The Day of Atonement Pt 2: Atonement
The period of repentance during the Feast of Trumpets was to be ten days of awe that positioned God’s people for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement is the holiest day in the Hebrew calendar and was to be a day of fasting and honoring God with a sacrificial offering.
I like to think of atonement as meaning simply “at one with God.” In Hebrew, it is Yom Kippur, which means covered or redeemed. Its central theme is redemption and repentance because you cannot be one with God without true repentance, which Israel embraced during the Feast of Trumpets we talked about previously.
The Day of Atonement speaks to the act of redemption. It is the holiest day of the feasts, in which the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, only on this day, to offer blood for the sins of himself and people of Israel. In the book of Hebrews, we see that Jesus Christ was a greater High Priest than those of the Levitical lineage and that He entered Heaven’s tabernacle with His blood to make atonement for all the sins ever committed before and after His sacrificial death. He redeemed humanity by His precious blood.
Through redemption, we prepare our hearts for what’s to come next. The Day of Atonement speaks of sanctification, a lifestyle in which our flesh enters into alignment with our spirit rather than the other way around. It calls the Church to a life of discipline and purpose in which we understand the seriousness of our sins and what it cost the Lord for the remission of them.
The law dictated that there was a blood sacrifice (remember, there can be no remission of sin without the shedding of blood). The high priest would ultimately sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on a goat that would be put out of the city—the original scapegoat. The blood of this goat would cover over the sins of the people. Leviticus 16 gives us a detailed picture of all that took place on the Day of Atonement.
We know that Jesus Christ became our atonement, and His blood did not cover over our sins—it eradicated them! When a Christian observes the principles behind the Day of Atonement, we are not honoring the blood of a yearly sacrifice; we are honoring Jesus’ blood that provides atonement for us.
Jesus’ blood redeems us, saves us, covers us, and protects us, which is why no weapon formed against us can prosper. God chooses to see us through lenses tinted by Jesus’ blood—He sees us through the blood, seeing His Son’s righteousness instead of our filthy rags because the amazing divine exchange that accomplished our atonement.
The Atoning Work of the Cross
As I have mentioned before, we who are in Christ have a better covenant. We know that Jesus Christ made the full and complete atonement for sin for the whole human race by going to the cross. He was the ultimate sin sacrifice! However, I believe that many Christians have never appropriated the full measure of the atoning work of the cross and the applied blood to the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. That is why divine appointments are so important.
God has set divine appointments with man—His special days when He wants to “meet” with us. They serve as occasions and reminders to honor God and release special blessings assigned to each appointment. It’s important to halt in our everyday lives and submit ourselves, dedicating all of our spiritual activities to reviving our relationship with Christ.
The pattern we find in Israel’s Day of Atonement is that God has won a real victory over sin and the flesh for His people. We are a royal priesthood, a nation of priests, and we proclaim restoration of the kingdom of God!
All too often, we talk about continuing to wrestle with sin, still dealing with the guilt and condemnation we had experienced before we came to a saving knowledge of Jesus. But while we cannot act perfectly this side of eternity, because of the finished work of Christ, our sins are not just covered over—they are washed away! Jesus’ sacrifice did not just deal with our sins for the year, like the blood of a bull or goat. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! The root problem has been dealt with and conquered through Jesus Christ; for all those who put their full trust and dependency in Him, you can find the victory He has for you.
I believe that if we truly understood this, we would walk in freedom instead of feeling guilt. We would know that God sees us through the blood and that we are not working to appease Him but are free to live out an existence where the power of sin has been broken over us through Jesus Christ!
Jesus became our Atonement. God wants to take you to a higher place with Him—seated at the right hand of God in His glory! The blood of Jesus Christ has redeemed us, and we are not required to follow the formal application of the law or the rabbinic interpretation of Scripture. But we are missing out when we do not create a space in our lives for focusing on Jesus’ atoning work and realizing the spiritual opportunities that His blood offers us. The rituals of the Law of Moses helped the Children of Israel understand and align themselves with spiritual truths, and our lives will be blessed and enriched if we allow these principles to impact our faith today.
