Yom Kippur: It Is Finished

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is perhaps the holiest day in the Jewish year. The nation of Israel has all but shut down operations. And similar to Easter for non-religious people from Christian backgrounds, Yom Kippur has such strong traditional and cultural influence that even many non-observant Jews are attending synagogue and fasting today.

In ancient Israel, this was the day when two unblemished male goats were selected. Then by lot one was chosen as a burnt offering and the other (scapegoat) to have the peoples’ sins transferred on to it ritually and bear them away into the wilderness.

Regarding this day, God said,

For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins… And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest… shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary… for the tent of meeting… for the altar… 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 16:30-34)

This is the day the writer of Hebrews was talking about when he wrote,

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section [of the tent/temple], performing their ritual duties, but into the second [the most holy place] only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. (Hebrews 9:6-7, emphasis mine)

The mind-blowing message and scandal of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that Yom Kippur was part of the copy and shadow (Hebrews 8:5) of the entire temple system and that Jesus completely and perfectly fulfilled the Day of Atonement and every other requirement of the law for us (Romans 8:4).

Israel was looking for a Messiah who would deliver them from their enemies. He came. But many did not realize that the primary enemy the Messiah came to conquer in this age was sin, the thing that made man the enemy of God.

Yom Kippur was both provisional and a pointer. It was meant to be in place “forever” until the consummation:

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites [blood of sacrificed animals], but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:23-26)

Jesus turned out to be far more than the Messiah had been expected to be. He was the consummate temple, Passover lamb, sacrificed goat, scapegoat, high priest, prophet and the King of kings.

Here is the good news for Yom Kippur: Jesus the Messiah has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. The Day of Atonement: it is finished.