The Feasts of the Lord Bible Study Series:
The Return - Jesus in the Day of Atonement Bible Study
by I Gordon
As we move forward from the feast of trumpets we see that the next feast is the holiest of all - the day of Atonement. Of all the Jewish festivals this was the most solemn. As mentioned in the previous study, the days leading up to this day were called the 'days of awe' and they were a time of repentance and contrition for the Israelite nation. They knew that they had to prepare their hearts and be right for the coming day of Atonement on Tishrei 10. This was the day when the entire years sins for the whole nation were 'atoned' for or 'covered' through a blood sacrifice. It was a day that revolves around a high priest, two goats and a face to face meeting with God. The Jewish name of this day is 'Yom Kippur' which means 'day of covering or ransom.
Looking forward this day is again going to be the holiest and most solemn in its future fulfillment for it shall be fulfilled at the most awesome of days - the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ! We shall explore the biblical commands, the historical event and especially the coming day of fulfillment. But let's start with the actions of the priests leading up to this day.
The day of Awe are coming... time for the priests to hide away
So solemn were the days between the feast of Trumpets and the day of Atonement, that the priests would hide themselves away so that they didn't defile themselves. They would appear again on the day of Atonement. Michael Norton in his book 'Unlocking the secrets of the feasts' writes:
'After the two days of Rosh Hashanah (feast of trumpets), the high priest (along with the other priests) goes into hiding for seven days to avoid defilement. The next day after the completion of the seven days is the judgement of the Day of Atonement. This paints a great picture of the future when we, as believers as a kingdom of priests, will be in heaven with our High Priest, Jesus Christ, for seven years.'
This is in agreement with a scripture used previously that shows God's people being 'hidden' away during the time of trouble:
Isaiah 26:20 Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
The Biblical commands concerning the day of Atonement
Leviticus 23:26-32 The LORD said to Moses, (27) The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. (28) Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. (29) Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. (30) I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. (31) You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. (32) It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath."
From the commands above concerning the day of Atonement you can see how solemn this day was for all of Israel. Three times it speaks about 'denying yourself' on this day. In fact, anyone that did not deny themselves would be cut off from the people. This was not a time for being casual, indifferent or apathetic. Any work done on this day would lead to your death. It was a day for devoting yourself entirely to seriousness of the event.
Leviticus 16:1-10 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. (2) The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. (3) This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (4) He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. (5) From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (6) Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. (7) Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. (8) He is to cast lots for the two goats--one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. (9) Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. (10) But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat.
There are several important points in this passage that I want to briefly mention. Firstly, entrance into the Holy of Holies was limited to one person, the high priest, and even he couldn't come into God's presence whenever he wanted. He could only come in on this one day in the year - the day of Atonement. And even then there were commands to follow. He had to wear special garments and he could only come in once a young bull had been sacrificed for his own sin and that of his household. Two goats were then presented for the sins of the people. Lots were cast to see which goat would be sacrificed and which would become the 'scapegoat' - the goat presented alive unto the Lord and released to go free.
A closer look at the two goats
Leviticus 16:15-22 He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull's blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. (16) In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. (17) No one is to be in the Tent of Meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel. (18) Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull's blood and some of the goat's blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. (19) He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. (20) When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. (21) He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites--all their sins--and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. (22) The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
The first goat that 'is for the Lord' was sacrificed and its blood was taken into the Holy of Holies to cleanse it because of the sin of the Israelites. The high priest alone could enter here and none other. The blood would be applied to the atonement cover. it was a silent and solemn time for those watching and awaiting the return of the high priest. According to Jewish writings, the other priests would wait outside in silence and when the high priest had finished his duties he would come out of the Most Holy place and say 'It is done'.
For the second goat, the scapegoat, the high priest would place his hands on its head. In doing so all the sins of Israel would be confessed and placed onto this goat. It would then be lead away, alive, into the desert. One interesting aspect is that the Jews would tie a piece of scarlet cord to both the scapegoat and the temple doors. When the scapegoat was sent away the scarlet cord on the temple would miraculously turn from scarlet to white. By this the Jews knew that God had accepted their sacrifice for sins.
The Messianic Fulfillment (through Jesus' first coming)
So here is where it all gets interesting. Jesus is our high priest but His offering is not of bulls or goats. It is of Himself. Thus, both the high priest and the goats find their fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus.
The high priestly garments
The high priest who alone could go into the presence of God is a type of the Lord Jesus. He had specific garments as instructed here:
Exodus 28:3-6 Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. (4) These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. (5) Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen. (6) Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen--the work of a skilled craftsman.
The sacred garments were made of fine linen and were made from gold, blue, purple and scarlet thread. This is all pointed to the nature and character of our high priest Jesus. Fine linen in the Bible speaks of righteousness (Rev 19:8). Each of the colours is instructive of Jesus. Gold speaks of the divine nature and shows that Jesus was God. Blue speaks of the heavens thus showing the origins from which He came. Purple speaks of kingship and shows that this priest is also a king! And lastly scarlet speaks of a blood sacrifice. Though divine and the king of kings, the one from Heaven was willing to lay down His life as a sacrifice.
