell with them.
When Jesus, whose very life represented that veil, died as the sin offering at Calvary the veil was torn from top to bottom providing all of mankind with the holiness and purity required to live in the place where God dwells (Matthew 27:5; Hebrews 9:8). The Holies of Holies was not done away with when Jesus gave us His life by pouring out His blood through death rather the power of death and sin that barred man’s entrance was destroyed. There is no longer cherubim’s guarding the way to prohibit our entering into this wonderful and sacred realm. There is no longer the voice of our heavenly Father saying draw not nigh. Now we may come with all boldness into the Holies of Holies having been washed with the blood of the Lamb (Hebrews 10:19). The veil that we walk through now is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ the Savior of the world!
The Golden Altar of Incense was directly in front of the inner sanctum and flanked by the menorah and the table of bread (Exodus 30:1-10, 37:25-28, 40:5; 1 Kings 7:20-21, 48). The incense was an essential part of going in before the Ark of the Covenant during the purification of Yom Kippur. If the cloud of incense was not present when the blood was applied to the mercy seat then the high priest would die (Leviticus 16:13). The first death that took place over the mishandling of the sacred things of God took place around the offering of incense. Their mishandling of the incense was called the offering of “strange fire.” Although there have been many speculations about this particular act the one fact that we are confronted with was their disobedience. They failed to follow the specific instruction given to them by God. Through their deviation from the instructions of God they violated the holiness that was provided to them by the grace of God and were struck down by the fire of God.
The only people that were allowed into the holy place where the golden altar of incense was were the high priest and those priests sanctified to minister there. Unlike the Holies of Holies there were daily activities in this area of the sanctuary. The altar of incense was tended to twice daily by the priest so that there would be a continual offering going up before the Lord (Exodus 30:7-8). There was to be no burnt offerings, bread offerings or drink offerings offered upon this altar (Exodus 30:9). This altar was all about a different kind of offering one that represented a continual fellowship with the Lord. The altar of incense was seen in heaven in the book of Revelation as the place where the prayers of the saints are continually offered up before the Lord (Revelation 8:3-5).
The most important altar of all was the altar that represented the throne of God. The Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Holies of Holies where Yahweh’s presence dwelt. Only one person, the high priest, was allowed in this most holy place and that was once a year. The high priest came in before the presence of Yahweh for the sole purpose of decontaminating the Ark from the sins of the people that had defiled it (Leviticus 16:16) 2. There is much that can be said about the symbolic nature of the Ark of the Covenant but most specific to our discussion here is the lid of the Ark. It is the lid of the Ark that we would consider as an altar for it was here that the blood was applied.
Of all the altars and places of worship this is the Most Holy of all for it was here that God would come and manifest His glory. Only one person was allowed to enter into this area and draw near to this altar and it was the high priest. Unlike all other men the high priest was given a special grace of holiness so that he would be enabled to interact with God on behalf of all mankind. His status of holiness before God was absolutely essential and was highlighted by the crown that was given to him to wear that declared that he was, “Holiness Unto the Lord” (Exodus 39:30).
The mercy seat (Hebrew-‘kapporet’) was the most unique altar of the Old Testament. The mercy seat, which was made of pure gold, was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 26:34). It was here that God would appear in His glory cloud once a year during the time of purgation (Leviticus 16:2).2 Yet at the same time it was also the place where God’s voice could be heard throughout the year, as He would make known His will to the high priest (Exodus 25:22, 30:6; Numbers 7:89). It was the abiding presence of the Almighty God that made the Holies of Holies the special place that it was. Wherever God’s presence was revealed in this manner the place was filled with His Holiness and Glory. Just as no one could come near the mountain when God’s presence had descended upon Mount Sinai neither could anyone come into the Holies of Holies except one person, the High Priest who had been given a special anointing and holiness to stand there (Leviticus 16:2; Exodus 19:8, 21, 24; Hebrews 12:20).
