“This is real love… God loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
One of the things that I have always enjoyed about going to the movies, is the previews that come before the movie. The previews offer the audience an enticing view of a something that is coming, but has not yet arrived. Previews are designed to pique our interest, to cause us to want to choose to see what the preview is promising us.
For centuries, God had been offering previews of a coming “attraction,” for His Old Covenant people. God’s preview was a picture of sacrifice and atonement for sin – of redemption and renewal. Of deliverance and victory. Year after year, and century after century, God was showing His people a vivid preview of a main event that was yet to come. It was the epic story of how sacrifice could liberate and empower a whole community of people.
One of these previews was the Day of Atonement. A day of solemn contrition, repentance and renewal – for all of God’s people. A day when the high priest (of the people) would enter into God’s Holy Presence on behalf of all the people – to offer a blood of a sacrifice, to pay the price for the sins of ALL the people. The Day of Atonement was a once-for-all event , where the high priest would go beyond the veil (separating God from the people) and do what was required to secure God’s forgiveness for everyone who trusted in the high priest’s work.
Imagine the scene… All of God’s people gathered around the Tabernacle/Temple seeking God, praying, some weeping… then the high priest approaches. He carries the blood of the sacrifice, and the hopes of God’s people, and after the ceremonial purifications – he makes his way into the Most Holy Place. His greatest work, on behalf of all the people, is accomplished in the place that only he can go – into the place where the very Presence of God waits.
The people wait anxiously. If the high priest returns from beyond the veil (at the entrance of the Most Holy Place) their sins are forgiven, they are renewed in their relationship with the Most High.
But if the high priest does not return… they are all still in their sins.
Year after year, (every year!) the preview played – not only providing a yearly atonement, but also inviting the people to set their sights on the epic event that was yet to come – to bring the fullness of God’s amazing work… the forgiveness and deliverance of His people… permanently!
The writer of the Hebrews focused upon this “fullness” when He proclaimed: “…when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come… He entered the (actual) Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.” (from Heb. 9:11-12)
For all of those years, the Old Covenant Day of Atonement was the preview of God’s Own Day of Atonement. For so many years, what was experienced through human ritual, was now made permanent by God’s righteousness. On the altar of the cross, Jesus carried all our sins, and offered His Own blood, for the atonement of all who would look to His sacrifice and believe. In His death, He went beyond the veil to advocate for our souls. In His resurrection, He returned from beyond the veil, having secured eternal life and redemption for everyone whose hope is fixed upon Him.
The preview that God had offered to His Old Covenant people, for so many years, led to the world premiere of Jesus, the Son of God, atoning for our sins – and for the sins of the whole world. His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection ARE the story of HOW each of us can be forgiven of our sins, delivered from our past (and our addictions), and receive a new kind of life – filled with the hope of knowing and loving God, personally, each and every day of our lives…
Prayer focus: God, help me to see the liberating power of what Jesus did for me!