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Yom Kippur is considered to be the most important time in Jewish life. By its very nature, this shall be a comprehensive and lengthy study in which I shall endeavor to cover as many aspects as possible. It may reveal things you have not seen before, so I urge you to prayerfully digest the material.

Yom HaKipurim, otherwise known as Yom KippurThe Day of Atonement occurs ten days after New Year, Rosh Hashanah and is a time of reflection, self-evaluation and of repentance. It takes place from sunset on the ninth day to sunset on the tenth and is also referred to as Shabbat Shabbaton, Sabbath of Solemn Rest or Sabbath of Sabbaths.

It is the holiest day of the Jewish year, and provides prophetic insight regarding the Second Coming of the Messiah, the restoration of national Israel and the final judgment of the world. It reveals the High-Priestly work of Yeshua as our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) after the order of Malki-Tzedek as seen in Hebrews 5:10, 6:20.

The term Yom Kippur is actually written in the plural as Yom HaKipurim, possibly because the purification process cleansed from a multitude of transgressions, iniquities and sins thus alluding to the two great atonements given by the Lord. One provides the cleansing and forgiveness for those among the nations who turn to Jesus and the other is for the purification of ethnic Israel during Yom Adonai, the great Day of the LORD at the end of days.

Yom Kippur is the only one of God’s commanded Feast days of worship where a fast is required.

Kippurim can be read as Yom Ke-Purim, a “day like Purim” or a day of deliverance and salvation as seen in the Book of Esther.

We could then consider the day on which Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross as the greatest “Purim” of all, because through Him we are eternally delivered from the hands of our enemies.

In traditional Judaism, the day of Yom Kippur marks the climax of the ten day period of repentance called the “Days of Awe,” or yamim nora’im. According to one Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of the righteous, the tzaddikim, are written in the Book of Life  and the destiny of the wicked, the resha’im, are written in the Book of Death—but most people will not be inscribed in either book. They will have ten days until Yom Kippur to repent before sealing their fate, giving the term Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance. On Yom Kippur, every soul’s name will be sealed in one of the two books.

It may sound complicated and please bear in mind that, as it is in “Christianity”, there are different groups in Judaism that have slightly different approaches to the form of worship. Nevertheless, the foundations are consistent and are remarkably significant to us.

Yom Kippur was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and call upon the Name of YHVH to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people. This “life for a life” principle is the foundation of the sacrificial system and marked the great day of intercession made by the High Priest on behalf of Israel.

In traditional Judaism, the day of Yom Kippur marks the climax of the ten day period of The festival of Rosh Hashanah does not actually appear in the Hebrew Bible, nor is it referred to as the Jewish New Year. Instead, the children of Israel were commanded to celebrate a “feast of trumpets” on the first day of the seventh month in Leviticus 23:24. In the original Hebrew, this day is called Yom Teruah, which means “a day of trumpeting” and it is very significant.

Essentially it was a call to arms. Various trumpet calls were made for differing purposes. Sometimes a shofar or ram’s horn was used. On other occasions a silver trumpet was used and as silver is a type or symbol of redemption, its use has significance to us.

The sound of a trumpet signified the start of a battle, as seen in Joshua’s conquest of Jericho in Joshua 6:5.
During the “feast of trumpeting,” the sound of ram’s horns signified the beginning of a spiritual battle.
The piercing sound of the shofar pointed to God’s coming judgment. As a Jew, Jesus celebrated these events, including the Feast of Trumpets and I would expect that He knew the sound of the shofar well—so well that He  associated it with the End of Days.
Jesus told His disciples that although He would soon leave them and eventually return:

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, all the tribes of the Land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with tremendous power and glory. He will send out his angels with a great shofar;m and they will gather together his chosen people from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other “And the Son of Man… will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds”. Matthew 24:31

Isaiah said:

On that day a great shofar will sound. Those lost in the land of Ashur will come, also those scattered through the land of Egypt; and they will worship ADONAI on the holy mountain in Yerushalayim. Isaiah 27:13

Christians have an expectation that one day, that I believe is not far away now, we shall hear a trumpet call:

Look, I will tell you a secret—not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed... 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Several years ago when I was driving to attend a meeting on the Gold Coast in Australia, I suddenly saw an immense angel who was dressed in a military uniform that looked like a Roman officer’s uniform. It was made of unusual materials and metals  and shimmered and gleamed mysteriously as he suddenly appeared. He was facing North, straddling the road near the theme park areas of Dreamworld and Movie world. He was standing in a military kind of posture with his left foot on the mountain where I lived and his right foot in the ocean. He extended his right hand and a silver trumpet appeared in it. I heard him suck in his breath as he put it towards his lips preparing to blow. I  took my hands off the steering wheel, fully expecting that it was the “rapture” (a silly thing to do on the motorway) and excitedly yelled out something on the lines of, “This is it. I’m coming home”.

