The Day of Atonement
by Pastor Matt Ritchey, Managing Editor
Estimated Time to Read: 5 Minutes
“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 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” (Lev. 23:27-28).
One of the important feasts that Israel was required to observe was the Day of Atonement (currently called Yom Kippur). This day was to be observed on day ten of month seven of Israel’s religious calendar. The people were to display sorrow and repentance for their sins on this day. The High Priest would offer multiple sacrifices on behalf of himself, his family, and the nation (see Lev. 16). These multiple sacrifices would serve to atone (“cover up”) the sins of the people. This would allow the people to remain holy before God.
The requirement that made this particular day stand out from the other days of the year was that this was the only day the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies to stand before the Mercy Seat, which represented the throne of God. Symbolically, the priest, after offering the proper sacrifices to cover his own sins, would enter the holiest place on behalf of the Israelite people in order to present a sacrifice in the presence of the seat of God.
Even while the High Priest went into the Holiest room on the other side of the veil on this one day of the year, the veil was never removed, for the separation between the holy God and sinful mankind remained until a better sacrifice arrived that could remove the veil.
Help from Hebrews
The book of Hebrews references the Day of Atonement: “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” (Heb. 9:7). Hebrews takes the necessary symbolism of the Mosaic Law (Heb. 9:9) and explains it to a people preparing to enter into a New Covenant. It presents Jesus Christ as the High Priest (9:11) Who shed His own blood, entered the Holy Place and presented Himself as a sacrifice before God, and earned eternal redemption (9:12).
The author of Hebrews continues to contrast the perpetual sacrifices necessary under the Mosaic Law with the finality of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ (9:25-28). The blood of Jesus Christ was able to remove the veil before the presence of God, signifying that access to God has been provided through the High Priest Jesus Christ (4:16; 9:24). The book of Hebrews was written to expand upon what Jesus had begun teaching His people of Israel during His earthly ministry: That He was their promised Jehovah and Savior (John 3:1-21; Heb. 12:2).
A Sacrifice for the World
We are not under the Law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 3:13), nor are we recipients of prophecy (Rom. 9:4-5; 15:8; Eph. 3:7-9), so what can we learn from these passages? Something very important, for the redemption provided through the New Covenant has extended eternal redemption to us under Grace.
When Jesus Christ hung on the cross during His earthly ministry, even though salvation was being offered through the covenant made with Israel during that time, He died for the sins of the WORLD – Jew and Gentile (John 3:16; I John 2:2). On the cross that day the sinless Son of God became sin for us so that we might have the righteousness of God (II Cor. 5:21).
Now, today during this Age of Grace, Israel has been set aside for a time so that anyone (Rom. 10:13) can benefit from the redemption provided through/in Jesus Christ by faith alone (Rom. 4:24-25; Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation, currently, does not come through adherence to a covenant, like the observance of a Day of Atonement, but by the law of faith (Rom. 3:27-28).
The Picture of Redemption
Yet, we can see the picture of redemption in the Day of Atonement God required of Israel. Similar to the requirement of Israel’s priest to appear before God with the offering of blood to appease God’s judgment toward the nation’s sin, Jesus Christ shed His blood on our behalf to pay for our sin. He offered Himself before God, satisfying the just requirement to appease the wrath of God toward sin, and God accepted His propitiation (Rom. 3:25).
Now, instead of by the blood of bulls and goats on a scheduled holy day, God is just in offering eternal salvation at any time to anyone who trusts in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:26). The very righteousness of God is credited to anyone who believes that no work is left to be done because Jesus Christ has already done every requirement to redeem us (Rom. 3:21-24).
Faith in the Finished Work
How about you? What are you trusting in? The priests under the Mosaic Law offered sacrifices daily for the atoning of sin. Today, God offers you complete forgiveness and righteousness if you trust that Jesus Christ offered Himself ONCE for you.
Have you trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ alone to save you? No amount of good deeds or religious observances will save you. You must place all faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Then you will stand redeemed through the reconciliation provided in Jesus Christ.
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