A couple of months ago we celebrated Yom Kippur. During our observances, my heart turned to my dear Jewish people, assembled on that holy day in synagogues around the world. I grieved for them, knowing that Modern Judaism has moved away from Biblical Judaism, and is now centered around rabbis and synagogues, prayers and fasting, not priest, sacrifice and Temple that the Torah demands. A Cohen (Priest) is a mediator between two parties – one party being a righteous and holy God, and the other being sinful mankind. We need a mediator to approach God because, since the Fall, mankind has been alienated from God. We don’t dare approach Him directly – He is too pure and we are too sinful. But in the Torah, God made a provision that allowed the descendants of Aaron to be mediators between us and Himself, bringing our needs before Him, and bringing His blessings to us.
The priest did this by offering up sacrifices – the blood of unblemished, innocent animals. This provided us with an “exchange of life,” wherein we receive the innocent life of the sacrifice, and it bears our sins which lead to death. The animal dies, and we receive new life. This “exchange of life principle” through the sacrifice provided cleansing, atonement, and removal of sin, giving us righteousness, and reconciling us to the God from whom we were alienated. There were geographic limitations, however. The priest could not offer the sacrifice just anywhere. It could only be done in the Holy Place – the Mishkan (the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting), which was later replace by the Jerusalem Temple.
This Biblical way of atonement does not take place in Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Humanistic, or Chasidic Judaisms today. These Judaisms are centered around rabbis and synagogues, prayers and fasting, not priest, sacrifice and Temple. But Messianic Judaism does provide genuine atonement, since Messiah Yeshua is the final Sacrifice, our great High Priest, and the One who serves in the True Temple. Only Messianic Judaism is able to bring us to the goal, bringing us to God, and bringing the blessings of God to us.
Here are some excerpts from chapters seven through ten from the letter written to the Messianic Jews (the book of Hebrews): The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Yeshua, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Torah appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Torah, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. We have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the holy place and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect Tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For Messiah did not enter a Holy Place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Messiah Offers A Better Sacrifice Because He Is Sinless. The Levitical high priests were sinful men, and were required to bring sacrifices to atone for themselves. But Yeshua was holy, innocent and undefiled. From the moment He was born He was sinless and pure. Though He lived in a world of sin and temptation, He remained undefiled. He touched lepers, but instead of being defiled, the lepers were cleansed. He touched a dead body (which defiles a Jewish priest), but instead of being defiled, He brought the dead one back to life! He took a little girl who had just died by the hand, and she arose. He was tested in all ways as we are, yet never yielded to sin. For forty days, weakened by fasting, He faced the Tempter in the wilderness, and still He overcame. During His entire life on Earth He demonstrated only perfect love for His Father, conformity to His will, and obedience to His commands.
Messiah Offers A Better Sacrifice Because He Is Eternal. The Torah allowed priests to serve who were destined to grow old, weaken, and ultimately die. Their priesthood was constantly changing – the son following the father who died. Thus the Levitical priests were many; but the High Priest of the New Covenant is one. Because He continues forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. When Yeshua rose from the grave, conquered death and atoned for our sins, He entered into a life which is indestructible; what power can possibly kill Him now? His life is now endless. Hence, he exercises His priesthood forevermore, without interruption, and without any need for a successor. Our High Priest is able to eternally apply to us the atonement that comes from His sacrifice, and the blessings purchased with His blood. As a result of His endless life, Messiah can live in us, and therefore our life can be endless, indestructible, incorruptible and filled with joy.
Neither things present, nor things to come; neither this present earthly existence nor the death of our bodies, which may be before us; neither powers, nor principalities, nor angels; neither height, nor depth, nor any creature, can separate us from the love of God which is found in Messiah Yeshua; for our High Priest lives, and He serves us with the power of an indestructible life.
Messiah Offers A Better Sacrifice Because He Was Willing To Die. Yeshua’s sacrifice is superior to the sacrifices ordained in the Torah, because the sacrificial animals had no choice – they were unwilling victims. But the death of the Son of God was voluntary. God willed to send the Messiah to die for us. The Messiah accepted God’s will, and came. He said: “Behold, I come to do Your will.” “For this reason the Father loves Me” Yeshua said, “because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” By His own free will, in obedience to the Father, and out of love for us, Yeshua gave His life as a ransom for us. He who needed no sacrifice for Himself, willingly exchanged His sinless life for our sins, that we might live.
Messiah Offers A Better Sacrifice Because He Is Of Infinite Value. In the Torah, the death of bulls, goats, sheep and doves provided a temporary covering for sin, but never provided final atonement. We know this is true because the high priest repeated the same sacrifices, year after year, century after long century. Had they completely atoned for the sins of the Jewish people, they would have ceased, because they would have done the job. Yet from the time of Moses until 70 AD, when the sacrifices stopped, there was a continual shedding of the blood of tens of millions of bulls, goats and lambs; day after day, year after year, rivers of blood flowed, none of which permanently took away sins, but only covered them over until the final Sacrifice was offered. By contrast, Messiah Yeshua is the Son of God and the Lord of glory, eternal, uncreated, holy, greater than everything that exists, and of infinite value. Therefore the sacrifice He brought was of infinite value, limitless, perfect, and unceasingly effective. Therefore it accomplished eternal redemption and perfect atonement.
