The Day of Atonement

List of Studies

1. Introduction

The study of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is of critical importance for us today.  It is an object lesson on how God, in Christ, finally eradicates sin for all eternity.  Unless this is done, none of the redeemed could enter God’s Kingdom to join God’s sinless creation.

We must therefore examine the Day of Atonement in detail, that we might understand the completeness of salvation.

2. The setting

In the detailed study: ‘The Sanctuary on Earth’ we see that God instituted the earthly Sanctuary as a representation of the Sanctuary in Heaven, so that He might dwell amongst His people (Ex 25:8).  A summary of the Sanctuary services is presented here.

The Sanctuary services had two elements: the daily (continual) services, and the once yearly Day of Atonement.

The daily, or continual, took place in the outer compartment of the earthly Sanctuary (the Holy). The priests conducted the continual evening and morning sacrifices, and individuals brought sacrifices of their own.  The blood of these sacrifices was sprinkled in the Holy, transferring sin to the Sanctuary.

The daily services on Earth epitomized the mediation of Christ, our High Priest, in the Holy place in the Heavenly Sanctuary, which would continue until the beginning of the end time (see study: 'The Sanctuary in Heaven',3). 

The annual Day of Atonement (abbreviated to DoA) was the culmination of the Hebrew ecclesiastical year, as the result of which the accumulated sin transferred to the Sanctuary by the daily was eradicated, in figure for the time.

The DoA epitomized Christ’s ministry in the Most Holy in the Heavenly Sanctuary, which began at the start of the end time.  We learn from the 2300 days prophecy of Da 8:13,14 that the end time began in Heaven in 1844 AD - see study: ‘The 2300 days prophecy’.

It is thus critically important that we who are living at the very end of time (since 1844 AD) understand the DoA fully - it prefigured the events taking place in Heaven now.

3. The Day of Atonement

Le 23:27,28  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.

28   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. 

The DoA took place once a year, on the 10th day of the seventh month (Tishrei, equivalent to September/October in today's Gregorian calendar).  On this one day the High Priest (Aaron was the first) entered the Most Holy to make atonement for the whole congregation of Israel (Ex 30:10; He 9:7).  

The DoA was the culmination of the atonement process, and represented the eradication of spiritual Israel’s, i.e. all true believers’, sin that would take place at the end of time just prior to Christ’s second advent.

We turn now to Leviticus chapter 16 for a detailed description of the DoA.

Le 16:2  And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. 

The High Priest (HP) entered the Most Holy only on the DoA.  The Presence of God dwelled in the Most Holy between the golden cherubs of the Mercy Seat.  If the HP entered at any other time it would be an act of presumption, and he would die.

3.1 The priestly garments

Le 16:4  He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on. 

The HP was a mere sinful man.  Thus to enter into the presence of God in the Most Holy he must ‘put on’ righteousness, symbolized in the priestly atonement garments and washing.

When Christ, our true HP, entered the Most Holy in Heaven in 1844 AD (see study: 'The 2300 days prophecy',5) He had no need to 'put on' righteousness - Christ is Righteousness.

3.2 The animals for sin offerings and burnt offerings

Le 16:3,5-10 Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.

5  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.

6  And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.

7  And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 

8  And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 

9  And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD'S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.

10  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. 

A bullock was required for the HP (a bullock was used in the consecration of Aaron as High Priest, Ex 29:9,10).

The HP supplied the bullock himself.

Two goats were required for the people, one was the Lord’s goat, so called because it represents the sacrifice for sin that the Lord Himself (i.e. Christ) would make. 

This is a confirmation of the promise given to Abraham: 

Ge 22:8  And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering… 

Essentially, this text says that God Himself will be the Lamb (i.e. not merely provide it).

The two  goats were supplied from the congregation - the sinner had to supply the sin offering for his/her own sin.

One of the two goats was selected by the casting of lots to be preserved alive to be the Scapegoat (discussed in section 3.8).

In addition to the two sin offerings, two rams for burnt offerings were required - one for the HP and one for the whole congregation.

3.3 The Atonement in the Most Holy for the HP

Le 16:11-17  And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: 

12  And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:

13  And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: 

14  And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. 

The HP (a mere sinful man) could not present a sin offering for the sin of the whole congregation until he had first atoned for his own sin. 

The blood of the bullock (the sin offering for the HP) had to be taken into the Most Holy and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, which rested on top of the Ark of the Covenant (inside which were the Ten Commandments) - symbolizing that mercy was above the law.

Before the HP entered the Most Holy he had to burn incense in the golden censer using fire from the golden altar of incense, and allow the cloud of incense to fill the Most Holy so that he would be protected from the direct glory of God. 

Additionally, incense was pleasing to God - it represented the prayers of God's people for mercy (see study: 'The Sanctuary on Earth',5), thus indicating also God's pleasure in, and approval of, the atonement for sin.

The sprinkling of the bullock's blood

The HP sprinkled the blood of the bullock seven times (seven is the biblical number of perfection based on the seven days of creation week, during which the Lord made a perfect creation) indicating that the HP now stood before God, a spotless sinless intercessor (in figure) to make atonement for the people.  