The mercy seat was viewed as a replica of the throne of God (2 Samuel 6:2; 1 Chronicles 13:6; 1 Samuel 4:4; Psalms 99:11; Isaiah 37:16). It has been noted that in the enlarged version of the cherubim’s seen in the temple that Solomon built in 2 Chronicles 3:10-13, the wings formed a place for the invisible God to sit (Mettinger 1982: 19-14). There is also at least an indication that the lid itself could be viewed as the floor of the throne room or the footstool of God (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalms 99:5, 132:7). When Ezekiel saw the throne of God descending upon the temple he saw something that was very similar to what was pictured on the lid of the Ark. In Ezekiel’s encounter with the throne of God, God was over the heads of the cherubim’s and in between the midst of the cherubim’s, where the blood was applied by the High Priest, there were coals of fire (Ezekiel 10:1-4, 18-19, 11:22).
Blood Upon The Altar
Depending upon the type of sin and the person who sinned the blood was manipulated in different ways. If the Priest or the entire community of Israel sinned then the blood had to be applied to both the Altar of Incense and the Brazen Altar (Leviticus 4:2-21). If a leader or an individual sinned then the blood was only applied to the Brazen Altar (Leviticus 4:22-35). But, the most severe sins polluted the Holy of Holies and specifically the Ark of the Covenant. The sins of the people would contaminate the place where they met with God and so the presence of YHWH would not come until the sin was removed. The only way that the sin could be removed from off the altar was by the application of the blood. There was only one opportunity to remove that sin and that was once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Purgation!
Blood is applied where the sin has had a contaminating effect
The Old Testament Revelation
There were primarily eight sacrificial offerings given to Israel to cleanse, purify, protect and to sanctify. Each one of them involved some form of manipulation of blood (except for the meal offering). Based upon how the blood was used determined how the sacrifice would be treated.
Seven Sacrificial Offerings
Some of the sacrifices such as the Passover, Peace, Thanksgiving and Meal offering were eaten in symbolization of communion with God. The Burnt Offering was more reflective of worship and adoration of God; done previously by those who wanted to commemorate something that God had done. Finally, the Sin Offering, Guilt Offering and the Yom Kippur offerings were used to remove the contamination caused by sin. Of all of these offerings the most diverse offering was the sin offering whose blood was manipulated differently based upon the type of sin and the status of the individual.
Yom Kippur was the one day out of the year that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holies of Holies. The Holies of Holies was the place where God Himself dwelt a place completely off limits to man. The only reason that the high priest was allowed to come into this most sacred of places was to purify it from the sins of Israel. The altar inside the Holies of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant the most important and sacred of all Israel’s altars and sacred objects. On this day of Kippur there were two goats that were chosen: one to purify the Holies of Holies which was the goat for YHWH and one to carry away the sins of Israel. The goat for YHWH was killed and its blood was taken into the Holies of Holies to purify it from all of the rebellions and transgressions of Israel (Leviticus 16:16). The living goat would then carry Israel’s sin away to Azazel into a desolate place to a place cut off so that the goat would not be able to return again. This fact was underscored by the rabbis, “For pollution that befalls the Temple and its sancta through wantonness, kippur is made by the goat whose blood is sprinkled within the Holy Place and by the Yom Kippur”. (m.Sebu 1:6; cf. Sipra, Ahare 5:8).
God will not abide in a polluted sanctuary and the sins of Israel polluted His dwelling place. Therefore, there had to be a means of removing the contamination of sin. The blood that was taken into the Holies of Holies was the divine cleansing agent or detergent used to remove the sin and decontaminate or purify the dwelling place of God. If the dwelling place was not purified or the contamination was beyond that which YHWH could tolerate then the result would be as described by the prophet Ezekiel, “ Surely because you have polluted my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will cut you down; my eye will not spare and I will not have pity” (Ezekiel 5:11).
