The Day of
Atonement and YOUR Future
by George M Kackos
Most people have not heard of the Day of Atonement. Many who have don't
understand it properly. Yet this Day reveals a wonderfully positive truth.
Scene one: A young woman walks through a semitropical garden filled with
beautiful trees loaded with luscious fruit. Everything looks so good — so right.
But is it?
Suddenly she is confronted by a talking serpent who asks about God's
commands. Subtly, the serpent reasons with her until she decides to eat the
fruit forbidden her by her Creator. Her husband then follows her example of
From that time forward, mankind continues to be subject to Satan's influence.
Consequently, all humans sin and fall short of God's glory.
Scene two: A young man, once strong and virile, is nailed to a stake. Blood
oozes from deep, gaping lacerations in His body, wounds inflicted by a savage
beating. Tormentors surround Him, arrogantly jeering, "He can save others, but
But the man's mind is not on revenge; it is on the ultimate purpose of His
suffering, which is to provide the sacrifice necessary for mankind's salvation.
Finally, after many hours of suffering, death comes suddenly. Three days
later He is resurrected. He rejoins His Father, where He serves as High Priest
and soon-coming King for all humanity.
Scene three: The earth has been devastated. Plant and aquatic life are almost
nonexistent. The human population has been reduced to a small fraction of its
former size by the terrifying events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the
Everywhere there is destruction, but there is also hope. Jesus Christ has
intervened in world affairs. One obstacle remains — the presence of Satan the
devil, mankind's enemy for 6,000 years.
To eliminate this threat to global peace, an angel is sent to bind Satan.
Satan is taken to a place of restraint where he is prohibited from influencing
mankind for a thousand years.
Is there a relationship between these scenes? The answer is yes. There is a
profound relationship that can be understood by studying the meaning of one of
God's annual festivals — the Day of Atonement.
This Day is commanded
Most professing Christians don't even know that this Festival of God exists.
Many who have heard of it think that it is no longer to be kept. But what does
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Also the tenth day of this seventh
month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you
shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And
you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make
atonement for you before the Lord your God.... You shall do no manner of work;
it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your
dwellings'" (Lev. 23:26- 28, 31).
Some will reason that this command ceased to be in force after Christ's
crucifixion. Such reasoning is false! Jesus Christ did not come to nail God's
annual Holy Days to the cross (Matt. 5:17- 18).
The fact is that God's festivals have only begun to be fulfilled. These days
picture aspects of God's plan of salvation (Col. 2:16-17), and must be observed
by true Christians.
But what about the ritualistic [Sacrificial] laws that the Old Testament
commanded with festival observance? Are they to be kept, or have they been
The purpose of the physical rituals God gave to ancient Israel was to remind
the people of the need for the payment of their sins. The various sacrifices
pointed ahead to the sacrifice of One who would come later in history as Savior
of all mankind.
So the ritualistic laws were fulfilled by the events leading to and including
Christ's own sacrificial death. Therefore they need not be kept today, nor can
they be, as there is no Aaronic priesthood to perform these physical duties
(Heb. 9:8-10, 10:1-4,9-12).
The ritualistic [Sacrificial] laws are no longer performed, but their various
aspects still have symbolic meaning. For each festival, we seek to understand
all the festival's meanings, as revealed in the Bible, as they relate to
The Tabernacle and the priesthood
Before we proceed with a study of these rituals and symbols, it is necessary
for us to understand some things about the Tabernacle and the priesthood.
After making the covenant agreement with Israel, God told the nation to build
a Tabernacle, which is a physical type of God's habitation in heaven (Ex. 25-27,
30, Heb. 9:23-24). The Tabernacle consisted of an enclosed courtyard, containing
an altar for animal sacrifices and a tent.
The tent was divided into two sections by a veil. The section behind the veil
was called the "Most Holy" place or "Holiest of All." The other section was the
"holy place" (Ex. 26:33, Heb. 9:3). The most holy place represented God's
throne. Located here was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten
Commandments and other items (Deut. 10:2, 31:26, Ex. 16:33-34, Num. 17:1-10).
The lid of the Ark was called the mercy seat; this was where God manifested
Himself (Ex. 25:22).
The job of high priest was given to Aaron; his sons served as priests. As
time passed, other of his descendants held these positions. As priests, they
performed various animal sacrifices and ceremonies on behalf of Israel.
Rituals for Aaron
On the Day of Atonement, special animal sacrifices and ceremonies were
conducted. These are explained in Leviticus 16.
This was the only day when Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place.
Before doing this, he had to bathe and dress himself in his priestly garments
(Lev. 16:4). Then he had to offer on the altar a bullock as a sin offering for
Once this was completed, he took a censer, a vessel that held burning coals,
from the altar and entered the most holy place. He then took incense, an
aromatic compound, and placed it on the burning coals. Next he sprinkled blood
from the bullock on the mercy seat, which represented God's throne (verses
Why did Aaron do these things? What did they picture? Aaron had to first make
atonement for himself as a sinning human before God. The word atonement means
"to make at one with."
