Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur

Yahrtzeit candle“The LORD said to Moshe, ‘The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur, you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to the LORD.  You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.  Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people; and anyone who does any kind of work on that day, I will destroy from among his people… (Leviticus 23:26-32).

Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets is the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.  The Hebrew word kippur comes from the word kapparah meaning ‘covering or atonement.’  The root for the word probably derives from the word kofer meaning ‘to ransom’ or ‘atone by offering a substitute.‘  According to Torah, an animal, a lamb or goat, was required as a substitute offering for sin.   The offerer would put his hands on the head of the animal, confess his sins over the animal which was then killed.  Its blood was sprinkled on the Altar by the priest to remove the person’s sin and defilement. 

The Day of Atonement was a unique day of sacrifices and offerings.    It was on this one day of the year that the the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple to make atonement for the entire nation of Israel.  His priestly duties were specifically outlined in the Torah and it was vitally important that he follow them precisely or he would lose his life.  It was also on this day, and only on this day, that the high priest would speak the memorial name of God – the Yod Hey Vav Hey.

Wearing ‘the armor of God’ consisting of a golden crown, a breastplate, an outer robe decorated with pomegranates and bells, an apron, four linen garments, a belt, turban and pants, the high priest would offer a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  He would then enter the Holy of Holies where he would burn incense which rose in a cloud of smoke enveloping the Ark of the Covenant. It was on the kapparah or covering of the Ark where atonement would be made.   Using his fingers, the priest would sprinkle some of the blood from the burnt offering on the mercy seat between the cherubim and on the ground in front of the Ark.  He was to do this seven times in order to purify the Holy of Holies.  According to the commands set out in the Torah and outlined in the Talmud (the oral laws written down), the high priest made 43 trips between the Outer Court and the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur

“God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death. This vindicated God’s righteousness; because, in his forbearance, he had passed over [with neither punishment nor remission] the sins people had committed in the past;  and it vindicates his righteousness in the present age by showing that he is righteous himself and is also the one who makes people righteous on the ground of Yeshua’s faithfulness” (Romans 3:24-25).

The Tabernacle and its system of worship was how God taught Israel that sin hinders access to His presence.  Their sacrifices and offerings covered only their outward sins and so they remained ‘out’ of the Tabernacle in the Outer Court.  The blood of bulls, goats and sheep on the Altar of Sacrifice could not bring about an inward purification that would remove the iniquity of sin in their hearts and allow them to enter the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.

Two Goats

Another Day of Atonement offering centered around two goats.  By casting lots, one goat was sacrificed to the LORD and its blood sprinkled on the Altar of Sacrifice cleansing it from all of Israel’s sins.    The other goat was called the scapegoat.  The priest would lay his hands on the head of the goat as he confessed the sins of the people.  This goat would not be sacrificed,  but be set free in the wilderness to take the sins of Israel far away.  These two goats were a picture of God’s plan of salvation for Israel through Yeshua.   The sacrificed goat’s blood made atonement for their national sins; the scapegoat took their sins far away into the wilderness until it died.

During the day of Passover, Pilate had two prisoners, Yeshua and Barabbas.  He offered to set one prisoner free. Yeshua who was the ‘Son of the Father’ was chosen as the imprisoned goat to be sacrificed.  Barabbas whose name meant ‘son of the father’ was the scapegoat released into the world to die a natural death.

The Talmud says that the priest would tie a red wool cord to one of the horns of the scapegoat before it was released.  He would also put a red wool cord on the outside of the door to the Temple.  When the cord turned white, it was a sign that the goat had died and God had forgiven the sins of Israel. There would be a great celebration.  If it stayed red, they were filled with  sorrow for their guilt had not been removed. 

Josephus, a Jewish historian, states that 40 years before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., the red wool no longer supernaturally turned white.  The priesthood had not only become completely corrupt before and during this time, but as the spiritual leadership representing Israel,  they had rejected Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel.  Each year that the red wool remained red, they became increasingly aware that God was no longer accepting atonement for their sins through the sacrifices of Yom Kippur.

“Come now,” says the LORD, “let’s talk this over together. Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Our High Priest

“But when Messiah appeared as High Priest of the good things that are happening already, then, through the greater and more perfect Tabernacle which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world), he entered the Holiest Place once and for all.  He entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus setting people free forever.  For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:11-14).

