Leviticus 16:1–31 Explained
How do humans come into the presence of YHVH Elohim? There is one proper way to do so, and many improper ways. The Torah’s discussion pertaining to the rituals associated with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) reveal to us what the proper protocol is and also alludes to the fact that there is an improper way to approach the Almighty Creator as well—something which brings disastrous results. We see an example of this in the case of Nadab and Abihu.
Now YHVH spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before YHVH, and died… (Lev 16:1)
Elohim killed Nadab and Abihu because they came into the holy of holies in the Tabernacle of Moses (a representation of Elohim’s heavenly throne room) in a careless and indifferent manner. Not only does the Torah indicate that they intoxicated with alcohol, but they failed to follow the proper ceremonial protocols outlined by YHVH Elohim to come into his presence. The next few verses lay out what those protocols are to come before the King of the universe. To not follow those protocols brings the death penalty on the person. Such a person is entering illegally as an unauthorized trespasser.
Before exploring how to enter the presence of Elohim properly, let’s bring this abstract concept down to a level we can understand. For example, who hasn’t seen signs on private property that say something like this: “Private Property, No Trespassing,” “Government Property, No Trespassing,” “Unauthorized Entrance Prohibited,” “Violators Will Be Prosecuted to the Full Extent of the Law,” or “Violators Will Be Shot”? What happens to an uninvited intruder who climbs over the fence around the White House or over the walls of Buckingham Palace? Likely, they will be arrested if not shot on the spot. Similarly, there are penalties for coming into the throne room of the Almighty YHVH Elohim illegally.
…and YHVH said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. (Lev 16:2)
YHVH Elohim does not allow humans to casually saunter into his presence anytime and in any manner they want. Though Elohim is our loving Heavenly Father, he is holy (set-apart) and is the Creator of the Universe who is to be feared and respected (Heb 12:28), and he is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). He has the power of life and death; he gives life and can take it away (Matt 10:28). Humans (especially Christians) would do well to know their place before the Almighty, to treat him with the respect he is due and to follow his instructions in all areas of their relationship with him. Indeed, YHVH wants humans to come before him, but in the proper way.
It is utter foolishness and hubris on the part of humans to ignore the clear commands and instructions of Elohim. Nadab and Abihu found out the hard way; their folly cost them their lives. There are no theologies regardless of the respectability or age of the religious institution or denomination or the erudition of the biblical scholars that invented them that can circumvent the clear instructions of YHVH Elohim. Phrases one often hears mainstream church leaders quote with regard to the laws of the Almighty such as “It has been done away with,” “It has been nailed to the cross,” “We’re under grace now, not under the law,” “That was for the Jews,” “Jesus fulfilled that for me, so I’m not required to do that” and so on will not pass muster with Elohim. He makes the rules, his rules do not change, and humans would do well to remember that. For those who take the commands of Elohim casually more as suggestions, remember Nadab and Abihu! “That was under the old covenant, we’re under the dispensation of grace now,” one might say in objection. My reply? Well, then consider the case of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts whom Elohim struck down for lying to the apostles and the Set-Apart Spirit (Acts 5:1–11)!
So what is the first rule of protocol for coming into the presence of YHVH Elohim?
Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering. (Lev 16:3)
Without humans acknowledging that they are sinners, they cannot come into the presence of Elohim. What’s more, they must bring the proper sin offering—a perfect bull or ram. Only by the shedding of blood can man’s sins be atoned for. Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Until a person’s sins have been atoned for through the shedding of blood, one is not allowed into the presence of Elohim. Period! There are no religious rituals of man, no mantras, no amount of prayers, begging or pleading, no ascetic exercises, no formulas, no incantations, no drug induced altered states of consciousness, no conjured spells, no abracadabra mumbo jumbo words, no wishful thinking, no amount of good thoughts, no self-made or designer spiritual paths or anything else that can bring us into the presence of the Almighty. There is only one way to the Father in heaven and that is through the blood of Yeshua the Messiah, the Lamb of Elohim, who paid the price for each person’s sins (Acts 4:12; Matt 1:21; Mark 16:15–16; John 3:36; 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5–6; 1 John 5:11–12). The sacrificed animals in this chapter are prophetic foreshadows pointing to Yeshua’s death on the cross as a payment for each person’s sin penalty. As no one could come into the Tabernacle of Moses except by following the proper protocols involving sacrifices and the cleansing rituals associated therewith, even so, no one is allowed into the presence of Elohim except through the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah.
Let us now analyze the protocols and rituals that the high priest went through on the Day of Atonement to come into the holy of holies of the Tabernacle of Moses, which represented the throne room of Elohim in heaven.
He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. (Lev 16:4)
Before the high priest came into the presence of Elohim, not only did the blood of a spotless and innocent animal have to be shed—a prophetic foreshadow of Yeshua’s death on the cross—but the high priest had to put on special all white linen garments—a picture of the spiritual robes of righteousness which the Bible talks about it a number of places. Humans being carnally-minded, thick headed and stubborn need physical illustrations to help them to understand spiritual realities. The priest putting on white linen robes before coming into the presence of the Almighty is a symbolic picture of the saint after having repented of their sins, putting their faith in and accepting Yeshua’s vicarious death on the cross on their behalf, and then being clothed in the spotless, pure white robes of Yeshua’s righteousness. Man’s righteousness is as filthy rags because of his innate sinfulness (Isa 64:6). That’s why he needs the righteousness of Yeshua to cover him. The shed blood of Yeshua atones for one’s past sins, while the robes of righteousness of Yeshua adorn him subsequently, so that he will be acceptable before the Almighty in proper spiritual attire.
