All of the levitical offerings (the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering,1 the guilt offering, and the peace offering) have been fulfilled in the offering of the Jesus the Messiah on the cross. The good news of the gospel is that “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).2 Typically when we think of the death of Jesus we think of the removal of God’s wrath and the forgiveness of sin. Rarely do we also recognize the beauty of Christ’s cleansing work. By his death we are made clean.
The cleansing that comes from Christ is superior than the cleansing received under the law because it comes, not through the blood of animals, but through the blood of the pure and blameless Messiah—a man. “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
The sacrifice of the Son of God was the one sacrifice worthy and sufficient to truly make people clean. The old sacrifices were insufficient in that they had to be offered continually. There was no end to them because they never truly took away sin (Hebrews 10:4). But now that Christ has come and offered himself as the perfect lamb of God, sins are truly removed. All sins. So the author of Hebrews is able to say, “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). Christ’s work was finished.
Christ’s purifying work was so complete that he has washed and sanctified us in ways the levitical sacrifices never could. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22). It used to be that only the high priest could enter the holy place, because he alone was consecrated by God to be in the fullness of his presence,3 but now we all have confident access (we do not need to fear that we will be put to death as Aaron did [see Leviticus 16:2, 13]). Our hearts are sprinkled clean. Our bodies are washed with pure water. Not only are we cleansed, but we are sanctified, “. . . we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
One of the flaws of the purification sacrifices in the law is that while they could cleanse us and make us fit to enter God’s presence, they could do nothing to keep us from being defiled the next time we come in contact with something unclean. The death of Jesus Christ, however, not only cleanses us from all past impurities, but actually guards us from all future impurities. By virtue of being in Christ we are impervious to defilement. Just as Jesus, by his touch, made the unclean clean without being defiled himself, so he now makes all who are in him clean at all times because we are always in him. Furthermore, because of his death we are even today being sanctified (see Hebrews 10:14), so that our hearts are actually changed in such a way as to no longer desire the defiling sin we once loved. So Paul was able to write to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15).
1 Allen Ross calls this the “sin offering” a “purification offering.” The word here for sin (ḥaṭṭā𐑮t) is derived from the piel, which means “to cleanse or purify.” This also makes better sense of the usage of the offering since it was necessary for one to also be made clean from things that were not sin (like menstruation, child birth, intercourse, etc.). See Ross, Holiness to the Lord, 129-130.
2 Yes, the Bible does call Jesus God’s son. It does not mean that God had sex with Mary and produced a child. To see what it does and does not mean, see my series on The Son of God, especially part 4 (Jesus Christ Is the Son of God) and part 5 (Jesus Christ Is God’s Unique Son)
3 And even when he entered he had to be very careful so as to not be destroyed (Leviticus 16:2), for example, he had to burn incense so that the smoke of the incense would obscure his view of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat where God’s presence was centered (see Leviticus 16:12-13). This cloud is, in some sense, still present, even as we enter God’s holy presence, but one day the cloud will be removed and we will see clearly (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).
Other posts in this series
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing