Summary: How Jesus fulfills the Day of Atonement
Recent studies indicate that as many as 1 family out of every five is impacted by some kind of permanent estrangement within the family, where one or more family members refuse to have anything to do with another family member. That whole idea is rather foreign to me since I’ve never experienced it personally, although I have certainly witnessed it in other families. But this morning the chances are that you have either experienced that personally in your family or you at least know someone who has.
That this kind of separation between family members could occur is heartbreaking and if you’ve been impacted by that kind of estrangement I just want to say that I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that. What makes these situations even more disheartening is that recent studies reveal that over half the people in these situations feel like there is no chance they could ever have a functional relationship again in the future.
There is another kind of estrangement and separation that all of us have experienced that is even more painful and certainly much more significant. It is our separation from God. At one point in our lives, every single one of us in this room was estranged from God because of what the Bible calls sin, our choice to rebel against God. And whether that rebellion was the aggressive, stick a finger in God’s face kind of rebellion or a more subtle kind in which we just refused to live according to God’s standards, our rebellion had the effect of developing a wide gulf between us and God.
And, as we see consistently in the Bible, we are incapable of doing anything to bridge that gap on our own. The feast that we’ll be studying this morning – the Day of Atonement, certainly reminds us of that fact. But that feast also reminds us of the good news that God has made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him based on what He has done on our behalf through Jesus.
Let’s quickly review where we’re at in our study of the Jewish feasts.
Those feasts were divided into two seasons. The four spring feasts, were fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming: [show chart]
• The Feast of Passover was fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrificial death
• The Feast of Unleavened Bread was fulfilled by His burial
• The Feast of Firstfruits was fulfilled by His resurrection
• The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) was fulfilled by the coming of the Holy Spirit
Then there is a four month break until the fall feast season – a gap which represents the “Church Age” in which we are now living. During this time God is bringing salvation to the Gentiles in order to make Israel jealous so that they can eventually be saved. [Show next chart]
God’s dealing with Israel resumes with the three fall feasts, which will be fulfilled by the second coming of Jesus in the same way that the spring feasts were fulfilled by His first coming. [Show next chart].
Last week, we looked at the first of the fall feasts – the Feast of Trumpets. We saw the connection between the blowing of the trumpet during that feast and the trumpets that will accompany the return of Jesus. We also learned that the Feast of Trumpets inaugurated a ten-day period known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. The Jews believe that during the Feast of Trumpets three books are opened – the book of life for the righteous, the book of death for the wicked and another book for those who are somewhere in between. Those books are then sealed ten days later on the Day of Atonement, the feast that we’ll study today. During the ten-day period between those feasts, the people have a chance to reflect on their lives and repent of their sins before their final destiny is determined.
Like we’ve seen with the other feasts, the instructions for the Day of Atonement are found in several different places in the Scriptures, but we don’t have time to look at all of them in detail this morning. Let’s begin in Leviticus 23, where we find the most concise description of the feast:
[Read Leviticus 23:26-32]
There is a more detailed description of the required food offering in Numbers 29:7-11, but since that really isn’t our focus, I’ll just encourage you to read that on your own.
Before we proceed any further this morning, it seems like it would be a good idea to define the word “atonement”. It is one of those religious terms that we use frequently, but perhaps without completely understanding its meaning. In Hebrew, the Day of Atonement is known as Yom Kippur, and the Hebrew word ‘kippur” which is usually translated into English as “atonement” comes from a Hebrew word which means “to cover”. There are two crucial aspects to the concept of atonement: