Jesus, the Final Sacrifice
The sacrifices and rituals of the Old Testament had to be repeated year after year, which indicated that they were only temporary. They, instead, pointed to a time when Christ would come to take away our confessed sins permanently. The author of Hebrews states, "For it is impossible for blood of bulls and goats to take away sins... we are having been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once, and every priest, indeed, hath stood daily serving, and the same sacrifices many times offering, that are never able to take away sins. And He, for sin one sacrifice having offered -- to the end, did sit down on the right hand of God." (Hebrews 10:4, 10-11 YLT). Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ... To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them... For (God) hath made (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:18,19,21).
Paul further explains to the Romans, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.: (Romans 5:6-11; see also 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 2:2).
Jesus was the substitutionary sacrifice
The two goats represented the atonement. reconciliation, forgiveness and cleansing which Christ accomplished through His work on the Cross. The goat which was slain was substituted in our place, and represented the payment or ransom for our sins. In Hebrews, we read, "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Hebrews 9:11-12). The scapegoat bore the sins of the people and was sent away into the wilderness. It represented Christ's sacrifice which removes the sin and guilt from those who confess and repent. Isaiah prophesied concerning the coming Messiah, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all... He shall bear their iniquities... He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:6,11,12). Jesus was called by John the Baptist the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29).
Matthew Henry writes, "John saw Jesus coming to him, and pointed him out as the Lamb of God. The paschal lamb, in the shedding and sprinkling of its blood, the roasting and eating of its flesh, and all the other circumstances of the ordinance, represented the salvation of sinners by faith in Christ. And the lambs sacrificed every morning and evening, can only refer to Christ slain as a sacrifice to redeem us to God by his blood. John came as a preacher of repentance, yet he told his followers that they were to look for the pardon of their sins to Jesus only, and to his death. It agrees with God's glory to pardon all who depend on the atoning sacrifice of Christ. He takes away the sin of the world; purchases pardon for all that repent and believe the gospel. This encourages our faith; if Christ takes away the sin of the world, then why not my sin? He bore sin for us, and so bears it from us. God could have taken away sin, by taking away the sinner, as he took away the sin of the old world; but here is a way of doing away sin, yet sparing the sinner, by making his Son sin, that is, a sin-offering, for us. See Jesus taking away sin, and let that cause hatred of sin, and resolutions against it. Let us not hold that fast, which the Lamb of God came to take away. To confirm his testimony concerning Christ, John declares the appearance at his baptism, in which God himself bore witness to him. He saw and bare record that he is the Son of God. This is the end and object of John's testimony, that Jesus was the promised Messiah. John took every opportunity that offered to lead people to Christ."
The Mercy Seat and the Holy of Holies
The Holy of Holies where the priest entered with the blood to make atonement is representative of God's throne in heaven. The book of Hebrews states, "But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people... But Christ... neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us... For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year wiht blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Hebrews 9:7,11,12,24-26).
The Mercy Seat upon which the high priest sprinkled the blood emphasizes that the forgiveness of sins is possible only by God's grace and mercy, and not through any works we do. The blood was placed between the seat, which represented the dwelling place or presence of God, and the ark of the covenant which contained the law. The law separated God from mankind - it was a burden to the Jews, and a wall of partition to the Gentiles. Man failed constantly to keep the law, and thus it was a hindrance to a fellowship and reconciliation with God. But the blood was placed between the mercy seat and the ark containing the law! Paul wrote to the church at Colosse, "And you -- being dead in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh -- He made alive together with him, having forgiven you all the trespasses, having blotted out the handwriting in the ordinances that is against us, that was contrary to us, and he hath taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14 YLT).
Since the redemption and exodus of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt, the people of Israel have celebrated the Passover as a memorial to God's intervention for them. For over four hundred years were the Hebrews enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians. God came down and saw their oppression, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and determined to deliver them from bondage. God raised up Moses to be the one who would lead them out of Egypt, and who would stand before Pharaoh with the decree, "Let my people go." On nine occasions, God would smite Egypt with a plague and Pharaoh would promise to let the people of Israel go, only to renege on his promise once the plague was lifted. But the tenth plague God would send upon Egypt would be the one which would break Pharaoh's spirit and force him to beg the Hebrews to leave. Exodus 12:12 begins the account of God sending forth the death angel to destroy all of the firstborn in the land of Egypt of both man and beast. God gave specific instructions on what the Hebrew people should do to prepare for the coming of the death angel that their firstborn would be spared. Each family was to take a year-old male lamb without any spot or defect and kill it in the evening of the fourteenth day of the month Abib. Then some of the blood was to be taken and placed on the top and sides of the doorposts of the house. When the angel of death went through the land, he would pass over the homes which had the blood sprinkled upon the doorposts, sparing the Hebrews from the judgement coming upon Egypt.
One of the most important principles gleaned from the Passover account was that the blood identified God's people, and distinguished them from the Egyptians. Today, as then, the blood of Christ is what separates us from the world and spares us from judgment. Peter wrote in his first letter, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things.... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." (1 Peter 1:18-20).