What’s Jesus got to do with it?
Can you imagine walking into church one day, knowing that everyone in attendance has been fasting since 6:00 p.m. the night before, all with united purpose? Add to that scenario everyone in attendance having spent the past ten days in introspection, and making amends in their relationships? Wow, Right? Let’s not stop there. The visual impact of most everyone dressed in white as a reminder of the clean slate of Divine forgiveness. Does the idea of that make you long for such a day? I know I do.
In our modern church experience, the thought of such a thing is inconceivable. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to get the prayer team on the same page, much less the entire congregation. Now, expand that vision to encompass the entirety of Christendom. I know, you’re saying “That will never happen!” But that is exactly what practicing Jews do every year, on the 10th of Tishri, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.
Is it any wonder this Day is not only the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, but back in Biblical times it was often referred to as The Day, or The Fast. This Day is so highly attended that some at synagogues you have to get a ticket to reserve your seat.
It is days like Yom Kippur, Passover and Pentecost that make me wonder wonder why Christians don’t still observe the Hebraic feasts. My beloved mentor, Rebekka, is a Messianic Jew. Over time her influence fanned the flame of my interest in our Hebraic roots. What started as a spark of interest turned into a fire that has since engulfed my life.
I wanted to know, WHY there wasn’t more interest among Christian believers? What I found out infuriated me. Maybe, it’s having the, challenge everything, Norma Rae, mentality ingrained in me during my 1970’s teen years. Come on, Fiddler on the Roof came out in 1971, I was twelve years old. We were all singing “Tradition!” It was impossible not to be moved by Topol’s Tevye. But my interest wasn’t confined to movies. I truly wanted to know why, there was such a difference between what I was reading in the Scriptures and what I experienced in church. I didn’t like the answers I got from church leaders. So, I embarked on my own quest for knowledge.
I found out that the mindset was built on tradition dating back to Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicea, AD 325. That’s right a pagan Roman emperor manipulating the Christian faith took advantage of the sheer numbers of believers residing in his realm in an effort to unify his subjects. The results were catastrophic. But it was packaged in such a way that it was embraced and celebrated. And has been ever since.
Over a series of these convened Councils anything related to Judaism (what remained of our Hebraic heritage) was outlawed, at point of death. Jews were forced to convert. Christians (at the time a Messianic sect of Judaism) were not allowed to observe anything that might be deemed as Jewish in nature. The Christian faith was altered and adapted to conform to the pagan religion at the heart of Constantine’s motives. Christmas and Easter, both pagan observances became replacements for the Divine honoring celebrations of the Sabbath, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.
Talk about antisemitic. Hitler had nothing on this guy. Yet, Christianity not only heralds his praise for making Christianity the state religion, they still adhere to his mandates with vigor. Christianity began as a Hebraic religion. So why aren’t we observing it as such?
Our first century counterparts did. What’s great today, is that seeking our Hebraic roots has gotten more attention from Christians in the past decade than it has since Constantine outlawed it. So, here’s a question: If we had not gotten cut off from our roots what would that look like? The world may never know. HOWEVER, We live in an era of restoration. We are getting restored to our Hebraic roots, one taproot at a time.
Today’s believers in Yeshua, are no longer conforming to the traditions that have been embedded in the church just because they went unquestioned for centuries. We are a new generation seeking the scriptures for ourselves. We are deciding on our own how we want to celebrate our relationship with Christ. For some, that means getting a fresh revelation of our Hebraic roots. Many these days are enjoying a Messianic centered Passover Seder. Others feeling led to observe Tabernacles, are even setting up tents and temporary arbor like structures for the week-long celebration. Some are even studying the Old Testament in the original Hebrew.
This isn’t about taking on Rabbinic Jewish Tradition. It’s about being restored to our Hebraic roots. We are exerting our right to express our Christian beliefs in a way that suits us. This is resulting in a mass returning to a Biblical based understanding, rather than an adherence to traditional perspectives that aren’t even founded on the scriptures.
(note: Wicliffe 1330-1384, was an English theologian, philosopher, church reformer, and promoter of the first complete translation of the Bible into English. The religious system hated his efforts so much that even 44 years after he died they dug up his remains and burned his bones alongside his writings, and scattered his ashes in the nearby river.)
