Upon listening to a wonderful sermon from my pastor on Sunday just gone, spoken on John chapter 20, we were left with no doubt whatsoever of the crucial fact that the Resurrection of Christ, if not the truth, leaves us in a hopeless state. Whilst I would have agreed with that statement previously, I would have been hard pressed to give a specific reason as to why that is the truth. What’s more, with the seemingly common tendency for many to “spiritualize” the Resurrection of Christ, and sowing doubt throughout the Church, solid ground is obviously needed in order to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints through the Bible.
The reason I have found clarity over this issue is because my pastor quite rightfully pointed to the Law as a shadow of things to come [Col 2:17 , Heb 10:1], and how it could be clearly seen that what was tangibly taught in the Law, was seen clearly fulfilled in Christ. In other words, the Law of God pointed towards that which was to come through Christ. Although I would like to focus on one particular point in this article, the original sermon will shortly be available to listen to on the church podcast, along with previous studies throughout the Gospel of John.
There is little doubt within Christian circles that the sacrifice offered during the day of atonement for the sins of Israel, spoken of in the Old Testament, directly reflects the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins, spoken of in the New Testament. Even the most infant of Christian believers can see the significance of the crucifixion of Christ, given for our justification, in the light of the Old Testament teaching. But would it be true to say that just as many Christians see the significance of the Resurrection of Christ in the same place? I know that at least on my own part, the answer would have to be a resounding no. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that some Christians, would be willing to give ground for the case of the Resurrection, where they never would concerning the death of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. What I would like to point out here though, is that the physical Resurrection of Christ is as important to us as His physical death on the Cross.
Because Jesus Christ is both our High Priest [Heb 4:14] and the Sacrificial Lamb [Rev 5:12], we can see Him reflected as both in the Old Testament account given in Leviticus chapter 16, regarding the annual day of atonement ritual. Therefore I will do my best to show the relation between the Old Testament Law, and the New Testament fulfilment of that Law through Christ Jesus.
The instruction given to Aaron the high priest was that, on the day of atonement, he should first make sacrifices for his own sins, and then be dressed in linen garments, as opposed to the usual ceremonial robes, and ceremonially cleansed in water. He would then take two kid goats and present them before the Lord at the gate of the tabernacle. Lots would be cast publicly over the two goats, so that one would be chosen for the Lord, and one as a scapegoat [Lev 16:3-8].
During the ritual, the high priest would throw incense onto the burning coals from the alter before the Lord, creating a cloud around the mercy seat so that the Lord would not be seen and the high priest die. The priest would then enter the Holy of Holies completely alone, to make sacrifice before God for the sins of the people, and to intercede on their behalf. No person would be allowed to enter with him, nor any person allowed to remain in the adjoining tabernacle of meeting. He would make all the necessary sacrifice and sprinkling of blood according to the Law, and then would lay hands on the head of the live scapegoat, pronouncing all the sins of Israel upon it. Once this was done, the goat would be sent off into the wilderness, taking all the sins of Israel with it. Then when this was complete, the high priest would come out into the tabernacle of meeting, remove the clothes he had worn in the Holy of Holies, ceremonially wash himself, and then put on other clothes before making burnt offerings amongst the congregation [Lev 16:12-30].
The predominant point is that when the high priest made all the necessary sacrifices for the people, the only sign that the sacrifice was indeed accepted, was the sign of the scapegoat being sent into the wilderness, and the high priest coming out alive from the presence of the Lord. In the same way, the only true sign that the sacrifice of Christ our High Priest, was acceptable before God as atonement for our sins, was His physical resurrection. For He was the One who entered the most Holy place by His own blood, shed to His death [Heb 9:12]. Therefore as the High Priest who had made an acceptable sacrifice before God, He would need to re-emerge from that most Holy place to complete the process of atonement. Also, if the atonement sacrifice Christ made was to be once for all, putting away the previous annual sacrifice according to the Law, He would need to remain alive before the Lord to make continuing intercession on behalf of the people.
In many places throughout the New Testament, reference is made towards Christ being the fulfilment of the Old Testament Law. In this case, Hebrews chapter 9 relates the Scriptures I mentioned above directly to Christ Himself. However it can be more clearly seen in the passages from Leviticus 16, the significance of the high priest returning to his people after the sacrifice was made. The significance of this was clearly known to both the Jews and Romans of that day, for it is the very reason for the lengths they went to ensure that the body of Jesus could not be removed from the tomb in which He was laid.
It is my exhortation in this article to cling to the truth of the Resurrection of Christ with the same gusto as you cling to the Cross on which He died, for to cling to one without the other is utterly fruitless. As Christians we must continue to believe that Christ is both the Lamb Who was slain for our sins[Rev 5:12], and the Great High Priest who intercedes on our behalf until His return [Heb 7:25]. I would recommend anyone to read through the Gospel accounts again with these things in mind, looking for the fulfilment of the Law shown in the life of Christ, for there are examples littered throughout all four Gospel accounts.
I close this article with one such piece of evidence that reflects the truth of the Law:
Speaking of the instruction given to Aaron upon the completion of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, we read that:
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