Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement
Yom Kippur, otherwise known as the Day of Atonement, is the day upon which God’s final judgement is rendered to every soul. It is the highest and holiest day of the Jewish year. Rosh Hashanah was the first high holy day, and Yom Kippur is the second. It’s celebrated exactly ten days after Rosh Hashanah following the Days of Awe, which is a consecrated period of time wherein there is solemn fasting and prayer in an affliction of soul in preparation for this holy day. Its prophetic significance for the Body of Christ is monumental. Without a proper understanding of this feast we cannot appreciate the sacrifice of Christ Jesus and what His work on the cross fully accomplished.
In this post we are going to look at the traditional observance, learn about its fulfillment, and discover its prophetic significance.
The Hebrew word for ‘kippur’ means atonement or covering. Every year the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of bulls and goats to ‘cover’ the sins of the people. This was not a permanent thing, and therefore it was required annually. God accepted this temporary covering for the sins of the people. In this ‘feast’ the people would actually fast from all food and drink, by feasting their souls upon affliction.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer and offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath, (Leviticus 23:26-32, KJV).
And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments: and he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses, (Leviticus 16:29-34, KJV).
Yom Kippur is the only feast wherein God commands a fast. In fact, it is the only fast commanded by God on the biblical calendar. Yom Kippur is therefore a feast of affliction. Sin brings a consequential oppression of soul that is very heavy and dark. This annual affliction of soul before God caused the Israelites to understand that their soul, which was stained with sin, was in desperate need of cleansing. The cleansing of someone’s soul can only come through an offering of blood.
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore, I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any alien living among you eat blood, (Leviticus 17:11-12).
Yom Kippur could only be fulfilled by the strictest duties of the high priest wherein he would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to make atonement for the people by sprinkling the blood upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. We clearly see that Christ Jesus, our High Priest, entered into that place for us when the veil to Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom at the time of His sacrificial death. Among all other signs this is the one sign that left the entire Levitical priesthood in great fear. The curtain of the Temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the Inner Court and Outer Court is said to be woven of material the width of the man’s hand (approximately four inches thick), being sixty feet long and thirty feet wide, requiring the work of three-hundred priests to hang it. This impenetrable veil, being of extraordinary weight, blocked all light into the Holy of Holies wherein God’s manifest presence dwelled. It represented the clandestine separation between God and man which could not be transgressed. This was the deepest and darkest part of God’s Temple. There were no articles of light in this area, for God alone was its light. The only article within the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. None could enter this part of God’s Temple save for the High Priest – and only once a year to offer the sacrifice for atonement on Yom Kippur. Any unlawful entrance resulted in immediate death. If a High Priest was not diligent in his priestly duties in following every stipulated command of preparation, or if he was found to be with unknown sin, then he nor the sacrifice would be accepted, and the consequence would be immediate death.
When Christ died, that impenetrable veil to the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom, and the way for us was freely opened unto God for all who believe. This miraculous work could not have been accomplished by any other than God Himself, which gave clear evidence that the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son once and for all on behalf of all mankind.
And Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God, (Matthew 27:50-54, KJV).
In the book of Hebrews chapters 9 & 10 we see a beautiful rendering of Christ’s perfect and High Priestly duties performed on our behalf in the fulfillment of Yom Kippur. I encourage you to read this portion of scriptural text at your leisure when you have opportunity. But for the purpose of this post, I present you with this passage:
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to vear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation, (Hebrews 9:22-28, KJV, emphasis mine).
And so we see the fulfillment of Christ’s High Priestly duties on our behalf. And as you read Hebrews chapter 9 & 10 you will further see this perfect fulfillment outlined. But what does this mean for us in the future? What is the prophetic significance of Yom Kippur? We see there is still a judgment coming for those who await the return of Christ – a judgment of salvation for those who believe, and a judgment of damnation for the unbelieving.
The Prophetic Significance
Christ taught several parables which actually spoke candidly of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), with the most specific being the parables of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) and the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). Let us understand that this Day of Atonement (in which the sacrifice has been fulfilled) is also a day of final judgment (which we still await). The unbelieving, whose sins are not atoned for by faith in Christ, will sadly be found without remedy on that fateful day. The punishment for sin is death. Consequently, their names will not be found in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and after facing the judgment of Christ, they will enter into eternal damnation.
Let us understand that the final judgment has not yet come, although Christ has already fulfilled the requirements for the atonement of our sins. This final judgment, in which all souls are judged, is rendered on Yom Kippur.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left… Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels… and these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal, (Matthew 25:31-33, 41 & 46, KJV).
The feast of Yom Kippur still awaits us, and its fulfillment is found in Revelation 20:11-15:
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire, (Revelation 20:11-15, KJV).
Your Personal Celebration
Yom Kippur takes place at the end of Christ’s millennial reign (see Revelation 20). Although the atoning work has been completed, the final judgment is yet to come. Yom Kippur is about the atonement for your soul and the price that was paid to redeem you from the everlasting punishment for your sin. Yom Kippur applies to every soul that has ever lived or died. Although Christ Jesus, our High Priest, has fulfilled His priestly duties in offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice, not all will be found atoned for by His blood. That atonement comes only through faith in Him, which is evidenced by repentance. Christ has made it clear throughout His teachings that we will all face the judgment seat of Christ (see Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10). It is only through Christ’s atoning work that we are able to escape eternal damnation, which is the penalty for our sin.
Yom Kippur teaches us the fear and awe of God who is both our SAVIOR and JUDGE.
The One who gave His Son to redeem us from our sin through His perfect sacrifice is also the One who reserves the right to judge us eternally. Our lives are in His hands.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, (Hebrews 10:31, KJV).
For our God is a consuming fire, (Hebrews 12:29, KJV).
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17, KJV).
Although it is not commonly taught today in our churches, Christ clearly taught us to fear God. We must remember that He is the One to whom we are ultimately accountable.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, (Matthew 10:28, KJV).
As believers we can rejoice in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins. He has completed that work beautifully and perfectly as our Beloved High Priest. And yet we will be called to account for these sins before the judgment seat of Christ. Those atoned for will be found in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
In Christ we see the perfect sacrifice for the redemption of our souls, who is also the perfect Judge of them as well. He is the author of salvation, and therefore we have an obligation to God’s ways. We cannot save ourselves.
In closing I leave you with this beautiful reminder of what He accomplished:
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors, (Isaiah 53:10-12, KJV).
As you celebrate Yom Kippur with a fast, feasting upon the affliction of your soul, may you be found atoned for by Christ’s perfect sacrifice and written in the Lamb’s book of life. If you are unsure of your salvation and would like to make that decision today, please see my page, Am I Saved? You can receive the eternal salvation Christ offers you right now. God bless you!
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credits: Ark of the Covenant by Cristofer Adrian | © Cristofer Adrian @ goldenarmor.com | Used with permission.