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Why Sacrifices Under The Law Covered – Not Cleansed – Sin?

Why did the old law die and why should we celebrate the new?

Scripture tells us that the tabernacle was a replica of what awaited us in Heaven. It had exact dimensions and had to be constructed in a certain way. It was a type of Heaven on earth, and a place where people could go for the forgiveness of sin. We also know that when Jesus came and died for our sins, that He brought both a new and better covenant into play.  So, what made the new covenant better?

The Old Covenant was governed by rules, regulations, and sacrifices that the people had to offer to cleanse them of sins- but they were never really cleansed from sin.  The blood of animals was a covering over them- not a cleansing. People who were deemed unclean were segregated to a specific place within the camp, and often had to yell, “unclean” to those who passed them.  There were systems in place for diseases, determining cleanliness, and rituals that took place.

The law itself was challenging to follow.  Could you follow even all of the ten commandments to the letter each and every day?  Most people probably couldn’t.  So sacrifices went up, and the blood of animals covered the people of sin.  But if you wanted to please the letter of the law, can you think of how many offerings would go up on our behalf today?

a type and Shadow Of what awaited Us

Hebrews 9 mentions the tabernacle and its purpose.  It glosses over what was contained in it, the purpose, and the purpose of the High Priest who only entered the Holy of Holies once a year for the atonement of sins from himself, and on the behalf of the people who may have unknowingly committed sins.  He, too, had certain laws that He had to follow in order to remain clean.  

Hebrews 9:8-9 makes an interesting statement about the tabernacle, “The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning.  This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.”

The tabernacle was a foreshadowing of what was about to come.  The Holy Spirit came on certain people of the Old Testament, but with the exception of John and Jesus, it really didn’t indwell in people.  Because of this, people may not have necessarily been convicted of sin as we are aware of today.  They may know that they broke one of the laws, but did they feel the conviction and transformative powers that the Holy Spirit gives us today?

Why were sacrifices Given if they only covered sin- not cleansed?

Moreover, their sins were covered by the blood of animals- not washed clean like the blood of Jesus.  In the OT we see that God’s anger burned against His people, and we see His judgment extracted upon those who didn’t obey.  The NT says that all we have to do is repent and our sins are washed away.  We can move on knowing that our sins have been forgotten and remembered no more.  Our conscience, as mentioned in the verse above, is washed clean whereas God remembered the sins of His people in the OT.

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ came as a High Priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood thus obtaining eternal redemption.”

It goes on to say that the sacrifices offered only were sprinkled over the ceremonially unclean and sanctified them so that they were outwardly clean- not inwardly.  Jesus came to cleanse our conscience of sin that leads to death.  Death, in this case is eternal separation from God.

Before Jesus, everyone was separated from God.  You either went into Hell or Abraham’s bosom which is like a “holding tank” for the saints- but not into the presence of God.  Imagine serving God your whole life and when you died you could not be in His presence.  You were separated from Him.  You weren’t in Hell, but you weren’t in the beauty and majesty that is Heaven either.  So instead of streets paved with gold, happiness, joy, etc you were in limbo.

With this new-found freedom from eternal death (some scriptures use the term useless rituals), we are now able to directly speak to God and repent for our sins the minute we are convicted of them.  We don’t have to go to a priest and make an offering.  Imagine how humbling it had to be to take an offering to a priest and have someone else know that you had done something wrong.

sin

Hebrews 9:15 sums it up beautifully, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance- now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Under the OT, everything was sprinkled with blood.  Without blood being shed, there was no forgiveness.  Studies have suggested that we commit a sin every couple of seconds.  Many of which we are not even aware of.  Imagine how many sins under the law probably went uncleansed- thus unforgiven.

Verse 24 tells us that Christ entered Heaven, which was not made by human hands and appeared in the presence of God.  He didn’t have to enter repeatedly as the High Priests did.  Verse 26 suggests that if this were the case, Jesus would have had to suffer many times since the world was created.  All He had to do is appear once on the behalf of all of us to sacrifice Himself for the sins of many.  This is contrasted with our one death and subsequent judgment.

Hebrews 9 ends with Christ’s second coming which is not for the atonement of sin but to gather the rest of the people who are not saved.  Who are these people?  The Jews that are still under the law because they rejected Jesus as the Messiah, and those who do not know Christ.

Why is the New Covenant better?  Our sins are washed away without the sacrifice of animals.  We can go before God and say that we are sorry, and our conscience is wiped clean.  While some may question that if our sins were truly washed away why do we often remember them and feel guilty the answer is that Satan is convicting you, not God.  When we truly repent, God remembers it no more, and neither should we.  He looks at you and says, “What sin?”  So, if God has forgotten what you have done, shouldn’t you?

Jesus also did away with laws that were difficult to keep.  We are no longer in a holding container but have direct access to God both when we pray, and when God calls us home.  How would you feel knowing that you had served God all your life, and the God that you loved with your whole heart you couldn’t see… yet?  But we can feel the love of Christ, and we have a direct relationship with Him.  These are all things they didn’t have under the Law.  So where would you better be: living with the law, or enjoying the freedoms under the New Covenant?

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