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Church of God Message 

GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION FOR MANKIND


Chapter 5


DAY OF ATONEMENT


After nations of the world are subdued by Jesus Christ, then the next step in God’s Master Plan for salvation of mankind is for peoples of the earth to become “at one” with God. Our sins have cut us off from God as says Isaiah. 59:1-2: “1 Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” 

God has a very specific plan, symbolized in the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur as the Jews call it, for redeeming mankind to Himself.    

God’s specific instructions for keeping the Day of Atonement are stated in Leviticus 23:27-28: "Also the tenth day of this seventh month [of God’s sacred calendar] shall be the Day of Atonement," God says. "It shall be a holy convocation [or Church assembly] for you; you shall afflict your souls...And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God."  

How do we "afflict our souls" on this day? Afflict comes from the Hebrew word anah, which means "to be afflicted, be bowed down, be humbled, be meek" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, "To Be Humbled, Afflicted").  The same word is used in connection with fasting in Psalm 35:13 and Ezra 8:21. Fasting means abstaining from food and drink, including water (Esther 4:16). Therefore, God commands us to celebrate this day by fasting for 24 hours by abstaining from food and drink, including water.

Removal of Sin's Cause and Reconciliation to God

The Day of Atonement and the Passover both teach us about the need for forgiveness of sin to make our reconciliation with God possible through Christ's sacrifice. However, Passover, pictures the application of Jesus’ sacrifice and shed blood for individual Christians to be reconciled to God, whereas in the symbolism of the Day of Atonement Jesus’ sacrifice is applied collectively for of humanity to be reconciled to God.  

In addition, the Day of Atonement pictures another event that must take place if the earth is to have peace. All suffering is caused by sin, which is transgression of God’s law. God must remove the chief instigator of sin from the earth, without which humanity will continue to fall back into sin.     

Satan the Author of Sin

Satan the devil is the primary instigator of sin who deceives mankind into disobeying God. The Bible reveals Satan as a powerful, invisible being who can sway all mankind. Revelation 12:9 tells us that his influence is so great that he "deceives the whole world."

The devil blinds people to understanding God's truth. The apostle Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: If "our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." 

Paul also states in Ephesians 2:2 that Satan has influenced every human being to walk in disobedience. He explains that before being called into God's church, we "once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." Being the “prince of the power of the air,” means Satan broadcasts – just as in radio and television. However, Satan broadcasts not in words but in wrong and negative attitudes, thoughts, moods, feelings and ideas that are contrary to God’s way of life.

Paul also warns Christians in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 that Satan can present himself as an angel of light: "For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works".

Peter was inspired to warn us in I Peter 5:8-9: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

Jesus Christ also exposed the source of hostility to His teachings in John 8:44: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it."

Satan’s Influence Will End

Christians fight a spiritual battle against the devil and his demons to overcome sin. Paul explains in Ephesians 6: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NASB).

Therefore, at the beginning of Christ’s reign on earth, if there is to be genuine peace and a right spirit among men, Satan the devil must be banished. The Day of Atonement looks forward to the time during which Satan's deception will be removed and he will no longer be free to influence and deceive mankind. Revelation 20:1-3 shows how this will take place: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old [meaning the serpent in the Garden of Eden who deceived Eve], who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.”

Old Testament Symbolism

God’s additional instructions to ancient Israel in Leviticus 16 about the Day of Atonement contain very important symbolism that helps us further understand the significance of this day in God’s plan of salvation for mankind. It describes a very important ceremony that was enacted every year in ancient Israel on the Day of Atonement. Verse 5 states, “And he [i.e. the high priest] shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.”

Next, the high priest “shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.”

Then verses 7-8 show that lots were to be cast over the two goats: “And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”

The original Hebrew word, here translated “scapegoat,” is Azazel. It is plain from the text that one goat represents the Lord, or Jesus Christ. But why would God have a second goat represented in the symbolism? While some explain the second goat as also referring to Christ, virtually every respected commentary affirms that the Jews and knowledgeable Bible students recognize Azazel as Satan the devil, as will become clear from the symbolism in the ceremony.

Of course, both goats are types. But why must lots be used—which are a solemn appeal to God in any doubtful matter—to determine which goat should represent Satan and which should represent Christ? 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 tells us that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and his ministers transform themselves into ministers of righteousness. Therefore, it is difficult for human beings on their own to discern the difference between Satan’s counterfeits from God’s truth. Even in our time, God had to send a special prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, to restore all His truths to His true Church. God had to reveal the truth and proper understanding of every small and great doctrine one at a time through Mr. Armstrong. Humans even in God’s Church would not have been able to do it with their own understanding of the Bible. This knowledge was know to the original apostolic Church, but was lost over the centuries of the Church’s existence until it was restored through Mr. Armstrong. 

Thus, in the ceremony on the Day of Atonement men on their own were not capable of discerning which goat should represent Jesus Christ and which should represent Satan the devil. A sincere solemn appeal to God was required to intervene and reveal the truth through the casting of lots in this unclear matter.

In verse 9, the goat upon which the lot fell to represent “the Lord” was to be “offered”—i.e. sacrificed. This is an obvious type intended to represent the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. In verse 10, we see that the high priest was instructed to send the other goat “alive…into the wilderness”—which was “not inhabited.”  

