Capping off the ten Days of Awe…. It’s here!
Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement (“At-One-Ment”).
The day the whole Jewish calendar comes down to.
And what a picture of Messiah’s Second Coming!
Because this is the day the verdict is rendered.
There’s a Jewish tradition that the “book of life” and “book of death” are opened on Rosh Hashana and closed on Yom Kippur, thus sealing the “decree” for each person for the New Year. The Talmud teaches that “three books are opened in heaven on Rosh Ha-Shanah [NOTE: a.k.a. the Feast of Trumpets, ten days ago], one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed in the Book of Life, the thoroughly wicked in the Book of Death, while the fate of the intermediate is suspended until the Day of Atonement.” (RH 16b)
So in Jewish practice, it all comes down to Yom Kippur.
(Note: Scripture does mention books: Ex 32:32,33, Ps 69:28, Mal 3:16, Rev 3:5, Rev 13:8, Rev 20:12, 21:27. But this central rabbinic teaching isn’t given in the Bible in anything like this kind of detail.)
This was an easy(er) post to write. The most important things Christians should know about Yom Kippur are captured for us in the Book of Hebrews.
Behind the second [inner] veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail…. (Heb 9:2-5)
The priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance… (Heb 9:6-7)
So while priests would minister daily in the Temple, the Holy of Holies behind the inner veil (curtain), where the mercy seat stood, could not be entered except by the High Priest. And only once a year, on Yom Kippur.
What was the “mercy seat”? It certainly wasn’t something you sat on! (Umm… yes that was my mental picture. Sad but true!)
The only object in the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a rectangular “three in one” nested box—an outer box and an inner box, both made of gold. An acacia-wood box nestled between them. The Ark measured about 52” by 32”.
According to Hebrews, the three-in-one box contained three objects.
So the Law, righteous judgment and grace are represented. “Lovingkindness and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85:10)
The “mercy seat” (kapporet) was the Ark’s pure-gold cover. It featured an ornate design with two golden cherubim that stood about 35” tall.
According to the Talmud (Succah 5b), each cherub had the face of a child—one boy and one girl—and their wings spread heavenward as their eyes gazed upon the cover (Ex 25:20). This was the sacred place where the blood of purification was sprinkled during Yom Kippur…
– John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.com
God said the Mercy Seat was where He would meet with His people (Ex 25:22). But note that Yom Kippur is the only time during the year any person would see the mercy seat. The High Priest could approach it on that one day, but only when it was veiled with an incense cloud and sprinkled with sacrificial blood.
Here’s something I love to think about. The priests of Israel got such limited access to the mercy seat—only the High Priest, only once per year (“…he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat….” Lev 16:2). But we have a “better covenant… established on better promises” (Heb 8:6).
We have a sweeter deal!
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:14-16)
The “throne of grace” here is the heavenly version of the mercy seat! Yeshua, at His death, tore the veil which separates us from the Holy of Holies from top to bottom (Matt 27:51). Since that time, we have access to the real, heavenly version that no earthly priest of the Mosaic Law ever enjoyed.
Brothers and sisters, what an awesome privilege is that? Gosh, we should use that!!
Check out how the “throne of grace” will appear in the New Jerusalem:
There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev 22:3-5)
The “copy” in the temple got a sprinkling of blood once a year. The real deal in Heaven will let us get face to face with the Lamb Who Was Slain (Rev 5:6) on a continual basis.
…He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Heb 10:11-14)
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. (Romans 3:23-24) [NOTE: the word translated “propitiation” here is the same word used in Heb 9:5 for the mercy seat! Yeshua is our mercy seat!]
My efforts to create any kind of mental image of the Rev 22 throne room, of which the blood-sprinkled mercy seat is a “copy,” have utterly failed. But for sure it doesn’t look like:
When the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, he went alone. He set his ornate high priestly garments aside and wore only consecrated white linen garments (Lev 16:4), signifying both humility and purity.
On this day, he would purge defilement from the Temple and atone for (cover) his own and the people’s sins from the past year. The elaborate ritual takes all of Leviticus 16 to describe. It involved:
Hebrews also explains how the Yom Kippur rituals are a picture of Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 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. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:11-14)
“How much more will the blood of Christ… cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” I love that phrase, don’t you? What an amazing promise!
