And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. (Leviticus 16:29-30)
For Jews, Yom Kippur is possibly the most important and holiest day of the year. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement.” It is the day when the High Priest of Israel made atonement for the sins of the nation with a blood sacrifice.
Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord. (Exodus 30:10)
To “atone” is literally to make two persons “at-one.” It is a state of complete reconciliation.
According to the Biblical Israelite calendar, the Day of Atonement came on the tenth day of the seventh month.
No other Feast in the Jewish calendar more clearly anticipates the future, complete atonement of Israel’s Messiah – the One the New Testament identifies as Jesus the Christ. No other Old Testament sacrifice so clearly points to the superiority and finality of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that in the eyes of God, there can be no atonement without the shedding of blood.
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:22)
In the Old Covenant, the High Priest had to make this sacrifice in a very specific way within the Holy of Holies of the Temple once a year on the Day of Atonement. There was no end to this ritual, because the blood of bulls and goats were not sufficient to cover the sins of the people beyond the prescription of the Law.
The writer of Hebrew confirms that after Jesus died and rose again, he ascended into heaven and:
…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 9:24-26)
Jesus became our High Priest and poured out his blood in the heavenly Holy of Holies once, for all time –and for all of mankind.
That is why after the Jews broke the Sinaitic Covenant and were expelled from the Promised Land – one of the curses that resulted from breaking that particular covenant (see Deuteronomy 28) – the prophet Jeremiah declared that “the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a ‘new covenant’ with the house of Israel…” (Jeremiah 31:31)
The Sinaitic Covenant was made between God and man, and sealed with the continuous sacrifice of animals – so when the Children of Israel sinned, the covenant was broken and they were expelled from the Promised Land.
The New Covenant is unbreakable because it was made between the Son of God and the Son of Man – Jesus representing both God and mankind – and it is sealed in the sinless, spotless blood of Christ. Because Jesus is fully God, He can represent the godhead in this covenant. Because Jesus is fully man, and yet without sin, he can represent mankind in this covenant. Because Jesus never sinned and never will sin, this New Covenant is an unbreakable agreement between God and man.
That is why Paul declared:
Therefore, if anyone is IN CHRIST, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)
IN HIM we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
So on Yom Kippur, all mankind can rejoice that Jesus Christ is our High Priest. He is our Sacrificial Lamb. He is the bridge between a holy God and sinful man that makes us AT ONE with our Heavenly Father.
Related article: A New Day – The Power of Rosh Hashanah
Dr. Craig von Buseck is Digital Editor of Inspiration.org.