Many of the words that we have chosen to use to describe what God did for the people of Israel fall short of their Hebrew counterparts. We must both be careful with the words that we use and the meanings that we ascribe to them. The word atonement for example is a relatively new word which traces its origin to the sixteenth century, when it appeared as two separate words “at onement.” Many scholars have used this word to translate the Hebrew ‘kippur’ but we must be careful that our usage does not dilute the meaning associated with kippur. The closest Greek used in the New Testament is the word ‘hilasmos.’ Once again we are faced with the challenge of translation. If we translate this word ‘expiation’ or ‘covering’ we may find ourselves actually changing the intended meaning. “Until recently it was widely held among evangelical and non-evangelical scholars alike that the term was related to an Arabic cognate with the meaning “to cover.” This connection with the Arabic language has been virtually abandoned in modern scholarship. There has been a failure to demonstrate this meaning in the Hebrew language as well as the methodological problem of using only Arabic to validate a Hebrew meaning. Thus two other possibilities have been suggested. The first is to understand the verb to mean “to wipe or purge.” Support for this position comes from the fact that the cognate term in the Akkadian language had this meaning, and the verb occurs in parallelism to other Hebrew verbs within this semantic range (Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 18:21). This meaning works especially well when inanimate objects are the object of the verbal action. Another proposal is one that understands kipper as a denominative verb from the noun kper, which means “ransom” (e.g., Exodus 21:30). The idea would be that a person is paying or making a ransom for himself when he offers a sacrifice: Leviticus 17:11 provides a good illustration of this usage. Thus both of these meanings can be demonstrated from the Bible3.
The blood was in effect a divine cleaning agent, a fact that is actually born out in an etymological study of the Hebrew word ‘kipper’. In biblical poetry kipper is synonym for ‘macha’ ‘wipe’ (Jeremiah 18:23) and ‘hesir’ ‘remove’ (Isaiah 27:9) which suggest that kipper means purge 4. In Ezekiel 43:20 and 26 it is used as a synonym for ‘tihar’ (purify) and chitte’ (decontaminate)5– (Jeremiah 18:23; Isaiah 27:9; Leviticus 14:48, 52, 58). Additionally, the Hebrew root word ‘kapar’ corresponds to the Akkadian word ‘kaparu’, which means ‘rub’ or ‘smear’ and the Akkadian ‘kuppuru’ whose Hebrew equivalent is ‘kipper’ means ‘rub’ or ‘wipe off’. Even though the common translation for ‘kipper’ is ‘atone’ or ‘expiate’, there is much evidence that ‘kipper’, in many cases means purify instead. It would have been essential that the Cover of the Ark, which had been contaminated by the pollution, rebellion and sins of Israel, be purified so that YHWH would be able to remain in the midst of Israel (Leviticus 16:16). It is of the utmost importance that the dwelling place of YHWH be pure and undefiled. Therefore, to understand the act of ‘kipper’ as removing the contamination is essential to the purpose of this sacrifice. If one views this as an expiatory role then the effect of removing the sin is compromised by virtue of the meaning of expiate which is to nullify the effects of sin. Such an idea would defer the wrath of God but the sin would remain. At the very heart of the meaning of kipper in Leviticus is the necessity for something to die and shed its blood to eliminate the contamination that would prevent God from dwelling in the midst of Israel. Therefore, the use of the word expiate is inappropriate to capture the meaning of kippur. Furthermore, we learn from the New Testament that the sacrifice of Yom Kippur represented the blood of the Messiah used to purify the heavenly things. This not only adds support to the meaning of the word kippur but also causes us to realize that this is a sacrifice that God made for man and not that man made for himself. It would be totally wrong to think that God made an offering to nullify the way that sin affects His own person implying some sort of an immunity to its deadly effect.
