Chapter 10
The Blood of Jesus Foreshadowed

There are several forms of prophecy in the Old Testament. The most common form is “verbal predictive prophecy” or specific prophecy in words (e.g., Is. 53). Another kind of prophecy is through the use of “types,” in which people, places, things and events are used symbolically to depict some future fulfillment. A type is a prophetic symbol. For example, the exodus of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and their escape from evil Pharaoh was a type of the escape of the Christian from sin, the world and the devil.

Jesus often taught deep spiritual truths by means of parables, using simple natural pictures to demonstrate profound, abstract truths. The Old Testament, in the same way, sets forth many types, pictures and symbols; then the New Testament gives the doctrinal exposition and explanation of those types.

Abstract statements of truth are much easier to understand when accompanied by some visible representation. For instance, it’s a lot easier to explain what a “sphere” is by pointing to a soccer ball than by trying to explain it in words only. For this purpose, the Old Testament is full of illustrative types or concrete symbols, setting forth spiritual truths.

The entire Old Testament spoke of Jesus and His work:

And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44)

The law of Moses spoke of Jesus, both by specific prophecy as well as by type.

We shall now consider the Old Testament system of sacrifice which was intended by God to teach us about Jesus and His death on the cross.

Old Testament rituals were not just meaningless things the Israelites did, but they were patterns of spiritual realities, and the teachings of the New Testament are based upon the assumption that the Old Testament symbols are understood. The New Testament wasn’t written in a vacuum, but it is the fulfillment and completion of the Old Testament. To comprehend fully what happened at the cross one must understand Old Testament sacrifice.

The New Testament presupposes an understanding of Old Testament sacrifice. Its descriptions of Christ’s work on the cross are filled with Hebrew sacrificial language.4 In many passages, the death of Jesus is spoken of as being a sacrifice for sin. John the Baptist, in John 1:29, did not refer to Christ as a Lamb for gentleness and innocency, but as a Lamb for sacrifice. Paul, in his epistles, didn’t make up the term “sacrifice,” but he, like the other New Testament writers, took the Old Testament sacrificial teaching and terminology and applied it to Christ who was its fulfillment.7

The Purpose of Sacrifice in the Old Testament

The nation of Israel and the Old Testament Patriarchs, offered animal sacrifices to God. The three-fold purpose of God in giving men a system of animal sacrifice was as follows:

(1) God instituted animal sacrifice to teach us the truths that He is holy, that all men are sinful, and that a holy and righteous God must, by the necessity of His own nature, punish sin either in the person of the sinner or in the person of an innocent substitute who bears the sinner’s punishment in his place and thus satisfies the justice of God, setting the sinner free from the obligation to suffer the punishment due to his sin, and providing the way back into fellowship and communion with God.

(2) Animal sacrifice foreshadowed the true and only method by which this reconciliation of a holy God with sinful men would be accomplished – the death of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus’ death on the cross was set forth in shadow and type in the sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament:

…the law having a shadow of good things to come… (Heb. 10:1)

While the atoning work of Christ was described in the Old Testament using many types, yet the primary type was sacrifice, and that is why we must understand sacrifice, particularly as it was found in the Mosaic system.

(3) Lastly, Old Testament sacrifices provided an actual vehicle whereby Israel and the Patriarchs could remain in covenant standing with God.

The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, but as God’s people came to Him in repentance and faith with their animal sacrifices, He would graciously forgive their sins – on the basis of Jesus’ future death on the cross.10 Then when Jesus died on the cross, His blood justified and substantiated the forgiveness and “pretermission” or “passing over” that God had granted for the “sins that are past” (i.e., of the saints in the Old Testament) in His forbearance (see Romans 3:25).

Jesus’ Death Fulfilled the Old Testament Types

Old Testament sacrifices were exact types of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the principles upon which the Old Testament sacrificial system was based are precisely the same as the principles embodied in the sacrifice of Jesus. Consider very carefully these two passages:

For every high priest [i.e., in the Old Testament system] is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this Man [i.e., Jesus] have somewhat also to offer. (Heb. 8:3)

For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. (Heb. 13:11-12)

Hebrews 8:3 and 13:11-12 teach that Jesus’ manner of death on the cross, was for the express purpose of fulfilling the Old Testament types.

