The Day of Atonement.
THE day of atonement was that upon which the efficacy of
every sacrifice in Israel depended. On that day alone was the holiest entered
and the blood of atonement put upon the mercy-seat before God "once a year."
This alone sanctified for them the tabernacle and all its appointments, with
the altar itself.
It is of the day of atonement that the epistle to the Hebrews mainly treats, interpreting and applying its lessons for our use, though not without a side-reference to Israel themselves, when in a future day they shall find in Christ the meaning of all their shadows. It will be of profit, before we begin to consider it in detail, to see the nature of this double application, or its dispensational character, as the apostle and the book of Leviticus together present it to us.
In the twenty-third chapter of this book it finds its place among Israels holy seasons - not feasts, for feast it is not, but a day in which they were to rest, not in joy but in sorrow of spirit, afflicting their souls. In the order of these, the passover, first-fruits, and Pentecost (or feast of weeks) begin the year; then there is a long pause till the seventh month, and in this the rest are found: on the first day the blowing of trumpets, on the tenth the day of atonement, and on the fifteenth begins the feast of tabernacles. These seasons fall therefore into two divisions, of which the first has special reference to the Church, the second to Israel. This last begins with the blowing of trumpets, which, as the gathering of the congregation, speaks of the reassembling of Israel; then the day of atonement speaks of their repentance and taking refuge under the work of Christ; while the feast of tabernacles is the anticipation of their millennial blessing. Upon all that does not concern our present purpose we of course do not enter here, but it is evident thus that the primary reference of the day of atonement is to the last days and Israels apprehension of the work of Christ when "they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son" and "in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."
This gives its full meaning to the fact that in the day of atonement it is after the high-priest has come out of the sanctuary that he confesses the sins of the people on the head of the scape-goat and sends it away by the hand of a fit person into the wilderness. This is the application to the people of the work of Christ long before accomplished, and the apostle, in the epistle to the Hebrews, teaches us our part to be in connection with His going into the sanctuary, not His coming out. For us, the Holy Ghost is come out, to give us the knowledge of what is done in our behalf, adding for us two things which in the type before us find no expression: the first, the session of our High Priest at the right hand of God; the second, that for us the vail is rent, and by faith we enter into the sanctuary itself.
The day of atonement thus, while having peculiar significance in relation to the people of Israel in a future day, covers nevertheless the whole present period; and we are led to ask, "Is this application made by the apostle to us as Christians to be found in the Old-Testament type itself?" And to this we are able to answer undoubtedly in the affirmative. The first offering, for the priestly house, is entirely distinct from that for the people; and it is Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, who teaches us to recognize our representatives in these (I Pet. ii. 5). We shall find how much the apprehension of this distinction tends to make clear the doctrine of atonement itself.
The failure of the people had caused the forfeiture of the place conditionally promised them as "a kingdom of priests" and given Aaron and his sons their special priesthood. The failure of the priests themselves had now shut them also out of the inner sanctuary. But all this only served to bring out the condition of man as man, and his need of the Mediator of whom on this occasion Aaron was but the type. He could only in fact draw nigh thus once a year, not in his garments of glory and beauty, but in simple linen garments, and with sacrifices for himself and all the people.
Typically these linen vestments have a glory of their own not excelled by any other, representing the personal righteousness which, tested as it was by the fiery trial of the cross, and the unbending requirements of divine holiness, alone insured the acceptance of His work and His deliverance out of the awful place which He took for men. Crying "unto Him who was able to save Him out of death" He "was heard for His piety." (Heb. v. 7, Gr.) It was Gods "Holy One" who "could not see corruption." And this perfection of His it was by which as High Priest of our profession He entered the sanctuary.
But in this respect therefore He was the total opposite of the Jewish high priest, who, as one taken from among men, and so, like others, himself compassed with infirmity, by reason hereof comes with the blood of others in atonement for his own sins. He, on the other hand, "holy, harmless, undefiled," enters the heavens with His own blood as atonement for the sins of His people. The type in Aaron is necessarily thus deficient because but a type. It must of necessity bear witness to its own deficiency, and thus point forward to Him who should yet fulfill it. The deficiency itself is thus not an imperfection merely; it is rather a perfection: not meaningless, but full of meaning. And it is important to see this.
Before, however, Aaron carries in the blood of the sacrifice into the most holy place, there must be another witness to the preciousness of Christ personally. "He shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from oil the altar before Jehovah, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail, and he shall put the incense upon the fire before Jehovah, that a cloud of the incense may cover the mercy-seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not."
