Sunday, 9/23 ~ Day of Atonement

From the Preacher’s Pen…

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Jewish Day of Atonement. Now that the earthly version of that remembrance day is actually in progress, let’s recall a bit about it so we might better appreciate it’s fulfillment in Christ.

The Day of Atonement

Chapter 23 of Leviticus sums up God’s plan for the seven annual feasts to the Lord. It is well worth reading and keeping in mind as you continue to the New Testament. Both the apostle Paul and the author of the book of Hebrews remind us that these things in the Old Law are but shadows of the reality, the better things in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1).

In each of these feasts sacrifice was both the major feature and the common link. (1) Passover, (2) Unleavened Bread (also the over-all name for the three celebrations) and the (3) First Fruits were Springtime feasts. Technically the First Fruits falls within the Unleavened Bread which itself is the extension of Passover while Unleavened Bread is the unique focus of this time. Together these form one of the three “feasts” for all God’s people to come together (Exodus 23:14-17).

This first feast is a reminder of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of His people from bondage (even at the terrible cost of the death of a lamb that substituted for the deaths that the Egyptians faced) and the hardships they endured. Yet it couples with the “First Fruits” (of barley harvest) that were a reminder of the joys of salvation even though they were just beginning that journey to the Promised Land. With the New Testament, we see the deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of sin (again with the terrible cost of, this time, the firstborn of God as the “lamb”) and the beginning of our journey to the eternal Promised Land.

On Sunday, fifty days after the final Sabbath day of that “first feast” was the second feast, the Day of Pentecost or the Feast of Ingathering. This marked the first fruits of summer wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22) and, in the desert, it celebrated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  The New Testament day marked the beginning of the Lord’s church as the time the “Law of Christ” came into effect, the “Last Days” of God’s plan of Salvation for all mankind.

In the Fall of the year, there was a third feast that began with the blowing of trumpets to signal the end of harvest time. It was time to gather God’s people together. Paul reminds us that one day the “last trumpet” will sound to mark the end of our harvest time of souls and the great final gathering together of judgment (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The joy of the end of harvest is tempered with the following Day of Atonement. On this day all God’s people were to humble themselves before the Lord (cf. Leviticus 23:26-32) and confess their sins. Failure to observe this day brought the ultimate penalty of being cut off from among God’s people. Atonement for sin was accomplished by sacrifice for sin and without purification by blood, there was no forgiveness, no hope (cf. Hebrews 9:22).

Our atonement, of course, comes through the gift of the perfect lamb of God. John describes our continued “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) as keeping us cleansed from sin. There is no further need for a sacrifice since this is the ultimate (Hebrews 10:18). In the Judgement Day, of course, there will also be a day of reckoning when those unworthy, those who have failed to humble themselves by obedience to the Lord, will pay the ultimate penalty of being eternally cut off from God and His people.

Following the atonement, there was one more reminder for God’s people. This involved seven days of living in tabernacles (tents or “booths”) to worship God. It both reminded them of God’s deliverance from Egypt and, above all else, that God was with them then and always.

The New Testament reminds us of the ultimate fulfillment. God has prepared an eternal “tabernacle” that God’s people will be welcomed into to live forever with Him: 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 (Hebrews 9:11). And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Revelation 21:3).

Our Day of Atonement has come with the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, His resurrection and His church, His body. Have you celebrated? Have you humbled yourself by obedience to Him? Are you prepared for that final Day of the Lord?

Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

— Lester P. Bagley

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