God devoted a large portion of His Old Testament to teaching, at great length and in much intricate detail, a system of animal sacrifice. He did it for a purpose. His purpose was to set forth the principles of sacrifice and atonement upon which the sacrifice of Jesus would later be based. The principles embodied in Old Testament sacrifices are the same as those embodied in the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the types exactly.

Therefore, since it was the blood that made an atonement for sin in the Mosaic sacrificial system, it is also the blood (and not a spiritual death, or anything else) that makes an atonement for sin in Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus fulfilled perfectly and exactly the Old Testament types.

Again, since the sin offering in the Old Testament was always most holy, then the sin offering of Jesus was also always most holy (and never sinful, as some believe and teach). Again, since the blood was said to “cover” the sins of the people in the Mosaic sacrificial system, so the blood of Jesus does indeed “cover” our sins in the New Testament.11

There were many and various kinds of offerings and sacrifices in the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, all typifying and teaching various aspects of Christ and His work. The “sin offering” will now be considered in detail.

The Ritual of the Sin Offering

(1) The occasion of the sin offering was sin.

…If a soul shall sin…then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering. (Lev. 4:2-3)

If a man sins, he must be punished. God is righteous and He will not “just forget about” sin. God will punish sin:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… (Rom. 1:18)

God cannot sacrifice His holiness to His love. If a man sins that means God must punish either him or an innocent substitute in his place. Someone must die. The law must be satisfied.

Therefore, if an Israelite sinned and didn’t want to suffer the punishment for his sin, he would have to take a sin offering which would bear his punishment and die in his place.

(2) The sacrificial victim or substitute had to be without blemish.

…let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering. (Lev. 4:3)

For the sinner to be free from the punishment of his sin, a substitute must bear the sinner’s punishment in the sinner’s place, and the substitute must be without blemish and perfect. Leviticus 22:17-25 teaches that for an offering to be accepted by God it had to be perfect:

But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you…it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. (Lev. 22:20-21)

Deuteronomy 17:1 says:

Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God.

The fulfillment of the type had always to be conformed to the type. This means that according to Deuteronomy 17:1, if Jesus were sinful on the cross then His sacrifice would have been considered by God to be “an abomination”!

However, Jesus was not sinful on the cross. He was pure and holy, and His sacrifice was not an abomination to God, but it was an offering “for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 5:2).

The animal to be offered as a sin offering was inspected by the priest. It had to be without blemish, inside and outside. It had to be perfect because it typified Jesus. The physical perfection of the animal was symbolical of the entire perfection of Jesus and indicated that only an innocent and pure life could be accepted as a sacrificial substitute in the place of a sinful, polluted one.

Moreover, the sin offering remained most holy at all times. In exactly the same way, Jesus was always most holy. As we have said previously, one sinner cannot die for another sinner. A sinner can only die for his own sins. The righteous and innocent Man, who deserved no punishment for sin of His own, was the only One who could bear the punishment of another’s sin. If Jesus died spiritually and became sinful, as some have taught, He would then have had to die for Himself and could not have borne our punishment!19

To say that Jesus died spiritually and became sinful on the cross is to strike at the very heart of the Atonement. If Jesus were sinful on the cross, He could not have borne our punishment and hence there is no salvation for humanity. The error is that serious! Furthermore, if Jesus became sinful then He needed a saviour, and so who died for Jesus to redeem Him?

Jesus, however, was and remained at all times sinless. He was free from inherited sin by virtue of His virgin birth, and He was free from personal sins by virtue of His holy life.

The Old Testament victims had to be free from all blemishes, and Jesus was free from all sin. The Old Testament victims had to be physically perfect, and Jesus was, at all times, physically, spiritually, and in every way perfect, holy and without blemish.

(3) The sinner was required himself to bring the victim to the altar.

