The other day I was reading an article on a Jewish site addressing the error of Christians insisting on the need of blood in the forgiveness of sins.
I have heard many of the arguments against the need for a blood sacrifice to be forgiven as there are many examples of this in the OT. Leviticus 5:11 stipulates that a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour is adequate for forgiveness if you cannot afford more.
So, if God did not require a blood sacrifice for sin before Christ, why was a requirement after Christ?
While I was reading the article, I felt the Holy Spirit draw my attention to the words atonement and forgiveness and then heard Him say they were not the same.
I felt like my mind had been blown by something so apparent and obvious, but I had failed to notice as I had not registered that they were different nor the significance of their differences.
As Christians, we often point to Leviticus 17:11 as showing the need for a blood sacrifice.
for the life of every living thing is in the blood. So I myself have assigned it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life. (Lev 17:11)
Notice the passage does not say forgiveness but rather atonement. Now let’s look at what God had said about the Day of Atonement.
and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother that he must not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil-canopy in front of the atonement plate that is on the ark so that he may not die, for I will appear in the cloud over the atonement plate. “In this way Aaron is to enter into the sanctuary — with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Lev 16:2-3)
First we see that atonement can only be made on special days by the high priest only and only when God’s presence was over the atonement plate. The atonement plate is also known as the mercy seat which is part of the Ark. In this case, Aaron is to enter into the sanctuary with a sin offering.
He must also take two male goats from the congregation of the Israelites for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. Then Aaron is to present the sin offering bull which is for himself and is to make atonement on behalf of himself and his household. (Lev 16:5-6)
Notice that Aaron is not seeking forgiveness for his sins but rather atoning for his sins with this offering. If Aaron had failed to have repented and sought forgiveness for his sins, he would have been dead before he approached the presence of God.
The Jewish people had sought forgiveness throughout the year, but they still required the atonement process to have that covering put upon them. Every year, no matter how good they were, Israel still had to make atonement to God. God even said that this was a perpetual statue as there would always be a separation between God and man.
That was true until Christ.
Jesus is the High Priest who makes an everlasting atonement for mankind with His own blood that was shed. Yes, we have forgiveness for sins, but more importantly we have atonement and reconciliation back with God.