The garments of the high priest on the day of Atonement were different however. He did not come in with the rich colours of gold, blue, purple etc. On the day of Atonement he only wore white. The other priests also wore white. This symbolized the need for forgiveness and purity that governed this holy day.
The white garments are also prophetic. During the sacrifices required on this day the garments of the high priest would be stained with blood. This is a pointer to the ultimate fulfillment of this day when the true high priest comes from heaven as glimpsed in Revelation 19:
Revelation 19:11-14 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. (12) His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. (13) He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (14) The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
The two goats
Jesus is the fulfillment of both goats. In the goat 'for the Lord' Jesus had to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. Just as the blood from this goat was used to cleanse the Holy Place, so it was Jesus' blood that cleansed the heavenly sanctuary. The New Testament is clear on this. In contrasting the old sacrifices with that of Jesus we read:
Hebrews 9:7-14 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance... When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. (12) He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (13) The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. (14) How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
So the earthly tabernacle and temple was modeled on the heavenly sanctuary. Jesus had to enter this with, and by, His own blood. It is this blood that takes away all sins and gives believers in Him the confidence to enter into the presence of God.
The second goat, the scapegoat, shows how Jesus was the one who had all the sins of the people transferred onto Him. And just as those sins were sent away with the sending out of the scapegoat, so Jesus has taken them away completely, never to be seen or addressed again.1
The final scapegoat and sacrifice
It is really interesting reading about the scarlet thread (that they would tie onto the scapegoat and the temple) in the Jewish writings in the lead up to the destruction of the second temple in 70AD. The Jerusalem Talmud says the following2:
"Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open"
In similar vein, the Babylonian Talmud says the following:
"Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves"
What this is saying is that God no longer accepted the day of Atonement sacrifice for the last 40 years before the destruction of the temple (30AD-70AD). This is HIGHLY significant! It means that Jesus, as the 'Lamb of God' was the last and final sacrifice. God was not going to accept any other sacrifice after this. And all God would now do is warn the Israelites of the coming judgement. The western light would go out at night despite all their efforts for it to be lit perpetually. The temple doors would open by themselves miraculously. (And these doors were 75 feet high and required up to 25 men to open one door!) Jesus sacrifice was once and for all. No other will be accepted.
Hebrews 9:25-26 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. (26) Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Jewish names and themes for the day
There are a few key themes and names for this day according to Jewish tradition. Together they give a fuller understanding of the ultimate fulfillment of this day. And that fulfillment is at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The day of Atonement was known as 'the great day' or simply 'the day'. As mentioned earlier, it was the holiest day in the Jewish year and was the culmination of the 'days of awe'. According to Jewish thought, It is believed that the fate of those whose names were not written into the book of life by the feast of trumpets have until the day of Atonement to find forgiveness and salvation from God. Prophetically, it speaks of the day Jesus returns at His second coming. Those that are not saved by this day are not given another opportunity. That day is their last chance.
The day of Atonement was also known as the day of 'face to face'. This was because it was the one day a year where the high priest could come into the presence of God. This has a dual prophetic fulfillment concerning the two comings of Jesus Christ. At the first coming it speaks of the Lord Jesus going back into Heaven before God as our high priest through His own blood (Heb 9:11-12). The phrase 'face to face' is also used by Paul to speak of the day when all believers will see Him:
1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
The phrase also speaks of the day when the nation of Israel shall look on the one they pierced and find atonement for their sins:
Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
The day was also known for 'the affliction of the soul'. Thus the Israelites would fast on this day and abstain from anointing their body, wearing leather shoes and cohabitation. The true affliction of the soul will come when Israel sees their Messiah and realizes that they had rejected and killed their Messiah Jesus.3 This is portrayed in the following prophecy (following on from Zec 12:10 above):
Zechariah 12:11-14 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. (12) The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, (13) the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, (14) and all the rest of the clans and their wives.
It is also portrayed as a type in the recognition and reconciliation of Joseph with his brothers (which, you may remember, comes during a seven year period of famine and difficulty!) amongst many tears.
Genesis 45:1-15 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, "Have everyone leave my presence!" So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. (2) And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh's household heard about it. (3) Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still living?" But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. (4) Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! (5) And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you... (14) Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. (15) And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
You may remember from the study on the feast of trumpets that it included the phrase 'the last trump' to speak of the last trumpet or shofar that was blown on that day. Prophetically this spoke of the trumpet sound that will occur at the rapture to awaken the dead and assemble the believers together. Well, the day of Atonement had the blast of a trumpet as well. This was known as the 'great trump' (Shofar HaGadol). The fulfillment of this will come at the return of Jesus. Two separate prophecies speak of the 'great trumpet' that will occur at that time to regather the remaining Jews scattered around the world. They will be brought back to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
Isaiah 27:12-13 In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. (13) And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.