Another common way to translate ‘kipper’ is ‘propitiate’ or ‘atone’. Propitiate like atone is an abstract word that may refer to an appeasement, a covering, a turning away of wrath, a rubbing, or being ransomed through the action of a payment (Exodus 30:12-16; Numbers 1:53), or through intercession (Exodus 32:30-34) or a representative/reconciler (Leviticus 16:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). However, in the New Testament we discover that God was already favorably disposed towards men. In 1 John 4:10 the Greek word ‘hilasmos’ which is roughly equivalent to the Hebrew word ‘kipper’ is used. The Greeks used the word ‘hilasmos’ to refer to the means by which men would appease the gods and thus avoid their wrath and for this the word ‘propitiation’ was applied. However, this verse of scripture in which we find this word ‘hilasmos’ reveals that God was already favorably disposed towards man and demonstrated this by giving His Son for our sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4-5). Therefore, the whole Greek notion of propitiation or expiation simply does not work. The redemption that is in Christ Jesus has nothing to do with the offerings or actions of men much less their attempts to gain God’s favor. It was God who offered up the sacrifice for us. The secular world does not know of such a concept for the message of salvation reaches far beyond the imagination and ideologies of men. Thus to limit God’s actions by the words and definitions that men ascribe to them are restrictive. We are challenged to understand the meanings of these words by the attributes God gives to them in the context of the Bible.
We must use great caution in attempting to narrowly confine these Greek words to the meanings given in the secular and profane world. Equally, we must also recognize that a perfect equivalent of the Hebrew word may not have been available in the Greek vocabulary. For this reason we must always look deeper into the context. Therefore when we discover a definition that may not be primary to a word but is in keeping with the Biblical evidence we must give that meaning preeminence. We find such a definition for the word ‘hilasmos:’ cleansing, forgiveness.’ When we choose to translate a word we must make sure that the vocabulary is consistent with the meaning that is implied by the context. We can be certain what John meant by using ‘hilasmos’ in application to what Jesus did for us. For John taught that:
- Our sins would be destroyed, 1 John 3:5
- The works of the devil would be destroyed, 1 John 3:8
- We would receive cleansing from all of our sins, 1 John 1:7, 9
- Christ Jesus would dwell in us even as God dwelt in the Holies of Holies after it was purified, 1 John 3:24, 4:4, 12, 15
- We would be born of God, 1 John 3:9, 4:7
- It would result in eternal life that we could now possess thus referring to the quality of life that we received by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, 1 John 5:11, 13, 20, 1:2, 2:25, 3:15
- The cleansing gave us boldness before the judgment seat of God, 1 John 2:28, 4:17
- If Christians do sin they must look again to Jesus who is the intercessor that provides the ‘hilasmos’ (the forgiveness, cleansing, purifying).
The Hebrew word ‘kipper’, (commonly translated atone) is found 44 times in Leviticus. Kipper is translated every time in the Septuagint by ‘exilaskesthai’ (propitiate), which does not occur a single time in the New Testament. The closest one can get to propitiate in the New Testament is through the Greek word ‘hilasmos’ which is used two times in the New Testament in (1 John 2:2, 4:10). This same Greek word translates the plural noun ‘kipurim’ in ‘Day of Kipper’ (Leviticus 25:9). It also is found as a substitute word for ‘exilaskesthai’ in Numbers 25:9, “the ram of kipper (hilasmos) whereby kipper (exilaskesthai) shall be made.” The first time that kipper is found in Genesis and translated by the Greek ‘exilaskesthai’ is in Genesis 32:21. In this context Jacob is sending presents to his brother Enoch to honor him and let him know that he is submitting all that he has to his brother’s authority. The first time that the noun ‘kophar’ is found, which is from the root word of ‘kipper’, ‘kaphar’ is in Genesis 6:14. The word ‘kophar’ is commonly translated ‘cover’ or ‘pitch’. However, what Noah did was to apply a sealant to the ark. The meaning of a sealant in this context would refer to the protective function that it provided.
