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Meaning of the Day of Atonement
God’s feasts including the Sabbath and the seven feasts in three times, which are described in the Bible, are not just part of the Old Testament law, but they each have a great meaning for the salvation of mankind. God saves the people of Zion who keep the feasts, and calls those who made a covenant with Him by sacrifice (worship) at the feasts “My consecrated ones” (Isa 33:20–24; Ps 50:1–5). God also says that He will gather His children who make efforts to keep the feasts in the last days, too, and that He will give them praise and honor among all the peoples of the earth (Zep 3:14–20). According to God’s promises in the Bible, the people who cherish and observe God’s laws, decrees, and regulations, including His appointed feasts, will receive all blessing and glory. Now, let’s examine the meaning of the Day of Atonement among the feasts of God.
Origin of the Day of Atonement
The Day of Atonement, which falls on the tenth day of the seventh month in the sacred calendar, is one of the seven feasts in three times. In the Old Testament times, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place alone once a year on the Day of Atonement to atone for all the sins of the people.
Like the other seven feasts in three times, the Day of Atonement originated with the work of Moses. When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt and came to the desert, God called Moses up Mount Sinai to give the people His law that was necessary for them. Being called by God, Moses went up to the mountain, and after fasting for forty days he received the tablets of stone on which God Himself had written the Ten Commandments, and came down from the mountain.
However, the Israelites below the mountain thought that Moses must have died because he did not come down from the mountain until the forty days ended. As they thought they had lost their leader, they proposed to make a god who would lead them to Canaan, and they finally made a golden calf and worshiped the idol, eating, drinking, and dancing around it. When Moses came down from the mountain, he saw this terrible scene. This made him so angry that he threw down the stone tablets, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. That day, a civil war broke out and 3,000 people were killed by the sword. Then the Israelites deeply repented of their sin and took off all their ornaments, and Moses asked God to forgive the people of their sin (Ex 32:1–35).
As a result of their earnest repentance, God allowed Moses to come up Mount Sinai again to receive the second set of the Ten Commandments. The fact that the Israelites were given a new set of the Ten Commandments contains God’s merciful will to forgive their sin. Moses went up Mount Sinai again, and after fasting forty days he received the Ten Commandments for the second time, and the day he came down from the mountain was appointed as the Day of Atonement (Ex 34:1–35).
The principle of atonement revealed in the regulations for the Day of Atonement
In the Old Testament times, the sin offerings were presented to God—a bull for the priests and a male goat for the people. There was another male goat besides the one used for the sins of the people. The high priest took two goats and cast lots for them—one lot for God and the other for the scapegoat. After offering the former as a sin offering, the priest placed all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—on the head of the scapegoat and sent it away into a solitary place in the desert.
Lev 16:6–10, 20–22 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat . . . When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.”
The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus show the principle of the forgiveness of sins. In the Old Testament times, when the Israelites sinned, they brought an animal to the priest for sacrifice. Then the priest slaughtered the animal and put some of its blood on the horns of the altar in the sanctuary. When the priest made atonement for them, their sins were temporarily transferred to the sanctuary, and on the Day of Atonement all their sins were imputed to the scapegoat. Then the sanctuary was cleansed, and the scapegoat carried on itself all their sins to a solitary place in the desert, where the goat wandered around until it died, so that all the sins would vanish.
The sin offering in the regulations for the Day of Atonement represents Christ, and the scapegoat represents the devil. All the sins and transgressions we have com-mitted are temporarily transferred to Christ, represented by the sin offering and the sanctuary, and they are imputed to the devil—the progenitor of sin—on the Day of Atonement. The devil is kept in the Abyss, carrying on himself all our sins, and he will be cast into the eternal fire of hell to be destroyed in the end.
The realities of the sanctuary, the sin offering, and the scapegoat
We are sinners who stood against God and joined the morning star—son of the dawn—who tried to exalt himself above the throne of God, being tempted by him, knowingly or unknowingly. However, God Himself became the sanctuary and bestowed His atoning grace on us by dying for all our sins.
Jer 17:12–13 A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.
Our sins have been imputed to Satan the devil who is represented by the scape-goat, after being temporarily transferred to God who is represented by the sanctuary. Not only the sanctuary but also the sin offering represents Christ. Our sins committed in heaven could not be atoned with the blood of animals, but only with the precious blood of Christ.