The angel disappeared and the Lord corrected me, saying that this was not what I supposed, but the “Call to assembly”.

He wants His people to be ready for that great event, but sadly it seems that many people are not ready, so He keeps telling us through different means that times have changed—that we need to be looking for His appearance and to prepare ourselves for it.

Throughout Jewish history, the Feast of Trumpets has been an opportunity for the people of Israel to come before God and to implore Him to judge the world favorably.

There is an annual ritual, once performed by the High Priest that symbolized the taking away of the sins of the people as seen in Leviticus 23 and Hebrews 9:22 and it included the shedding of blood to atone for the sins of the people. The first place that the word “atonement” is used is in Exodus 29:32 - 33.

And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And they shall eat those things with which the atonement was made to consecrate and to sanctify them.
But a stranger shall not eat of it because they are holy.

Christians may regard it as another Jewish tradition, but its symbolism to us is more important than we often imagine.

The Tabernacle and its furniture and the priesthood represented in typology form, the life, work and ministry of the Lord.
It spoke of God’s plan of salvation for us all. The scriptural basis for Yom Kippur is:

The Lord said to Moses,“Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house.. Leviticus 16:2-6

And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:20-22

He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins. Leviticus 16:29-34

Set procedures

The high priest had to follow prescribed protocols

Do NOT come at any time into the Holy Place. Leviticus16:2

No one, including the high priest had free access to the Holy of Holies, that represented the presence of God. The high priest, like all of the people, was a sinner and God is absolutely holy. Because of that, there was a separation. Isaiah 59:2 stated:

Your iniquities have created a separation between you and God.

The veil that separated the rest of the tabernacle from the holy of holies was a visible symbol of the gap between God and man.

God was so serious about the methods used to worship Him, when two of Aaron’s sons used their own ways to approach God, they were killed, because they offered “Strange fire” (unauthorized fire).

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.  So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy. And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace. Leviticus  10:1–3

As I often say, no man or woman can take it upon themselves to enter the ministry or occupy any ministry office because they desire to do so. They have to be called by God and ordained by God and sadly, the church is full of such people—especially pastors who should not be pastors. The Church that Jesus is building shall not have self-appointed leaders—only those who He calls and appoints to office and equips for that position. He had at least 500 followers and many disciples—but only called 12 of them Apostles. This later changed of course as Paul and others can now occupy that office as seen in Ephesians 4, but again I stress that He appoints them and ordains them. Our ordination processes should be designed to recognize that status and acknowledge it.
I am ordained, but only received that after having ministered in differing capacities beforehand to give proof of myself.
Philip served as a deacon before becoming an evangelist—with Divine authentication of his ministry by what happened. I did that and after passing certain “tests” by my mentors and recommendations by my peers—with proof of my authenticity and track record, as per scriptural injunctions, I was recognized and ordained. Paul’s letters to Timothy are an example of biblical ordination. It was only after that when I started studies for a doctorate—but I never use any titles, not even that of “Pastor Robert”, “Apostle so-and-so” or “Prophet so-and-so” as is often the case.

We can only approach a holy God through the way that He has prescribed. The high priest could only come in to the holy of holies once per year on the day of atonement and very specific procedures were given for him to follow before he was allowed to approach God. This gives us a picture of the gospel message. Sinful man cannot approach God through his good deeds, devices, or methods. There is a wall separating us from Him that can only be bridged through His mercy and it was the mercy seat that the high priest approached.

The high priest had to wear holy linen garments

To signify the solemnity of this even the high priest had special garments to wear as it was a solemn and serious thing to approach a holy God  as seen in Leviticus 16. The high priest could not roll out of bed in the morning and just casually or sloppily enter into God’s presence. He had to prepare himself properly beforehand and  he had to wear the garments that were designed and approved by God. This showed that he respected God’s commands and his own role in representing God’s people as a mediator.

Jesus later taught in a parable that we cannot attend the wedding feast wearing our own clothes. We must wear the wedding garments that He provides. We cannot approach God by our own efforts, but only by what He provides us. The “holy garments” are an outward picture of that reality. I understand that in our modern day society dress codes have changed, but this does not alter the fact that we approach a God who never changes, so we should consider how we come to worship God in a corporate setting in such light.