Matthew 24:30-31 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. (31) "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
You may also remember that the feast of trumpets has the theme of 'the opening of the gates' associated with it. Well, the very last act of the day of Atonement is 'Neilah' - the closing of the gates. Chumney writes in 'The seven festivals of the Messiah' concerning this:
'Neilah is the closing or final service of Yom Kippur . It is the Jewish belief that the gates of Heaven are open during the days of repentance to receive our prayers for forgiveness and that they close after the neilah service. (Specifically, they are open on Rosh HaShanah to let the righteous into Heaven and remain open until the neilah service of Yom Kippur.) When the final blast of the shofar (the Shofar HaGadol , the Great Trumpet) is heard at the end of the neilah service, those who have observed the day with sincerity should feel that they have been inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.'
The meaning and outworking of this is simple enough - Jesus will return to this earth on the day of Atonement. The Bible declared that 'Today' is the day of salvation but the day of Atonement when Jesus returns will see the closing of the gates of Heaven. If a person is not saved by this day then the opportunity has forever passed. Please don't be one of those.
The Second Coming... of Moses!
There is an interesting little type that I would like to draw your attention to with our friend Moses that relates to the second coming of Jesus Christ. You may remember that Moses went up Mount Sinai to meet with God and receive the ten commandments. Upon coming back down the mount he heard what was going on in the Israelite camp with the golden calf and, in anger, he threw and broke the stone tablets on which the commandments where written. So the first 'coming down' of Moses from the presence of God was not overly successful, ended with the sin and rebellion of the Israelites. (Ex 32). So Moses again went to the top of Mount Sinai a second time to meet with God.
Exodus 34:28-35 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments. (29) When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. (30) When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. (31) But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. (32) Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. (33) When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. (34) But whenever he entered the LORD's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, (35) they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.
So what is so interesting about this in relation to Jesus' second coming on the day of Atonement? Well, according to Jewish belief, the day that Moses went back up the mountain was, in their calendar, the 1st of Elul. He was with God, as we read above, for 40 days and 40 nights. Thus Moses came down from God's presence on Tishrei 10! (The 30 days of Elul and the 10 days of Tishrei making up the 40 day period). Tishrei 10 is, as I'm sure you are aware now, the day of Atonement!
So Moses descended the second time from God's presence on the day of Atonement and this time there is something different about him... His face shone! Now, I don't want to insult your intelligence, but let me just spell this out and run that risk anyway! The two times that Moses came down from the presence of God on the mountain represent the two comings of Jesus Christ. The first descent of Moses saw that nation of Israel in rebellion and sin which is what happened when Jesus came the first time. At the second descent the Israelites were not in rebellion and Moses' face shone with the glory of God. In fact, at the second descent Moses also brought the instructions for building the tabernacle for God which they went on to construct. This second descent points to the glorious coming of Jesus Christ, on the day of Atonement, when His coming shall light up the sky from east to west! And just as Moses then built the tabernacle, Jesus shall tabernacle amongst mankind and rule and reign in His Messianic Kingdom. This is what the next study on the feast of Tabernacles will focus on. It should also be noted that at the return of Jesus Christ is likely to not just be any day of Atonement but the special one that came only once in a generation. We'll look at that now.
A special day of Atonement - the Jubilee
Leviticus 25:8-13 'Count off seven sabbaths of years--seven times seven years--so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. (9) Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. (10) Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. (11) The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. (12) For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. (13) 'In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property.
We see in this passage that every 49th year would initiate a special year called the 'year of Jubilee'.4 This year began on the day of Atonement. It was a year that saw all debts wiped away, all slaves freed in Israel to go back to their home and family, and all land that had been lost returned to its original owner.5 It began a year of freedom and liberty. It was quite a year! While we don't know today when the year of Jubilee is, God obviously does and I believe that when Jesus returns at the second coming it will not only be on the day of Atonement... but it will be on the day of Atonement that begins the year of Jubilee. At that time all those entering the Messianic Kingdom will experience liberty and freedom from slavery (spiritually speaking). They will see that their debt of sin has been entirely wiped clean. And it will also be the year that the land (this planet) returns to its rightful owner... and that is Jesus Christ! (Col 1:16, Psa 24:1)
To sum up, the day of Atonement was the most holy and solemn day in all of Israel's calendar. It was a day when the sins of the entire nation, for the entire year, came before both the people and the Lord. But through the provision of God, it was the day when the sins could be atoned for. The two goats, both representing the Lord Jesus, were a temporary provision given by God to cover the sins of the people.
The fulfillment of this day will be seen when Jesus returns. The 'days of Awe' will reach their crescendo on that day. It marks the last chance for any to be saved for, as we have read, on that day the gates of Heaven are again closed. For the nation of Israel it is the day of release from their enemies but also the day of mourning as they realise how they 'pierced' and killed their Messiah 2000 years ago. It is the day when the entire world will come 'face to face' with the living God and see Him with their own eyes. It is a day of liberty for the people of God. It is a day of judgement for the enemies of God. For the Lord Himself it is the day when this planet is returned to its rightful owner (HIm!) and His reign begins. It is the day of Atonement - the most solemn and holy day of all.