At Issue Index   Table of Contents   Previous   Next

Questions On Doctrine


Salvation Prefigured in the Sanctuary Service



Does your teaching of the sanctuary service mean that the work of Christ on Calvary was not an all-sufficient, complete, once-for-all sacrifice—a sacrifice that obtained for us eternal redemption? Or was something subsequently necessary to make the sacrificial work of Christ effective for the salvation of man?


To the first part of the question our answer is an unequivocal No. The death of Christ on Calvary's cross provides the only sacrifice by which man can be saved. We believe, however, that the sanctuary and the Temple services of long ago emphasized certain vital truths in connection with the atoning work of Jesus our Lord.

In the sanctuary ritual during the days of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness, and later in the time of the Temple, many sacrifice's were offered. But what ever their number, and whatever their variety, every sacrifice without exception pointed forward to the one great sacrifice—to the death of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour; He was the antitype of all these sacrificial offerings.


This "one sacrifice" (Heb. 10:12), or "one offering" (verse 14), of Christ was "for ever" (verse 12), and wrought "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12) for man. This sacrifice was completely efficacious. It provided complete atonement for all mankind, and will never be repeated, for it was all-sufficient and covered the needs of every soul.

These sacrificial offerings teach certain important lessons; they constitute a wonderful revelation of God's redeeming grace, repeatedly emphasized to ancient Israel. The book of Hebrews mentions that the many sacrifices offered in the days of Israel were divided into "daily" offerings (Heb. 7:27; 10:11) and yearly sacrifices (Heb. 9:7; 10:3). The sacrifices were offered every day as well as on the yearly Day of Atonement. An analysis of these sacrifices will reveal God's plan of salvation as made known to His people of old.

As in the New Testament it took four gospel writers to portray the life of Christ on earth, so in the Old Testament it took various sacrifices, or phases of the sacrificial work, to represent the all-inclusive work of Jesus as the great antitypical sacrifice for the redemption of a lost race.

1. The Morning and Evening Sacrifices.—The morning and evening sacrifices were offered every morning and every evening, every day of the year, irrespective of the day—even on the Feast of the Passover, Pentecost, the Day of Atonement, or any other special festival. These offerings were consequently called the "continual" sacrifices (Ex. 29:38, 42) and prefigured in a unique sense the sacrifice of Christ our Lord as always available and ever efficacious (Heb. 7:3, 24; 10:12). It is to be particularly observed that this offering was not provided by any individual.


It was offered for the people as a whole. It was not the sinner's offering to God; it was, on the contrary, the Lord's offering for His people. It was offered irrespective of whether the individual Israelite took advantage of its provision or not.

As to the vital significance of the morning and evening sacrifices, let us observe the remarks of three authors, one Jewish and two Christian.

The daily continual (Heb. tamid) offering was in later times called "the Tamid." Offered throughout the year, it was "the centre and core of public worship in Judaism" (Kennedy).—J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, on Num. 28:2-8, p. 694.

The daily offering prescribed at Exodus xxix:38-42, and which had presumably never been intermitted since, is specified again here because it formed the foundation of the whole sacrificial system. Whatever else was offered was in addition to it, not in lieu of it.—R. Winterbottom, in The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 380.

The whole system rested upon the daily sacrifice, which was never omitted, to which all other sacrifices were superadded. Not even the triumph of the passover or the affliction of the day of atonement affected the daily sacrifice.—Ibid., p. 383.

The institution [of the morning and evening sacrifice] was so imperative, that in no circumstances was this daily oblation to be dispensed with; and the due observance of it would secure the oft-promised grace and blessing of their heavenly King.—Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary, Critical and Expository, on Ex. 29:38.

This taught Israel vital lessons of truth—of "their constant dependence upon the atoning blood of Christ" that "faith laid hold upon the merits of the promised Saviour prefigured by the atoning sacrifice."—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 352, 353.

In a special sense the morning and evening sacrifices prefigured the sacrifice of Christ for all men. These 


provided in type, for Israel of old, just what the antitypical sacrifice of Christ provided later for the actual forgiveness of sin and the salvation of all who yielded themselves to God. They represented the sacrifice of Jesus Christ when He tasted death "for every man" (Heb. 2:9) and became "the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The morning and evening sacrificial offerings brought home to the hearts and minds of the people God's provision for their salvation—the way of deliverance from sin. It revealed the way to liberty from the bondage of iniquity. Wherever the Israelites lived they could turn toward Jerusalem at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices, confess their sins, and know that their God would graciously forgive (1 Kings 8:29, 30, 46-50).

2. The Sinner's Daily Sacrifices.—There were certain offerings that the individual sinner and the congregation were instructed to bring—burnt offerings, peace offerings, meal offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings. These might be called the sinner's responsive offerings. This did not, of course, mean that every individual in Israel brought his offering every day to the sanctuary. In the time of the Temple, these offerings could be presented only at Jerusalem (Deut. 12:5, 6, 13, 14, 26). And as most of the people lived far away, it was impossible for them to make their offerings at Jerusalem every day. They could, however, comply with the directions of the Lord when they came to the Holy City three times a year. But by means of the daily morning and evening sacrifices, they could know their sins were forgiven each day. They could in 


this way avail themselves of God's gracious provision, though they lived on the frontiers of the Holy Land, or even in a foreign clime.

These personal sacrifices are referred to in the early chapters of Leviticus. Some were to be offered for the entire congregation, others for the priests and leaders of the people, still others for the individual, or, as stated in the text, for the "common people" (Lev. 4:27).