And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering… (Lev. 4:32)

No one could do it for him. He couldn’t send a substitute with his substitute. This procedure involved an acknowledgement on the part of the sinner of his sinfulness and of his just exposure to punishment for his sin. The sinner had to admit humbly that he’d sinned, and that, unless a substitute died in his place, he himself would have to die as the just and proper consequence of his sin.

Those who try to cover up and hide their sin from God because of pride or religious self-righteousness will not find forgiveness.

Christians must not be self-righteous and must not make excuses for sin or justify sin. In ourselves we deserved to die, but in God’s grace He allowed for a substitute to die in our place. God could have said, “No! No substitutions! You sinned and I require you to die!” God could have said that. He’s the Judge! But in His grace, God allowed a substitution to take place, and then provided the substitute, and then provided Himself as the substitute. Ah, what infinite and boundless mercy and love!

(4) Hands were laid on the victim, and the sin of the sinner confessed over it.

And if the whole congregation of Israel sin…then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD. (Lev. 4:13-15)

The laying on of hands was to symbolize substitution and the transfer of punishment. Through the laying on of hands the liability to punishment was symbolically transferred from the sinner to the victim. In this way, the substitute was said to “bear the sins” of the people, and their sins were said to be “laid upon it,” and thus removed.

On the Day of Atonement there were two goats involved in a single sacrifice. The first goat was killed – typifying Jesus’ death – and the second goat (the “scapegoat”) was sent into the wilderness – typifying the effect of the death, that our sins are “removed.” A single animal could not have fully portrayed what God intended here, so God used two animals to typify both Jesus’ death as well as its effect of taking our sins away:

And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Lev. 16:21-22)

The sins of the people were said to be “put upon the head of the goat,” and it “bore them away.”

These expressions do not mean that the actual sinfulness of the people was transferred to the substitute, but rather that the liability to punishment was transferred. In other words, the substitute bore the punishment of the people’s sins.

It is impossible to transfer inherent moral sinfulness from one to another, but it is quite possible to transfer the legal liability to punishment of sin from one to another. For example, if you had a traffic fine of $50 and I decided to be your “substitute” and to pay your fine, that wouldn’t make me personally guilty. You were the sinful and guilty one. I have “borne your punishment” and paid your fine. I remained innocent the whole time I was paying your fine.

In the same way, Jesus never did “bear our sin” in a literal sense (i.e., His bearing our sin upon Himself and becoming literally sinful), but He bore the punishment of our sin. God said, “Instead of punishing you, I’ll punish my Son.” Jesus was never personally sinful or guilty. We were the sinners. He bore our punishment.

Some have taught that Jesus took upon Himself our actual sinfulness, but that is not true. In the Bible, whenever the substitute is said to “bear the sins” of the sinner, it always refers to the bearing of the punishment of sin and never refers to a literal transfer of moral pollution or sinfulness.

The expression occurs in many Old Testament passages and the meaning is always quite clear:

And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. (Num. 14:33)

In Numbers 14:33, God told the unbelieving children of Israel that they would wander in the wilderness and “bear their fathers’ whoredoms,” meaning they would bear the punishment of their fathers’ sins and unbelief.

And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. (Lev. 5:1)

In Leviticus 5:1, “he shall bear his iniquity” means he’ll be punished for his iniquity. The phrase could not possibly mean he will become sinful, because the man already was sinful, but it means he will now be punished for his sin.

There are many other examples we could give. In 1 Samuel 25:24, “upon me let this iniquity be” means let the blame or punishment of this iniquity be on me. In 1 Samuel 25:39, “the Lord hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head” means the Lord has punished Nabal for his wickedness.

In Job 21:19, “God layeth up his iniquity for his children” means God lays up the punishment of the iniquity of the wicked man for his children. In Psalm 94:23, “He shall bring upon them their own iniquity” means God shall punish the wicked for their iniquity.

In Jeremiah 14:16, “I will pour their wickedness upon them” means I shall pour the punishment for their wickedness upon them. The Hebrew of Ezekiel 14:10 says, “they shall bear their iniquity” and the translator has translated the sense correctly as “they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity.”

