The Day of Atonement
Leviticus 17:11 “For the life is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for your souls; for it is blood that makes atonement (covering) for your soul.”
Yom Kippur: Israel’s most awesome holy day, falls on the last day of the Ten Days of Awe.
Yom is Hebrew for day and Kippur is from the Hebrew word ‘kaphar’ meaning to cover. Atonement actually means a ‘covering’ of the sins of the past year. Yom Kippur falls on the 10th day after Rosh Hashanah completing the 10 Days of Awe and is five days before the 7th Feast: Tabernacles.
Yom Kippur is a solemn day of fasting and repentance and no work is allowed. According to Jewish belief, Jews who do not repent and observe are ‘cut off’ and will suffer death.
Prior to AD 70 and the destruction of the Temple, Yom Kippur was the only day that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and stand before God. In the ancient Yom Kippur ritual, before the High Priest entered there, a rope was tied to his feet in case a malady befell him and he had to be pulled out of the Holy of Holies.
Before the High Priest entered, he would make atonement for himself, for his family, and for his community. The priest had to enter empty-handed, all baggage checked at the door.
After becoming ritually pure, the high priest offered a bull for his sins and the sins of his household. Then two goats were set aside. Lots were cast, and one goat was chosen to be the scapegoat or “Azazel.”
The High Priest slaughtered the other goat to atone for the sins of Israel and brought the blood into the Holy of Holies. The scapegoat was sent away to be lost in the desert after the High Priest laid both hands on its head and confessed the sins of Israel. In this way, the sins of the nation were symbolically carried off into the desert. The hides, flesh, and offal of the sacrificial animals were carried outside the camp and burned.
In Deuteronomy 12:5-6 and in Psalm 132:13-14, God made it clear that sacrifices could only be made in the temple in Jerusalem, His chosen dwelling place. After the temple’s destruction in AD 70, it was forbidden to make animal sacrifices.
Today’s observation of Yom Kippur is based more on the tradition of men. Israel abandoned atonement by blood and substituted atonement through mitzvoth, or good works. Chicken or turkey is now substituted for lamb at the Yom Kippur meal.
Christian Application: Some prophecy instructors teach that Jesus was born on Rosh Hashanah and will return on Rosh Hashanah. If that is accurate, then it follows that the Day of Yom Kippur would be the day when “They will look upon Me, the One they have pierced and they will mourn (repent, atone) for Him as one mourns for an only child and grieve for Him as a father grieves for an only child” Zechariah 12:10.
Blood sacrifices for the payment for sin are not required in the New Covenant Church. Jesus Christ offered Himself as the ‘scapegoat’ and paid the sin debt in full for both Christian and Jew.