Can you explain the sacrificial system of the OT temple?

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The sacrificial system taught, through the symbol of slain animals, that God would give His Son to die for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). In the Old Testament, people looked forward to the cross for salvation. We look backward to Calvary for salvation.

God commanded Moses to make the portable temple precisely after the pattern which he was shown in heaven (Hebrews 8:1-5). The tabernacle was roughly fifty-five by eighteen feet in size with a surrounding enclosed courtyard facing the east. The courtyard had the alter of burned offering (Exodus 27:1-8) and the Laver (Exodus 30:17-21).

The temple building was divided into two apartments separated by a veil. The larger first room was called the holy place which contained a candle stand (Exodus 25:31-40), the table of shew bread (Exodus 25:23-30), and a golden incense altar (Exodus 30:7, 8).

In the second apartment or the most holy place, there was the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22). This was a gold-covered chest which contained the Ten-Commandment law. On top of the ark was the mercy seat, representing the corresponding place in heaven where God’s presence was manifested.

The sacrificial confessional system worked this way: if a person sinned, he had to bring a lamb without spot into the courtyard of the sanctuary. There, by the altar of burnt offering, he would confess his sins over the animal and then slay it with his own hand (Leviticus 1:4, 5, 11). The flawless lamb represented the future Messiah. Through faith, he transferred his sins to the lamb and accepted the death of the Savior in his place (Revelation 13:8).

The priest then placed some of the blood on the horns of the altar in the outer court and ate a small piece of the meat, thus taking upon himself the sins of the individual worshipers. Afterward, the priest killed a sin offering for himself, and carried the blood into the holy place where it was sprinkled before the veil (Leviticus 4:16, 17).

Thus all sin eventually was placed in the sanctuary where it was recorded through the sprinkled blood. Every day, for an entire year, the sins accumulated in the sanctuary by the ministry of the priests in the holy place.

At the annual Day of Atonement a final disposition was made of their record of sin in the sanctuary (Leviticus 23:27). The Day of Atonement fell on the tenth day of the seventh month and was called the “cleansing of the sanctuary.” Symbolically a blotting out of the blood-recorded sins took place as the high priest, alone, entered the holy of hollies to sprinkle the blood of a goat.

Two goats were selected: One, the Lord’s goat the other, the scapegoat, representing Satan (Leviticus 16:8). The Lord’s goat was slain and offered for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:9), while the people were fasting and confessing their sins in prayer. If one person had sins which had not been confessed and recorded in the sanctuary, those sins would not come under the blood of atonement, that man or woman would be cut off from Israel and put outside the camp (Leviticus 23:29).

And on this day the blood was taken into the most holy place and sprinkled upon and before the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:14). Only on this special judgment day did the high priest enter the most holy place to meet God at the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:14). When he emerged from the holy of hollies, the final atonement had been completed and a symbolic judgment had been made concerning sin and its penalty.

Finally, the high priest was to place his hands on the head of the scapegoat in the courtyard who was then led off into the wilderness to perish alone (Leviticus 16:16, 20-22) which signified the ultimate placing of guilt on Satan and his destruction.

That day’s services points to the blotting out of sin by Jesus the real High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. This special judgment day, like that of Israel’s Yom Kippur, foreshadowed the final atonement to be made for planet Earth.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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