The meaning of these expressions is clear in Ezekiel 18:

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. (Ezek. 18:20)

Ezekiel 18:20 means the son will not bear the punishment of the iniquity of the father, neither will the father bear the punishment of the iniquity of the son: the reward for the righteousness of the righteous will be upon him, and the punishment for the wickedness of the wicked will be upon him.

In Ezekiel 23:49, “ye shall bear the sins of your idols” means you will bear the punishment of your sins of idolatry.

In Ezekiel 33:10, “if our transgressions and our sins be upon us” means if the punishment of our transgressions and our sins be upon us, or if we be punished for our transgressions and sins.

In Ezekiel 44:10 and 12-13, “they shall bear their iniquity” means they will bear the punishment of their iniquity.

All these verses have nothing to do with the inherent moral quality of sinfulness but refer only to the legal punishment of sin. In all these verses, it would make no sense to say that the expression “to bear sin” has reference to some inherent moral character of sinfulness. The expression “to bear sin” occurs dozens of times in the Bible and is always used in the sense of bearing the punishment of sin.

Jesus “Bore Our Sins”

The sin offering in the Old Testament sacrificial system “bore the sin” of the offerer (i.e., bore his punishment) and died in his place. In exactly the same way, Jesus “bore our sins” (i.e., bore the punishment of our sins) and died in our place.

…the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:6)

In Isaiah 53:6, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” means the Father laid on Jesus the punishment of our iniquity.

…He bare the sin of many… (Is. 53:12)

In Isaiah 53:12, “He bare the sin of many” means Jesus bore the punishment of our sins.

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree… (1 Pet. 2:24)

When Peter says, in 1 Peter 2:24, that Jesus “bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” he means, not that Jesus bore our actual sinfulness and became sinful Himself, but rather that on the cross, Jesus bore the punishment of our sins in His own body.28

Jesus was never personally sinful or guilty. We were the sinful and guilty ones. He bore our punishment.

To teach that the expression “Jesus bore our sins” means that Jesus took upon Himself our actual sinfulness is incorrect for three reasons: Firstly, it is impossible in the very nature of things to take one person’s actual moral sinfulness from him and put it on someone else. However, it is quite possible to transfer the legal punishment of sin from one to another, and that is exactly what happened at the cross.

Secondly, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was not sinful on the cross, but rather that He was most holy, as we have before proven at length.

And thirdly, as we have seen, the expression “to bear sin” is a characteristic Hebrew expression which always means to bear the punishment of sin and never refers to bearing actual sinfulness.

“He Hath Made Him To Be Sin”

At this point it would be profitable to consider a New Testament Scripture which has been subject to much “wresting”; namely, 2 Corinthians 5:21:

For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21)

If we were untrained in the Old Testament Scriptures and in the Hebrew way of thinking, we might read Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5 (“He hath made Him to be sin”) and ignore the fact that Paul was a Hebrew and wrote in the language and terminology of the Old Testament, and we might conclude that Jesus was made sinful.

However, the New Testament does not stand by itself, and one single verse in the New Testament certainly does not! The New Testament is based entirely upon, and written in the context of, the Old Testament. There are not two Bibles. There is one Bible, and we must take the context of the whole Bible if we are rightly to divide and correctly understand and interpret the Word of Truth. We cannot pluck a verse from here and a verse from there out of the New Testament and build a doctrine. If we do, our doctrine will fall; and just as Dagon fell before the ark of the Lord in 1 Samuel 5:1-4, so the false doctrine that says Jesus was made sinful on the cross has fallen before the Word of God!

The meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:21 – when this verse is taken in the context of the whole Bible – is that Jesus became a sin offering and bore the punishment of our sins.

In Hebrew, the word chattath means either “sin” or “sin offering,” and is translated either way in the Old Testament, depending on the context. The Old Testament might say, “if a man committed a sin [chattath] he would then offer a sin offering [chattath].” It’s the same Hebrew word in both cases, but it would obviously be translated “sin” in the first case and “sin offering” in the second case.

