SDA Sabbath School Lessons
Sunday July 21, 1996

The Day of Atonement Ministry
(Leviticus 16)

What were the main events of the Day of Atonement?

  • Leviticus 16:6-10,15-22

    Two goats were taken by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. One represented Christ, and the other represented Satan. The one that represented Christ was slain, symbolizing Christ's death on the cross. "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 9:22, RSV). The high priest sprinkled some of the animal's blood on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place. He also sprinkled the blood in the Holy Place and on the altar of burnt offering in the court (Lev. 16:16,18,19,33). Thus every part of the sanctuary was symbolically cleansed of the record of pardoned sin.

    The sins of the people who had brought their sin offerings during the year had been forgiven (Lev. 4:26, 31, 35). By the sprinkling of blood in the daily service, the pardoned record had been symbolically retained in the sanctuary. Because this record defiled the sanctuary, it was necessary to cleanse it on the Day of Atonement.

    What was the purpose of the high priest's ministry in the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement? Lev. 16:30, 33.

    While the high priest was sprinkling the blood before God in the Most Holy Place, the people were out in the court examining their hearts to be sure that all their sins had been confessed and put away. This was a time of self-examination. They were to "afflict" themselves (Lev. 16:29, RSV; compare Lev. 23:29). While a ministry was going on in the sanctuary, a divine work was taking place in the hearts of the people in the court.

    The Day of Atonement was an annual judgment day, on which both the sanctuary and the people were cleansed. "For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord" (Lev. 16:30, RSV). In lesson 3, we discovered that atonement is said to provide cleansing. Verse 33 explains that, on the Day of Atonement, atonement (cleansing) was provided for each part of the sanctuary and "for priests and for all people of the assembly" (RSV). Those whose sins were not previously forgiven needed cleansing, and those whose sins were previously forgiven needed further cleansing. This was a day of spiritual revival.