We have learned that Jesus is not only the Lamb who died for us but also the Priest who lives for us. Having given His life on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, He entered once into the holy place by His own blood (see Hebrews 9:12).
In the type, the priest sprinkled the blood of the substitute on the horns of the golden altar. Thus the penitent found forgiveness as the priest symbolically transferred his sin to the sanctuary. That sprinkled blood spoke of pardon, of covering. But God desires not only to cover sin but also to blot it out, which He does in the services of the Day of Atonement, the climax in the round of ministration dealing with sin (see Leviticus 16).
On the morning of the Day of Atonement, two goats were presented at the door of the tabernacle. The priest cast lots, one for the Lord, the other for Azazel (Satan). After preliminary services, the high priest killed the Lord's goat and carried its blood into the most holy place. Covered with a cloud of fragrant incense, he approached the mercy seat and sprinkled the blood directly over the law that Israel had transgressed. Thus final atonement was made for the sins that had been brought into the sanctuary day by day in the services of the court and the holy place.
After sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat, the high priest touched the blood to the horns of the golden altar and of the brazen altar, thus completely cleansing the entire sanctuary. When he had made "an end of reconciling," the high priest placed his hands on the live goat and confessed Israel's sins, "putting them upon the head of the goat" (Leviticus 16:21). An appointed man led this goat far off into the desert. Only when the goat had been sent away were the people's sins regarded as completely gone.
While the high priest ministered in the most holy place making the final atonement, the people gathered at the sanctuary for a day of solemn prayer, fasting and deep searching of heart. At the close of the Day of Atonement, God had a clean sanctuary and a clean people.
In the heavenly service, Christ appears for us in the temple above, first in the holy place and finally in the most holy place. In the ancient tabernacle, the priests repeated the round of service year after year. But Christ's ministry is "once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). Once for all He died upon the cross. Once for all He carried on His priestly ministry in the holy place. Once for all He entered the most holy, there to remain until His purpose is accomplished "to put away sin," "to do away with sin," "to abolish sin" (Hebrews 9:26, KJV, Weymouth, New English Bible).
Certain questions come to mind: What is the difference between the sprinkled blood in the holy place and the sprinkled blood in the most holy place? The first provides for the covering of sin, the second for the blotting out of sin. What is the difference between covering and blotting out? Covering means a provisional pardon. Final pardon waits until the Day of Atonement.
Why does not God blot out sins as soon as sinners confess their transgressions? God has given us the power of choice, and He respects our exercise of this choice. If we choose to leave our sins in the sanctuary, Jesus will blot them out in the closing work of the judgment. On the other hand, if we wish to return to a life of sin, God will not forcibly prevent us. The sins we have given up we can take again if we choose.
The sanctuary service will not run on forever. There will come an end to its ministry. In the daily service sins are carried into the sanctuary, in the yearly service they are removed. God first pardons and covers our sins, then blots them out. The first work is to get the sins into the sanctuary. The second is to permanently remove them.
At the close of the heavenly Day of Atonement, Jesus will have a clean sanctuary in heaven and a clean people on earth. Then He will close the sanctuary and come for His people who welcome Him with joy. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28).
"Arise, my soul, arise;
Shake off thy guilty fears:
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the throne
My Surety stands,
My name is written
On His hands.
"He ever lives above,
For me to intercede;
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead;
His blood was shed For all our race,
And sprinkles now The throne of grace."