Paul, a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” and one who studied the Old Testament Scriptures from an early age, says therefore in 2 Corinthians 5:21, not that Jesus became sinful but that He was made “to be a sin offering for us.” For one who knows even a little of the Old Testament, that is Paul’s clear meaning in this verse.

It is significant that several translations have correctly translated the sense of this verse:

God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us… (New International Version, margin)

He made Him…to be a sin-offering for us… (Williams New Testament)

As our sin offering, Jesus was not sinful but most holy. The very same verse says that Jesus Himself personally “knew no sin”!

For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin… (2 Cor. 5:21)

Of course He knew no sin! Jesus was God on the cross! God is infinitely holy! How can the Holy One suddenly become “the very essence of sin,” as some have taught? But Jesus never became sinful, and in perfect fulfillment of the Levitical sin offerings, He was always most holy.

(5) The victim is slain.

And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering. (Lev. 4:33)

All men have sinned and the punishment of sin is death. Someone must die – either the sinner or an innocent substitute.

The innocent substitute receives the punishment that the sinner deserves, and dies. Therefore the sinner can be released from suffering the punishment due to his sin, because a substitute has already borne it and the law is satisfied.

The remission of the sinner’s sins is through the shedding of the blood of the substitute because the life of the flesh is in the blood.

The blood of the substitute is poured out, and God’s justice is satisfied; the penalty paid. A life has been given in death. Therefore a way back into fellowship with God is made available. We’re free from the penalty of our sins because Jesus has borne it.

Leviticus 4:33 says that it was the sinner himself, and not the priest, who actually killed the victim. This was so the sinner would be confronted with the awful consequence of his own sin. God wanted to impress on him that death, and nothing less, is the penalty of sin. Few Christians realize the awfulness of sin to a holy God.

Our sin put the holy Son of God on a cross to die amid shame and ridicule and to shed His precious, pure blood for our salvation.

(6) The blood is sprinkled.

Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: (Lev. 16:15)

On the great Day of Atonement, the blood taken from the slain animal was brought by the high priest into the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, and was sprinkled upon the “mercy-seat.” The mercy-seat was a lid made of pure gold on top of the ark of the covenant. God’s presence was manifested above the mercy-seat.33 Thus the blood was brought into immediate contact with God.34

Why was the blood brought to God? This question will be answered in the next section.

(7) The effect of the sacrifice was that an “atonement” was made for sin and it was forgiven.

And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar…and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him. (Lev. 4:34-35)

“Atonement” is an English word and occurs nowhere in either Testament in the original languages. No one really knows what the word means, although some have suggested it signifies bringing God and man into the position where they are reconciled or “at – one.”

The Hebrew word translated “atonement” is kipper which means to “cover” or to “cover over.” “Atonement” is an abstract, technical, theological term, but the Hebrew term is concrete, picturesque and easy to understand.

Centuries before the word was used in a sacrificial context, kipper was used once in Genesis 6:14 where it is translated “pitch.”

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. (Gen. 6:14)

Noah was told by God to make the ark and to “pitch [kipper] it within and without with pitch.” The word means to “cover” in a literal sense.

When used in the context of sacrifice, the word signified to cover over the sin so that God, whose righteous indignation and wrath had been aroused, could no longer “see” the sin. The blood “covered” the sin and hid it from His eyes, and therefore He was no longer angry with the sinner and was no longer pouring forth His wrath and judgment upon the sin.

On the Day of Atonement, the blood was sprinkled upon the mercy-seat. Since the mercy-seat covered the broken law in the ark of the covenant, God, who was seated above the mercy-seat, could no longer “see” the broken law, but “saw” instead only the blood of the sacrifice which appeased His anger.

The Blood Was For God

The blood was given to God. It was to satisfy His justice. The blood signified the death of the victim. When the high priest sprinkled the blood before God, he was effectively saying to God, “Here’s the blood. Here’s the holy and pure blood. See! An innocent substitute has died in the place of sinful men. Justice has been satisfied.” This presentation of the blood to God teaches us that the death – the blood – was for Him, to satisfy His justice and to appease His holy wrath against sin.

