On October 8, 2019, at sundown, the holiest day of the Jewish year will begin. This day is known as Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Even before the 10 Commandments were given to the children of Israel or the tabernacle was erected, the procedures for worship and sacrifice were established by God. The first mention of the Day of Atonement is given in Exodus 30:10:
“And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it (altar) once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the Lord.”
The Day of Atonement is the 6th Feast of the Lord and is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar when all Israel mourns for their sins. On the 10th day of the 7th month of Tishri, in the wilderness, the high priest Aaron fulfilled the first Day of Yom Kippur by making a sacrifice for the sins of his people. The high priest was the only one who could enter the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle, and only on the yearly Day of Atonement.
“Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. 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. And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 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” (Leviticus 16:3-10).
The two goats represented the two ways God dealt with the sins of his chosen people. The Hebrew word for atone means “to cover.” The first goat was sacrificed on the altar, and its blood symbolically covered the sins of the people (for a brief period). The goat that was sent into the wilderness represented God’s removal of guilt that the people felt for their sins. The same ritual had to be repeated every year on the Day of Atonement.
All the Feasts of the Lord (including the Sabbath day) are first described in detail by the Lord to Moses in Leviticus 23. The Day of Atonement is described in Leviticus 23:27-32:
“Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and you shall afflict your souls, and make an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And you 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 is that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it is that does any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a Sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall you celebrate your Sabbath.”
Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast, and attend synagogue services. The name Yom Kippur means “day of atonement,” and that explains what the holiday is truly about. It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year.
Some religious Jews believe that, in Heaven, books recording the deeds of mankind are opened on Rosh Hashanah beginning a review of man’s behavior for the preceding year. Those whose behavior has been righteous are given another year of life; those who have demonstrated no redeeming qualities are scheduled for death. Those who fit neither category (lukewarm) are given 10 days until Yom Kippur to right all the wrongs committed during the previous year.
These 10 days are called the Days of Awe because each man’s destiny hangs in the balance as he goes about asking forgiveness for sins he has committed against others and also giving forgiveness for sins committed against him by others. On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed and the books are closed for another year. So this day is basically their last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate their repentance and make amends.
Yom Kippur is a Holy Sabbath; no work can be performed. Jews refrain from eating and even drinking water. It is a complete, 24-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after sunset when the 11th day of Tishri begins.
The Day of Atonement was to be observed every year on the 10th day of Tishri. Every 7th year on the Day of Atonement, Israel was to allow a Sabbath of rest for the land, whereas there was to be no planting or reaping of crops. This was so the land could be rejuvenated and yield greater crops. It was also to be a year of rest for the people and work animals. God would thus reward the people with greater yields of crops in the preceding years before the Sabbath year and Jubilee. In this way, the people could live off of the bountiful years before they had a year of rest (where no work was to be done). God would provide for them!
Every fiftieth year, a jubilee was to be proclaimed on the Day of Atonement. Here is how it is described in Leviticus 25:8-12:
“And you shall number 7 Sabbaths of years unto you, 7 times seven 7 years: and the space of the 7 Sabbaths of years shall be unto you 49 years. Then shall you cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the 10th day of the 7th month, in the day of atonement shall you make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the 50th year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family. A jubilee shall that 50th year be unto you; you shall not sow, neither reap that which growth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you: you shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.”
Number 7 is God’s perfect and complete number. Pentecost cannot come until 7 Sabbaths of days occur. The Jubilee cannot come until 7 Sabbaths of years occur. There is no proof that the Jews ever let the land rest for a year or celebrated a Jubilee. There can be no Jubilee year unless the Day of Atonement is observed every year and the people allow the land to rest every 7 years.
God promised the Israelites that if they did not obey his commandments that the following would happen:
“And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths, as long as it lies desolate, and you be in your enemies land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her Sabbaths, As long as it lies desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your Sabbaths, when you dwelt upon it” (Leviticus 26:33-35).
God always keeps His word. In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, pillaged Judah, and carried away many inhabitants to serve him in Babylon. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were among those taken into exile. Many citizens of Jerusalem were taken back to Babylon again in 597 B.C. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar’s army besieged Jerusalem. They broke down the walls and destroyed the city and the Temple, slaughtering many inhabitants of the city. Large groups of captives were taken back to Babylon again at this time.
Cyrus, the king of Persia, issued a decree in 538 B.C. allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of the Lord. It wasn’t totally completed until 515 B.C. Then, in A.D. 70, General Titus of Rome laid siege against Jerusalem for 143 days before finally breaking through the walls and decimating the city and the 2nd Temple. Finally, in A.D. 135, the revolt against Rome, led by Simon ben Kosiba (Bar Kokhba), was met with disaster as Bar Kokhba was killed and his troops were completely decimated. The entire Jewish population of Judea was deported and replaced with Gentiles. The province’s name was changed from Judea to Syria-Palestine.
Israel never fully recovered as a nation until May 14, 1948, when David Ben Gurion read Israel ’s Declaration of Independence. For the first time in more than 2,000 years, there was an independent Jewish state of Israel. Jerusalem was not totally under Israel’s control until 1967. On October 6, 1973, during the Yom Kippur holiday, Arab armies attacked Israel without warning. More than 100,000 Egyptian soldiers invaded Sinai against some 3,000 Jewish defenders of the Bar Lev line of defense on the Suez Canal. In a miracle as great as any in Old Testament times, the enemies of Israel paused to regroup at a point when they could easily have overrun the Jewish state.
God intervened in this war of Yom Kippur, and Israel defeated the Syrian and Egyptian armies. These are some of the early signs of the end of days that Jesus refers to in various parts of the Bible.
When Jesus returns to the earth on Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets) at the Battle of Armageddon, he will defeat all of his enemies. Ten days later, on Yom Kippur, he will ultimately fulfill the 6th Feast of the Lord…the Day of Atonement. I believe this will occur on what is known as the sheep and goat judgments mentioned in Matthew 25:
“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 divides his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33).
The sheep that are on Jesus’ right-hand side are blessed and shall inherit the Kingdom of God. They are the surviving believers of the Tribulation. The goats that are on Jesus’ left hand are cursed and shall inherit the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. They are the surviving unbelievers of the Tribulation.
Thank the Lord that we, as believing Christians, don’t have to perform sacrifices and endure rituals to atone for our sins. Jesus paid the price, once and for all, for our sins…past, present, and future.
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he (Jesus) comes into the world, he says, sacrifice and offering you would not, but a body prepared me in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come to do your will, O God. He takes away the first, that he may establish the second. By which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.
“And every priest stands daily ministering and offering sometimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
“Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, this is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:1-18).
Amen; even so, come, Lord Jesus.