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Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)

According to Leviticus 23:24, this is a day commanded that we meet together (a holy convocation) and a day to “afflict your soul,” which may mean to fast from food or anything else that brings the body pleasure. It is meant to be a day to spend with the Lord. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day in the Jewish faith.

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Yom Kippur falls this year on Tuesday, September 18th at sunset and ends at dusk on Wednesday, September 19th. It is a day of fasting and confession. The fast would remind the Israelites of Yahweh’s holiness and their own sinfulness (including the high priest). It included a purification ceremony in the tabernacle and temple.

The Day of Atonement was the only time when the high priest could enter the holy of holies and call upon the name of God to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people (and himself). Sixteen sacrifices, thirteen burnt offerings, and four sin offerings were made. Two goats were placed at the entrance of the tent of meeting (tabernacle) where a high priest cast a lot, assigning one goat for God, to be sacrificed for a sin offering, but the other was placed before the Lord to be dedicated as a scapegoat and driven into the desert, carrying the guilt of Israel’s sins.

Aaron confessed all the iniquity of the Israelites as well as their transgressions and symbolically placed them on the head of the scapegoat. The appointed person took the animal to the wilderness outside of the camp where he was to set it free (Leviticus 16:5–27).

When the priest came out of the holy of holies, the people rejoiced as they knew their sins had been forgiven for the year and that God’s blessing rested on them.

Date: 10 Tishri, the seventh month, around late September

History: This is the day that the high priest would go into the holy of holies to present the offering of the blood of a bull and goat on the mercy seat to cover sins for the past year.

Scripture References:

·        Old Testament: Leviticus 16:29–34, 23:26–32; Numbers 29:7–11

·        New Testament: Hebrews 2:17–18, 3:1, 7–10

Prophetic Fulfillment: The high priest had to repeat the ritual of the Day of Atonement year after year, because the sacrifices only covered the sins of the people; they did not do away with them. However, Jesus Christ came at the right time (Galatians 4:4–5) and did what the blood of bulls and goats could not do. His sacrifice, His death on the cross, was the payment of sins and removal of guilt for mankind—once for all—no further sacrifices are required. The Day of Atonement reminds us there can be no salvation from sin apart from the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11). It also reveals the high priestly work of Jesus as our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:10, 6:20).

The scapegoat mentioned previously is a picture of Jesus Christ as He had all the sins of the world laid on Him and removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) The second goat was sacrificed on the altar, just as Jesus gave Himself up on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Both goats are a foreshadowing of Christ. Because He took our sins away and He died for us. At the moment Messiah died, the veil in the temple was torn from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51). Now those who trust in Messiah can celebrate that their sins are forgiven and we have been invited to come boldly to the throne of grace with direct access—without priestly intervention (Hebrews 4:16).

The scattered nation of Israel will be gathered back into her land, and the sinful nation will be cleansed because they will recognize their rejected Messiah and repent of their sins. (Zechariah 12:10–13:1). It will be a national acceptance of Messiah. It will come when they say in Hebrew, Baruch Haba B’Shem Adoni (blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord) Psalm 118:26, Matthew 23:39. The Old Testament sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Messiah.

The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled in a wonderful way when Messiah returns at his second coming. He will restore the nation of Israel and then the final judgment of the world will occur.

This excerpt was taken from Understanding God's Eternal Plan for Israel. Click here to order your copy.