The Day of Atonement: 3. The Principle Part 3

The high priest appears not in his official robe, but in the garb that spoke of unsullied righteousness, the special holy garments. These were not his regular or proper apparel. The high priest was distinguished by a rich dress wherein gold and jewels had their place. The holy “linen garments” were required for the atoning work of this day.
We may here observe that this exceptional presentation of the high priest on the Day of Atonement helps to understanding a verse which has been fatal to men otherwise versed in scripture. It is written in Heb. 2:1717Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17), “Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like to His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in all things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” To reconcile sinners to God is exactly what the gospel proposes; but to make reconciliation for their sins is an unhappy expression. The A. V. did not mean that God can ever be reconciled to sins, or would have us reconciled to them. It is one of those verbal oversights occurring in an otherwise admirable version. Reconciling is not atoning.
In Rom. 5:1111And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11) it is commonly known that it should be “the reconciliation,” not “the atonement"; whereas in Heb. 2:1717Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17) “atonement,” expiation, or propitiation would be correct, not “reconciliation” which is another word and truth. Atonement implies expiation as to sins, and propitiation as to God, Who is offended at sin, justly indignant at that which directly violates His will on the part of man who resists His authority and commands. Atonement is God's intervention in His grace by Christ's death to expiate the sins and pardon the guilty who believe; and therefore is it the sole way in which He can righteously bring the sinner into reconciliation with Himself. Therein is God as truly glorified as the repentant soul is brought nigh to Him in peace. By that work the face of God becomes propitious to the sinner, so that his sins being judged on Christ are sent away never to be found again. “To propitiate, or make atonement for the sins of the people” is the right sense.
But here some stumble at the text in Heb. 2:1717Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17), because the High Priest is not in His official status on high till after the sacrifice is made. His proper sphere is in heaven. They therefore deny propitiation till after His death He entered the sanctuary above. But this undermines God's general testimony to the death of His Son, for an imaginary work assigned to Him in His disembodied state as if He were the efficacious High Priest in that condition. It effaces the propitiating character of the work finished on the cross for a different work which is not another. It annuls reconciliation by His death, unless it be true that He reconciled us by it before this fancied and strange doctrine of propitiation made in heaven after His going there in the separate state. “You now He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death” says the apostle, not by an after work in heaven. Here He died, lifted up from the earth no doubt, yet not in heaven, though the virtue of His blood was at once infinitely there as here and forever. Can one conceive a more admirable shadow than what God gave to put these two things together? The high priest had to act that day in a manner not more necessary than effectual for making atonement for sins; nevertheless he was not arrayed in his official but exceptional garments.
Does not this instructive type singularly tally with the facts? The Lord entered on the proper functions of His priesthood, after He had been perfected through sufferings and ascended to heaven. But before this the atoning work was effected and accepted. “Having made [by Himself] purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:33Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:3)), nay more, “With His own blood He entered into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:1212Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12))—the very text misused to confirm the error that propitiation was only then and there made. He obtained that redemption strictly neither in heaven nor on earth, but “lifted up” on the cross. There did God make sin Him Who knew no sin; but if atonement was thus made, its efficiency penetrated the holiest that very moment. “It is finished” said He Who poured out His soul unto death. The blood was for God in the sanctuary and for man's sins on the earth.
The reality far surpassed every part of the type. To this end was He “lifted up from the earth.” Thus does He draw “all men unto Himself,” not sons of Israel as such exclusively but all; for as the cross closed all hope from a living Messiah, everything for sinful man turned on a crucified Savior. On the cross He bore God's judgment of sin while the virtue of His blood instantly reached the holiest, Only after His ascension and sending down the Spirit was it preached to men on earth. It was in type the high priest alone acting, not in regular intercession, but in the exceptional position of the one great representative in the judgment of sin before God, both for the heavenly family and for the earthly people, not yet saluted of God as entered on His ordinary functions above. Had it been with the garments proper to His heavenly place, one might have thought of a fresh action of Christ in heaven, to make out a succession of stages answering to the various parts of the type.
But even the type, as it stands and we read, is plain enough, that before the high priest assumes his ordinary garments, he executes a work of the deepest moment, clad in the holy linen, and this after He leaves the sanctuary. For only then does He confess sins on the scape-goat which carried them away to be remembered no more. If believers have not to wait for Christ's coming out of the heavens to enjoy this great privilege from His substitution, we must beware of a too technical treatment of the type. Reasons that called for a pledge to Israel at the end of the age rendered this order necessary for the shadow. But the body is of Christ for us already. Aaron had not, Christ had, obtained eternal redemption when He entered the sanctuary. The very image, the truth, has an immediate completeness and unity which the shadow could not possess. For the law made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:1919For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. (Hebrews 7:19)). Aaron was immeasurably below the Savior and His work.
Creature means availed but for the moment, as a mere witness to Christ's everlasting acceptance personally and the efficacy of His blood for us. The offering of our Lord was final and complete. There is no question for us of sacrifice again. There is also in Him life eternal, as well as through Him everlasting redemption. Thereby is the conscience perfectly purged from sin. If He has not purged it by His blood once shed, what can do it? Christ suffers and dies no more.
Do you object that one may go wrong in the course of the day, that one may fall into sin? For this there is divine provision which restores the soul, while humbling it in the dust by the remembrance of what the sin cost Christ. The soul bows to God under the sense of the dishonor done to the grace of such a Savior. The word of God is applied by the Spirit to rebuke and bring the defiled into confession before God. The “washing of water by the word” is the remarkable figure of the apostle answering to the water of separation from defilement in Num. 19. This goes on when needed; but why not the sacrifice? Because it remains absolutely perfect, yea perfecting; which its repetition would deny according to the argument to the Hebrews. Yet something has to be done; and “if any one sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.”
But the central truth before us now is, that Christ's work of atonement, blotting out the believer's sins and cleansing his conscience, abides forever before God, and renewal is excluded because its efficacy is perfect. Such is the unqualified and unhesitating doctrine laid down by inspiration. From this sentence of the Holy Spirit there is no appeal. Every form or degree of presenting sacrifice for our sins to God now is a shameless and blasphemous rival set up against Christ's one offering of Himself. It is the grossest unbelief of its ever abiding efficacy. Not only is it everlasting in value, but also without a break which is much more. Christ sat down for perpetuity at God's right hand, for by one offering He has perfected for perpetuity the sanctified. Ritualism like Romanism is an apostate subversion of the truth of the gospel, and a vain and evil effort to resuscitate earthly priests and creature sacrifice. (concluded)