Heb 10:1 BSB For the law is only a shadow of the good things to come, not the realities themselves. It can never, by the same sacrifices offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

Heb 10:2 BSB If it could, would not the offerings have ceased? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt the guilt of their sins.

However in Leveticus

Lev_4:20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. Lev_4:26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev_4:31 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him

The writer of Hebrews Says.

Sin wasn't taken away because the worshippers still have their conscience filled with guilt.

Leveticus says. God forgave the Sins of the People.

Does that mean God Forgiving Sins and Sins Taken away are two different things ?

5 Answers 5


I note the following points:

  • The stated purpose of the Jewish ceremonial system was as a teaching device to inculcate the plan of salvation (Heb 9:8, 9, 11-14, 10:1, Col 2:16, 17) and had no salvific function (Heb 8:5, 9:9, 10:4, Ps 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22). That is, it used symbols to teach about the coming Messiah. When Messiah arrived and offered sacrifice for sin and the example of the exemplary life, the ceremonial system’s usefulness ceased to exist.
  • Even in Old Testament times, the ceremonial system had been misunderstood and abused and did not provide propitiation but only symbolised the sacrifice of Jesus (yet to come), eg, Isa 1:10-17, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22, Hos 6:6, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Jer 6:20, Micah 6:6-8, etc. Jesus used some of these verses to teach the superiority of the moral and ethical requirements over the ceremonial rules. Matt 9:9-12, 12:2-8, 9-14, 23:23, 24, Mark 12:33. Therefore, in New Testament times, after the reality of Jesus had come, its value was gone.
  • When Jesus died on the cross, the ceremonial system was finished and the temple curtain dividing the Holy from the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45, see also 2 Cor 3:13-16) to symbolize this. Jesus became the High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb 4:14-16) and fulfilled the Levitical Covenant.

Thus, the propitiation and expiation was NOT accomplished by animal sacrifices but only by the death of Jesus Christ Himself, alone. Acts 4:11, 12.

Thus, atonement was not provided by the animal sacrifice but by what the sacrifice represented - Jesus' death on the cross.

  • Hi Dottard. Thans for your Response. But I don't think you dealt with my Question directly. Scriptures says that their sins were Forgiven. By the atonement of the Levetical priesthood. Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 22:15
  • And by Salfivic are you broad in it's definition or you are capturing a single act in the whole of Salvation. Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 22:16
  • @FaithMendel - Hebrew expalins what my added final paragraph explains.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 22:44
  • Up-voted +1. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Hebrews 10:4.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 10:34

Yes, the arrangement of sacrifices performed by the Levitical priesthood did cause God to forgive the sins of the people. In the example you quote, this was for national guilt with an unintended (national) sin, so that once the nation became aware of their collective guilt before God, they had to give a young bull as a sin offering, for the priests to sacrifice.

That would 'deal with' the nation's sin on that occasion. However, if another national sin was committed later on, then another young bull would have to be sacrificed by the priests for that sin, and (again) God would forgive that 'new' sin.

The same with all the other sacrifices for individual sin. The sins that were confessed, with appropriate sacrifice given, would result in those sins being forgiven. Yet that would not cleanse the consciences of the confessing sinners forever because they would sin again, and have to confess it again, and offer another appropriate sacrifice. It is as that part of Hebrews says:

"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Hebrews 10:1-4

Animal sacrifices served as a reminder, year on year, for the need for blood to be spilled if God is to forgive confessed sin. That is why there was an annual list of particular sacrifices to be made by the Levitical priesthood, in addition to individual requests for the peoples' personal sacrifices to be accepted. The people could not "be made perfect" by those sacrifices. But they could be forgiven, and they were forgiven. It's just that they had to keep on confessing and giving sacrifice year on year, as a reminder that they had not stopped sinning. That is why the Levitical law of sacrifices could only ever be a shadow pointing the the future reality of the once-for-all-time-perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

It's not that God forgiving sins and sins being taken away are two separate things. They are integrated. The trouble is that the Israelites would suffer a bad conscience the next time they sinned, and have to take God's required action to 'deal with' later sin. The astounding difference the writer to the Hebrews explains is that once Christ's sacrifice was made, it dealt with all sin ever made in the past, in the present, and in the future for those who put faith in that provision. A night and day difference! All the difference in Heaven and on Earth! The Hebrew Christians (who knew all about the Hebrew system of sacrifices) would appreciate that.

