As I look at my September calendar, today the 27th in the year 2020 says that Yom Kippur begins at sundown. This happens, as it does each year, 10 days after the new moon, which each year about this time is Rosh Hashanah. Both of these days are days that the LORD gave to the children of Israel as statutes forever:
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. — Leviticus 23:23–25
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 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. 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. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye 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 ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.” — Leviticus 23:26–32
“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: 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. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. 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: 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. 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.” — Leviticus 16:29–34
We will dwell on the holiday (“holy day”) that is being observed today. This was a once per year event at which time the high priest went in and made an atonement for the national sins of the children of Israel. While this most holy day is on the calendar and continuously observed, no atonement is made.
There is no tabernacle or temple, with no place that is most holy to bring the sin offering. The ark of the covenant with its mercy seat is nowhere to be found. While there may be some of the stock of Israel that can trace their lineage to the Aaronic priesthood, they are certainly not active.
According to authors Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal in their book The Feasts of the Lord, the modern observance of Yom Kippur bears very little resemblance to its biblical observance. It of course cannot. The place of the atonement is gone.
The authors continue to describe the way in which the observance has been replaced with the traditions of men:
“As Rabban Yohanan be Zakkai was coming forth from Jerusalem, Rabbi Joshua followed after him and beheld the Temple in ruins. ‘Woe unto us!’ Rabbi Joshua cried, ‘that this, the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for is laid waste!’ ‘My son,’ Rabban Yohanan said to him, ‘be not grieved; we have another atonement as effective as this. And what is it? It is acts of loving-kindness, as it is said, “for I desire mercy and not sacrifice” [Hos. 6:6]’ (Avot de Rabbi Nathan 4:18).”
How not unlike all of mankind’s religions! “My own goodness can atone for my own sins!” Good works, known as mitzvot, is as effective to atone for sins before the Lord as the way that He told them to atone
But the Law is clear on atonement:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” — Leviticus 17:11
Lesser things and alternates can never atone.
But without access to the God-prescribed way, what can an Israelite do. “There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26–27).
Making your own rules and doing things your own way may make you feel better for the moment, but we all ought to know better. As the Israelites that the Apostle Paul spoke of went about to establish their own righteousness and would not submit to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3), so now, this observance of the most holy day is a living example of that.
But in our Lord Jesus Christ, God has provided:
- A mercy seat: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25).
- An offering for sins: “For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, [Christ], Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Without the God-prescribed way by the law, how can one come to God in God’s way? First, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Romans 10:4). The way established by God under the law was fully met in Christ.
All mankind has been declared unrighteous and under sin, and can be justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23–24).
In Christ, religious observances do not need to try and cover for sins. Indeed, the God-commanded religious observances were only types and shadows of the reality that is in Christ. The types and shadows had to be continuously repeated, because the blood of bulls and goats and calves could never take away sins. But in the perfect offering of Jesus Christ once, He has made peace with God for us, which is the very definition of atonement.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” — Romans 5:1
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.1“ — Romans 5:9–11
“The law made nothing perfect” (Hebrews 7:19), but though Christ, forgiveness of sins is preached, and God gives righteousness to unrighteous sinners that is permanent. The full redemption is through the blood of Christ. “By Him all that believe are justified from all things from which [we] could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). We have received a full atonement. Not a yearly atonement to keep us in good standing for a year until another payment is due, but paid in full—forever.
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God…” — Hebrews 10:12
While the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was a statute in Israel, and we Gentiles have no place in it, by the finished work of Jesus Christ, if we believe the faith of Christ, we have been accepted in the Beloved, and have received the atonement.
The faith of Jesus Christ is the truth about Christ that we must believe to be saved. What is that truth?
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you THE GOSPEL which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; BY WHICH ALSO YE ARE SAVED, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS according to the scriptures; And that HE WAS BURIED, and that HE ROSE AGAIN the third day according to the scriptures…” — 1 Corinthians 15:1–4
- Many have taken issue with the use of atonement here in the King James Version. The thought is that the Hebrew word kaphar carries the idea of a covering, because sins under the Law were never taken away, but only were covered. The critics say that the correct word in Romans 5:11 should be “reconciliation” and not “atonement”. But the Hebrew word kaphar is also translated reconciliation, as in Daniel 9:24 or Leviticus 16:20. Both words, reconciliation and atonement carry the idea not of covering, but of bringing parties that have a problem between them together by taking away the problem between them. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H3722&t=KJV
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