God is satisfied by the blood, and in this sense the blood is said to “cover” the sin so that it no longer appears before God as demanding punishment. To say that the sin is “covered” by the blood of the substitute is to say, in a spiritual picture, that because the penalty for sin has been paid by the death of an innocent substitute, God no longer “sees” the sin and is therefore no longer angry with the sinner.

In fulfillment of the type, Jesus’ blood was shed to satisfy the justice of God. His blood was for God.

God’s justice demanded death; therefore the blood was given to Him to appease His holy wrath and to make a way open for reconciliation between God and man.

Restored to Fellowship With God

And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony… (Ex. 25:22)

Exodus 25:22 shows us that the place of fellowship between God and man was where the blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. Here, where the blood was sprinkled, was the only acceptable place of communion with God. It is only at the blood that reconciliation and communion can occur; and here indeed it does occur. Here – at the blood – is the place of fellowship between God and man, between the Creator and the created, between the Eternal One and the temporal, between the Infinite One and the finite, between the Righteous One and the guilty, between the Holy One and sinners.

An earlier type of man’s reconciliation and fellowship with God through the blood of Jesus is found in Exodus 24. When God met with Israel at Mt. Sinai, He demanded certain blood-offerings.

And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. (Ex. 24:5)

Only after these offerings had been made and the blood “applied” were the elders, as representatives of the whole nation, able to ascend the mountain and sit down at a “fellowship meal” with God; which they did without, as would otherwise have been the case, God laying His hands in holy wrath upon them. Through the shed blood of the sacrifice, they had come into a state of reconciliation with God, and consequently could enjoy fellowship and communion with Him.

In fulfillment of the type, we now have access with “boldness” to enter into the very presence of God, through the shed blood of Jesus:

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Heb. 10:19)

By the blood of Jesus, God’s wrath is appeased and our sins are covered. Jesus, the Lamb of God, has taken away our sins!

The Meaning of the “Covering” of Sins

To say that a sin is “covered” does not, as many think, indicate some sort of an inferior dealing by God with the sin. Some have taught, for example, that the sins of the Old Testament saints were not really fully dealt with and were only “covered” but not “cleansed,” whereas now, our sins have been “cleansed” but not “covered.”

However, when God says a sin is “covered,” He is using a spiritual picture or symbol to indicate that His wrath has been appeased by a substitutionary death and therefore His eyes have been “covered” with respect to the sin. The “covering” of a sin is not an inferior dealing with that sin, but is a way of saying, by means of a spiritual picture or figure, that the sin has been fully dealt with.

To say a sin is “covered” is another way of saying that it has been “taken away” or “forgiven” or “cleansed” or “purged” or “blotted out” or “washed away.” These are all figures or spiritual pictures and teach different aspects of the one truth which is that God has dealt fully with the sin and has reconciled man to Himself. This will become clear as we consider a number of Old Testament Scriptures.

For on that day shall the priest make a covering [Hebrew] for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. (Lev. 16:30)

In Leviticus 16:30, to have sins “covered” is parallel with being “cleansed” from sins. The two terms describe two aspects of God’s dealing with the sin. Because an innocent substitute has paid the penalty for the sin, with respect to God the sin has been “covered” (i.e., His wrath has been appeased, and His eyes are “covered” in relation to the sin), and with respect to man the sin has been “cleansed” (i.e., he has been released from all guilt and obligation to suffer for the sin). While the terms refer to different aspects of God’s dealing with the sin (in that “covering” describes the sin in relation to God, and “cleansing” describes the sin in relation to man), yet the two terms are essentially the two sides of the one coin – you can’t have one side without having the other side, and where the one is the other will be – and so, we can say the terms are “parallel.”