  • 1
    What is the difference for us Believers, even though we are free from Sin,. Our Conscience still disturbs us when we Sin. And we repeatedly have to repent of it. This is the same with the Old testament believers Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 21:44
  • 2
    @Faith Mendel The OT system awaited the once-for-all-time perfect sacrifice of Christ. Forgiveness was there, and faith was essential, yes, and that faith remained the vital factor for forgiveness in the NT. But then forgiveness was accomplished by Christ for all sin in the past, in the present and in the future for those with faith in what he'd done. No more sacrifices were needed. Christians discover freedom from slavery to sin and we sin less and less as we mature in faith. If we don't, something's wrong.
    – Anne
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 15:00

Such as David confessed their sins, repented and believed in God. They believed in a sacrifice yet to come.

God saw such faith and on account of his own righteousness, that he would, inevitably, in the future, provide the lamb (as Abraham says) God could be propitious to such as David and could give him the Holy Spirit, which Spirit conveyed to David the propitiation of God and his (righteously) benevolent disposition to David.

Thus were such as Abel, Noah, Abraham and David justified in their own experience. They knew it and they felt it and they were able to, thus, draw near to God.

Without repentance and faith and a real perception of what the sacrifices meant and of the reality that would be provided in future, those sacrifices did nothing whatsoever and the consciences of those who trusted in them were never genuinely satisfied.

Nor did they properly find God or approach unto him.


Before coming of Christ the atonement was only relative, for it did not bring the ontological or salvific change in humans. The emphasis on the relativeness of the Law with all the related rites, cleansings sand sacrifices, is shown throughout in Paul's letters: all Law and prophets were just a shadow before the advent of Christ, who is the body from which the shadow is cast (Col 2:17), the metaphor implying that if you search a body through shadow cast by it, then after having found the body, the shadow becomes useless.

Thus, in a relative sense all those atonements and cleansings before Christ could be considered only as preparatory and foreshadowing ones, and thus, the saintly men, such as prophets and patriarchs etc. could be said to be righteous and sinless, but only in a relative sense, for sin remained in all mankind, as a condition of falledness, before the advent of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.

In famous prayer of Manasseh, regarded as apocryphal by most traditions, but still inspired by Holy Spirit and as such a part of the Church tradition, is said: "you haven't laid repentance for Abraham and Isaac, who sinned not" (Manasseh 1:1, extension of the 2 Chronicles 33:11–13), but of course they have sinned, for everybody has sinned (Romans 5:12), and their sinlessness has only a relative significance.

Not only the cleansings and atonements mentioned in the Hebrews were inadequate for blotting out the sin of the mankind, but even a superior cleansing of John the Baptist, who attests his baptism's inadequacy for cleansing the sin, but relegating to this baptism a preparatory status before the real, that is to say, ontologically efficient and sin-annihilating baptism by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11), to be brought by Christ.

  • So the forgiveness that was granted to them was relative. Only to take effect by the atonement of Jesus Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 10:30
  • 1
    @FaithMendel There are two dimensions of sin and forgiveness: a) personal transgressions, guilts of each man and b) condition of all mankind after Adam’s fall, which means that even in the best of men who minimize personal transgressions (the “sin a”) there remains the condition of falledness and propensity towards sinning, and this wound, this “sin b” can be forgiven or better healed only by Christ. Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 11:00
  • Glory to God. I caught that. Many thanks Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 13:02
  • @FaithMendel Thank be to Lord Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 13:15

My friends and I were asking this question and I found yours after wondering if anyone else has pondered this as well.

Hebrews 9:14 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

It seems confusing that they would be forgiven by God but still be guilty but it makes sense when you focus on “dead works.” In ceremony, offering a sacrifice would grant you forgiveness in principal but if their hearts were not right with God then they were still guilty. This is why the New Covenant would give them a new heart and a new mind.

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