The Three Sin Offerings of Jesus on the Cross
God Is Not Playing Games
If you were playing hockey, you might call it a hat trick. If you were playing the ponies, you might call it a trifecta. If you were playing basketball, you might call it triple doubles. These illustrations are three achievements in one game or race. Jesus did this, too. When the Lord Jesus the Christ gave His life on Calvary for us, He simultaneously fulfilled all three major sacrifices for sin that both the spring and the fall festivals require. That’s another reason it is called a “finished work.”
Church tradition keeps our eye on the fact that the Lord Jesus the Christ fulfills every aspect of the requirements of the Mosaic law for the Spring feasts of Passover (our Lamb), Unleavened Bread (Sinless), First Fruits (Resurrection) and Pentecost (Holy Spirit). But there are two more dimensions of our Lord’s death that needs to be highlighted. He did more than what tradition tells us.
Our Lord’s death fulfilled all the requirements for sin not just at Passover, but for Yom Kippur and that other odd sin sacrifice that people misunderstand called the Red Heifer. His death on the cross was actually three sacrifices in one!
There are three major “blood” sacrifices for sin for an individual, corporate Israel and for the temple: Passover, Yom Kippur and the Red Heifer. All three are completely necessary for the Christian today.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-25
I’m not going into why Passover is necessary for a Christian. I just one to touch on a couple of high points. Passover is so foundational that if you are a reader who doesn’t know Christ as Lord and Saviour, most of this blog probably makes no sense to you. Jesus, as our Passover Lamb, provided the perfect and only acceptable sacrifice to God for an individual to be saved.
The ancient Hebrews were instructed to smear the blood of a spotless lamb on the door posts of their houses the day before the tenth plague. (Exodus 12:1-28) That night the Death Angel flew over the communities of ancient Egypt killing the first-born of both people and animals. Passover literally means that the angel of death “passes over” your house was protected by the blood of the Lamb Christ Jesus shed on the cross. You are no longer subject to spiritual death, which is separation from God.
This is the first point I want to emphasize to Christians. Your spirit never dies, you either are united with Jesus in heaven or eternally separated from God in hell. This separation is not temporary, it is permanent. (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 59:1-2; Revelation 21:8, 22:14-15)
The second point that Christians need to remember is that salvation is a real, tangible and permanent new existence for the Christian. (Read my first blogs on Kainos Ktisis.) Let me give you an example from the Passover, about the need for the blood of our Passover Lamb. The Bible teaches that the blood of Jesus just doesn’t cover sin, it removes sin. Pastors often say that when we sin, God doesn’t see us, He sees the blood.
This is absolutely true in the most physical sense. I was reading a great article from Ministry Magazine some time ago, when the archaeologist showed the truth of God’s word – literally! The Egyptians were wild about names. The name of officials were inscribed on every public building and the names of their citizens were on the door of their houses. It is very possible that the name of the homeowner of each house, even the lowly Hebrews, was chiseled above the door! Think about it: when the Hebrew smeared the blood of the lamb on the door posts, that families’ name was covered up! In the most real sense, the blood of the Passover Lamb protects you in such a way, it is not you who the death angel sees, but the blood of Jesus. I have never heard this from the pulpit. And that blood does not fade, and it’s waterproof!
“This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Leviticus 16:3-5
Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, dealt with the corporate well-being of the state of Israel. Why was that necessary? God knows that sin functions at different levels. The High Priests of Israel needed God’s blessings for the corporate destiny of their nation. The high priests were charged with the direction and protection of the nation and her people.
Why is this important? Because each Jew everywhere was part of the nation of Israel. Because someone sinned at home shouldn’t impact international dealings in Jerusalem. Yom Kippur represents the sacrifice Jesus made to protect the corporate bride of Christ.
Our High Priest Jesus is charged with the direction and protection of corporate body, namely the Bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:27) He is charged to bring her to the Father to be wed (direction) without spot or wrinkle (protection). How does this happen? If I am part of the body of Christ, (1 Corinthians 12:21) don’t I stain her when I sin? I just blemished the body of Christ. Yes, the blood of Jesus takes care of it, but how does that affect the destiny He has for me as His bride? Good question.
Briefly, Yom Kippur is the most sacred day of the year for the Hebrews. On this day, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of Israel. The outcome of this ceremony dictated whether or not Israel was going to be blessed for the coming year.
Interestingly enough, this is the only sacrifice that included the expulsion of a living animal. Hence the term “scapegoat.” Two goats were chosen. Then, by lot, one was selected to receive the sins of the people of the nation. A red cloth was tied around its horns. The other was doomed as a sacrifice with a red cloth tied around its neck.
