According to the Bible Calendar (see also Bible Months), the tenth day of the seventh
month (Tishri) is the Day of Atonement. Jews call it Yom Kippur. In Hebrew Yom means day, (marked from sunset to sunset, as instructed by God), and Kippur means to pardon, or condone. The word atonement carries the meaning to English-speaking people. It means to make amends or to reconcile - to become "at one."
What Does The Day of Atonement Mean To Christians?
The observance of the Day of Atonement originates all the way to the time of Moses:
"And The Lord [see Rock Of Ages] said to Moses, "On the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves [i.e. fast] and present an offering by fire to The Lord. And you shall do no work on this same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before The Lord your God." (Leviticus 23:26-28 RSV)
The Lord commanded the Day of Atonement as a solemn annual observance of the Israelites (see also Physical and Spiritual Israel), past and future - as plainly evidenced by the example of the Christian apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament that Christianity is based upon, and who never stopped observing the Day of Atonement (e.g. Acts 27:9). It's unique in that it's the only of the annual God-commanded Biblical Holy Days in which fasting was required. The fast was such a strict requirement that anyone who failed to do so would be cut off from the community.
All of the Biblical Holy Days are significant to Christians because they individually symbolize the steps in God's Plan of Salvation (the very purpose of Christianity) for all humanity. There is only one God, and only one Way (see The Way) to eternal life. Just as, for example, the Passover's slain lamb symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (the "Lamb of God"), or The Feast Of Trumpets which pictures the future Return Of Jesus Christ, the Day of Atonement also has its significance to the Christian world - so much so that many truly-repentant Christians observe the Day of Atonement as a Holy Day, including the fast.
There are 3 elements of the Day of Atonement that apply directly to Christians:
- The first element is the fast itself. Going 24 hours without food and water is not easy (anyone who has ever done it can tell you that it can be a very uncomfortable experience). It takes genuine determination and willingness, just as does truly repenting in a world that is largely defiant of genuinely obeying God. An Israelite's refusal to fast, which resulted in the offender being cut off from the community (Leviticus 23:29) is the Old Testament's equivalent of a New Testament Christian refusing to repent, which will result in the offender being cut off from eternal life (Luke 13:3). Fasting is an outward sign that the person doing the fasting is serious about repentance, which is vital for forgiveness (see the Fact Finder question below). It's very significant that the first Christians, those closest to the Messiah, including the apostle Paul himself (e.g. Acts 27:9) observed the fast of the Day of Atonement as a Christian (Acts 27:9).
The second element involved the high priest. Only once per year, on the Day
of Atonement, the high priest (Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first high priest, Aaron's descendants thereafter) entered the Most Holy Place of The Tabernacle to offer ceremonial sacrifices for the forgiveness of the people (Hebrews 9:7). That Old Testament observance was a direct fore-picture of
Jesus Christ, our High Priest (Hebrews 9:11), Who, after His Sacrifice,
entered the very Throne Room of God The Father in heaven to make atonement
for all humanity (Hebrews 9:11-12) (see What Is Jesus Christ Doing Right Now? and Type and Antitype).
The third element during the Day of Atonement involved the Azazel goat, or scapegoat (see The Scapegoat) which was taken out into the wilderness after having had all of the sins of the Israelites ceremonially placed on it (Leviticus 16:10, 21-22). The scapegoat symbolized the condemnation of Satan (see That Old Serpent) for the sins of all humanity, and his being put away in an eternal wilderness from which he will never return (Revelation 20:10).
The sending of the azazel goat out into the wilderness as done by the Old Testament high priest after he returned from inside The Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle is a ceremonial preview of Jesus Christ sending Satan into the abyss which will be done after His Return from the
Throne Room of God The Father (see What Satan Fears Most).
The Day of Atonement signifies the 3 most vital aspects of Christianity:
1. Willing repentance on the part of those to be saved.
2. The completed sacrifice of Jesus Christ formally presented to God The
Father to make atonement for the sins of humanity.
3. The final guilty verdict upon Satan as the source of all evil, and the
sentencing of him to eternity in the abyss.
Fact Finder: Does the Word of God plainly warn that faith alone is a dead faith?
See also Faith and Works