The witness of the high-priests garment is here confirmed. If that might seem in question because of his personal need of cleansing by blood, here was an unmistakable witness. It is not sacrifice; it must not be confounded with it. It is the proclamation of the value of Christ Himself before there is the testimony to the value of His work with God. Here the fire of Gods holiness tests all - how has it tested Him - only to bring out the fragrance of "sweet incense." This covers the mercy-seat, that in safety and in peace the priest may sprinkle it with the blood of atonement.
The sacrifices are two, as we have seen; one for the priestly house, the other for the people. Both are sin-offerings; for, as we have seen, and as Hebrews xiii. explicitly declares, only the blood of those beasts burnt outside the camp could be brought into the sanctuary. Here we find however a remarkable difference in the animals offered, the more remarkable when we contrast it with the regulations of Leviticus iv. There, for the congregation, as well as for the high-priest, the offering was the bullock. Here, for the high priest it is still that, but the offering for the people is the evidently much lower one of the goat: and this will be found in the most beautiful way to confirm the interpretation already given of that chapter. There it will be remembered that we took the high-priest and congregation as figuring Christ and the Church. It is thus that the blood for the congregation is brought into the holy place to anoint the incense-altar: it is a priestly congregation that is thus figured; and this the Church is.* But the goat is for the ruler and the common person, which we have seen to give Israels standing; and here the blood anoints only the altar of burnt-offering, not entering the tabernacle at all.
*The distinction in this respect cannot be maintained if in chapter xvi. 18 the "altar" is the golden altar of incense, for in this case the blood of the goat for Israel would also be put upon it; but this is not so, and the expression "before Jehovah" is inadequate to prove it. how often, and even in this chapter, is this connected with "at the door of meeting" (as ver. 7). On the other hand verse 17 shows the work completed for the sanctuary, and then Aaron "goes out" to the altar, which in 20, 33, is named apart from the sanctuary and tent of meeting altogether. It seems to me that the blood on and before the mercy-seat accomplishes all the rest.
Now how striking it is to find that on the day of atonement the bullock is for the priestly house - the Church - while the goat is again for Israel. If we look deeper, we shall see how suitable this is. The bullock speaks of service; the goat, merely of the place of sin being taken. In the case of the last, if sin be removed, that is all; but the bullock speaks of service to God, the glorifying Him in the place thus taken; and "if God be glorified in Him, He will also glorify Him in Himself:" this opens the sanctuary to His people; He is not only their Substitute upon the cross, but their Representative in glory.
Thus in the millennium Israel, though accepted, will have place on the earth, not in heaven; and so, though in greater nearness in the new earth, while the Church has hers with her Lord according to His promise* (Jno. xiv. 3).
*Of course it is not meant to confine this to the Church
The bullock is first slain, and its blood brought into the sanctuary, and sprinkled once upon the mercy-seat and seven times before it. Once is enough for God; the sevenfold sprinkling is the witness of perfect acceptance before the throne. The goat being then killed, its blood is then carried in and sprinkled after exactly the same manner. And so, it is said, "he shall make atonement for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins; and so shall he do for the tent of meeting that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness." "And he shall make atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel."
Then follows the reconciliation of the altar, and then the ordinance of the scapegoat. We must look at this, and get the general features of the whole thus before us, before we look at the doctrine of atonement as expressed in it.
For the priesthood there is but one sin-offering the bullock; for the people there are two goats which together form but one sin-offering. Lots are cast upon two goats; one, the Lords, becomes the sacrifice; the other, when the work of atonement within the sanctuary is finished has the sins of the people confessed and put upon its head, and bears them away to the wilderness; to an uninhabited land. It is plainly the actual removal of the peoples sins, and manifestly refers to the yet future history of the people as we have already seen it, when "they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced," at His second coming, and be cleansed from their sins. We have to look at these things to see what light they give us as to propitiation and substitution, or the Godward and manward sides of atonement for sin. In general, the Lords lot is said to illustrate propitiation; the scapegoat, substitution; but we must inquire how far this is true, and their connection with each other.
Propitiation I have called the Godward side of atonement, using the latter word in the larger sense in which we generally use it now; but in our common English Bibles no distinction of the kind appears. Atonement in the Old Testament, we may rather say, is the equivalent of propitiation in the New, which replaces it.* It has been urged that we never find God as the object of propitiation, but only "sins," and that thus the thought is rather "expiation" than propitiation. It is thus only more completely the counterpart of the Hebrew caphar, of which the same thing is equally true.
*Atonement" and "reconciliation" in Romans v. 11 and Hebrews ii. 17 ought, as is well known, to exchange places; and this is the only place in the New Testament in which the former word occurs. In the passage in Hebrews the word used is elsewhere translated "propitiation."