At this point the HP represented Christ, our true sinless HP who was to come.

3.4 Atonement in the Most Holy for the people

Lev 16:15,16 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: 

16  And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 

Next, the HP took the blood of the Lord’s goat into the Most Holy and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat seven times. This indicated that the people were made perfect (in figure for the time).  This prefigured the final atonement made by Christ (in which He presents His own blood), which makes the redeemed the Righteousness of God for all eternity (see study: ‘The cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary’).

3.5 The High Priest alone

Lev 16:17  And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. 

The saving of all the people from sin is the work of the HP alone.  Christ, our HP, is our only Saviour - we have no other Hope:

Ac 4:12  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 

3.6 The Sanctuary Cleansed

After the sprinkling of the blood of the atonements, the sin of God’s people was eradicated (in figure) - the sanctuary was cleansed of sin accumulated from the daily (continual) sacrifice.  This prefigured the final atonement in the Sanctuary in Heaven, when the sin of all God’s people will be eradicated for all time.

This cleansing of the Sanctuary in Heaven is prophesied through the prophet Daniel:

Da 8:14  …Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. 

This topic is addressed in detail in study: ‘The 2300 days prophecy’.

3.7 The Atonement for the Golden Alter of incense

Le 16:18,19  And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. 

19  And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. 

The HP took some of the blood of the bullock and some of blood of the Lord’s goat and smeared the mixed blood seven times (indicating perfection) on the horns of the altar of incense, which stood before the veil that separated the Holy from the Most Holy.  

Horns represent power (see Daniel chapter 7) - the power of the atonement to save.

The life is in the blood (Le 17:11,14).  Thus, in the mingling of the bloods, the life of the HP was mingled, in symbol, with the life of the repentant sinner.  

This prefigured that the Life of Christ our HP and the life of each repentant sinner are so joined that no power can separate them (except repentant sinners themselves, by repudiating their faith).  No wonder Paul could say:

Rom 8:35,38,39  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 

39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The mingled blood was smeared seven times on the horns of the golden altar of incense which stood before the inner veil, i.e. before the very Presence of God.  Horns in Scripture represent power (see Re 17:12) - the blood and the horns together represented the perfect power of Saving Grace in Christ.

3.8 The Scapegoat

Le 16:20-22  And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: 

21  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: 

22  And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. 

NB.  The Scapegoat cannot be a sin offering because it did not die - its blood was not shed (He 9:22  …without shedding of blood is no remission…). 

The Scapegoat represents Satan, who is the instigator of all sin, and who thus has a part in every sin ever committed by mankind.

Christ’s blood remits every repented sin, but not Satan’s part in that sin.  Thus Satan must be punished, both for his own sin, and for his part in the remitted sin of the redeemed.  In fact, Satan, as the instigator of all sin, owes Christ a debt, i.e. the punishment of the sin which Christ, who knew no sin, took upon Himself. Satan must repay that debt: it must be added to his punishment.

3.9 Washing and Burnt Offerings

Le 16:23-25  And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: 

24  And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people. 

25  And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar. 

The washing of the HP’s flesh symbolizes that in Christ all traces of sin are removed.

A burnt offering represents completeness - all of the sacrifice was burned (Le 1:9,13).  The fat of the burnt offering refers to the ‘richest, choicest part’ (Strong’s H2459) - Christ, the ‘choicest part’ is our complete atonement.

3.10 Final cleansing

Le 16:26-34  And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp. 

27  And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung. 

28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp. 

The final destruction of the remains of the sin offerings outside the camp symbolizes that Christ, who would be made sin for us (2Co 5:21), would be sacrificed outside Jerusalem, separated from the presence of God.  

The burning of the sin offerings and the washing of clothes represents that God will separate the sin of the redeemed wholly and completely - it shall never enter God’s kingdom.  

The remains of the bullock and the Lord’s goat had to be destroyed completely by fire.  

This prefigured the final and complete destruction by fire of sin and (unrepentant) sinners (see study ‘The end of sin and sinners’).

3.11 Final Instructions

Le 16: 29-34  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: 

30  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. 

31  It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. 

32  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: 

33  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. 

34  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. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses. 

The Day of Atonement cleansed Israel from sin, a figure for the time (He 9:8,9), until our true High Priest, Christ, would come to make His one Atonement for the sin of spiritual Israel, which is comprized of all who are of faith (Ga 3:7), and all of whom will be saved (Ro 11:26) - see study: 'Salvation 2: mankind's response',2.  The true Ministry of Christ is addressed in study: ‘The Priesthood of Christ’.

4. Summary

The Lord has left us a clear account of how He saves the repentant sinner.  The promises of the Lord are sure; thus we need not doubt salvation - it has been certain from the beginning - the Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world (Re 13:8).

The DoA teaches us about the final atonement and the final end of sin, after which God will once again have a clean universe, and the redeemed will join the angels and the unfallen worlds in sinless perfection.

Although we do not practice the DoA today (it was abolished at the Cross along with all the earthly Sanctuary services), it still teaches us about God's means of saving sinful mankind, and is thus essential study for all today.

List of Studies