Understanding Yom Kippur as a Christian

Observant Jewish people are busy preparing for Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, which begins at sundown today and lasts through tomorrow.

The day is described in Leviticus 23:27-28

“Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.”

The actions are delineated in Leviticus 16, which included the high priest bathing and putting on holy garments before entering the Holy Place with a sacrifice for sin: “And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.”

Got Questions explains, “Before entering the tabernacle, Aaron was to bathe and put on special garments (v. 4), then sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family (v. 6, 11). The blood of the bull was to be sprinkled on the ark of the covenant. Then Aaron was to bring two goats, one to be sacrificed “because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been” (v. 16), and its blood was sprinkled on the ark of the covenant. The other goat was used as a scapegoat. Aaron placed his hands on its head, confessed over it the rebellion and wickedness of the Israelites, and sent the goat out with an appointed man who released it into the wilderness (v. 21). The goat carried on itself all the sins of the people, which were forgiven for another year (v. 30).”

Obviously, as Christians we do not present animal sacrifices because we view Jesus as the sacrifice, once and for all, for sin as it explains in Hebrews 10, and because we did not have to become Jewish in order to be saved (see Acts 15…). Jesus is also our High Priest and mediator between us and God the Father.

1 John 2:2 calls Jesus the “propitiation” or “atoning sacrifice” for our sins and the sins of the “sins of the whole world.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 states, “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.”

But the day of atonement ritual is rich with details that point forward to the Messiah (and Christians believe that Messiah was Jesus) and the more we understand about it, the better we understand the Christian faith.

Got Questions continued:

“The sufficiency and completeness of the sacrifice of Christ is also seen in the two goats. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the ark, ritually appeasing the wrath of God for another year. The second goat removed the sins of the people into the wilderness where they were forgotten and no longer clung to the people. Sin is both propitiated and expiated God’s way—only by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Propitiation is the act of appeasing the wrath of God, while expiation is the act of atoning for sin and removing it from the sinner. Both together are achieved eternally by Christ. When He sacrificed Himself on the cross, He appeased God’s wrath against sin, taking that wrath upon Himself: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9).”

What wonderful news that Christ’s sacrifice offers us forgiveness for us sins permanently if we repent and believe in him!



One thought on “Understanding Yom Kippur as a Christian

  1. Pingback: The Word: Hebrews 10:1-18 | Steak and a Bible

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