Yet it is also true that the Greek word used in the New Testament (hilaskomai) which, in its common use in that language, undeniably has the force of appeasing, and is even used once in the gospel of Luke in the passive form in this way, - our Lord putting these words in the mouth of the publican, standing afar oil and smiting on his breast, and saying, "God, be merciful" -(hilastheti) "be appeased," "propitiated" - " to me a sinner" (Luke xviii. 13). As put into the mouth of such an one, its force doctrinally must not be urged too much; and elsewhere the fact is as stated above. We surely, however, cannot avoid (nor would we) the meaning of propitiation as thus introduced into the thought of expiation itself. Divine love indeed never needed to be forgotten in the heart of God toward us; it was there from eternity, and the cross, where God gave His only begotten Son, is the expression of it; but it is the expression also of demands of righteousness which required satisfaction in order to its showing forth: and this is what we mean by propitiation; it is the propitiation of otherwise withstanding righteousness, which now is turned to be on our side fully as Gods love is.
Propitiation is thus really the divine side of atonement; and he who accepts truly the one can make no difficulty as to the other: the expiation is the propitiation. Now let us look at this as exemplified in "the Lords lot," "Jehovahs lot," on the day of atonement.
First, let us realize what "Jehovahs lot" implies. It is not "Gods lot" simply, although Jehovah is of course God, but God in relation to His people, God in the title by which He redeems them, as the third of Exodus fully assures us. The goat which is Jehovahs lot is the sacrifice by which He maintains in righteousness this relationship, as we see by what is stated. It is thus His dwelling-place and all the means of approach to Him alone can remain among them. But this involves of necessity atonement for the sins of the people among whom He thus abides, and so it is distinctly stated: "And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tent of meeting, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation."
The goat which is the Lords lot, moreover, as explicitly speaks of substitution as it does of propitiation. The goat (the type of the sinner,) is the very thing which does speak of that: no figure could more precisely convey the thought. Propitiation it proclaims to be by substitution, and for the people therefore for whom the substitution is, and for no other. Let us mark these things, for they are of great importance, if we would see clearly the relation between these thoughts. If substitution is for a certain people, then propitiation is for that same people only; if propitiation has a universal aspect, then substitution must have the same.
On the other hand, the scapegoat does not represent atonement, but only its effects. The true rendering of ver. 10 should be, "To make atonement for it, to let it go for a scapegoat into the wilderness." The common version, with most others, reads in exactly the opposite way- "to make atonement with it," which is what is certainly not done. It is the goat that is Jehovahs lot that makes atonement for the other, and this shows conclusively what "Jehovahs lot" implies. The living goat is in this way identified with it, so that it is said, "Two kids of the goats for a sin-offering;" but its blood is not shed, its life is not given up, and this the next chapter of Leviticus shows to be absolutely necessary: "it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul." To find any aspect of atonement itself we must look to the first goat alone.
Propitiation, then, is inferred here, and not in fact presented; and substitution is brought out clearly in its effects, as removing sin; while in the Lords lot substitution is presented however none the less; as where, if not in the sin-offering, may we expect to find it? In fact, for Israel when the Lord comes, they will need the special application to them of an offering long before offered, when the day of grace might seem entirely passed.
For the priests, who represent the Church, there is no scapegoat. Substitution for them is found simply and entirely in the bullock of the sin-offering, It must, of course, be found there in what exactly answers to Jehovahs lot among the goats; and the apostle, in Heb. x., applies the principle of the scapegoat to Christians in the Lords words by Jeremiah (the words of the new covenant): "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." And this is as far as the effects of substitution (as seen in the scapegoat) seem to reach. This, then, cannot avail to separate substitution from being essentially implied in the "Lords lot," - in the propitiatory offering.
Propitiation, I repeat, then, is. by substitution, and in no other way, and for the people alone for whom the substitution is. This may seem, to many, to narrow its application in an unscriptural way, or to widen that of substitution in a way just as unscriptural. In reality, it does neither; while it clears up many obscurities, and meets some tendencies to serious error. But let us examine Scripture.
Propitiation is evidently for no select number merely. It is for "the whole world," as I John ii. 2 explicitly teaches. "And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Here "the sins of" are in italics in our common version, showing that in the Greek there are no words exactly representing them: it is contended therefore by some that they should be omitted, and that this preserves an important difference; while the propitiation is for the sins of Christians, - so removing them, - it is only for the world, - their sins not being removed. And some have a similar objection, while owning that Christ died for all men, to saying that He died for the sins of all.
