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The Day of Atonement


"The Day of Atonement"

November 9, 2013


The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, as revealed in Leviticus 16, is the most solemn Old Testament ritual. It is deliberately placed in the heart of the book of Leviticus, which is itself at the center of the Five Books of Moses, in order to highlight this most “holy” character of this ritual, which in turn typifies the final atonement in the heavenly sanctuary.

The high point of Leviticus 16 is the Day of Atonement of cleansing both the tabernacle and the people. On both sides of this high point there are laws for the sanctuary, the priests and the people of Israel. In chapters 1-15 we learn of justification through the blood and the incense, with these elements typifying the death and righteousness of Jesus, both of which prepares and covers the believer in sanctification. In chapters 17-27 there are laws again for the sanctuary, the priests, and the people. Here we learn of holiness or sanctification of God’s people following the justifying and cleansing work of the high priest.

In the book of Daniel there is a similar structure. Dan 8:14 is the high point of the book. Leading up to this verse, chapter eight summarizes the first seven chapters which deal with healthful living (chapter 1); refusal of idol worship (chapter 3)’ justification by faith, by God, in the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar by His laying the king’s glory in the dust, then doing for him what he could not do for himself (chapter 4); the rejection of justification by faith (chapter 5); Daniel’s example of living by faith (chapter 6); and the great apostasy from the gospel predicted within Christianity during the “time, time and dividing of time” (chapter 7); with Dan 8:14 as the climax of symbolic expression. Interpretation begins in verse 17 and continues on in chapter 9.

In the typical ritual service throughout the year, all kinds of sins and impurities were transferred to the sanctuary. These were forgiven sins recorded on the horns of the altars. They were fingerprinted there as evidence of forgiveness (Lev 4:1-7). With the Day of Atonement the time came for the forgiven sin’s removal. There are three main parts to the Day of Atonement:
1. The purification offering of a bullock for the priesthood.
2. The sacrifice of the goat for cleansing all confessed sins placed in the sanctuary and the cleansing of the people.
3. The separation, removal, and elimination of those forgiven sins from the camp by means of the live goat, representing the demonic leader, Azazel.

The Day of Atonement brought cleansing to the three parts of the tabernacle into one – an    at-one-ment of the sanctuary itself. The High Priest first carried blood from the brazen altar located in the court into the Most Holy Place. He also used incense on fire of  the golden altar in the first apartment before entering the second apartment – the Most Holy Place. Both blood and incense were used in the Day of Atonement ritual (Lev 16:11-16). Blood foreshadowed the death of Christ; the incense signified His perfect righteousness. There was one blood, one incense, one priest for cleansing all three divisions of the sanctuary and also God’s people. It takes both Christ’s death and His life in order to cleanse His people from their sins. His death exhausted the penalty that was against us; His righteousness is both our fitness and our title to heaven.

After the priest finished his work of the final cleansing atonement with the blood of the bullock and that of the “Lord’s goat,” he brought a second goat to complete the plan of removal of sin from the camp to the wilderness. This goat had absolutely nothing to do with justification, sanctification, or cleansing. This goat is known as Azazel (often translated as “scapegoat”). Azazel “is an abstract noun meaning ‘destruction’ or ‘entire removal.’ ”1 2 

The wilderness was considered as “one of the usual abodes of demons.”3  Azazel’s goat is used to graphically depict what will happen to the devil after the close of human probation. As the priest placed the confessed, forgiven and blotted out sins of believers on the scapegoat in the type, so Jesus our High Priest, will take the blotted out sins of believers and placing them on Satan. This is because he is ultimately responsible for leading God’s people into sin. Notice the following insights from Mrs. White:

The sins of God’s people “had gone beforehand to judgment, and pardon had been written. Their sins had been borne away into the land of forgetfulness…”4

“I saw that Jesus' work in the sanctuary will soon be finished. And after His work there is finished, He will come to the door of the first apartment, and confess the sins of Israel upon the head of the Scape Goat [Satan]. Then He will put on the garments of vengeance. Then the plagues will come upon the wicked, and they do not come till Jesus puts on that garment, and takes His place upon the great white cloud. Then while the plagues are falling, the Scape Goat is being led away. He makes a mighty struggle to escape, but he is held fast by the hand that leads him. If he should effect his escape, Israel would lose their lives. I saw that it would take time to lead away the Scape Goat into the land of forgetfulness after the sins were put on his head.”5 

“I saw a flaming cloud come where Jesus stood and he laid off his priestly garment and put on his kingly robe, took his place on the cloud which carried him to the east where it first appeared to the saints on earth, a small black cloud, which was the sign of the Son of Man. While the cloud was passing from the Holiest to the east which took a number of days, the Synagogue of Satan worshiped at the saints feet.”6

Satan will be limited alone to planet earth which he will have turned into a chaotic wilderness – void and without form, with no one to tempt or to lead into sin. He will have a thousand years of contemplation for what he has done to God, to angels and to the human race. He will then realize that he was, is, and will forever be a complete failure (Jer. 4:23-26; Rev 20:1-3).

As Tuesday’s lesson points out: “The ritual with the live goat finds a parallel in the law of the malicious witness (Deut. 19:16–21).” If the accuser was found to be a malicious witness, he received the punishment he intended for the one he accused. So it will be with the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10; 20:10). He will reap the fearful and terrifying harvest of his own doing.

But there is good news for God’s people. Just as justification by blood was carried over into the Day of Atonement for cleansing in the typical service of the earthly sanctuary, so it is in the real service in the heavenly temple of the crucified, risen and ascended Mediator. Justification in the blood of Christ, believed, is the message of the heavenly sanctuary, which is the message of the everlasting gospel of the three angels (See Rom 5:9; Rev 14:6-12).

The message of the third angel unites with the first angel’s message concerning the hour of judgment (and final atonement) which began in 1844. The “loud cry” message of the  fourth angel (Rev 18:1) joins with the three angel’s messages of chapter 14, repeating the second angel’s message regarding the fall of Babylon (Rev 14:8; 18:2). Thus the messages of 1844 (Dan 8:14) and 1888 are inseparably joined in the cleansing of heaven’s sanctuary and of God’s people. These messages are of eternal importance and consequence. Have you accepted these messages? If not, will you do so now?
-Jerry Finneman
1. (e.g., BDB 736). (d) It is made up of the terms ‘ēz ‘ōzēl “goat that goes (away)”
2. Wright, D. P. (1992). Azazel. In (D. N. Freedman, Ed.)The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary.
3. Ibid.
4. Spirit of Prophecy, volume 1, p. 123.
5. Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 2.
6. Ellen G. Harmon, Letter Feb., 15, 1846, to a Bro. Jacobs (DS, March 14, 1846 par. 2).