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (Ps. 32:1-2)

In Psalm 32:1-2, David uses “forgiveness” of sins and “covering” of sins and the Lord “not imputing” sins as parallel terms. Each of these terms says the same thing (i.e., that God has fully dealt with the sin) except in different ways and from different aspects.

Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin…Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. (Ps. 85:2-3)

In Psalm 85:2, “covering” and “forgiveness” are parallel terms, and are parallel with God turning from His anger and taking away His wrath.

And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee… (Neh. 4:5)

In Nehemiah 4:5, for a sin to be “covered” is parallel with it being “blotted out.”

…thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin covered. (Is. 6:7, Hebrew)

In Isaiah 6:7, for iniquity to be “taken away” is parallel with it being “covered.”

And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made a covering for them to cleanse them. (Num. 8:21, Hebrew)

In Numbers 8:21, “covering” and “cleansing” are parallel.

…cover not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight… (Jer. 18:23, Hebrew)

In Jeremiah 18:23, for iniquity to be “covered” is parallel with it being “blotted out from God’s sight.”

…the iniquity…be covered…take away his sin… (Is. 27:9, Hebrew)

In Isaiah 27:9, “covered” and “taken away” are parallel terms in describing God’s dealing with sin.

O remember not against us former iniquities…cover our sins, for thy name’s sake. (Ps. 79:8-9, Hebrew)

In Psalm 79:8-9, “covering” of sins and God “not remembering” sins are parallel terms.

…thus shalt thou cleanse and cover it. (Ezek. 43:20, Hebrew)

In Ezekiel 43:20, “cleanse” and “cover” are parallel terms.

In Deuteronomy 21:8, sin being “not laid to one’s charge” is parallel with it being “covered” (Hebrew for “forgiven”).

In Psalm 51:1-14, David uses many figures including “blotting out sin” (v. 1), “cleansing from sin” (v. 2), “being washed” (v. 7), having God “hide His face from his sin” (v. 9), and being “delivered from guilt” (v. 14). The same sin David is talking about in Psalm 51 is said to be “put away” in 2 Samuel 12:13. So we see the use of many different expressions all referring to the same thing.

In Psalm 109:14-15, to have sin “blotted out” is parallel with it being “not remembered” by God.

In Job 7:21, for sin to be “pardoned” is parallel with it being “taken away.”

In Psalm 25:7, 11 and 18, for sin to be “remembered not” is parallel with it being “forgiven” and “pardoned.”

Many other figures are used in the Old Testament to express God’s dealing with sin. Sins are said to be “removed from us as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:10-13), “cast behind God’s back” (Is. 38:17), and “cast into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:18-19). God uses a variety of terms, pictures and expressions to describe different aspects of His dealing with sin. “Covering” is simply one of those pictures.45

Our Sins Are “Covered” By Jesus’ Blood

In the New Testament, sins are said to be “forgiven,” “taken away,” “purged” or “cleansed,” “blotted out,” “not imputed to us,” “not remembered by God,” “remitted,” “washed away” and “covered.”

Contrary to what some have taught, the Bible teaches that the blood of Jesus does in fact “cover” sins, as will be seen in the following:

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one turns him; Let him know, that he which turns the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins. (Jam. 5:19-20, Greek)

In James 5:19-20, we see that if we turn a sinning brother from the error of his ways, we shall save him from death and he will be forgiven and his sins “covered” by the blood of Jesus.

In Romans 4:5-8, Paul is teaching about our redemption through Jesus’ blood and he quotes David whose sins were “covered,” and he says it applies to us too. Our iniquities have been “forgiven” and our sins are “covered.”

By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be covered; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin… (Is. 27:9, Hebrew)

Prophesying about the future restoration and salvation of Israel, Isaiah in 27:9 says the iniquity of Israel will be “covered” (Hebrew for “purged”) and their sins taken away. This covering of their sin will happen when God makes His new and everlasting covenant with Israel, which covenant is, of course, in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ezekiel 16:60-63 refers to the same time of Israel’s future salvation as a nation when God says He will be “covered [Hebrew for ‘pacified’] toward thee [Israel] for all that thou hast done.”