Yom Kippur holds valuable truths about Yeshua, our High Priest, who made atonement for not only for corporate Israel, but for the world.  He entered the heavenly Tabernacle and offered his blood on the heavenly Ark as a substitute for ours.  Because he was sinless, he only had to enter the Tabernacle one time for all eternity. His blood brought forgiveness of sin to anyone who trusts in his atoning sacrifice.  His blood purifies men by removing the iniquity in their hearts and sending their sins far away,  as far away as the east is from the west, so far he has removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). 

“Unlike the other high priests, he [Yeshua] does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27).

While many Jewish people accepted and still do accept Yeshua’s atonement for their individual atonement, corporate Israel through their leadership rejected it.  It is this corporate rejection that brought reconciliation to the nations.  Some day soon Israel will corporately repent and accept Messiah’s sacrifice on a future day of atonement. 

Israel’s Day of Atonement

“When that day comes, I will seek to destroy all nations attacking Jerusalem; and I will pour out on the house of David and on those living in Jerusalem a spirit of grace and prayer; and they will look to me, whom they pierced.  They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son; they will be in bitterness on his behalf like the bitterness for a firstborn son …” (Zechariah 12:10).

The prophet Zechariah speaks of a coming Day of Atonement when God will pour out His Spirit on unbelieving Israel.   He will lift the veil from their eyes and corporately change their blinded hearts.  They will see the one they pierced and mourn for him as one mourns for the death of a firstborn son.  They will receive the kapparah of Yeshua and he will become their High Priest.  At that time, in that moment, all Israel will be saved. 

Eternal Destiny Determined

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

There is a final Day of Atonement to come.  Everyone who has ever lived will appear before the judgment seat of Yeshua and give an account of their lives whether they died in the sea or were kept in Hades for this final day of reckoning.   Those who names are found in the Book of Life will be rewarded with crowns for their faith expressed in works.  Those who names are written in the Book of Death, whose faith and works fall short, will experience the second death and receive the judgment of eternal torture in the lake of burning fire (Revelation 20:14-15).   

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels” (Revelation 3:4-6).

The Days of Awe or the ten days between the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur are the time when Jewish individuals search their hearts and lives to see what sin and rebellion may be lurking that separates them from God.   They are to search out what has soiled their spiritual garments in unrighteous living and be overcomers so that their names are not blotted out of the Book of Life.   Those who have received Yeshua as the kapparah for their sins will be especially blessed.  Their sins will be forgiven and will not go against their account in the Book of Life.  They will not experience the second death but receive eternal life in the new heavens and new earth.     

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven,  whose sins are covered over; Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD will not reckon against his account” (Psalm 32:1-2, Romans 4:7-8). 

The Fast of Atonement

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love… Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly” (Joel 2:13-15).

The basis for atonement is already settled in the blood sacrifice of Yeshua. However, even as believers, we can always use the ‘appointed time’ of Yom Kippur to remember the atonement through the two goats: the one that was sacrificed for sin and the one that took that sin away.    

Each of us still sins and needs to confess those sins in order to receive the forgiveness offered by Yeshua.  We need to repent from those sins and return to a sanctified walk with God.  ‘Denying oneself’ is part of the Biblical command for Yom Kippur.  Fasting can sensitize our spirits to what God desires in our hearts and lives.   It can become a time of internal reflection and spiritual purification that keeps us unspotted from the world. 

We can also fast for the Jewish people around the world.  They pack synagogues on Yom Kippur praying and confessing their sins.   It is on Yom Kippur that they face a serious reality.  Without a Temple there is no Altar for sacrifice; without a priesthood there is no high priest for the sacrificial system.  There are no bulls, no goats, no blood.  It is a day of sorrow, a day of despair.  Through the Messianic believer’s intercession and fasting,  they may see one they have pierced’ before the Lamb’s Book of Life is opened.  Their veil may be removed and they may see their High Priest and receive the atonement they have desired for millennia.    

“We have this hope as a sure and safe anchor for ourselves, a hope that goes right on through to what is inside the the Holy of Holies behind the curtain, where a forerunner has entered on our behalf, namely, Yeshua, who has become a High Priest forever…” (Hebrews 6:19).

©2014 Tent Stake Ministries (Chapter from Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive that includes more about the Feasts of the LORD and how to celebrate in your home or with others.)

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