The Day of Atonement and Israel's Forgiveness
The Day of Atonement, which took place in the fall of the year, was the most sacred and solemn of all the Israelite festivals. In it we most clearly see the typology or symbolism of Christ's work for Israel. It was a day of national fasting and one that signified that the sins of Israel had been atoned for and that the nation and its people were restored to a state of fellowship with God. The feat included the following major items (see Leviticus 16 where the details are given):
- The high priest had to go through meticulous preparation to be worthy to act as the officiator for the rest of the house of Israel. This included sacrifices for himself and his house, as well as the washing and purification through the sprinkling of sacrificial blood on various objects in the tabernacle.
- The high priest put off the official robes he normally wore and clothed himself in simple, white linen garments. (See Revelation 19:8 for the significance of white linen garments.)
- Two goats were chosen by lot. One was designated as the goat of the Lord, and one was designated as the scapegoat, or in Hebrew, the goat of Azazel. The goat of Jehovah was offered as a sin offering, and the high priest took its blood into the holy of holies of the tabernacle and sprinkled it on the lid of the ark of the covenant (called the 'mercy seat'), thus making atonement for the sins of Israel.
- The other goat, Azazel, was brought before the high priest, who laid his hands upon its head and symbolically transferred all of the sins of Israel to it. Then it was taken out into the wilderness and released where it would never be seen again. One commentator explained the significance of Azazel by saying it represented 'the devil himself, the head of the fallen angels, who was afterwards called Satan; for no subordinate evil spirit could have been placed in antithesis to Jehovah as Azazel is here, but only the ruler or head of the kingdom of demons.' (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, bk. 1: The Pentateuch, "The third Book of Moses,' 10bks. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.], p. 398.)
The apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews drew heavily on the typology of the Day of Atonement to teach the mission of Christ. In that epistle he made the following points:
- Christ is the great high priest (Hebrews 3:1) who, unlike the high priest of Aaronic Priesthood, was holy and without spot and did not need to make atonement for his own sins before he could be worthy to officiate for Israel and enter the holy of holies (Hebrews 7:26-27). His perfect life was the ultimate fulfillment of the symbol of wearing white garments.
- The true tabernacle (or temple, or house of the Lord) is in heaven, and the earthly tabernacle made by Moses was to serve as a shadow or type of the heavenly one. (See Hebrews 8:2-5; 9:1-9.)
- Christ is the Lamb of Jehovah as well as the High Priest. Through the shedding of his blood he became capable of entering the heavenly Holy of Holies where he offered his own blood as payment for the sins of those who would believe in him and obey his commandments. (See Hebrews 9:11-14, 24-28; 10:11-22.)
Notwithstanding the symbolic significance of the ritual of this holy day, the ritual did have the power to bring about a forgiveness of Israel's sins. The sacred writings of ancient times, the inspired utterances of latter-day prophecies, the traditions of mankind, the rites of sacrifice, and even the sacrileges of heathen idolatries, all involve the idea of vicarious atonement. God has never refused to accept an offering made by one who is authorized on behalf of those who are in many ways incapable of doing the required service themselves. The scapegoat and the altar victim of ancient Israel, if offered with repentance and contrition, were accepted by the Lord in mitigation of the sins of the people.
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Test For The Day Of Atonement And Israel's Forgiveness Lesson
Instructions: Fill in the blanks with the correct answers.
1. The _______________ of ____________________ , which took place in the fall of the year, was the most _______________ and _______________ of all the Israelite festivals.
2. In it we most clearly see the _______________ or _______________ of Christ's work for Israel.
3. The high priest had to go through ____________________ ____________________ to be worthy to act as the officiator for the rest of the house of Israel.
4. The high priest put off the official robes he normally wore and clothed himself in _______________ , _______________ linen garments.
5. Two goats were chosen by lot. One was designated as the goat of the Lord, and was offered as a _______________ ____________________ . The other goat was designated as the ____________________ , or in Hebrew, the goat of _______________ .
6. Paul drew heavily on the typology of the Day of Atonement in his epistle to the ____________________ .
7. Paul states that Christ is the _______________ _______________ _______________ .
8. The true tabernacle of the Lord is in _______________ .
9. Christ is also the _______________ of ____________________ .
10. Christ offered his own _______________ as payment for the _______________ of those who would believe in Him and obey his ____________________ .