The Jews call the Day of Atonement “Yom Kippur,” the day of reconciliation, but the day is often called “Yoma,” THE day, expressing the importance of the sacrificial observance on the most important day of the Jewish year. It is the day of fasting and resting in which all sin gets cleansed (Leviticus 16:29-31). It is the day the high priest goes into the Holy of Holies and does business with God with blood and incense to remove the sin of the people of Israel.
The Day of Atonement confessed the incompleteness of itself, a ceremony declaring that ceremonies do not take away sin. It also said that no one truly worships until we have free access to the holy place of God.
Therefore, the prophetic reality of the Day of Atonement is its life-breath. It acknowledges its own inadequacies, and looks to a better hope than it offers itself.
The beginning of the chapter connects Yom Kippur with the horrible deaths of Aaron’s sons who used strange fire, reminding us of the holiness of the holy place and Aaron that he must give it the utmost respect.
Key Truth: Moses wrote Leviticus 16 to point the Israelites to the Great High Priest, the Messiah, Jesus Christ as the Cleanser of sin.
Key Application: Today I want to show you how the Day of Atonement points directly to Jesus Christ and His cleansing of sin for you.
1. Jesus is our Great High Priest (16:1-6)
2. Jesus is our Perfect Sacrifice (16:11-14)
3. Jesus is our Resurrection (16:23-34)
Exposition: Note well,
1. JESUS IS OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST (16:1-6).
a. Bathe with water: v. 4. The high priest must wash and be clean before putting on the white garments. This is a symbol of baptism and the washing of regeneration that takes place in a believer, not by the water itself, but the water being a symbol of the salvation and cleansing which Jesus Christ himself provides.
i. APPLICATION: Have you been washed with that water? Have you followed the Lord in obedience to your salvation as a believer by being baptized in water? If not, why not?
b. Dressed in white: v. 4. In contrast to his usual splendid robes, by which he represented God to man, now the high priest wears only a humble white into the Holy of Holies, symbolizing that he has nothing to offer but the cleansing which God Himself provides him.
i. Hebrews 7:26: 26Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
ii. APPLICATION: Are you dressed in a robe of righteousness? Will you be seen one day as the book of Revelation says, dressed in a white robe as one of the redeemed, or will you be cast away into the lake of fire? You can settle that issue today by giving your life to Jesus Christ.
c. High Priest’s offering: v. 3. Even though it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Hebrews 10:4), the high priest did not appear empty handed before the Lord. In the same way Jesus presented himself on our behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
i. APPLICATION: Have you presented yourself to Him? What reason can you think of why you should not present yourself to Him? There is nothing that will harm you but everything that will benefit you by giving your life to Jesus Christ. There is nothing that will benefit you and everything that will harm you by refusing to choose Him as your Lord and Savior.
d. Once for All; determined day once a year: v. 2, 34. On the 10th day of seventh month (October 10, 1461 BC). Only once a year did the high priest enter the Holy of Holies in a prophecy that one day in the fullness of time or Great High Priest would offer Himself as the Great Sacrifice, complete and final.
i. Hebrews 9:24-26: 24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
e. All alone: v. 17. The High Priest alone went in, no one else permitted during this day of reconciliation. This solitary ministry points to Christ Jesus who was the only Redeemer and who suffered alone without help from anyone to accomplish salvation for us. He trod the winepress alone. He was in the garden alone. He was on the cross alone. Even the Father for a moment deserted him. Only He entered the Holy of Holies as our Great High Priest. He stood before the Lord for us without the need for an animal’s blood. He offered His own blood. He stood before the mercy seat without the need for intercession. He is the Intercessor. His Father looked at Him and was satisfied. The sinner looks up to Him and is saved.
i. Hebrews 9:8-9: 8The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.
ii. APPLICATION: In our own experience as believers, there ought also to be that same complete and once-for-all commitment and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. You do not receive Christ over and over. It is done once, and He eternally secures you in Himself. Have you made that commitment?
f. The Superiority of Jesus to Aaron
i. Christ was pure. He did not need to offer sacrifices for his own sins.
ii. Christ finished his work once and for all. He never needed repeat sacrifices regularly.
iii. Christ by his death entered the heavenly sanctuary, not an earthly Holy Place.
iv. Christ used his own blood and not that of animals.
v. Day of Atonement was a day of self-denial and rest. The writer of Hebrews urges us to love and good deeds and to meet together for rest. (Heb 10:24-25).