So in this picture or “shadow of the good things to come,” both the high priest and the perfect sacrifice are depictions of Yeshua. At His first coming, he played the role of the sacrifice. At His second coming, He will play the role of the Great High Priest.
For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (Heb 7:26-28)
Maybe you were wondering what the people do to observe Yom Kippur? Well, that’s simple.
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, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; 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. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute. (Lev 16:29-31)
The people are to:
They’ve spent the past Forty Days of Repentance preparing their souls. Now it’s up to the High Priest to accomplish their atonement (“At-one-ment”). Nothing further for them to do.
While the High Priest performed these functions, the people would fast in eager anticipation of the outcome of the rituals. After completing his tasks, the garments of the High Priest were covered with blood (Lev 6:27). Only after [he changed to clean white garments]… did the Lord accept the sacrifice (according to one midrash, as the High Priest hung out his garments, a miracle took place and his garments turned from bloodstained crimson to white; see Isaiah 1:18)
– John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.com
So picture yourself praying in the Temple courtyard. The High Priest emerges from the Temple with the blood sacrifice completed, atonement made, and his garments a shimmering white to prove it!
Jewish sages teach that Tishri 10, the date of Yom Kippur, was also the date Moses descended from Mount Sinai the last time. He came down with a glowing face and new tablets, confirming that God had granted atonement for Israel’s horrific sin with the Golden Calf. (2 Cor 3:13, Ex 34:28-30)
What a picture of the Second Coming! Our Great High Priest will descend to earth from the true Holy of Holies (Heb 4:14), with blood atonement for sin accomplished once and for all. His garments will be bloodstained for a time, but they will not stay that way (Is 63:1-4, Rev 19:13)! He’ll be both High Priest and King, since He’s a priest after the order of Melchizedek, who was King of Peace and King of Righteousness (Heb 6:20-7:2). His bride will come with Him, clothed in fine linen and mounted on white horses (Rev 19:8, 14), to join Him in their new home.
How exciting is that!
Just as Moses alone approached God in the thick clouds at Sinai to receive the revelation of the Altar as mediator of the older Covenant (Ex 24:15), [NOTE: and as the earthly High Priest ministered alone in a cloud of incense], so Yeshua, the mediator of the New Covenant, went through His severest agony on the cross as the darkness covered the earth. (Luke 23:44, Matt 27:45)
– John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.com
Based on Messianic prophecies, Jewish sages have long taught there would be two Messiahs:
We know this is close to the truth! There is only one Messiah but He appears twice.
Our Savior has two roles in the Yom Kippur drama:
At His first coming many Jewish individuals accepted Yeshua of Nazareth as their Messiah, but the nation as a whole rejected Him.
Why?? There was tremendous Messianic expectation (Luke 1:65-66).
This is a critical truth to take in. In Jesus’ day, they were looking for the Lion of Judah, who would defeat the Romans and give them their kingdom back. Instead, they got the Suffering Servant—and they rejected the perfect Lamb of God.
Today, people are looking for the Lamb. We’ve worked hard to spread the Good News that God is love—and He is! But many people picture Jesus only as Messiah Ben Joseph, the gentle and meek Lamb who preached “judge not.”
I shudder to imagine their dismay when they get the Lion—jealous for His righteousness (1 Cor 11:2)—instead.
“And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire…” (Mal 3:1-2)
I spoke early on about the rabbinic teaching about the three books. Of course, as believers in Yeshua we know that righteousness before God is attained only through faith in Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice, resulting in our names being recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Praise the Lord, this one trumps the others! (Rev 13:8, 20:12, 21:27)
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 Cor 5:21)
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Heb 9:27-28)
But can you see this teaching on the books as a picture of the Rapture? Those who’ve been made “thoroughly righteous” by the Blood of the Lamb receive their decree “in the twinkling of an eye” at the Rapture (symbolized by the Feast of Trumpets, I believe), and are caught up.
The rest must remain through the Tribulation period. They’ll get deferred judgment when our Lord returns as the “refiner’s fire,” the Great High Priest, the Warrior King, and the Righteous Judge at the end of the Great Tribulation (Yom Kippur).
Which book holds your name?
Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”… (2 Cor 6:2)
Brothers and sisters, I urge you to ensure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. BEFORE the “sudden” Day of His Coming, when the final verdict will be rendered.
Would you rather have the Lamb or the Lion as your Judge?
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.