The first animal, the scapegoat that represented the sins of Israel, was led into the wilderness (outside the camp) and presumably, had no further contact with any Israelite. The other animal was slaughtered and its blood sprinkled seven times in the Holy of Holies, the outer room, and eventually on the congregation.
This is a prime example of how our Lord Jesus the Christ, took the sin of the people in His body, so that while the vilest sinner the Jews knew, Barabbas, was freed. The one who knew no sin, Jesus, was sacrificed outside the camp, and the one who was a sinner, Barabbas, was freed by the head of government, Pilot. (Hebrews 9:6-28, 13:11-13)
In the spiritual, the corporate bride of Christ is cleansed by the washing by faith in the Word of God. But look at that word “blemish.” That is a sacrifice word. In Greek, it has the connotation of disgrace, but in Hebrew it means exactly what Paul said: stained, defective or spotted. It means that an animal that had a blemish, it was unfit for sacrifice. For Christ, the Bride would be unfit for presentation to the Father (Leviticus 21:17ff; 22:19-25). The Christian church is justified by faith because Christ is the scapegoat sacrifice – without blemish – that makes us acceptable to the Father (1 Peter 1:19).
The Red Heifer
“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him….Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight….And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer….Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.” Numbers 19:2-9
The red heifer offering is the third sin-offering that Jesus keeps for us on the cross. It differs from all other sin-offerings.
In the natural, the Red Heifer sacrifice was not completely understood by the old testament priests. That sounds funny to say, but it is true. It started as a purification rite for those who were defiled by a dead body, or someone with leprosy (Numbers 19:9, 17). But unlike the sacrifices of Passover and Yom Kippur which was done annually, the Red Heifer sacrifice was done once for all defiled by sin. Its’ blood was sprinkled, not on the altar, but outside the camp towards the sanctuary; it was completely burned, including the cedar wood altar, the hyssop. The ashes together with running water were sprinkled on the third and seventh days on the defiled person or object. At some point the purpose of the offering changed to sanctification of the temple.
Seven days before the red heifer was to be killed, the priest appointed priest was sequestered and kept in the Temple. He was daily sprinkled with the ashes of the previous red heifers. There was an arched roadway that led from the Eastern Gate of the Temple, across the Kidron Valley, to the Mount of Olives. It was “double arched, that is, arched over the supporting pillars, for fear of any possible pollution through the ground upwards. Why because there were grave in the outcropping of rocks leading up to the Mount of Olives.
The Red Heifer was sacrificed on the Mount of Olives. The reason why Golgotha was chosen on the west side of town is due to church tradition. Jesus could very well have been crucified on or near the Mount of Olives which also along a main Roman road which lead into Jerusalem. Where was Jesus on the night He was betrayed? Mount of Olives, outside the city. “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without [outside] the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Hebrews 13:12-13). Jesus also as he was led to His death, He crossed the Red Heifer bridge which leads to the Mount of Olives. Jesus, then, was in full view of the Temple itself (Matthew 27:50-54). Remember the Roman centurion “saw the earthquake, and those things that were done” (v. 54), including the rending of the Temple veil, or massive curtain, from his vantage point at the crucifixion site. This means he must have been standing on the Mount of Olives, just east of the Temple, the only point outside the city where the entrance to the Temple, and the veil, would have been visible.
The Red Heifer was sacrificed very rarely, and its ashes served to purify so long as they existed that is until ashes ran out. Not so with our Messiah who “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Hebrews 10:12) Remember, we are “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (v. 10) and that “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (v. 14).
Putting It All Together.
Jesus needed all three sacrifices to ensure our salvation. Think about the forethought and timing of our Lord’s sacrifice and what He did for you on the Cross.
When Jesus the Savior and High Priest got to heaven, He had to go to the heavenly temple not made with hands. (Acts 17:24) I would think He probably had to first sanctify this place of worship because Lucifer probably desecrated it when he was cast out of heaven. (Revelation 12:7; Isaiah 14:12) So, needed to be the red heifer sacrifice, to purify, sanctify and rededicate the temple again. Remember what the red heifer was for: defilement (Satan defiled it) and contact with the dead (Jesus was around the dead in Abraham’s bosom).
Second, Jesus needed to be the sacrificial lamb because He must pass by the Brazen Altar before He gets to the Holy Place. He needed to smear His precious blood over the door posts of my heart so that the Death Angel would passover my individual house. (1 Corinthians 3:16,17)
Thirdly, He needed the Yom Kippur sacrifice to ensure my arrival in heaven. There at the Brazen altar, He sacrificed Himself as the scapegoat offerings for my corporate sins as part of the Body or Bride of Christ. To direct me and to protect me (mostly from myself!) and deliver me to the Father as a spotless and blameless Bride. Then He sprinkled His blood on the Mercy-Seat insuring my success.
God got a lot of mileage out of that one sacrifice! I am so glad.