The Greek word that translates the Hebrew word (kapporeth) for the top or lid of the Ark (the mercy seat) is ‘hilasterion’ and it is this word that Paul uses in Romans 3:25 to describe Jesus. This word only appears twice in the New Testament here and in Hebrews 9:5. It was upon the mercy seat that the blood was placed to purify the altar of God from all the sins and contaminations of the people (Leviticus 16:16). Jesus appeared for the sole purpose of taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36; 1 John 3:5; Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 2:24; Colossians 2:11). It is so important to recognize that he took away the sin, which emphasizes its removal. When Paul uses this word in connection with what Jesus did for us we must understand that he is referring to the removal of the sin – just as the sins were wiped away (kippur) when they were removed from off the altar on Yom Kippur.
God did not hold the sins that we had committed against us by executing a divine judgment on us but instead sent His only begotten Son to be the Lamb and sacrifice for our sins (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:2-3). All of our sins were laid upon His body even as they were laid upon the mercy seat. It was His blood that wiped away our sins from off the altar of God in heaven where our sins stood as a testimony against us (Hebrews 8:5, 9:23-24; Leviticus 16:16). It was through His death that our sins were destroyed and the old nature put to death (1 Peter 2:24; Romans 6:6). It is because of Jesus that all of the glory of God can come into our lives and remain (John 14:23; Luke 24:49; John 17:22). Thus Paul proclaimed Jesus to be the place where purgation for sin was accomplished (Leviticus 16:16). Paul leaves no question as to how he viewed the ‘hulasterion’ for he announces the removal of our sins by Jesus Christ. With one stroke of the pen Paul both equates Jesus to the altar and equates the activity of ‘kippur’ to the removal of sin.
The root word for ‘kippur’ is ‘kaphar’ and it may be translated reconciliation, purge, or cleanse. Reconciliation is a parallel word to justification or being made righteous. The act of reconciliation produces the change, which results in us no longer living for ourselves but for Christ. Therefore, the change is a result of an exchange of our life for the life of Christ. God made a miraculous provision for dealing justly with our sin. He made it possible for us to be crucified with Christ by baptism into His death. In Leviticus 6:9 ‘kippur’ is translated reconcile and reconcile is translated in Romans 5:11 from the Greek word ‘kattalage,’ which the translators of the Authorized Version rendered ‘atonement’ thus recognizing the relationship between reconciliation and atonement or ‘kippur’ and ‘’kattalage’. Even though the Greek word that most commonly translates ‘kippur’ is ‘exilaskomai’ the translators of the Authorized Version recognized a relationship between kippur and reconcile as observed in Ezekiel 45:20 where ‘exilaskomai’ was translated ‘reconcile.’ Thus we may say that ‘kippur’ just like its root ‘kaphar’ carries the meaning ‘to reconcile’.
The offering commonly known as the sin offering was also used to purify the altars form the sins of the people. However there is evidence to suggest that the proper meaning of the Hebrew word ‘chattat’ is to be understood by its Piel meaning ‘purify’ and should thus be properly rendered ‘purgation offering’. The primary evidence that brings this into question is that the 2-century translators of the Septuagint understood ‘chattat’ to mean ‘sin’ and thus translated it consistently with the Greek ‘harmatia’. Therefore it is best to understand the meaning of ‘hattat’ as both ‘sin offering’ and ‘purifying offering’ thus capturing the whole purpose of this offering.