2. JESUS IS OUR PERFECT SACRIFICE (16:11-14).
a. Slaughter bull for his own sin v. 11
b. Burning coals / incense: v. 12-13 (intercession)
c. Blood of bull on cover, and 7 times v. 14 (sacrifice)
d. The bull was killed just as in the sin offering, but its blood had a more solemn use this time. The white-robed priest took a censer of burning embers from the altar and two handfuls of incense and went into the Tabernacle. Imagine standing outside and watching the last flutter of the white robe as he went in! He passed through the holy place which on every other day was as far as he could go, but on this one day he lifted the curtain and entered the Holy of Holies, where the Shekinah glory, the presence of God, flashed from the mercy seat and rested above the ark. Think how his heart rate increased as he laid his hand on the veil, and caught the first gleam of the holy light? As soon as he entered, he threw those two handfuls of incense into the hot coals, so that the sweet-smelling smoke would cover the mercy-seat.
e. Incense is the symbol of intercessory prayer, and a picture of the truth that the purest of men, even the anointed priest, robed in white, who has offered sacrifices daily all the year round, and today has anxiously obeyed all the commands of ceremonial cleanliness, can yet only draw near to God asking for favor, with no right to access, but seeking entrance as undeserved mercy. The incense did not cover ‘the glory’ that Aaron might not gaze upon it, but it covered him that Jehovah might not look on his sin. Once the blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat and seven times in front of it, the priest made atonement for the sins of the priesthood and to cleanse the sanctuary from the defilements of their sinful ministrations.
f. This completed the part of the ceremony belonging to Aaron and the priests. See the important lessons. Could there be a more striking image of their imperfect idea of the priestly office? Aaron was dressed in the white robes of purity. He had offered sacrifices year round. So far as ritual went, he was the purest and best Israel had to offer, and yet so stained with sin that he dared not enter the divine presence without that double safeguard of the incense and the blood. The priest who cleanses others is himself unclean, and he and his fellows have dirtied the sanctuary in the very service of it. That solemn ritual taught priest and people alike that every priest ‘from among men’ fails in his office, and pollutes the temple instead of purifying the worshiper. But the office was God’s appointment, and it would not always be filled by men too small and sinful for its requirements. There must somewhere and at some time be a priest who will fulfill the divine ideal, and answer the deep human need of people worldwide for One with a real purity to reconcile us to God and to offer a sacrifice which finally do the job once and for all, to stand without incense or blood for himself in the presence of God for us. The hindrances of the human office holders of the Old Testament, whether priest, prophet, or king, were just as much Messianic prophecies as their great deeds were. Therefore, when we see Aaron going into the holy place, we see the dim shadow of Christ, who ‘needeth not to make atonement’ for His own sins, and is our priest ‘for ever.’
g. Hebrews 9:12-14: 12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[a] so that we may serve the living God!
3. JESUS CHRIST IS OUR RESURRECTION (16:23-31)
a. Slaughter goat, administer blood: v. 15
b. Cleanse tabernacle, altar: v. 16, 18-19
c. Resurrection Robes: v. 23-24. The high priest then changes his clothes after finishing his work, representing Christ who took off his robe of flesh in His dying, and then put on again his garment of humanity through His resurrection.
d. Hebrews 9:22-23: 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
If you died tonight, where would you be a minute later? Would you be robed in the righteousness of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ? Or would you be entering the eternal misery of punishment for your sins in hell? You know you have an out. I urge you. Receive the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. There might be a lot of paths up the mountain, but His is the only one which makes it to the summit. An honest assessment of this Old Testament ritual points directly to Him, and you realize that. Be honest with yourself, admit your sin, trust Christ, and enjoy the benefits of His Resurrection Life starting today.
Felix Chingota, “Leviticus,” Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen. ed., Africa Bible Commentary, 157.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Leviticus 16:1-19.
 Felix Chingota, “Leviticus,” Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen. ed., Africa Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 157.
 Modified and condensed from Alexander Maclaren, “Leviticus 16:1-19: The Day of Atonement,” Expositions of Holy Scripture: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.
 A.B. Simpson, CIBC, 1:196.