What is the Day of Atonement (a.k.a Yom Kippur)?
The Day of Atonement (Hebrew: Yom Kippur) is one of seven annual Sabbath days which God commanded His congregation to keep. In addition to the weekly Sabbath observance required by Exodus 20:11, God (in Leviticus 23) revealed seven of His annual appointed times or feast days which He commanded His congregation to observe. Though two of these seven annual feast days are not Sabbaths (i.e. Passover & the Feast of Firstfruits), the other five annual feast days express themselves as seven annual Sabbaths. In relation to God’s religious calendar (Exodus 12:2), the Yom Kippur is the sixth of God’s seven annual feast days, and the fifth of the seven annual Sabbaths. Its celebration occurs on the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month of Tishrei.
There are four main passages in Scriptures (i.e. Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11, Leviticus 16:2-34; Hebrews 9:1-16) which detail the Lord’s declarations as it pertains to Yom Kippur:
26 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 27 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 an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 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. 29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. 30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be unto you 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.
7 And ye shall have on the tenth day of this seventh month an holy convocation; and ye shall afflict your souls: ye shall not do any work therein: 8 But ye shall offer a burnt offering unto the LORD for a sweet savour; one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year; they shall be unto you without blemish: 9 And their meat offering shall be of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals to a bullock, and two tenth deals to one ram, 10 A several tenth deal for one lamb, throughout the seven lambs: 11 One kid of the goats for a sin offering; beside the sin offering of atonement, and the continual burnt offering, and the meat offering of it, and their drink offerings.
2 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. 3 Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on. 5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. 7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. 11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: 12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: 13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: 14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. 15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: 16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. 18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. 19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. 20 And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: 22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. 23 And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: 24 And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people. 25 And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar. 26 And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp. 27 And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung. 28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp. 29 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 own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: 30 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. 31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. 32 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: 33 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. 34 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.
1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
Why should Gentile believers keep Yom Kippur?
- Because Gentiles are emphatically told (i.e. no less than three times in Isaiah 56:1-8) not only to grab hold of the New Covenant but also to keep the Sabbath. Therefore, since Yom Kippur is a (High) Sabbath (Leviticus 23:23-25) then it follows that we should keep Yom Kippur.
- Because Gentile believers who were formerly “strangers from the covenants of promise“ (Ephesians 2:12-14) are now fellow citizens of the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12-14,19) having been grafted into a Jewish olive tree (Romans 11:16-24) and made partakers of a Jewish covenant (Jeremiah 31:31, 32:40, Romans 11:17). If the Gentile’s membership in the New Covenant makes him a partaker of the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12-14,19, Romans 11:16-24), it only makes sense that—for the sake of edification—he should also adhere to the applicable laws of that commonwealth.
- Because Yom Kippur, as with the weekly Sabbath and the other six annual feasts, is not a feast which belongs to Israel but to the Lord. The feasts are times appointed by God for worship and other specific memorials. God’s appointed times are perpetual appointments for His congregation to observe.
- Because Yom Kippur explicitly calls for Gentiles (i.e. “a stranger”) to participate in its observance (Leviticus 16:29).
Is there prophetic significance to Yom Kippur?
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur – Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11) should remind believers of Christ’s atoning sacrifice (i.e. the day of the world’s atonement). For “Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” for it is by Him “whom we have now received the atonement” (Hebrews 9:11-12, Romans 5:11).
Yom Kippur should also remind believers of the approaching day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).
Yom Kippur foreshadows the fountain that will be opened to Israel for her future cleansing from sin and uncleanness at Christ’s Second Coming (Zechariah 13:1; 12:10). According to some implications of Isaiah 53, Yom Kippur will be Israel’s day of national repentance. For now, Christ has returned to His place until Israel acknowledges her sin of rejecting her Messiah but soon they will earnestly seek His face in the midst of their prophesied coming affliction (Hosea 5:15). On that day they will proclaim “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39).
How should Gentile believers keep the Day of Atonement
Moed [H4150] the Hebrew word translated as “feast” in Leviticus 23 means an appointed time, place or meeting. As mentioned earlier, in addition to the weekly Sabbath, there are seven annual Sabbaths which coincide with Jewish feast days and God declares both of these Sabbaths (i.e. weekly & annual) as a moed or an appointed time (See Leviticus 23). In fact, because every moed in Scripture (excluding Passover and FirstFruits) is a Sabbath and because every moed also requires a miqra (i.e. a gathering for worship), what emerges from Scripture is a very strong pattern between the Sabbath and worship. Therefore the moed and the miqra reinforce the idea that the Sabbath is when God told the members of His congregation to worship.
Historically, in keeping the Sabbath’s miqra mandate, the Jews would assemble together in one place to rehearse or recite the words of the LORD. For example, in Nehemiah 8:1-10, the Scriptures elaborate upon a miqra for the High Sabbath of the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1) where there was scripture reading (Nehemiah 8:2-3), prayer (Nehemiah 8:6), worship (Nehemiah 8:6) and expository preaching (Nehemiah 8:7-8). In addition to these elements of worship, it goes without saying that every Sabbath day should primarily revolve around rest and the cessation of work so that one can focus solely upon studying the Word of God. The best way to stay focused on studying God’s Word is to also cease from any distracting activities that causes one to be preoccupied with anything other than rest and worship. We must remember that the Sabbath is the only day of the week which Scripture designates as the Lord’s day (Isaiah 58:13).
However, unique to the Day of Atonement is the command to afflict oneself, which, from other verses in Scripture is seen as a command to fast (Isaiah 58:3-5). Yom Kippur is also the divinely designated day for repentance. Repentance is of course the everyday duty of all who seek God’s forgiveness (Psalm 32:5, Proverbs 28:13, Isaiah 55:7, Ezekiel 18:30, 1 John 1:9) but Yom Kippur is the only feast day when God explicitly calls upon all in His congregation to confess their sins (Leviticus 16:21).
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