Once the blood of the sin offering was applied to the altar to remove the sin the entire carcass of the animal from which the blood was taken became contaminated (Leviticus 16:26-27). Now classically it has been understood that the hand leaning right imparted the sins of the offerer into the animal and then the animal was then executed on behalf of the offerer as a means to justly deal with the sin through the vicarious death of an innocent victim. The blood was then placed upon the altar before God so that He could see that the penalty for sin had been paid. Although, this sounds reasonable it is not in keeping with the fact that the altar itself had been contaminated by the sins of the people and there needed to be an absorbent that could effectively swallow up the sin (Leviticus 16:16; Ezekiel 5:11; 2 Chronicles 23:29; Numbers 18:23). It would be essential then that the blood itself was not contaminated or unclean otherwise it would have the opposite effect on the altar; instead of purifying the altar it would only further contaminate it. In fact, what we learn from Yom Kippur is that nothing impure or unholy can come into the Holy of Holies. On Yom Kippur only the High Priest who had been made holy could enter. To enter, he had to bathe his entire body then put on his holy garments. Then he had to be very cautious not to in any way make himself impure or unclean before coming in. Therefore, it would be all the more necessary that the blood that he had brought to cleanse the altar was also pure and holy and therefore classified as “most holy” (Exodus 30:10). Because God had made the provision for the blood to be used to provide kipper the blood of the sacrifice swallowed up the death and impurity of sin even as light swallows up darkness and death is swallowed up by victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).
Nothing demonstrates the protective power of the blood like Passover. God promised Israel on the night when he turned the destroyer loose on Egypt that if they would apply the blood of a lamb to their doorpost and lintel that He would protect them from the destroyer. Nothing in the Old Testament more clearly demonstrates the liberating power of God than the Passover. It was at this time that God came and saved His people. He redeemed them from their slavery. It is in this story that the most fundamental concepts of Salvation are captured. Salvation should not be a subjective or illusive term because it is so clearly demonstrated for us by what God did for His people when He brought them up out of Egypt. When Israel was saved out of Egypt they were not partially or progressively saved but completely removed from the dominion of Egypt and its forces. We should not wonder how saved and separated to God we are when we have such a witness of our salvation. He brought us out of the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of His dear Son to make us His people and give us a place where we dwell in the fullness of His presence!
The Passover offering takes a central position in the New Testament. Jesus became our Passover Lamb and poured out His blood so that we might be liberated from Satan and become the people of God – only this time with a new heart and a new spirit. The yearly Passover feast has now moved into a feast of a different kind. The elements of the feast basically remain the same but instead of sacrificing and eating a lamb we now take the bread of communion instead. The Bread of Life which is the Word of God, the True Manna sent down from God became our sacrifice and when we partake of the broken bread we are partaking of His body. The blood that had been forbidden is now given to us to drink through the cup of communion. Even though it is only the fruit of the vine it represents the blood of the sacrifice that was shed for the New Covenant. Jesus said that, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.” Thus calling all men everywhere to come and partake of His sacrificial offering.
It is also the Passover that most clearly represents the work of redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Jesus not only gave His life for us on Passover but also used the Passover meal to describe the New Covenant in His blood and our subsequent communion or fellowship with Him. Jesus as our sin offering took away all of the leaven of sin and purified us. It was the symbol of the Passover Lamb that John the Baptist used to identify Jesus when he said, “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. It was at this juncture that we were given the ability to understand the life giving power of the blood of the Lamb. At Calvary Jesus took our sins in His own body and carried them away to a land that is cut off just as the goat that bore away the sins of Israel on Yom Kippur. And also as the goat for YHWH He went with His own blood into the true Tabernacle in the heavens and there removed all of the sins of man and thus cleansed the heavens with His own blood (Hebrews 9:23-24). He has purified our spirit, souls and bodies with His blood making us a tabernacle where God can dwell. He has washed us from our sins, purified our heart, made us the righteousness of God and empowered us to be holiness unto the Lord!