Messiah’s Priestly Service Is Better Because He Sat Down At The Right Hand Of God. Can you image the High Priest of Israel, on Yom Kippur, sitting down in the Kodesh HaKodashim (the Most Holy Place), near the Ark of the Covenant, perhaps putting his feet up somewhere and relaxing? Of course not! In the Temple there was a table, a lamp, an altar, an ark, but there was no chair. While they were serving God the priests could never sit down and take it easy. There was always something else to do, another sacrifice to offer, because their ministry could never be complete. But our High Priest, after offering His sacrifice, did what no son of Aaron ever could. He sat down at the right hand of God, proving that He accomplished His work. The atonement He provided is complete. That’s why Yeshua could say, “It is finished!” Fulfilled are the imperfect symbols and shadows, the types that needed constant repetition, which never brought final atonement. Yeshua took care of the sin problem once for all. He came once, at one point in time, completely removing our sins by His one sacrifice for all sin, one sacrifice for all men, one sacrifice for all time. After the one sacrifice which Yeshua accomplished, no repetition of an offering for sin is needed. In fact, any attempt to repeat His completely sufficient payment is an affront to it. To speak of a repetition of the sacrifice, in any shape or form, is to deny its sufficiency and is blasphemy.
Messiah Serves In A Better Temple. The descendants of Aaron served in the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem. It was one of the most magnificent structures in the ancient world. But that Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Now only the Kotel, part of the outer retaining wall of the western end of the Temple complex, is left. By contrast, the holy place where our High Priest serves is in heaven itself. He serves in the true holy place, the one not made by human hands. There, above the heavens, above the angels, principalities and powers, Yeshua is in the true Sanctuary. The same one who said: “Behold I come” is back where He started, seated on the throne of God. From that Most Holy Place in heaven He blesses us with all spiritual blessings.
Our High Priest Supplies Better Access To God. Under the Torah, mankind could not come directly into the presence of God on Earth. He is so holy, pure and powerful, and we are so unholy, impure and weak that we would instantly die in the unveiled presence of God. The veil in the Temple, which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, kept all men away from God’s dwelling presence on Earth, except for the High Priest of Israel. If anyone else dared go into the Most Holy Place, into the presence of God, he would die. Even the High priest’s access to God’s dwelling presence was severely limited. The High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place only one day each year – on Yom Kippur. Even then he could only approach the presence of God with the blood of sacrifices and clouds of incense covering the Kaporet (the Ark Cover), hiding the Shechinah (the glorious dwelling presence of God). Otherwise even he too would die! But the moment Messiah Yeshua died, all that changed. The veil that once separated man from God was divinely torn from top to bottom -and not just a little hole for us to peek through, but a huge tear, opening the way for all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, to come into the presence of God! Our High Priest has opened a new and living way into the Most Holy Place, so that we are invited to confidently and boldly come before God’s throne of grace. The high priest was required to leave the Most Holy Place after completing his Yom Kippur rituals there. But Yeshua is now continually living in the presence of God. Because He dwells in the presence of God, and we dwell in Him, we can live in the presence of God. Our life is hidden with Messiah in God!
Our High Priest Supplies Superior Blessings. The responsibility of a priest was to bring the people close to God, and bring the blessings of God to the people. If the descendants of Aaron could have brought us to the goal, then Messiah’s new priesthood would have been unnecessary. But Yeshua is the perfect Mediator between God and man – fully God and perfect Man. His priesthood alone perfects us. He alone brings us to the goal. At this very moment our High Priest is continually and forever presenting us to God and bestowing on us all the blessings which He has purchased for us with His precious blood. We have the incredible privilege of being joined to Him in whom dwells all the fullness of God! God is in Messiah, we are in Messiah, and Messiah is in us. All spiritual blessings in the heavenly places are in Messiah, and we are in Him!
Yeshua’s priesthood has reversed our fallen, guilty and alienated condition. His priesthood has made it possible for God to completely and forever forgive all of our sins. It has removed the wrath of God, and taken away the curse for breaking God’s laws. Yeshua’s priesthood reversed our state of spiritual death. His priesthood has provided atonement, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, reconciliation and access to our heavenly Father. Because of Yeshua’s priesthood, we are clothed with perfect righteousness. We have an incorruptible inheritance. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Messiah Yeshua. Joined to Him we are accepted. Joined to Him we are filled with the Spirit of life. Joined to Him we are righteous. Although our sins on Earth may interrupt our communion with and our enjoyment of God’s favor, nothing can interrupt our position before Him, since it is based on the position of our High Priest. Although we may sin, God sees us clothed with white garments and cleansed with the blood of Messiah. Weak though we may be, because of our High Priest, God sees us as firm as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but which stands forever. Because of our High Priest, we become a holy temple in which God may dwell. We are a spiritual house within which sacrifices and offerings of thanksgiving and obedience are continually offered up to God. We are the true worshippers, God’s beloved children, who alone will worship Him in spirit and in truth throughout eternity. Only Yeshua’s priesthood accomplishes all this.
Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Humanistic, or Chasidic Judaisms are all man-made religions that attempt to approach God on their terms – not His. They cannot bring their adherents to the goal. They cannot accomplish the work of salvation. They can never in truth say, “It is finished.” May God help us all to understand that the Yom Kippur ceremonies ordained in the Torah were intended only to be a temporary “covering over” of the sins of Israel, until the ultimate atonement provided by the Messiah. He is the final and perfect Sacrifice, and our great High Priest, who continually, eternally, and perfectly saves and serves us from His dwelling place in the heavenly Temple. Is He your High Priest? Is He your Sacrifice? Are you part of that glorious and eternal Temple that He is building, where God and mankind may dwell together? I certainly hope so!
I’d like to conclude this meditation with these words from the New Testament letter written to the Messianic Jews: “Therefore brethren, since we have confidence to enter the Holy Place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see The Day drawing near.”