Question: In what way was Yeshua’s sacrifice superior to the sacrifices in the Temple or the Levitical sacrifices? And was the “atonement” provided effective?
Answer: In a nutshell, any time you hear the comparison between the Levitical sacrifices compared to the sacrifice of Yeshua you should come to a FULL STOP and think- earthly vs. heavenly. If you can do that it will help tremendously. The term “superior” when used to describe Yeshua’s one sacrifice, has nothing to do with it’s superior effectiveness, but it’s LOCATION. His sacrifice does not concern where we are but where we are going. The sacrificial system was designed for life on earth, and inferior only because we remain mortal human beings- we continue to sin, no matter our best efforts. The repeated earthly sacrifice was a necessary for repeated sin. And it indeed provided full atonement, not a temporary “covering” for sin. Atonement in the biblical sense means “reconciliation” with G-d. The Levitical sacrifice, when brought with the right heart and repentance, provided complete forgiveness and fully reconciled the ‘sinner’ with G-d. While we live in the body, G-d gave us the sacrificial system as HIS WAY for us to “draw near” to Him while we are alive on earth. It was not His “second best”. It was not designed for “eternal reconciliation” (eternal salvation). Eternal reconciliation is by G-d’s grace, and is entirely His gift to us.
The atonement (reconciliation, salvation, deliverance- any of those terms) required for eternal life is a very different matter. Levitical sacrifices were never intended to provide the “cleanliness” required for the life in the world to come- that requires utter perfection or “sinless-ness”. And Yeshua’s sacrifice is about perfecting the soul- making us “sinless” by imputing His sinlessness upon us. That’s the gift! Our earthly “nature” cannot be perfected! It is fallen and must be surrendered to death. “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1Co 15:53) Without His perfect faith, His perfect righteousness, given to us by His grace, our souls are otherwise hopelessly imperfect, defiled by the sinful deeds done in the flesh (this life). His sacrifice perfects our “eternal nature” which allows us to ‘draw near’ to G-d in the world to come. It is superior only because of where it takes us. And this will ONLY OCCUR when we shed this mortal body. Yeshua’s sacrifice needed to be offered only once because we die only once. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Messiah also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, (Heb 9:27-28). We die once, and our souls are made perfect once.
Eternal life is “superior” to mortal life, in that we live forever compared to the limited number of years we live on earth. It does not mean that the Levitical sacrifice didn’t work- they did! And the reason is because Yeshua’s sacrifice was made BEFORE THEM- “... the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:8b. This does not in any way diminish Yeshua’s sacrifice, but magnifies it- the Levitical sacrifices worked because His did! The Levitical sacrifices reflected Yeshua’s. The Levitical sacrifices enable us to draw near to G-d in this life- Yeshua's sacrifice enables us to draw near to G-d in the life to come. Not one over the other- different venues! Shadow and substance. The upcoming seminar on the book of Hebrews will make this crystal clear.