Heb 10:1–4, 9–11 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves . . . But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins . . . Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The law is a shadow of the good things to come. The reality of the sin offering in the Old Testament was Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the role of a bull or a male goat—the sin offering for the Day of Atonement, by being sacrificed on the cross for our sins. He accomplished our atonement at once through His precious blood and passed all our sins and transgressions on to the devil. Thus, He opened the way for us to go back to the eternal kingdom of heaven.
Jn 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace . . .
Without His atoning sacrifice, there was no way for us to atone for the sins we committed in heaven. Through the sacrifice of God, our sins have been transferred to the devil and the glorious way for us to go back to heaven has been opened.
Just as the scapegoat died after wandering in the desert, Satan the devil who is represented by the scapegoat is to be destroyed forever after being kept in the Abyss.
Rev 20:1–10 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years . . . And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
We can see that God imputes all our sins and transgressions back to the devil and puts him to death after all, just as He drove the scapegoat out into the solitary place in the desert. This is the great meaning of the Day of Atonement we keep today.
Meaning of the sacrifice of the sin offering
Without the sacrifice of Heavenly Father and Mother, we cannot go to heaven; salvation is never achieved by money, honor, knowledge, or anything else. It is through the sacrifice of Father and Mother that we live in the hope of going back to heaven, having received the forgiveness of sins. We must keep this fact in mind all the time, so that none of us will fall away from Their grace. Let’s look at some verses that describe the holy sacrifice of Father and Mother.
Isa 53:1–8 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? . . . Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
God willingly chose to be whipped for the forgiveness of our sins and to be punished to bring us peace. At His second coming, too, He walked the path of suffering, always enlightening us and reminding us of the new covenant law to redeem us from sin. According to the Old Testament law, when the Israelites sinned, they were to present sin offerings, always distinguishing between male and female animals. When they committed sin in ordinary times, both male and female goats were used for sin offerings. This is a shadow showing that sometimes Father bears our sins and sometimes Mother bears them.
Lev 4:22–26 “ ‘When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the Lord his God, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect. He is to lay his hand on the goat’s head and slaughter it at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the L ord. It is a sin offering . . . In this way the priest will make atonement for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven.’ ”
Lev 4:27–35 “ ‘If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect. He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering . . . If he brings a lamb as his sin offering, he is to bring a female without defect. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it for a sin offering at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered . . . In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven.’ ”
Because of our sins and transgressions, Father suffered and Mother is still suffering in the flesh to protect us and to lead us on the path to heaven, fighting the great spiritual battle against Satan till the end. Who on earth can endure this painful life?
Nevertheless, if we do not repent but betray the great love and grace of Heavenly Father and Mother, we can never go to heaven. That is why God said first when He began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 4:17). From now on, we should live a life of repentance every day so that we can produce fruit in keeping with repentance, as the mature children of Father and Mother.
Let us produce fruit in keeping with repentance
In the New Testament, the Day of Atonement is the day when we confess all the sins and transgressions we committed in the past, including the ones we committed during the last one year, before God and repent of them. Sinners have the habit of trying to hide their sins, but we must not hide our sins. When we confess and repent of our sins, God answers our prayers and forgives our sins (Ps 32:3–5).
True repentance means not repeating sins again. We have been freed from sin through the sacrifice of Father and Mother. However, if we commit a sin again, there is no longer any method to atone for it or any further sacrifice for it. How can we expect salvation while causing Father and Mother pain by sinning again?
We sinned in heaven, and we must not commit the foolish act of sinning again here on earth. If we still live in sin without realizing why Father and Mother have been enduring all the suffering or knowing whether we cover God’s glory or display it, dragged away by our own evil desires, we ourselves must pay the price for our sins from now on. As for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted all the heavenly gifts, and who have shared in the Holy Spirit, if they sin again, they are the ones who crucify Christ all over again; there remains no more sacrifice to atone for their sins (Heb 6:4–6).
Being deeply determined not to become bad sons and daughters who crucify Father and Mother again, let us live holy and upright lives in faith as the people of the eternal heavenly kingdom. Heavenly Father and Mother have forgiven all our sins and transgressions and have led us to live a life of repentance. All of us, people of Zion, should always think about Their grace and give thanks and glory to Them.
I earnestly ask you all to think about how to participate in the great work of repentance and salvation that Father and Mother are accomplishing, instead of always grumbling like little children and only wanting to be loved, and to save all people around the world, as members of Christ’s body and as God’s beautiful sons and daughters, until the gospel is accomplished here on earth.