Pastor James J. Barker

Text: LEVITICUS 16:1-6


  1. Chapter 16 is the most important chapter in the book of Leviticus. It concerns the Day of Atonement, the greatest day on the Jewish calendar (Yom Kippur), when the high priest went into the most holy place (the "Holy of Holies") and offered sacrifices for his own sins, and also for the sins of the nation (cf. Lev. 16:6, 30).
  2. This of course was symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the book of Hebrews calls our Great High Priest (cf. Hebrews 9:11, 12).
  3. Today Israel has no temple, and they have no high priest. Therefore they cannot properly celebrate Yom Kippur. Most of their traditions and rituals are contrary to the Bible.
  4. Those of us who have been saved through faith in Christ can see here in Leviticus 16 a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and His vicarious death on the cross.
  5. When studying this doctrine of atonement, it should be noted that the Hebrew word, kapar, usually translated as "atonement" (16:6) means to "cover over," and is first used in the Bible in Genesis 6:14.
  6. The word is found often in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers (cf. Lev. 16:6, 10, 18). In Isaiah 6:7, this same word is translated "purged."
  7. Kapar means to cover the sins. These animal sacrifices did not actually take away their sins (cf. Heb. 10:4), but what these sacrifices did was point to Christ and His substitutionary death on the cross (cf. Rom. 5:9-11; Heb. 10-14; I Peter 1:18, 19).
  8. Atonement speaks of the price which was demanded by Godís just law for manís sin. The shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was the only sufficient payment which satisfied that demand. "And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).
  9. As we look at the OT Day of Atonement, let us keep in mind that it was the greatest day of the year for the children of Israel. And the greatest day in the life of a sinner is the day he repents of his sin and receives Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
    Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
  10. Their sins were not washed away on the Day of Atonement; they were covered. But when you get saved your sins are completely washed away by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today we will look at the Day of Atonement -- its scope, its ritual, and its limitation.



  1. Its scope was large -- "that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD" (Lev. 16:30, 34; cf. I John 1:7).
  2. Aaron offered a sacrifice for himself, and for his house (16:6), and "for all the congregation of Israel" (16:17).
  3. An atonement was made for the tabernacle and everything that was in it (16:16, 18-20). Even the brazen altar had to have the blood applied because it was contaminated by the sins of the people (16:18- 20). This is where their sins were confessed; therefore it was polluted and an atonement had to be made.
  4. An atonement was made for all iniquities, all transgressions, and all sins (16:21, 22).
  5. In the NT, our English word "propitiation" corresponds with the OT kapar, which is often translated as "atonement" (cf. Rom. 3:25; I John 2:2; 4:10).
  6. Another NT word is "reconciliation" (cf. Rom. 5:10, 11; II Cor. 5:20, 21; Col. 1:20, 21).
  7. The Bible teaches that the atonement had respect to the entire people -- "and for all the congregation of Israel" (Lev. 16:17b). This points to the cross. The Bible says, "Christ died for all." He "gave Himself a ransom for all." He "tasted death for every man."
  8. The Gospel is Good News and it is Good News for all. Limiting the atonement would not be good news to those who would be excluded.
  9. The Day of Atonement was meant to provide forgiveness "for all the congregation of Israel" (16:17b). And the Gospel was meant to provide forgiveness to "whosoever will."



  1. We do not see any ritualism in the NT. The Lord gave us two ordinances, told us to preach the Gospel to every creature, and disciple those that are saved. There should be no ritualism in the NT church.
  2. However, there are many rituals in the OT and these rituals cannot be understood unless they are seen in light of the cross.
  3. In Leviticus 16, the word "atonement" is found 15 times (plus "reconciling" in verse 20). The word "blood" appears 9 times in Lev. 16 and 13 times in Lev. 17. You cannot have atonement without the shedding of blood (cf. Lev. 17:11).
  4. "And without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22).
  5. The two-fold aspect of Christís work on the cross is seen in the two goats. First, we note that only Aaron the high priest could take the two goats and present them before the LORD (Lev. 16:3, 5-7).
  6. "And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place..." (16:17).
    Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus Christ "Himself purged our sins" and then "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
  7. "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree..." (I Peter 2:24).
  8. Aaronís clothes had to be spotless and clean. They were "holy garments" (Lev. 16:4). This is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Bible says is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Heb. 7:26).
  9. The "goat of the sin-offering" had to be killed (Lev. 16:15). This points to the cross. The Bible says, "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3). The goat was killed because "without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22).
  10. Then the blood was brought "within the vail" (Lev. 16:15). The hymn-writer said, "In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil."
    On Christ the solid Rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
  11. The blood was sprinkled "upon the mercy seat" (16:15). This is where God met them (cf. 16:2b). The mercy seat speaks of Christ and if you want to meet God youíll have to go there. There is no other way to God.
  12. Now let us look at the second goat, the live goat (16:20), also called the "scapegoat" (16:8, 10, 26). Aaron laid "both his hands upon the head of the live goat..." (16:21, 22). As the Israelite watched his sins being carried away into the wilderness, he knew that God not only forgave his sins, but also removed them far away from him. The atonement included not only the forgiveness of sins but the removal of them as well.
  13. This is what David meant when he said, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).
  14. This is what John the Baptist meant when he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).



  1. I have already mentioned that there is no limit to the atonement. However, there is a limitation. When studying what the Bible has to say about the Day of Atonement, let us remember that it had to be repeated each year. In vivid contrast is the finished work of Christ, by which our sins are totally removed instead of being merely covered for a year.
  2. Today when a sinner repents of his sin and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, he never has to go back again. The great hymn-writer, Isaac Watts put it this way:

Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away its stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb
Took all our sins away,
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.

  1. My Day of Atonement was the day I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. When was your Day of Atonement?
  2. When the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross and died for our sins, He did not merely cover them, but He put them away eternally (Heb. 9:24-28).



  1. D. L. Moody used to tell a true story about a lady who told her servant to cook a lamb for dinner. She told him how she liked it cooked but she did not tell him what to do with the blood. So he went to her and asked, "What are you going to do with the blood of the lamb?"
  2. This lady had been under conviction for some time, and this question went like an arrow to her soul. She went to her room but felt uneasy because this question kept coming back to her, "What are you going to do with the blood of the lamb?"
  3. She kept thinking about this and before the sun came up that morning she was on her knees asking the Lord to save her.
  4. Unsaved friend: What are you going to do with the blood of the Lamb?
  5. Lev. 16:29 says they were to "afflict" (humble) themselves.
  6. "And do no work at all" (Lev. 16:29). Salvation is not by our works, but by Christís work on the cross.
  7. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5).
  8. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9).

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