Washing himself pictured having his conscience changed to accept God's
standard of righteousness (Heb. 10:22). His linen coat symbolized living a
righteous life (Rev. 19:8). The incense pictured prayers ascending to God (Ps.
141:2, Rev. 5:8). The blood represented the way sins are forgiven (Heb. 9:13-14,
Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Jesus Christ, who is now our High
Priest (Heb. 3:1). By living a sinless life, Jesus qualified to offer Himself as
a sin sacrifice for all humanity through His crucifixion.
After Jesus' death, the veil in the Temple (the Temple had replaced the
Tabernacle) was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The torn veil
represented the fact that we are now allowed direct contact with God the Father
through prayer (Heb. 10:19-22, John 16:23).
This contact is something that those living before Christ's resurrection did
not have; their access was limited to the Word of God, the God of the Old
Testament who became Jesus Christ.
The two goats
Now that Aaron had completed sacrifices for himself, what happened next?
"The two goats he must place in front of the Eternal at the entrance to the
Trysting tent [Tabernacle]; Aaron shall cast lots over the goats, one lot for
the Eternal and the other for Azazel the demon; the goat that falls by lot to
the Eternal shall be brought forward and offered as a sin offering, but the goat
that falls by lot to Azazel shall be set free in presence of the Eternal, that
Aaron may perform expiatory rites over it and send it away for Azazel into the
desert" (Lev. 16:7-10, Moffatt).
Whom did this slain goat, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the
altar for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15- 19), represent? The answer is
Christ, who was slain and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins
(Heb. 9:12, 22- 26).
But Christ's death has not completed the job of making atonement for the sins
of humanity. Why? Because Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of
most people. Consequently, mankind rejects the true Gospel, which includes
accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and living a righteous life (II Cor.
4:3-4, Rev. 12:9).
So how will the job of atonement be completed? How will mankind be made at
one with God?
The answer is revealed through the symbolism of the live goat — the azazel,
Says The Comprehensive Commentary: "[According to] the oldest opinions of the
Hebrews and Christians... Azazel is the name of the Devil ... the word signified
the goat which went away." The azazel was the goat that was sent into the
This azazel is sometimes referred to as the "escape goat" or "scapegoat." But
these terms make the meaning unclear. Scapegoat has come to mean "one who bears
blame or guilt for others." This is not the case with Satan. He is guilty of
influencing mankind into disobeying God (Eph. 2:2). And he will be punished for
it — Satan will bear his own guilt! He will not be allowed to escape.
Satan to be bound
The live goat was brought before Aaron, who, as we have seen, is a type of
Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Aaron laid hands on this goat, confessing upon it
the people's sins. Then it was led by another individual into the wilderness
where it was released (Lev. 16:20-22).
How is this symbolism going to be fulfilled? Jesus is coming to this earth
again, this time to rule. He will order Satan bound and taken to a place of
restraint for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).
The world will then become free of Satan's influence and responsive to God's
way of life; men's sins will be laid to Satan's charge. The change will be
remarkable. Humanity as a whole will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and
live according to God's law (Isa. 11:9). Finally, there will be universal peace,
joy and happiness (Jer. 31:12-14).
What about fasting?
In addition to the symbolism of the sacrifices, there is another aspect of
this Festival that we must consider. Notice Leviticus 16:29: "This shall be a
statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month,
you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your
own country or a stranger who sojourns among you."
What does it mean "afflict your soul"? The word afflict (Hebrew anah) is
translated "humble" in Psalm 35:13, where David said, "I humbled myself with
fasting." So afflicting oneself means to fast.
Biblical examples show that fasting means to go without food and water (Deut.
9:9, 18, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:8-9). This is the only day when we are commanded to
fast. It is so important that in the New Testament we see this Festival referred
to as "the Fast" (Acts 27:9).
The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves, to see our insignificance and
realize our need for and utter dependence on God (Jas. 4:9-10). God does not
hold us guiltless for the sins that Satan influences us to commit. We bear a
responsibility for yielding to Satan's temptations.
God wants you to examine yourself so you will recognize your shortcomings and
overcome them. These are the conditions of a proper fast that will cause God to
intervene on your behalf. (For more information on fasting, write for our free
reprint article "But by Prayer and Fasting.")
Keep this Festival
The Day of Atonement, then, is a solemn, serious occasion, and yet, because
of what it pictures, this Festival is a tremendously positive and encouraging
Besides revealing vital understanding about God's plan of salvation, the Day
of Atonement can bring you much closer to God, if you obey God's command to
observe this day.
Don't deny yourself this relationship with God. Decide now to keep the Day of