This chapter is the heart of the book. It is its foundation. Here the question is answered how a holy God can live among an unholy people and have fellowship with them.
The offerings in the first chapters of this book are almost always made by individual Israelites, either voluntarily – burnt offering and grain offering –, or compulsorily – sin offering and guilt offering. There is no question of a special day. The sacrifices on the Day of Atonement must be made annually on a prescribed day and are for the whole people. The emphasis is on the sin offering and the blood. In picture the cross is presented in the most fundamental way in this chapter as the place where the Lord Jesus died as the sin offering, thereby laying the foundation for the community between God and His people.
The Passover represents the foundation of salvation, the liberation from Egypt. The Day of Atonement covers more. This makes it possible for a redeemed people to have fellowship with God and to approach Him in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is a picture of the heaven of heavens where the throne of God stands and where we may approach boldly as priests. “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:1919Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,). The letter to the Hebrews is in fact one great comment on Leviticus 16. This is especially evident in the differences between Leviticus and the letter to the Hebrews:
1. The veil is still closed here; in the letter to the Hebrews the entrance is free.
2. Aaron is a sinful high priest, while the Lord Jesus is perfect.
3. In Leviticus we see a repetition of sacrifices and thus a recurring remembrance of sins (Heb 10:1-31For the Law, since it has [only] a shadow of the good things to come [and] not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.2Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?3But in those [sacrifices] there is a reminder of sins year by year.); in the letter to the Hebrews it is about an offering that has been made once and for all: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb 10:1414For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.).
The repetition proves that it is nothing more than a symbol; the strength lies in pointing to the offering of the Lord Jesus.
4. In Leviticus the priest stands; in the letter to the Hebrews there He has sat down (Heb 10:11-1211Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,).