Appointed Times — Yom Kippur
Are You Written in the Lamb's Book of Life?
Yom Kippur marks the most solemn of God's Appointed Times. It takes place on the tenth day of the seventh month, ten days after the new year (Rosh HaShanah), which usually falls in September/October. Rosh HaShanah is the day when the gates of heaven and the Book of Life are symbolically opened. The righteous are inscribed in the Book of Life for another year of life and health, while the wicked are written out a punishment. The judgement continues until Yom Kippur—the last chance to repent and change your ways. On the evening of this day, the gates of heaven and the book of life are closed. The verdict has been determined for each person for another year.
Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement. When the tabernacle and the temple were still standing, this was the day on which the uncleanness of the community was atoned for through a specific process, ordained by God: "This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work... for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD" (Leviticus 16:29-30). The high priest would make sacrifices to atone for the impurity of himself, the people, and for the tabernacle.
On this day, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of an animal sacrificed outside the camp upon the mercy seat, the place where God's presence rested. This is the only time he was allowed in this place, thus also giving this day the name "Face to Face."
"When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat" (Leviticus 16:20). The high priest would then lay his hands on the goat and confess the iniquities of the people over it. The goat, carrying the sins of the people, would be sent out into the wilderness: "The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness" (Leviticus 16:22). This innocent animal took upon itself the sin of the entire nation of Israel on this day.
After the destruction of the temple, these activities had to be temporarily suspended. While personal repentance and soul-searching were certainly present and necessary actions on Yom Kippur while the sacrificial system was in action, today it is the prescribed activity for this day. The practice of humbling oneself through fasting from food and drink finds its basis in Leviticus 23:32: "It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves."
God desired that His people would use this day to cleanse themselves by humbly entering His presence. He wanted them to not only go through the motions of humility by fasting and mourning, but to prove their change of heart through repentance: "Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6).
In all of God's Appointed Times, we see shadows and reflections of the Messiah. For our own redemption, Yeshua, the sinless high priest (1 Peter 1:18-19, Hebrews 7:25-26), entered the Holy of Holies in heaven with His own blood, bringing us atonement: "And not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12). Yeshua Himself was sacrificed outside of the camp (Leviticus 16:27, Hebrews 13:11-13). And like the live goat which carried the nation's impurity, so too Yeshua bore our sins and the sins of the entire world on the cross and carried the weight of our iniquities to the grave: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It is important to note that the Day of Atonement comes at the end of the Season of Repentance. It is only after we have repented of our sinful practices that we can truly receive atonement and purification from those old ways. "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21). This is a time for us to pause and reflect on preparing for the Final Judgement. "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And there were open books, and one of them was the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their deeds, as recorded in the books" (Revelation 20:12). While we receive our salvation through Yeshua, we see that we will be judged for the things that we do during our life: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds." (Revelation 20:13).
This Yom Kippur, let's remember the atoning work done on our behalf by Yeshua and make sure we are preparing ourselves for His return: "So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you" (Revelation 3:3).
Ways to Keep the Holy Day
- This is a day of solemn prayer and repentance (1 John 1:8-10), yet we hold our confidence in Yeshua's atoning work.
- Those who are physically capable are invited to participate in the 24 hour fast from food and drink.
- The book of Jonah is traditionally read on Yom Kippur since the themes contained in this book are repentance and God's abundant mercy.
- This is traditionally the day when God gave Moses the second copy of the Ten Commandments and forgave the people of Israel for the sin of worshipping the golden calf.
- At the end of the day, there is a "Closing of the Gates" service that coincides with the symbolic closing of the gates of Heaven. Immediately afterwards, a joyful meal is prepared to break the fast, and preparation for the next festival, Sukkot, is started.