Psalm 85:1-2 refers to the same event of Israel’s salvation when their sins will be “covered” by the blood of Jesus; and Psalm 65:3 also prophesies about this time when God will “cover” (Hebrew for “purge away”) Israel’s transgressions.

Finally, Daniel in 9:24, prophesied that the coming Messiah would “make a covering [Hebrew for ‘reconciliation’] for iniquity.”

We see, therefore, that the precious blood of Jesus does indeed “cover” sins. However, that should be no great surprise to us as the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were said to “make a covering for sin” and they were pictures of Jesus’ sacrifice setting forth the same principles.

The Old Testament Saints Were Saved

We have also seen that the sins of the Old Testament saints were truly forgiven. David speaks of God forgiving his sins with the following words:

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)

David was not speaking of a future time when God would take man’s sins away, but he was speaking of his own sins as having been “removed…as far as the east is from the west”! The same idea can be seen in many other Old Testament Scriptures:

…the priest shall make a covering for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him. (Lev. 4:35, Hebrew)

For on that day shall the priest make a covering for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. (Lev. 16:30, Hebrew)

…The LORD also hath put away thy sin… (2 Sam. 12:13)

…thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin… (Ps. 32:5)

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (Ps. 51:2)

…thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. (Is. 38:17)

…take away the iniquity of thy servant… (1 Chron. 21:8, Hebrew)

Contrary to what some have taught, the Bible clearly teaches that the Old Testament saints had their sins truly forgiven and taken away by God, and they were certainly born again.52

However, the New Testament teaches that the blood of animal sacrifices was not, in itself, effective in dealing with sin:

…in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; (Heb. 9:9)

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Heb. 10:4)

And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (Heb. 10:11)

Please notice carefully that the point of these Scriptures is not that the sins of Old Testament saints weren’t taken away and their consciences not cleansed of sin (because we’ve already seen that their sins were taken away and their consciences were cleansed ), but these verses only say that animal sacrifices could not take away their sins or cleanse their consciences.

The Old Testament animal sacrifices could not take away sins. On what basis, then, were the Israelites’ sins forgiven and taken away?

The answer is that as the Israelites would faithfully obey the revelation they had received from God, He would grant them forgiveness not on the basis of the blood of animals being efficacious on the altar, but on the basis of what God knew He was going to do in Jesus. The Israelites’ sins were forgiven by the blood of Jesus. God – who is not bound by the constraints of time, but “inhabiteth eternity” – on the basis of what He knew would take place on the cross, forgave their sins and washed them clean as they came to Him in faith and repentance. The sins of the Old Testament saints were forgiven and covered by the blood of the true Lamb of God.

On what basis could God heal people before the cross, except that He could apply the benefits of the cross before it happened historically?

In Matthew 9:2, Jesus forgave a man’s sins before the cross, and He said, in verse 6, that He had then the authority to forgive sins. Jesus didn’t say that He would have the authority to forgive sins only after He died at Calvary!

In Luke 5:20, Jesus again forgave a man’s sins before the cross; and in Luke 7:48-50, He told a woman not only that her sins were forgiven before the cross, but also that she had been “saved” then and there. There are many other examples of this in the Gospels:

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. (Luke 19:9)

On what basis could Jesus do all that? Even God Himself cannot just arbitrarily forgive sin without a basis. But God had a basis, and His basis was the shed blood of the cross which He applied both before and after it happened historically, because He’s not bound by time.

To conclude, Christ’s sacrifice for sin was based upon the same principles as the sin offerings of the Old Testament, which are as follows:

(1) The purpose of the sacrifice was to satisfy God’s justice, and to render it proper and right that the sin for which it was offered should be forgiven.61

(2) The innocent victim was substituted for the sinner and suffered the penalty which the sinner had incurred.

(3) The shed blood, signifying the life given in death, covered the sin so that it no longer appeared before God as demanding punishment.

(4) The effect of the sacrifice was the forgiveness and cleansing of the sinner, and his restoration to divine fellowship, favor and blessing which he had forfeited through sin.


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