Forgiveness for sin is an ancient concept, dating back thousands of years. The Israelites found that God was not only willing to forgive them but that he would be generous in doing so. All they had to do was acknowledge their sin before him as soon as they became aware of it:
If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, when they realize their guilt and the sin they have committed becomes known … . (Leviticus 4:27-28.)
But what of sins that they were unaware of, or had not yet acknowledged before God?
God forgave those as well. Every year the High Priest would sacrifice a bull and goat for his own sins and for all the sins of all God’s people, whether their sins were known or unknown.
He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness. …
This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites. (Leviticus 16:21-22, 34.)
By the time Jesus was born there had been approximately 1500 annual Days of Atonement, each year for one and a half millennia. Imagine if there had only been one, and it was all that anyone ever needed even for sins they never confessed.
One eternal sacrifice
The annual sacrifices – each and every one for 1500 years – were foreshadows of Jesus, only he did it better because the original system could not achieve eternal forgiveness.
But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:3-4.)
It took the work of Jesus – a one time work that supersedes the original system – to achieve eternal forgiveness.
He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. …
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. …
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (Hebrews 10:9-10, 15, 17-18.)
Jesus’ single act of atonement takes the place of the annual sacrifices of bulls and goats, dying once for all sins, known and unknown, confessed and unconfessed. This is how it worked in the annual system for the Israelites and this is how it works for all time by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.
Your sins – past, present and future – are all atoned for whether you become aware of them or not, whether you acknowledge them before God or not, whether you confess them or not. One atoning sacrifice for all means just that: once for all.
You are forgiven, now and forever forgiven, because of Jesus. This is indeed good news.