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Samuel Kuo
November 2, 2020
This entry is part 4 of 24 in the series 156 Pictures of Christ in the Old Testament
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

Fact About Christ from page 20: Christ is the real sin offering

Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many

– Hebrews 9:28

Jesus also suffered outside the gate

– Hebrews 13:12

The sin offering is the first of the two offerings that deal with sin. The first three offerings were focused on who Jesus was and how pleasing He was to the Father in His consecration, His life defined by the Spirit, and the peace He brought. This offering, however, reminds us that there is still a problem that needs to be addressed: sin. 

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the Lord. And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the Lord that is in the tent of meeting, and all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

– Leviticus 4:1-7

Notice that the Lord’s command includes even those who sin unintentionally, or as KJV puts it, sins through ignorance. When it comes to keeping God’s commandments, it is not up to us or our feelings to decide (or even notice) if there is transgression. Even for someone with the most highly attuned conscience, there is sin in us that we are not aware of. The necessity of the sin offering forces us into this sobering realization.. 

We will focus on the case of a sin committed by the anointed priest, the representative of the people, or by the whole congregation of Israel. For this offering, there needs to be a bull without blemish. This bull is brought before the tent of meeting, where the offending priest or the elders of the people lay their hands on its head and kill it before the Lord. Then, the blood is brought to three places—it is sprinkled before the veil in the sanctuary, put on the horns of the incense altar, and the rest poured out at the base of the bronze altar. 

And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering he shall remove from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys (just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings); and the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung—all the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up.

– Leviticus 4:9-12

Like the peace offering, the fat portions of the entrails, kidneys, and liver are burnt on the bronze altar. However, the primary distinction of the sin offering is that the skin and all the flesh of the bull, including its head, its entrails, and its dung, are all carried outside the camp and burned. 

What does “outside the camp” mean? Remember that all the offerings were sacrificed at the tabernacle, which  was the centerpiece of the camp of the Israelites during their time in the wilderness. When the Israelites left Egypt, there were around six hundred thousand men (Exo. 12:37). Counting women and children, there could be up to two million Israelites in their camp. That means on every side of the tabernacle, there would be 500,000 people encamped. To put that into perspective, the current population of Cleveland is around 380,000 (2018). That’s a city on each side! Thus, to carry the remains of the bull outside the entire camp of the Israelites is no small thing! 

The majority of the bull is burned outside the camp, away from the people of God and far away from the tabernacle itself, where God has His dwelling. In laying hands on the head of the bull, the bull symbolically becomes the “sin-bearer” of the offeror. God is righteous and holy, thus there is a requirement for His people to be righteous and holy as well. How could He tolerate sin to be so close to His holy tent and His holy people? This offering could not be burned on the sanctified bronze altar, it must be taken far from God’s dwelling. In effect, the process of the sin offering says this about sin: “Just get it away!”

What does the New Testament say about it?

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

– Hebrews 9:28

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured

– Hebrews 13:12-13

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

– John 1:29

The verses are clear: Jesus is the true sin offering. Like the sin offering for the congregation, Jesus was offered to bear the sins of many. He, however, only needed to be offered once. He also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood. As the remains of the bull was burned outside the camp of the Israelites, Jesus’s final agony on the cross took place at Golgotha, outside of Jerusalem. Lastly John 1:29 says that as the sin offering, Jesus takes away the sin of the world! His sacrifice is for all.  

So what does this picture say about Christ? 

There is no other way to deal with sin. When it comes to our sins against the commandments of the Lord, there is only one provision—Christ. We need Him. We need faith to identify with Him, to accept His offering as atonement enough for our sins. We need His blood, sprinkled before the veil in the holy place, placed on the horns of the incense altar, and poured around the bronze altar. Just as the offerors laid their hands on the head of the bull, we need to claim Christ as our sin offering, saying, “This death is mine. This blood is mine. This offering is for my sin,” . 

What does this mean for me as a Christian? 

On one hand, there is nothing we can do by ourselves to deal with our sin. C. H. Mackintosh says that man is “powerless as he is ignorant.” We need Jesus. On the other, coming to Jesus is not without its own challenges. Don’t think that because we cannot do anything to deal with our sin means that we can have a relaxed passive approach to it. Rather, we need to take the effort to “go forth” to the Lord, for He is the one who can deal with our sin. Jesus suffered outside the gate, and the writer of Hebrews urges us to go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured. To follow the Lord, to really have Him as the sin offering, is at once a moment of identification in faith and a life-long process of “going forth.” 

Here are two paragraphs from Notes on the Pentateuch about these two consequences of the sin offering. 

Nothing can more forcibly express man’s incompetence to deal with sin, than the fact of there being such a thing as a “sin of ignorance.” How could he deal with that which he knows not? How could he dispose of that which has never even come within the range of his conscience? Impossible. Man’s ignorance of sin proves his total inability to put it away. If he does not know of it, what can he do about it? Nothing. He is as powerless as he is ignorant.

– C. H. Mackintosh, Notes on the Pentateuch 

The use which the apostle, in Heb. 13, makes of Christ’s having “suffered without the gate,” is deeply practical. “Let us go forth, therefore, to him, without the camp, bearing his reproach.” If the sufferings of Christ have secured us an entrance into heaven, the place where He suffered expresses our rejection from earth. His death has procured us a city on high; the place where He died divests us of a city below.* “He suffered without the gate,” and, in so doing, He set aside Jerusalem as the present centre of divine operation. There is no such thing, now, as a consecrated spot on the earth. Christ has taken His place, as a suffering One, outside the range of this world’s religion — its politics, and all that pertains to it. The world hated Him, and cast Him out. Wherefore, the word is, “go forth.” This is the motto, as regards every thing that men would set up here, in the form of a “camp,” no matter what that camp may be. If men set up “a holy city,” you must look for a rejected Christ “without the gate.” If men set up a religious camp, call it by what name you please, you must “go forth” out of it, in order to find a rejected Christ.

– C. H. Mackintosh, Notes on the Pentateuch 

Have any inspirations or questions about the content of the article? Or do you just want to say hello and introduce yourself? We’d love to hear from all our readers! Leave a comment or send an email to with the title of this post in the subject line. If you are burning to engage with us, but don’t know what to say, here are some questions that could be a help: 

  1. Leviticus brings up the idea of “sinning unintentionally.” Are there sins you have committed that have been unintentional and still remain hidden to your consciousness? Take time to examine yourself and ask the Lord to reveal these sins to you.
  2. The bull of the sin offering was brought far away outside the camp to be burned. We often do not have the same level of aversion to sin as we ought, yet sometimes, the Lord can grant this to us in a moment. Has there been a time when God shone on a sinful root within you for you to see just how displeasing it is in His eyes?
  3. Mackintosh talks about a “rejected Christ without the gate” outside of any “religious camp.” His view reveals a person who is desperate to find Christ and Christ alone, and is willing to suffer loss to do so. What might a person with this kind of view look like in today’s time?
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