Now, assuredly, it is not true that the sins of all men are removed by the death of the Lord; and if that were meant by saying that He died for them, the use of such language in Scripture (for it is used) would involve the deepest perplexity. Some moreover have rashly put forth this as the gospel, that Christ has borne the sins of all, and that now men are called to believe this for themselves, being condemned only for their unbelief of it.
But this is utterly false, for in the day of judgment we are assured that men shall be judged "according to their works," not merely for their unbelief; and Scripture no where says that Christ has borne the sins of all men. Faith can say in believers, "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all;" but it is true of believers only.
Yet propitiation is for the sins of the whole world, and the passage in I John ii. is conclusive as to this. The words which are sought to be omitted are necessarily implied; for what else does "not for ours only" do but imply them? Had it said, "not for us only," it would have been entirely different; but "not for ours only" necessarily infers, then for the sins of others also.
Moreover, when the apostle is reminding the Corinthians of the gospel which he had preached to them, he says it was "that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures" (I Cor. xv. 3). But he could not preach as gospel that Christ died for other peoples sins: "ours" is there plainly general, as in the epistle of John it is distinctive.
But if propitiation has this general aspect, and propitiation be by substitution, can substitution be general also, and if so, in what way? For this we must look deeper, for even the word in question is not in Scripture, although the thought is, and we cannot therefore have a simple text to appeal to, as in the other case we have.
What then is meant by substitution? It is One taking the place of others, so that they for whom He stands shall be delivered from all that in which He stands for them. The cross is thus the complete taking of death and judgment for those whom there He represents, so that for them salvation is absolutely insured. This is the substitution which the sacrifices speak of to us, and we have again and again considered it. A substitution in death and judgment can mean nothing less than the necessary salvation of those for whom it is made.
It is clear, then, we cannot speak of the world in this connection. A substitute for the world the Lord could not be, or universalism would be the simple necessity, and there could be no judgment for a single soul. But this is terrible error, and not the truth in any wise; and error which is now deceiving thousands. What have we on the other hand? "Substitution," is the thought of many, "for the elect." This is, of course, limited atonement. It is not possible to make it unite really with propitiation in any real sense for the world. You may say it is sufficient for the whole world. In itself it may be of value enough, but available it is not. Could one coming upon this warrant plead the value of that which in its design was absolutely for a limited number, of which he was not one - Christ being really the Representative of so many millions and no others? If you say they will not come, it may be very true they will not; but you cannot say the work is done for all, if it be not so; and the blood of propitiation is the blood of substitution - of an offering offered for so many.
Another consequence follows. This offering has been offered, accepted, and Christs resurrection is the justification of all for whom He died. Our sins were on Him, and were put away - when? Eighteen hundred years ago! But how then could we ever have been accounted sinners? How is justification by faith possible, - that is, justification when we believe?
These are not imaginary difficulties or results; they are actual and operative. And they are the effect - as so much error is - of misplaced truth. Election is a truth of Scripture; but election is not, in Scripture, brought in to limit the provision made in atonement, - a provision really made and sufficient for all the world. On the other hand, Christ is not a substitute for the world, for substitution implies the actual bearing and bearing away of the sins of those who are represented in the Substitute, and the sins of the world are not so borne away. He is. the Substitute of His people, but a people not numerically limited to just so many, but embracing all who respond to the invitations of His grace, though it were indeed the world for multitude.
Thus even in Israel, though the offering of the day of atonement was for the people of Israel alone, even here the door of circumcision was kept ever open, by which the stranger might take his place at the redemption-feast, and be as "one born in the land." And circumcision was, as we know, "the seal of righteousness by faith." How precious this open door of divine grace, through all the darkness of the legal economy! Thus we have an intimation of how the actual Substitute for the sins of His people may be (in language by another) the available Substitute for the sins of all. Only as come in among the number of His people can we say, "The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all;" for if justification be by the resurrection of the Substitute, as it truly is, it is none the less by faith we are justified; only as believing does it become our own.
With this the doctrine of the last Adam is in fullest accord, as the fifth of Romans represents it. For the principle is that of representation, the one for the many, and the connection between the one and the many a life-connection; yet is there in the last Adams work an aspect toward all: "Therefore, as by the one offence toward all men to condemnation, even so by one righteousness toward all men unto justification of life." The family position and blessedness are open to all that will; but on the other hand, "as by the one mans disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous."
Propitiation is, then, by substitution, and only so; yet the substitution itself is not for a fixed number before-determined, but for a people to whom men can be freely invited to join themselves, because of the infinite value of the work accomplished, and of the infinite grace which that work expresses. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Go To Chapter Fourteen
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