To come into the most holy, set-apart or kadosh presence of YHVH Elohim, one must come in under the blood of Yeshua the Messiah adorned in robes of righteousness, which is the righteousness of Yeshua imputed to the saint at the time of his initial salvation, as well as the saint’s own works of righteousness subsequent to his initial salvation. The saint must also do works of righteousness (i.e. obey the commands of Elohim), which Scripture also equates with a believer’s robes of righteousness. Remember Revelation 19:7–8,
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
As an aspect of one’s righteous acts-based righteousness, one must go through the symbolic act of cleansing oneself.
Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on. (Lev 16:4)
The high priest had to wash himself in water before putting on the white robes. This is a prophetic picture of baptism for the remission of sin, which is the first act of obedience one must perform after having accepted Yeshua (Acts 2:37–38; Matt 28:19). Baptism is the ceremonial ritual of personally identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua (Rom 6:3–14). That means that a person accepts by faith and embraces the truth that through the Messiah, his old carnal, sinful nature has died and he is now a new spiritual creation in Yeshua (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20).
Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. (Lev 16:6)
A spiritual leader must first repent of his own sins and those of his family before he is fit to minister to YHVH’s people. There is no place in YHVH’s spiritual house for hypocritical leaders who say one thing and then do another, and who don’t take their own spiritual walk of righteousness seriously. Again, remember Nadab and Abihu!
Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before YHVH, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before YHVH, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die. (Lev 16:12–13)
In addition to coming into the throne room of Elohim under the blood of Yeshua, being immersed in water for the remission of sins, and putting one the robes of righteousness, one must bring in sweet incense beaten fine, which are the prayers, praise and worship of the saints and which are a sweet, pleasing aroma to the Almighty (Rev 5:8; 8:3). The fire to light the incense came off the altar of sacrifice in the taberancle’s outer courtyard, which is a picture of the cross. All the prayers and worship of the saints are birthed at the cross of Yeshua and continue out of an ongoing relationship with the Lamb of Elohim, who is the way to the Father in heaven (John 14:6).
When a saint comes to the Father’s throne through the blood of Yeshua (i.e. his sins have paid for and forgiven), washing himself in water (i.e. being baptized for the remission of sins and identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua), and putting on the robes of righteousness (i.e. putting off the filthy rags of his former sinful acts) with a humble heart of prayer, praise and worship (instead of a stubborn, hard heart of rebellion and pride), then the Father is ready to accept the a person into his throne room. If any of these four pre-requisites are missing, the person is ill-prepared to come into the Heavenly King’s presence and runs the risk of being rejected. Ultimately, the penalty for not properly preparing for coming into the King’s courts is the death penalty—the lake of fire. Remember Yeshua’s Parable of the Wedding Feast and the fate of those who weren’t properly attired (Matt 22:2–13, especially note vv. 11–13)?
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Pertaining to the protocols for coming into the throne room of Elohim, notice the next step that YHVH required the priest to do.
He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side… (Lev 16:14)
This is an amazing prophecy pointing to how and where Yeshua the Messiah would die some 1,500 years later. The temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was situated east to west with the holy of holies on the west side of the Temple Mount. When YHVH instructed Moses to sprinkle the blood on the east side of the mercy seat, this pointed to the spot east of the temple where Yeshua would later be crucified on the Mount of Olives.
…and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. (Lev 16:14)
Again, this is another prophecy predicting the horrifying death of Yeshua on the cross that would occur some 1,500 years later. During his crucifixion, Yeshua’s body bled from seven different wounds: his head (the crown of thorns), his back (from the scourging), his two hands (from the nails), his two feet (from the nail) and his side (from the Roman soldier’s spear).
There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself…(Lev 16:17)
The high priest went by himself into the earthly throne room of Elohim—the holy of holies. This teaches us that each person must come to the Father by himself. The Testimony of Yeshua (the New Testament) informs us that salvation is an individual matter (e.g. Rom 10:9–13; Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 5:17). Each person must prepare their own heart and mind to obediently follow the path that Elohim has laid out that leads to his throne from which he will eventually hand out great spiritual rewards—the chief of which is eternal life. There is no other way up. All other ways lead down—to eternal separation from Elohim, to death.
To summarize, if one wants to come into the throne room of YHVH Elohim legally, one must repent of sin, accept, acknowledge, embrace and place faith in Yeshua the Messiah, the Savior and Redeemer who is the sacrificed Lamb of Elohim, be baptized for the remission of sins and identify with and have faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua, put on the robes of righteousness, and finally humble themselves before the Almighty through a lifestyle of seeking him through prayer, praise and worship. This is the path to salvation as laid out in the Tabernacle of Moses and as affirmed in Leviticus 16. In Psalms 77:13 we read,
Your way, O Elohim, is in the sanctuary; who is so great an El as our Elohim?
Yeshua declared that,
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
The Bible in Acts 4:12 declares that there is salvation in no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved except that of Yeshua the Messiah.
The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur lays out the plan of salvation for humans to come into an everlasting relationship with Elohim. There is no other way. His plan of salvation has never changed. He doesn’t change. His standards of righteousness don’t change. The protocols for coming into his presence have never changed. None of this was done away with or nailed to the cross. YHVH is the same yesterday, today and forever. His path of salvation and standards of righteousness have never changed.
This [the Day of Atonement] shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before YHVH. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. (Lev 16:29–31)