Q. My question relates to the priestly garments. Exodus 28:31-35 lists the garments for the High Priest to wear when officiating. But in Leviticus 16:4 the list for the Day of Atonement ceremony is different. What is the significance of that?
A. The High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. Before he could minister on behalf of the people, he first had to make atonement for himself. In doing so he was not allowed to wear the official robe with the breast plate etc, but only the undergarments, tunic, sash, and turban as indicated in Lev. 16:4. After he had made atonement for himself he removed these garments and put on his official attire to make atonement on behalf of the people. (Lev. 16:23-25)
The distinction is that being a sinner, he first had to make atonement for himself. Only then was he considered worthy to represent the people. When he entered into the Lord’s presence the second time the sound of the bells on the hem of his robe would signify that his personal atonement had been accepted. Had his personal atonement been insufficient or unacceptable he would have been struck dead upon entering on behalf of the people.
The lesson in this was explained in Hebrews 7 : 11-28. There the writer gave reasons why Jesus, our High Priest, is superior to the Levitical priest. It’s because he doesn’t have to offer sacrifices over and over again, first for himself and then for the people, to save them temporarily. Our High Priest is not a sinner, and only had to offer one sacrifice (Himself) to save us all permanently. Hebrews 10:14 says by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.