Yom Kippur Part 2: The Observances of the Day of Atonement

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Editors Note: We hope you enjoyed yesterday’s devotion from Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts. If you didn’t get a chance to read Part 1, here it is. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is October 8-9. For Jews, it is a day of repentance to God often observed by 25 hours of fasting, going to synagogue and praying. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the year and it brings an end to the High Holy days for the year. 

According to Jewish tradition, the observance of Yom Kippur today consists of five services. They are (1) Kol Nidre (the evening service): confessional chant; (2) Shacharit (the early morning service): reading of Leviticus 16 in the temple; (3) Musaf (the second service): reading of the Day of Atonement; (4) Mincha (the afternoon service): reading of Jonah; (5) Ne’ila (the final service): closing or locking the books. I find it interesting that the book of Jonah is read, because Christ said that Jonah was a sign. We read in Luke 11:29-30:

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, ‘This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.’

The Prophetic Implications

The heavenly events during the tribulation as described in the book of Revelation give the impression that Christ is acting out Yom Kippur. From my research, I have become aware that Jews traditionally believe that the Messiah will come on the day of Yom Kippur to cleanse and reestablish Israel. Michael Cory, the founder of Voice of Judah International Ministries in Lawrenceville, Georgia, explained it well: “Yom Kippur is the holiest, most solemn day of the year in Israel. According to the Talmud, it is the last day to repent and be forgiven as the heavenly court makes its final judgment on this day and the books are closed.”

The Book of Revelation reveals that several things are going on in heaven while the Tribulation is occurring on earth. These events in heaven are described with images such as the golden censer and incense, and the robe dipped in blood. These images remind us of the procedures employed by the high priest in the performance of his duties in the Temple during Yom Kippur.

William Barclay discusses the details of the activities of the high priest during the Day of Atonement in his exposition of Hebrews 9:6-10 in his Daily Study Bible. In Barclay’s words: “The high priest took coals from the altar and put them in a censer; he took incense and put it in a special dish; and then he walked into the Holy of Holies to burn incense in the very presence of God. It was laid down that he must not stay too long ‘lest he put Israel in terror.’ The people literally watched with bated breath; and when he came out from the presence of God still alive, there went up a sigh of relief like a gust of wind.” Barclay did a good job of describing the emotions of the people at that moment. Their relief might have been not only for the priest when he emerged, but also for the forgiveness of their sins for yet another year.

When Jesus, their heavenly High Priest, comes down out of the heavenly temple, the people of Israel will display a different emotion. We read in Zechariah 12:10:

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

Instead of a temporary forgiveness, they will receive an eternal forgiveness!

Romans 11:26–27 promises:

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’

It is also important to note another contrast between the earthly high priest and Jesus, their heavenly High Priest. The blood on the robe of the earthly high priest was from the animal sacrifice that provided ceremonial cleansing, while the blood on the robe of the heavenly High Priest recorded in Revelation 19:13 is from His enemies when He comes to cleanse the land as the Messiah. In other words, instead of a mere ceremonial cleansing, Jesus as the High Priest and Messiah does an actual overt cleansing of the land. This is explained in Isaiah 63:1-4:

Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? ‘It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? ‘I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come.’

Therefore, looking at both Jewish tradition and the Scriptures, it appears that Jesus the High Priest and Messiah will come out of the heavenly temple to earth at Yom Kippur, His second coming, administering judgment to unbelievers still alive as well as salvation to those believers still alive at the end of the Tribulation.

The correlation between the first two fall feasts, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is startling. The feast days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, along with the seven days in between, are known collectively as “the Days of Awe.” In other words, two days of Rosh Hashanah plus seven additional Days of Awe, totaling nine days, makes the next day, the tenth day, Yom Kippur.

This paints a great picture of the future when we as believers will be in heaven with our High Priest, Jesus Christ, for seven years receiving our rewards.

Also another picture is seen in the custom of the Jewish wedding. When the groom brings his bride to the bridal chamber, which he prepared for her in his father’s house, they celebrate their union for seven days before the wedding feast. We, as His bride, will be with Christ, our bridegroom, for seven years at the place He has prepared for us at His Father’s house. After those seven years, we will return with our Lord at His second coming as He administers judgment to unbelievers on the earth and salvation to believing Israel, thereby fulfilling Yom Kippur just as the earthly high priest did! Interestingly, the Jews expect the Messiah will come at Yom Kippur to administer judgment or forgiveness.

And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. — Revelation 19:11-14

The judgment which Jesus brings to earth in fulfillment of Yom Kippur are explained in the next verse of the same chapter,

And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.’

As noted earlier in Zechariah 12:10, Jesus the Messiah will also bring salvation to believing Jews. Their eyes will be opened to the truth about Jesus, when He returns!

In the first chapter we saw that the Jews expect the Messiah to come at Passover to bring redemption. On the other hand, they talk about the Messiah coming and bringing judgment or forgiveness at Yom Kippur. Isn’t it amazing that in the observances of the feasts, the concept of both the first and second coming of the Messiah is embedded in their celebrations!

Excerpted with permission from Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts by Michael Norten, copyright Thomas Nelson.

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Your Turn

What have you learned for the first time about Yom Kippur and how does it impact your thoughts about salvation and the age to come? Come share with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you about the forgiveness Jesus freely gave us! ~ Devotionals Daily

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