It is to be borne in mind that these individually and congregationally provided offerings differed markedly from the morning and evening sacrifices. With the provision of the morning and evening sacrifices the individual sinner had absolutely nothing to do. They were offered on his behalf, whether he sought their benefits or not. But the individually provided offerings were different. The sinner himself provided them; he brought his own offering to the tabernacle. Recognizing it as his substitute, he placed his hands upon its head, and confessed his sins over it. Then the sacrifice was slain.

To us today, this procedure may have the appearance of human works, for every act thus far mentioned was performed by the person presenting the sacrifice. But this provision also was in the plan of God. These works on the part of the offerer were not as a means of salvation, but were an evidence of faith. These individual offerings, therefore, were not primary; they were secondary. In other words, the morning and evening sacrifice was fundamental; it was first and foremost. In a special sense this was the type of what was accomplished on Calvary's cross in antitype for all mankind.


The individual who accepted the benefits provided by the morning and evening sacrifice was given opportunity to express his faith and to reveal his acceptance of the divine provision for his salvation. This he did at the command of God. When visiting Jerusalem he brought his own offering for himself and for his family. In the morning and evening sacrifice we see provided atonement; in the individual sacrifice we see appropriated atonement.

These two groups of sacrificial offerings—the one representing God's provision for man, the other representing man's acceptance of these provisions—were offered every day of the year. These, in a specific way, were the offerings for sin. These were the vital sacrifices that meant deliverance for the longing soul. They were God's provision for the one seeking pardon, victory, and peace with God.

This experience on the part of the individual is what we commonly call conversion, or in New Testament language, being "born again," or passing from death unto life. In this surrender of heart and life, not only does the individual know pardon for sin, but he has peace with God and experiences the joy of the Lord in his soul.

3. The Day of Atonement Ritual.—Several sacrifices were offered on the Day of Atonement. This day was the climactic day of the ceremonial year, bringing to a consummation all the sacrifices that had been offered daily throughout the year. On that day there were sacrifices that the earthly high priest offered for himself and his family (Lev. 16:3, 6, et cetera). These were for his own personal preparation for the solemn 


services of the Day of Atonement. Before he could take part in God's work, he himself must be purified, sanctified for his high, holy, and responsible office and work.

Another part of the service was the bringing of two goats, concerning which we read: "Then he [the high priest] shall take the two goats, and set them before the Lord at the door of the tent of meeting; and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel" (Lev. 16:7, 8, R.S.V.).

Now let us look at the entire round of sacrificial ritual on this great day. The sacrifices for sin can be listed as follows:

a. The regular morning sacrifice (Ex. 29:38, 39; Num. 28:4).

b. The special sacrifices for the high priest and his house—a bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering (Lev. 16:3, 6).

c. The specified goat for the people (verse 15).

d. The regular evening sacrifice (Ex. 29:38, 39; Num. 28:4).

4. The Last Act in God's Great Work for Man—The work of this special day was a type, or illustration, of the last aspect of the great work of God for man. In ancient Israel, it was a day of judgment. This is seen in the instruction given:

Whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people (Lev. 23:29, 30).


Still further, the Jewish people through the centuries have so regarded the Day of Atonement. Note the following:

Even the angels, we are told in the Ritual, are seized with fear and trembling; they hurry to and fro and say, "Behold the Day of Judgment has come." The Day of Atonement is the Day of Judgment.—Paul Isaac Hershon, Treasures of the Talmud (1882), p. 97.

God, seated on His throne to judge the world, at the same time judge, Pleader, Expert, and Witness, openeth the Book of Records. . . . The great trumpet is sounded; a still, small voice is heard, . . . saying, This is the day of judgment. . . . On New Year's Day the decree is written; on the Day of Atonement it is sealed who shall live and who are to die.—The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 286.

5. The Goat for the Sin Offering.—The goat for the sin offering on the Day of Atonement was a unique sacrificial offering. There was nothing like it in the whole round of sacrifices. It differed from all the other offerings in that it had a dual significance. In the first place, it provided atonement for the people—"to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins" (Lev. 16:34). In the second place, it was used by the Lord in cleansing the very sanctuary that was the center of their worship throughout the year (verses 16, 20).

Observe how complete the cleansing work of the atoning blood was represented to be. The precious blood provided cleansing—(a) for the high priest and his house; (b) for all the people; (c) for the sanctuary, its altar, et cetera.

6. The Great Climax.Now comes the climactic act of this great day. After full and complete atonement*
*Several authorities recognize that before Azazel came into the picture on the Day of Atonement,  full and complete atonement had been made for the people. We give quotations from but two writers—one Christian, one Jewish:

"The slain goat had symbolized and ceremonially wrought full atonement or covering of sins."—Pulpit Commentary, on Leviticus, p. 242.
"One [the Lord's goat] was a victim intended to atone for sins."—M. M. Kalisch,  The Old Testament, Leviticus, vol. 2, p. 327.
"The atonement of the people . . . was effected solely by the blood of the . . . goat killed as a sin-offering."—Ibid., pp. 293, 294.


has been provided for the people, and they are safe and secure from the wiles of the great deceiver, God gives His people a preview of the way in which He is going to banish iniquity from His great universe. Here, in type, the author of sin is taken and is judged. He who introduced iniquity into the government of God receives his just deserts. The responsibility for conceiving, for introducing, and for inducing men and women to rebellion against God is rolled back upon his head. As the goat is consigned to the wilderness of death, so, near the end of all things, God will consign Satan to the "bottomless pit" (Rev. 20:1), and later to the lake of fire, where he goes down in utter and irrevocable destruction. (See also Question 35.)

These, we believe, are some of the lessons of the great Day of Atonement in the long ago.

At Issue Index   Table of Contents   Previous   Next