When Jesus died for us at Calvary the Holies of Holies was not destroyed rather access was provided for everyone who was willing to come in (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). The earthly tabernacle was only a sketch and a figure of the true Holies of Holies in heaven (Hebrews 8:5, 9:24; Exodus 25:9,40). The Holies of Holies is in fact the throne room of God (Psalms 11:4; Habakkuk 2:20; 2 Samuel 6:2; 1 Chronicles 13:6; 1 Samuel 4:4; Psalms 99:11; Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 10:1-4; Hebrews 4:16, 8:1, 12:2; Revelation 4:2-10, 5:1,6, 13, 7:9-17, 8:3). When Jesus poured out His life for us He was also providing the means by which His life would be poured into us. His death not only destroyed the power of Satan that dominated our lives it also provided the means by which we would receive by His a new heart and a new spirit. When His life was poured into us it had the same effect that light has on darkness, His life destroyed the death. When we were born of the Spirit we stepped into the body of Christ and the life of Christ stepped into us (Romans 8:1, 12:5; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:27; John 14:23; John 15:1; 1 John 3:24, 4:13-16).
During the time of the first tabernacle there was only one opportunity to enter into the Holies of Holies and that was during the yearly purification (Leviticus 16:2). There was only one person who could enter into this most sacred realm and that was the high priest as he came with the only cleansing agent that had the power to remove the stain of sin. At that time the sins of the people were sent away never to return and the sin and testimony against man that was before the throne of God was removed (Leviticus 16:1-16). The blood removed the sin that testified of mans condemnation before God. Today we are privileged to live in the Holies of Holies which is the throne room of God. We are seated there together with Christ at the right hand of the Father. Through the blood of redemption, the life of Christ Jesus, we live in union with the Almighty God. We are those who continually draw nigh by the blood of the Lamb and live in the reality of what the first covenant could only typify. God is not just pleased to dwell in our midst He now dwells in us!
There is yet another dimension of this unseen interaction that we have with God in the Spirit. The church is to be the visible and living reality of the Holies of Holies in the earth today (Ephesians 1:23, 5:32; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 27; Colossians 1:18, 2:9). The church is supposed to be the visible manifestation of all the glory and majesty of the unseen throne room. When we consider that the church is the body of Christ and that it is the fullness of Him that fills all things then this is not hard to realize. The church is fundamental to the New Testament (Matthew 6:18, 18:17; Acts 2:1, 47, 14:23, 20:28). It is the present manifestation of the Kingdom of God and the place that God has anointed to reveal the fullness of Christ Jesus His only begotten Son (Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Matthew 21:43; 1 Peter 2:9; Colossians 1:13). Jesus and His church are one: there is no distinction between them. When Paul described the assembly of the church he revealed that it was the place on earth that interacted with the heavenly Zion the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22-24, 10:25). God has taken us and built us up together as a holy habitation by the Holy Spirit even as one stone is laid upon another. Together we appear as a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21). Jesus Christ is the corner stone of the Holy Church of God and we are those who are built together with Him as the Holy habitation of the Almighty (1 Peter 2:6; Ephesians 2:22)!
2. “Thus he shall purge the adytum of the pollution and the transgressions of the Israelites, including all of their sins; and he shall do likewise for the Tent of Meeting, which abides with them in the midst of their pollution” (The Anchor Bible, Leviticus 1-16 by Jacob Milgrom. “Thus shall you provide atonement (kipper) upon the Sanctuary for the contaminations of the children of Israel, even for their rebellious sins among all their sins; and so shall he do for the Tent of Meeting that dwells with them amid their contaminations” (Tancah-The Stone Edition).
3. B. Lang, kipper, TDOT 7:289–90; L. Harris, (kpar), TWOT 1:452–53; Levine, Leviticus, 56–63, and B. Schwartz, “Prohibitions Concerning the ‘Eating’ of Blood in Leviticus 17”, 54, n. 2. Note even the change in the second edition of Lasor, Hubbard, and Bush from “cover over” (Old Testament Survey, 1st ed. , 156–57) to “expiate” sin (2nd ed. , 96); J. Milgrom, “Atonement in the OT,” IDBS, 78–82. It is quite possible that the verbs meaning “to wipe” and “to ransom” are actually two different verbs that are spelled the same. They would be called homographs. Schwartz argues for this position (“Prohibitions Concerning the ‘Eating’ of Blood in Leviticus 17, ” 54, n. 2).