Sadly, the dress codes adopted today, even by preachers, are not showing such respect to God. Many times we come to church as if we are going to a football match, a nightclub or going to the beach. We are having an audience with the King of kings and should dress appropriately.

The priest had to bathe before ministering

According to Leviticus 16:4, the priest had to bathe in fresh water, before ministering. This spoke of  removing outer dirt and impurities and the things unfit to take into God’s presence. This outer washing is a picture of that spiritual transaction that has to take as we must be consecrated and cleansed to come into God’s presence.

It is an outward reflection of what is in the heart and of the inner change that occurs when we come to Christ.
This is why we encourage new believers’ baptism and this is a contentious issue in some places and need not be so. Baptism does not "save us" and we are not baptized into a church—it is an outer sign that we have now identified ourselves with the Lord in His death, burial and resurrection.

Peter said in Acts2:38 to repent... and be baptized. Paul spoke of baptism in Romans 6:1-11 and in Titus 3:5-7.

We only do this once now, but the high priest however had to consecrate himself with this special bath every single time before entering the tabernacle. The high priests themselves were sinners, so before they could represent the people, their own sins had to be dealt with first

Aaron and the high priests after him had to first offer sacrifice for himself and his own family.

They had to bathe after sending the scapegoat into the wilderness and then make burnt offerings for himself and for the people.

Every time the priest offered the sacrifice, he became ceremonially impure and had to wash himself again.

That is a reminder that whilst sanctification is an ongoing process, Jesus’ offering was once only event.

Two goats

Every year at this time, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) performed a special ceremony to purge defilement from the Tabernacle (mishkan) or Temple (Bet Ha-Mikdash). In in addition to the regular daily offerings, he brought a bull and two goats as a special offering, and the bull would be sacrificed to purge the mishkan/temple from the defilements caused by misdeeds of the priests and their households. See Leviticus 16:6. He sprinkled the blood of the bull inside the veil of the Holy of Holies upon the kapporet (the cover of the Ark of the Covenant) and then drew lots, selecting one of the two goats to be a sin offering on behalf of the people.

This goat was designated L’Adonai (to the Lord).

He then entered the Holy of Holies, sprinkled the blood of the goat upon the kapporet , laid both hands upon the head of the second goat (Azazel) whilst confessing the sins of the people. The Azazel was then taken away into the wilderness, carrying on it “all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited” according to Leviticus 16:22. It is said that a rope was tied around his ankle in case he died whilst performing these duties, but this seems to be a medieval legend and is not revealed in scripture.

According to the Talmud, a scarlet cord was tied around the neck of the scapegoat that was reported to have turned white as the goat was led away from city. However, for the last forty years before the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, the scarlet cord failed to change color.

While the High Priest performed these functions, the people fasted and after completing his tasks, the garments of the High Priest were covered with blood. Only after this did the Lord accept the sacrifice. One tradition that I cannot verify states that as the High Priest hung out his garments they turned from bloodstained crimson to white. Perhaps what Isaiah 1:18 said literally happened.

Azazel was an innocent animal. Jesus was innocent. The sins of the people were transferred onto it. Our sins were transferred onto Jesus. This symbolized the reality of scriptures like Psalm 103:12 and elsewhere that our sins are never to be seen again.

This ritual points us to Jesus as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:21. John describes Golgotha as being the hill “near the city” in John 19:20 where Jesus died. The scapegoat was taken out of the city and Jesus was taken out of the city to be killed.

It is a visible picture that the sins and uncleanness are being removed from us and then put on to Him.

The censer

The high priest had to offer up incense before the Lord inside the veil, “so that he does not die.” The incense cloud covered the mercy seat and God showed mercy. Incense often represents prayers reminding us that Jesus as our high priest also offers intercession for us that we may receive mercy from God. See Romans 8:34.

Bull's blood

In the next step, the priest took some of the blood of the bull sacrifice and sprinkled it on the mercy seat that is on top of the Ark of the Covenant.

The bull’s blood was offered for the high priest and his own family and only after first receiving forgiveness could he represent the people. He sprinkled the blood seven times and as seven represents the number of perfection or completeness, this reminds us that God’s forgiveness is complete.

Those whom He cleans, are completely clean.

