There are a few sincere people who believe that those who lived during the Old Testament never had their sins forgiven, but what the Bible says otherwise.

Forgiveness Before The Cross

At least ten times in Leviticus, Leviticus 4:20 / Leviticus 4:26 / Leviticus 4:31 / Leviticus 4:35 / Leviticus 5:10 / Leviticus 5:13 / Leviticus 5:16 / Leviticus 5:18 / Leviticus 6:7 / Leviticus 19:22, it declares that the priest, upon receiving a proper sin offering, was to pronounce the one who presented the offering ‘forgiven’.

God forgave them their sins at that time, He didn’t roll them forward. Remember when Jesus was on the scene, He was living under the law of Moses but He Himself declared to people that their sins have been forgiven, Matthew 9:2 / Mark 2:5 / Luke 5:20 / Luke 7:48 / Luke 23:34.

However this forgiveness was dependent upon what was to come, since it was God ‘in Christ’ who would perform the deed required, the deed was as good as done. This is why God forgave David of his sins, 2 Samuel 12:13 / Psalms 25:18 / Psalm 32 / Psalm 51 / Psalm 103:12.

Remember that animal blood served as a type, or foreshadow, not the substance, of atonement. The blood of a mere animals cannot remove human sin, Acts 13:38-39. Everything in the Law of Moses, including the law itself, served as a ‘shadow’ or a sign of what was to come, Hebrews 10:1.

The fact that the Law couldn’t atone for sins once and for all indicates that it was insufficient for what was actually needed. However, this doesn’t mean God gave Israel an incomplete or defective law, it was ideal for the purpose it served, Romans 7:7-13. But everything in the law pointed forward to a perfect, complete, ‘once for all’ sacrifice that would never be duplicated or superseded.

The Law of Moses was only a shadow of the good things to come, the Law of Moses wasn’t the ultimate reality, Hebrews 10:1. Since the Law of Moses was just a shadow of the coming good things, it can never make perfect those who draw near by the sacrifices that are offered annually. It simply wasn’t the purpose of the Law of Moses to perfect the worshipers.

The law was looking forward to the good things to come, that is, sacrifices that can bring the forgiveness of sins. If the Law of Moses could perfect the worshiper, then the sacrificial system of the Law of Moses would have never stopped. But the Law of Moses could never make us complete. The Law of Moses couldn’t put us in a right relationship with God once we sinned. The Law of Moses couldn’t perfectly cleanse.

If the Law of Moses perfected the people, they would no longer have a consciousness of sin, Hebrews 10:2. However, that isn’t what the Law of Moses does. Rather than remove the guilt, the repeated sacrifices reminded the worshipers of the guilt of their sins. The repetition in sacrifice demonstrates the ongoing grip of sin.

Many have read Hebrews 10:3 to mean that God kept remembering the sins of the people year after year. I have heard it taught that every year God remembered the sins of the people. That is, that the sacrifice of atonement was made and God forgot their sins until the following year.

But this isn’t at all what the writer of Hebrews is teaching. The writer isn’t telling us that God remembered the sins, rather, the worshipers remembered their sins. The worshipers understood that the sacrifice of animals didn’t take away their sins. The sacrifices reminded them of their sins and didn’t cleanse their consciences, Hebrews 10:4.

The writer made this point earlier in Hebrews 9:9-10. The problem with the first covenant and the tabernacle system is that these things couldn’t perfect the conscience of the worshipper. It only deals with the externals, the consciences weren’t cleared or cleansed.

The worshippers knew they sinned, but the sacrifice didn’t resolve the separation from God, it only reminded the worshipper of the sin. These sacrifices didn’t take care of our moral situation, they only dealt with the regulations for the body.

Therefore, according to Hebrews 10:4, the worshipers knew that it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. The Law of Moses was a shadow of a coming sacrifice that would take away sins.

If the Law of Moses could take away sins and cleanse the consciences of the worshipers, then the sacrifices would still be offered. But the sacrifices simply reminded the worshipers of the guilt of their sins and did not take away sins.

The writer now proves the point that sacrifices were insufficient to deal with removing our sins in Hebrews 10:5-7. The illustration comes from Jesus and the quotation of Old Testament Scripture, Psalm 40:6-8. Psalm 40 is a song of salvation and deliverance. Rather than quoting these words and attributing them to David, the writer of Hebrews attributes the words as spoken by Christ. This is a conversation between Christ and Father.

‘When Christ was to come in the flesh’, these are the words of the conversation. The Father didn’t want more animal sacrifices and offerings. The answer was in the body prepared for Christ, the sacrifice of Christ would be the answer for sins, Hebrews 10:8.

God didn’t take pleasure in the burnt offerings and sin sacrifices, God took pleasure in the perfect obedience of Jesus. This has always been true concerning God and His desire, 1 Samuel 15:22.

Jesus came to do the will of the Father, something no human had ever accomplished previously and would never accomplish later. Only Jesus was able to completely do the will of the Father. This leads to an important teaching in Hebrews 10:9-10.

Jesus came to do God’s will. What was God’s will? To take away the first covenant and establish a second covenant through which we can have true cleansing. The writer of Hebrews has spent a lengthy amount of time teaching us that Jesus is High Priest, which means there must be a new law.

