Day of Atonement – Lev 23:26-32

After the Feast of Trumpets, there are the ten days of awe, and on the tenth day, Yom Kippur. The Feast of Trumpets signifies the return of Christ and the marriage of the Lamb. The Day of Atonement signifies the judgment of the Lamb. When we go back to Exodus, we find that there are parallels to all of these feasts in the narrative. With the Day of Atonement, we are left going to Exodus 32. Moses has been up on the mount for forty days. What was at first his disappearing for a few hours turned into overnight, which then turned into a few days. By the time a week had passed, I’m sure that many of the Israelites began to get worried. One week turned into two. Two weeks turned into three. Three weeks turned into five. We’re almost at six weeks that Moses has not come down from the mountain. He doesn’t have food, and he doesn’t have water. There is fire burning on the top of the mountain, and maybe that fire has just burned him with the mountain. Maybe our God is a consuming fire, and Moses was consumed too literally.

So, the people go to Aaron the priest asking him to make them an image of cast gold. They seek for an idol at the base of the mountain. Is this not bizarre? They can look up on the mountain and see that God is still more than a mere idol, and yet they ask Aaron to cast for them an image. Aaron does so. He makes a golden calf, and then he tells the Israelites, “Here are thy gods!” Moses comes back down the mountain, and Joshua is standing at the foot waiting for him. Now, if Moses has been gone for forty days, and Joshua has been standing there waiting, how long has Joshua gone without food and water? Is it possible that not only Moses is fasting, but that even Joshua is fasting? They hear the sound of singing. When they come around the corner, Israel is partying before a golden calf – some of them even dancing naked.

What do you think that Moses is feeling? What kind of anger do you think burns within him at this moment? After Israel has just vowed to the Lord as His bride, she is now dancing around a golden calf naked…

Moses commands that the calf be ground to powder, and he forces the Israelites to drink their sin (Exodus 32:20). In verse 26, Moses calls out, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” The Levites rally to him. Then, he says to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.” The Levites did it. And it was after they had killed 3000 people that the word comes, “This day you have been consecrated unto the Lord.” God blessed them on that day.

There is consecration here. We’ve already examined the Day of Atonement and what it is all about. Instead of repeating the same information, I want to turn and show how this day shall be fulfilled in the future. Just like in Exodus 32 we saw both condemnation and consecration, the Jewish people look at the Day of Atonement as the day that they stand before the judgment of God. He is looking at your past year and deciding whether to bless you or curse in this coming year. In one sense, it doesn’t go beyond the blessing or curse for the year. In another sense, the question is whether your name will be found in the book of Life or if it will be blotted out.

In Hebrews 9:24-28, we find a past, present, and future tense of Jesus’ work in atonement. In verse 24, we read that Messiah “appears in the presence of God on our behalf” (now). Verse 26 tells us that Jesus “appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (past). In the future, Christ “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” We find the judgment of Christ when He returns, for Matthew 25 speaks of a separating the sheep from the goats. We also see that the ‘tares’ will be thrown “into the furnace of fire,” and the “righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:38, 42-43).

Yet, we also find another way of viewing this. Just like the Israelites had committed sin right in the presence of God, we find in Revelation 20 that there will be an innumerable number that will come against the Holy City to wage war against God and His people. What compulsion hexes them to do such a thing? We find the one to lead the charge is Satan himself. And, the punishment is that fire comes down out of heaven upon the armies. “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.” It is the very next scene that displays the Great White Throne.

This is the eschatological Day of Atonement. We find great comfort in Christ being our sacrificial lamb, and our scapegoat, but just like the Jewish people spend ten days in soul searching before they come before the Lord to be judged, so too do we find that the whole of the world is given every opportunity to come unto Christ. Somehow there are people who are in the world while Jesus is ruling as King, and they will have the gumption to actually attack the place of His dwelling. What can be left but judgment?

The Day of Atonement is about atonement, but it is also about sealing. It is about sealing the fate of every person. We are promised in places like Ephesians 1:13 that we have received the seal of the Holy Spirit. In Revelations, there are two seals. One is the seal of God upon the 144,000, and the other is called “the mark of the beast”. They contrast one another, because you will either be given over entirely to wickedness or entirely to righteousness. For they who are married to the Lamb, they will inherit righteousness forever. For the others, those nations that are not cast into the fire at Jesus coming (see Daniel 7:12, Isaiah 66:18, etc), they now stand before the Great White Throne awaiting their fate. Shall the men and women who were not found worthy of ruling with Christ (Revelations 20:5-6) make it into the New Heaven and New Earth? Will the nations who have not come to battle against the Lord at the end find their inheritance in the next age (see Revelations 21:24 where it speaks of nations and kings still existing after the Judgment Seat)?

Yom Kippur is about judgment. It is about the Lord judging between man and man, nation and nation, and all who are not written in the Lamb’s book of life shall be cast forever into the lake of fire. This is difficult to explain, namely because it seems like it is by grace and grace alone that we are saved. Who would argue against that? And yet, how would people not know whether they will enter into eternal righteousness or not? Why does it say both that the dead are judged based upon their works (20:12), and also upon grace (20:15)? Doesn’t it make sense that it would be one or the other? Yet, even James expresses this paradox: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead… You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”

So, our timeline of how these feasts play out in history shows us that the Passover was Christ’s crucifixion, the First Fruits his resurrection, Shavuot being Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets being Christ’s return, and the Day of Atonement being Jesus’ judgment. All that is left is the New Heaven and New Earth, which we will discuss next time with the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot.


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