Shabbat Shabbaton

Yom Kippur is referred to as shabbat shabbaton (תֹןָּ ַׁ תַַּׁ), that is a time when all profane work (melakhah) is set aside to focus on the holiness of the Lord. The first time we see this phrase is in Exodus 16:23, where the people were not permitted to collect manna in the desert during the seventh day. It was later incorporated into the law concerning Sabbath day in Exodus 31:15; 35:2. It also occurs regarding Rosh Hashanah in Leviticus 23:24, Yom Kippur in Leviticus 16:31; 23:32, two days of Sukkot in Leviticus 23:39, the two days of Passover in Leviticus 23:7-8 and the day of Shavuot in Numbers 28:26.

By adding these days, there are seven prescribed days of “complete rest” before the Lord and the sages identified Yom Kippur as the Sabbath of these other special Sabbath days, that is, Yom ha-kadosh (דַָֹּׁיֹם ה), the holy day.

Seven days before Yom Kippur, the High Priest was separated corresponding to the seven-day seclusion of Aaron and his sons before the inauguration of the Tabernacle in Leviticus 8:33.

You may wonder about any significance and it is interesting to note that according to Jewish tradition Yom Kippur is the only day that Satan is unable to lodge accusation against Israel.

The gematria of “satan” (טָןָׂ) is 364, so it implies that the accuser was able to denounce Israel for 364 days of the year, but on the 365th day, Yom Kippur, he is rendered powerless. This tradition also states that this symbolizes that he is rendered totally powerless in the world to come.

Such things line up with Christian beliefs! When Jesus cried out triumphantly, “Teleo” on the cross that means It is finished, he not only broke satan’s power forever, but fulfilled everything in typology form, all of the Jewish Feasts of the Lord. Those who trust in God’s salvation through Jesus can now enter into our ultimate shabbat.

A perpetual commemoration

..”And this shall be for you a law forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you afflict your beings, and do no work, the native or the stranger who sojourns among you.
For on that day he makes atonement for you, to cleanse you, to be clean from all your sins before יהוה.
It is a Sabbath of rest for you, and you shall afflict your beings—a law forever.
And the priest, who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, the set-apart garments, and he shall make atonement for the Most Set-apart Place, and make atonement for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar, and make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.
And this shall be for you a law forever, to make atonement for the children of Yisra’ěl, for all their sins, once a year.”
And he did as יהוה commanded Mosheh. Leviticus 16:29–34

It is on such a basis that Jews commemorate festivals like Yom Kippur. As the people created a religious calendar, atonement seemed to be a natural part of a new year’s worship and is a central feature of the seventh month new year celebrations. The Jews established such a feast on a yearly basis to give it regularity and ensure that the sanctuary and people were regularly purified and restored to their holy condition. God could only visit His people when the place of worship, the priests, and the people were pure. The ritual was also the major cleansing and atoning ritual in the Bible.

Israelite ceremonies like this were required often throughout the Old Testament, symbolizing the need for mankind to be cleansed of sin, but it wasn’t until Jesus came to make the “once for all” sacrifice that the need for cleansing ceremonies ceased. See Hebrews 7:27.

The blood of bulls and goats could only atone for sins if the ritual was continually done year after year, while Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. When His sacrifice was made, He declared, “It is finished” in John 19:30. He then sat down at the right hand of God and no further sacrifice was ever needed according to Hebrews 10:1-12.

The sufficiency and completeness of the sacrifice of Christ is also seen in the two goats. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the ark, ritually appeasing the wrath of God for another year. The second goat removed the sins of the people into the wilderness where they were forgotten and no longer clung to the people.

Sin is both propitiated and expiated God’s way—only by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Propitiation is the act of appeasing the wrath of God, while expiation is the act of atoning for sin and removing it from the sinner. Both together are achieved eternally by Jesus. When He sacrificed Himself on the cross, He appeased God’s wrath against sin, taking that wrath upon Himself.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! Romans 5:9.

The removal of sin by the second goat was a living parable of the promise that God would remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west as per Psalm 103:12 and that He would remember them no more as seen in Hebrews 8:12; 10:17.

Jews today still celebrate the annual Day of Atonement, which falls on different days each year in September-October, traditionally observing this holy day with a period of fasting and intensive prayer. Jews also often spend most of the day in synagogue services.

Yom Kippur completes the penitential period of ten days known as Days of Awe that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the season of repentance and prayer Jews hold in great regard.

One tradition says that God inscribes our names in a book and we know from Philippians 4:3 and Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15, 21:27 and 22:19 that there is such a book. Is your name there?

This is something I desire for you, hence my approach to ministry and I shall close with a traditional Jewish Yom Kippur greeting;

G’mar Hatimah Tovah

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