It’s About the Heart
I believe it’s vital to honor and obey the principles and patterns that God established in His eternal appointments with His people. We do not make sacrifices—Jesus did that for us— but we can take the time to remember what He did and to let Him position our hearts. Remembering doesn’t just have to do with having a memory of or reflecting on something, but its true essence is recognizing what God has done for you.
I love how David puts it in the Psalms, as translated in the Message version: “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice” (Psalms 51:16-17 MSG). It is the attitude of our hearts that makes the critical difference between the Lord accepting our “righteousness” and Him rejecting it. Jesus did the work so that we can be made righteous; we wear it as a robe when we stop and recognize what He did and not take it so much for granted! How often do we fail to think about or appreciate what He has done?
In this ability to quickly forget what God has done for us, we are no different than the Children of Israel. And because God knew our penchant for forgetting even the most miraculous things He has done in our lives, He established the feasts, His divine appointments so that we could remember Him and remember what He has done for us. We could recognize all that He has done and honor Him for it.
Again, I am not trying to call us back to being under the law or back to being under the law or the ritual application of the Old Testament. This isn’t about Old Testament rule-keeping; it’s about capturing the significance of what Jesus did. He tells us, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose” (Matthew 5:17 NLT). Jesus came to fulfill and establish the proper meaning of the Torah, not to do away with the principles that God put in place for His people. Jesus provided the fullness and true meaning, the real thing instead of the type and shadow that existed under the Old Covenant.
The Early Church of New Testament believers recognized God’s appointments with us as opportunities to honor God for what He has done in our lives—to appropriate the respective meanings and blessings. They serve as opportunities to celebrate who He is to us, and as a result of honoring God, today we can find great rewards for those who love and celebrate these divine appointments joyfully. This releases great blessings and benefits that God wants you to be able to receive! I pray your eyes are opened by revelation to receive all that He has for you!
The Fundamental Truths of Atonement
Let’s linger just a moment to focus on what Jesus has done for us in the principle of the Day of Atonement. I mentioned before that it was a divine exchange. Though each of us has not committed every possible individual sin, we have all done one thing: we have all turned away from God to go our way, no matter what else we’ve done (see Isaiah 53:16). Accepting Jesus’ offer of salvation is turning away from our path and receiving the gift of restitution with God.
At the cross, an exchange took place—all the evil due, by justice, to come to us, instead came upon Jesus. All of the good due to Jesus, earned by His sinless obedience, was made available to us.
Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven. He was wounded that we may be healed. He was made to be sin, covered with our sinfulness, that we could be made righteous, covered with His blood. Jesus died our death so that we may share His abundant life. He was cursed so that we could receive the blessing of the Father. He endured our poverty so that we could share His abundance. He bore our shame so that we could share His glory. Jesus took our rejection—remember that as He hung on the cross, He asked, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—so that we could accept His Sonship.
Our old man died in Jesus that His new Man might live in us. What an awesome God we serve, that He would release such an expression of measureless love to us, who were dead in our sins!
We are not required to follow the ancient blood sacrifices for our sins to be atoned, for Jesus settled all of that at the cross. However, we still celebrate and honor the principles and patterns, and the greatest of these was the atonement for our sins that Jesus paid for on the cross. I would say that is worthy of a feast!
It Is Finished!
Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished!” This word, finished, means to do something perfectly. It could be translated “perfectly perfect.” The atoning work of Jesus on the cross is perfect in every aspect and perfect in every respect.
We read in 2 Peter 1:3, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (NLT).
Everything we will ever need was provided in that one sacrifice. Salvation is everything provided by the death of Jesus on the cross—rescue, deliverance, wholeness, healing, and eternal restoration with God.
On the Day of Atonement, we can honor Jesus and commemorate what He did for us. These feasts are more than just rituals or traditions; they are opportunities to encounter the Founder of the feasts in our hearts and preserve the principles He has eternally established.
He has a place at the feast for you—a reservation to meet him on the Mercy Seat on His Day of Atonement and honor Him for all that He has done for you. Will you keep it?