Jesus completes God’s will and set aside the first covenant and brings the second covenant, fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy which the writer of Hebrews quoted in Hebrews 8. It’s through the second covenant, the sacrifice of Jesus, that we’re having sins removed and our consciences cleansed. This second covenant is what makes us holy, this sacrifice has been made once for all and takes care of sins, Hebrews 10:11-18.

By contrast, according to Hebrews 10:11, the priests served daily, offering repeatedly the same sacrifice which could never take away sins. Jesus offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins. Then He sat down at the right hand of God. A clear contrast is being made, the priests stand daily for service but Jesus sits at the right hand of God.

When we look into the earthly tabernacle, one would notice that there were no chairs in it. Priests didn’t sit down and that’s because there’s work to be accomplished while in the tabernacle. With Jesus, however, the work has been done, there’s no more work left to do. Jesus has sat down at the right hand of God, Hebrews 10:11-18.

It’s a place of honour and a place of power. What is Jesus doing sitting at the right hand of God? Jesus is waiting, He’s waiting for that time until His enemies are put under His feet. Paul makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 15:25-28.

There are enemies still against God, everything hasn’t yet been put into subjection under Him. That’s why there is evil in the world, that’s why there is suffering, that’s why the world is the way that it is. The enemies of God haven’t yet been brought into subjection yet.

That day will come when every knee will bow, Philippians 2:9, but that time isn’t now and hasn’t arrived yet, but the work of Jesus is complete. So, according to Hebrews 10:14, by His single offering, Jesus has perfected for all time those who are being made holy.

Therefore, the words of Jeremiah’s prophecy have been fulfilled, forgiveness of sins has come and there’s no need for any offerings for sins, Jeremiah 31:33-34.

Forgiveness After The Cross

Before the cross, all those who lived under the law of Moses looked forward to the cross, the coming of the Head Crusher, the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15, that is Jesus, the Messiah. However, after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on the cross, everyone now looks back to the cross for forgiveness.

We can receive forgiveness today, however, there are certain conditions which must be met. We must hear God’s Word, Romans 10:17, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, John 3:36, confess His name before men, Romans 10:9-10, repent of whatever sin that is in our lives, Luke 13:3, and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, Mark 16:16.

On the day of Pentecost, after the Jews had been reminded by Peter that they crucified Jesus, they asked ‘what they must do?’ Acts 2:37, Peter tells them to ‘repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:38.

Notice that Peter didn’t say ‘be baptised BECAUSE their sins have already been forgiven’! No, he tells them to be ‘baptised FOR the forgiveness of their sins’, that is, in order to have your sins forgiven. He wouldn’t tell them to ‘repent’ if their sins were already forgiven!

Earlier I made the point that the problem with the first covenant and the tabernacle system is that these things couldn’t perfect the conscience of the worshipper, Hebrews 9:9-10.

It only deals with the externals, the consciences weren’t cleared or cleansed. And so, when we read ‘this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God’, 1 Peter 3:21. We read here that baptism gives us the clear conscience that the old sacrificial system couldn’t give.

Even after a person has been baptised for the forgiveness of their sins, they will sin again at some point, therefore another condition for forgiveness is found in confessing our sins to God.

‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:9. Notice the word ‘if’, the condition of confession is imposed in order to receive the blessings of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is also conditional upon our willingness to forgive others, Matthew 6:15 / Ephesians 4:32 / Colossians 3:13.

Why We Need Forgiveness

When I was younger I was made to apologise to my brother for something I hadn’t done. Needless to say I wasn’t very happy about it but as my parents left me no other choice, I had to apologise. I remember afterwards my brother just smiling and mocking me because he knew I didn’t do anything wrong against him.

Being accused of something you haven’t done isn’t a pleasant experience but when it comes to sin, we’re all guilty. You don’t have to look very far to see all the evil which is in our world, it’s all over our newspapers and television screens.

Sadly, when it comes to sin many people are in the habit of comparing their sins with others, However, we can’t compare our sin with others and say, ‘at least I’m not a murderer, I only stole some sweets from the shop’. ‘At least I’m not an adulterer, I only told a lie’. Romans 3:10.

No! God has no standard of sin, in His eyes, sin is sin and we’re all just as bad as one another, no matter what sin we commit, Romans 3:23.

God asks us to look deep within ourselves and admit our guilt because if we don’t admit guilt we can’t accept forgiveness, 1 John 1:8-10. Anyone who says they aren’t guilty can’t accept forgiveness because forgiveness is only for guilty people!

In other words, you can’t forgive innocent people if there’s nothing to forgive! As long as we insist on our innocence we can never accept forgiveness at the hand of God.

So God insists that we admit our guilt because He wants so much to forgive us and because He wants so much to live with us in loving fellowship, Isaiah 59:1-3. But there can be no loving fellowship unless our rebellion against God is dealt with and it cannot be dealt with unless we admit sin exists.

The Bible insists that Christ died for every one of us and that He died to rescue us from sin, John 3:16 / 1 John 2:2. Christ comes confronting us with our sin, and tells us, He is the way out! John 14:6.

Instead of shutting God out of our lives, we must let Him work with us and in us to deliver us from the power of sin that’s much too strong for us.


"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."