While many are making the great return (Teshuva) to our Hebraic roots, the Day of Atonement doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention. We seem to like Passover because it’s fun to gather around a festive dinner and talk about how Jesus became our Passover Lamb. (1 Cor. 5:7) We like eating alfresco with friends and family in makeshift sukkahs. (Sukkot/Tabernacles) But Yom Kippur. What’s a Christian to do? We’ve got Easter for that. Don’t we? Isn’t it ALL about the death, burial and resurrection? Yes, and no. There’s more to what Christ did for us than His death on the cross. But most of us have been taught that we shouldn’t even consider looking into the Old Testament because we’ve been set free from the Law. It doesn’t pertain to us. Or does it? If so, how? If Jesus fulfilled the Law, why do we even need to know about it?
I Want to Know, Don’t You
The short answer is that we’ve been taught that we don’t need to know. Scripture, on the other hand, teaches us that we do need to know. If I have a basic understanding of the original Atonement and how it was observed, I gain a deeper understanding of what Christ did on my behalf. Having a greater comprehension of the Atonement anchors my faith and secures my confidence in Christ. It isn’t just about head knowledge. The more I know about what Christ did for me, the less the enemy can use my ignorance against me. Knowing that Christ atoned once and for all for the sin of mankind means I always have access to God. Knowing that Christ is our Great High Priest, is one thing. Learning what the High Priest did on the Day of Atonement gives greater dimension to my faith and richer understanding of redemption. So, let’s take a look at the Day of Atonement. Scripture lovers are going to enjoy this next bit. We’ll wade through some scriptures and discover together what the big deal is.
First of all, the Jews didn’t establish the Day of Atonement. God did. Yes, from a logistic perspective, it contributed to consistency and continuity ensuring that both the sanctuary and people were regularly purified and restored to their holy condition. Since God would visit His people when the place of worship, the priests, and the people were ceremonially pure, it stands to reason that the cleansing and atoning ritual would be the most crucial day of the year. If we want God in our midst, we need to understand what it means to live in proximity to God. The Hebrew people learned this through the instructions given to Moses pertaining to the Tabernacle. The annual Feasts were apart of those instructions. In fact, the word Torah, often translated as Law, actually means instructions or teachings. In the Torah (Pentateuch), written by Moses as dictated to him by God on Sinai, we learn God’s thoughts about The Day of Atonement.
Cleansed From Sin
To atone means to cleanse from sin or the defilement of sin, most often by sacrifice. Atonement is reparation, for a wrong or injury. Reparation is to make amends for a wrong one has done, a repairing. In Christian terms, it refers to the reconciliation of God and humankind through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled the requirement of the Law, once and for all. In order to understand the significance, it helps to understand what the requirement of the Law was. For that we will need a peek behind the veil.
Some Scripture Diving
To gain understanding we need to look at the early days of the Tabernacle, (circa Moses 2449 ~ 1313 BCE). There were very specific instructions spelled out by God in connection with the Day of Atonement (see: Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11) On this one and only day of the year, the High Priest was to go into the sanctuary, pass through the Holy Place and go beyond the veil, into the Holy of holies. There he would apply blood from the sacrifice of a bull and of a goat to the mercy seat. The mercy seat was the golden cover for the ark of the covenant. God would hover over the mercy seat, between the cherubim.
This annual ritual was done as a means of making atonement (forgiveness of sin and spiritual purification) for the High Priest himself, his household (the Priesthood), the sanctuary (Mishkan), the altar, where sacrifices were made and the nation of Israel, the people of God. This act of making atonement ensured the purity/righteousness necessary for being in proximity to God. Read Leviticus 16 to get the full picture. After a special ritual bath and changing into special garments worn only on this day, the High Priest, goes into the Holy Place with incense to burn on the Altar of Incense and blood, first from a bull and then from a goat to apply to the Mercy Seat.
Leviticus 16:14-15 ~ And he is to take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the east side of the mercy seat; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the mercy seat. Aaron shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and bring its blood behind the veil, and with its blood he must do as he did with the bull’s blood: He is to sprinkle it against the mercy seat and in front of it.
There are two goats required on Yom Kippur. The first is used as an offering, as we saw above. The second, known as the scapegoat, is used in a much different way. Very much alive he is used to carry away the sins of the people.
Leviticus 16:20-22 ~ When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, he is to bring forward the live goat. Then he is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and rebellious acts of the Israelites in regard to all their sins. He is to put them on the goat’s head and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their iniquities into a solitary place, and the man will release it into the wilderness.
The apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
The apostle Paul wrote about the blood sacrifice of Jesus to the Romans. (3:21-26 AMP)
But now the righteousness of God has been clearly revealed [independently and completely] apart from the Law, though it is [actually] confirmed by the Law and the [words and writings of the] Prophets. This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction, since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, and are being justified [declared free of the guilt of sin, made acceptable to God, and granted eternal life] as a gift by His [precious, undeserved] grace, through the redemption [the payment for our sin] which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly [before the eyes of the world] as a [life-giving] sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation (propitiation) by His blood [to be received] through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness [which demands punishment for sin], because in His forbearance [His deliberate restraint] He passed over the sins previously committed [before Jesus’ crucifixion]. It was to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus [and rely confidently on Him as Savior].
The author of Hebrews, speaking of Jesus taking away our sin wrote:
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.
What did Jesus do that relates specifically to the Day of Atonement? The book of Hebrews answers our questions concerning Jesus as our High Priest. If you haven’t read it yet, now is a great time to do that.
Hebrews 9: 11-15
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? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Hebrews 9:23-28 continues
Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made by hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is destined for people 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.
Something I find especially helpful when I’m reading through the Torah, is to also read from the epistles. The apostles were like the first crossover version. They had the foundation of the Old and the revelation of the New. Their insights are extremely valuable on these matters. If you are like me, I often didn’t understand what they meant by what they said. It wasn’t until I started reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, that the pieces started coming together. When I read the accounts in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, what Paul wrote about in his letters made more sense. I felt I had a better understanding of the New Testament. The apostle Paul mentions the New Covenant throughout his letters. Here’s an excerpt from one of his letters to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 3:7–18
Now if the ministry of death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at the face of Moses because of its fleeting glory, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry of righteousness! Indeed, what was once glorious has no glory now in comparison to the glory that surpasses it. For if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which endures! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were closed. For to this day the same veil remains at the reading of the old covenant. It has not been lifted, because only in Christ can it be removed. And even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Think about the passion of Paul! When former Pharisee, Rabbi Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) was dynamically encountered on the road to Damascus, his traditional mindsets were confronted and altered significantly. The revelatory experience turned his world upside down. Maybe it would be more accurate to say, right side up. Saul was trained by the foremost authority in Jewish Law and Tradition, Rabban Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin. Paul had a superior education in matters pertaining to Torah and Oral Tradition. For Paul, the revelation of Jesus Christ as Savior, the atonement for sin, and the gift of grace through faith came out of his in-depth understanding of the Scriptures, the Old Testament – Torah. Not only in book knowledge but living out the life of a Jew during the Second Temple era, Paul would have observed the Day of Atonement. Like the rest of the apostles, it would have been ingrained in him from infancy. Many believe that Paul was the author of Hebrews.
In Chapter 7 the author of Hebrews begins his lengthy discussion on the priesthood of Christ. It culminates in Hebrews 10. He connects the finished work of Christ with Torah requirements in a straightforward way. Hebrews is my favorite book of the Bible. Chapter 10 is my favorite chapter. Verses 19-25 are my favorite passage.
Hebrews 10:1-4 compares Christ’s sacrifice with the annual offering made on the Day of Atonement.
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Hebrews 10:11-18 continues
Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but 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. And the holy spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “this is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord I will put my laws upon their heart, and on their mind, I will write them,” he then says, “and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Here’s the big thing, the Day of Atonement is the central focus not just for the Jews but for us as Christians. Everything we believe about Christ comes down to the Atonement. It’s really pretty simple. Jesus is our Atonement. He gave Himself as the offering. He applied His own blood to the mercy seat on our behalf. He doesn’t have to do it over and over again. It was done ONCE AND FOR ALL!! Isn’t that great! We can have confidence with God. We don’t have to worry about our standing with God. We don’t have to wonder if we are righteous enough. The blood of Jesus makes us righteous. Sin is never going to be the issue, ever again. Jesus took it out of the way.
Wednesday, October 5, 2022 is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to celebrate what Jesus did on our behalf. Maybe one day, Christian assemblies around the world will recognize Yom Kippur as central to our faith. Maybe we assemble together united in our faith to celebrate the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Let’s come up with some creative ways to celebrate! The work is done! JESUS DID IT ALL!!! Once and for all! Isn’t that fantastic!
I think a party is in order. Who knows, it just might kickstart an evangelistic explosion.
For this reason I bend my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.
Now you know – How you choose to celebrate is up to you!
Let us know how you choose to celebrate!