“[The high priest] is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” Leviticus 16:32-34
As a modern disciple of Jesus, you may be one of the many who have not given much time or attention to the Law of Moses. After all, as participants in the New Covenant of Jesus, we’re no longer obligated to it. Still, there is much we’ll miss about the power and significance of the New Covenant actions of God if we’re not seeing how He paved the way for the New in the Old.
Take, for example, the Day of Atonement that God gave the Israelites as described in Leviticus 16. On that day each year, the high priest of the people had to follow a very specific protocol in order provide for atonement and purification for the Most Holy Place (where God dwelled), the tent used for worshiping, the altar used for sacrifices, the priests, and all the people of the community. Notice, this day and this process were not just provided for the purification of the sinful people. Their sinfulness also made it necessary to purify the holy things that were “in the midst of their uncleanness” (16:16)!
If the Day of Atonement process was only a shadow of the things that were to come to fullness in Christ (Colossians 2:17), it suggests that it would not be enough for our Master to die for the cleansing of human impurity and sinfulness alone. That He died to provide for the permanent forgiveness of people’s sins is certain, for He Himself said that His blood of the covenant was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). Yet, our vision of the power of the Master’s sacrifice was enlarged when the apostle Paul wrote that, through Christ, God was pleased “to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in the heavens by making peace through His blood shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19). What?! Were the effects of our sinfulness so great that the effects of Christ’s death to deal with our sinfulness had to extend so far?
Consider, Disciple, our final hope. We are not just promised an escape from Hell, the just consequence of our rebellion against God. That is a beautiful grace of God in itself, but it is just the beginning. God has actually promised to recreate the entire cosmos – new heavens and a new earth. Just as the high priest had to provide for purification for more than the people, so Jesus has provided for the renewal of all things – faithful people included. As Romans 8:18-25 so beautifully reveals, creation itself is longing for the completion of what Jesus began at Golgotha’s cross, just as we are.
Celebrate the power of the cross of Christ to set you free, Disciple, but don’t stop there. Continue on to celebrate the freedom in store for all of creation because of His great sacrifice.
A small, but grateful, part of those set free,Ryan