The high priest was then instructed to offer a bullock for himself and his family in verse 11 to purify himself of his sins. This was why he was to sprinkle the blood of the bullock on and before the mercy seat of the tabernacle, which represented God’s throne. This completed the steps necessary for the high priest to carry out the remainder of his duties on the Day of Atonement.

The High Priest Represented Christ

The high priest was then to offer the goat that represented Christ as stated in Leviticus 16:15-16: “Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: And he shall make an ATONEMENT for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins…” 

After Christ’s resurrection, He ascended to heaven. Some have misunderstood the Azazel goat to be a representation of Christ, who went to heaven. This is wrong. The Azazel goat was taken to an uninhabited wilderness. Heaven is not an uninhabited wilderness. It is inhabited by God and hundreds of millions of holy angels. It is clear that the Levitical high priest represented Christ’s role as High Priest in bringing the offering of the slain goat (Christ, the Lord) before the mercy seat of God.

Christ now sits at the right hand of God as our High Priest. Peter wrote in I Peter 3:22: “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” Paul confirmed in Hebrews 6:20 that Jesus has been “made a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

The goat that was offered cannot be a type of Christ as High Priest. This goat was slain each year for centuries until the real Christ was slain and went to heaven to become our High Priest. Until that time—until Christ’s actual sacrifice—the Levitical high priest was a type of Christ as the High Priest.

Thus, the first goat represented the sacrificed Christ. The Levitical high priest fulfilled the role of Christ, as our resurrected High Priest. Finally, let’s see why the second goat must be the devil.   

The Role of the Azazel Goat 

Here is what the high priest did next. Leviticus 16:20-24, 26 states: “And when he has made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation…and he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place…and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an ATONEMENT for himself, and for the people…And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat [or Azazel] shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.”

The symbolism of the live goat parallels the fate of Satan and his demons, whom God will bind by the hands of an angel and remove, before Jesus Christ's millennial rule is established as already quoted from Revelation 20:1-3. And the goat being sent into an uninhabited wilderness parallels Satan’s fate to be in solitary confinement for the entire 1,000 years. The man who took the Azazel goat into the uninhabited wilderness had to wash his clothes and bathe because in symbolism he had come in contact with the devil.

We need to make this critically important distinction: Christ willingly bore our sins, even though He was completely INNOCENT. The devil is not innocent!  He is a murderer and a liar as John 8:44 states, a deceiver as Revelation 12:9 shows and a destroyer as Revelation 9:11 shows, and far from innocent. As the author of confusion, he is guilty of enormous transgressions and has much to be indicted for.

The devil is the one who is truly the ultimate author of the world’s sins. The true God is a God of justice and equity—a God who is fair in all things. If He was willing to let an innocent Christ die for the sins of mankind, would He not hold the devil accountable for his part in influencing mankind to sin? God always places blame squarely on the shoulders of him to whom it belongs.

Of course, all human beings have sinned as Romans 3:23 shows and are responsible for these sins. None can say that he is innocent. But the devil influences and tempts all those who willingly commit sins of their own volition.

The world could never be at one with God if Satan remained free to roam the earth, tempting, deceiving, confusing, destroying, lying, murdering and leading humanity to envy, jealousy, treachery, division, violence, war, bloodshed and death. As the ultimate cause of the world’s sins and problems, he must be removed from earth, from heaven and any part of the inhabited universe. As the high priest confessed the sins of Israel over the head of the Azazel goat and sent him away bearing those sins, the devil will carry the sins of mankind to the abyss with him? Now we can see the deep meaning of these ceremonies on the Day of Atonement in ancient Israel.

Complete global reconciliation to God cannot occur until the source of so much sin and suffering—Satan the devil—is removed. Only then can the world possibly be at one with God. The Day of Atonement pictures that removal of Satan and his demons to a place of restraint.

Modern application of this festival

The Day of Atonement also teaches us about Jesus Christ’s role after His resurrection. On this day, the Levitical high priest carried out another solemn ceremony. He took the blood of the sacrificed goat into the Holy of Holies - the most sacred part of the tabernacle - to the Mercy Seat, which symbolized God’s throne. It typified Jesus figuratively taking His own blood to the Holy of Holies after His resurrection. 

Hebrews 9:11-12 explains the symbolism: "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this [physical] creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

Jesus Christ has now replaced the Levitical high priest as our High Priest now and has become our advocate with the Father to forgive sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2 states, “1My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 states: “14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

In the Old Testament, when Israelites prayed to God, they prayed to the Word Who came to earth as Jesus Christ. But after Jesus’ sacrifice, we now have direct access to God the Father to pray to Him directly, whereas in the Old Testament only the Levitical high priest could enter the holy of holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. Our direct access to God’s throne in the Holy of Holies was demonstrated in a most dramatic way at the time of Jesus’ death when the Temple veil covering the entrance to the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom as stated in Matthew 27:50-51, “50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…”

In summary then, the Day of Atonement pictures first, the removal of Satan, the author of sin, and his demons from rulership over the earth, after Jesus Christ returns to the earth to set up His kingdom. Second, all of humanity’s sins will be placed on the head of Satan and he will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit or abyss in solitary confinement, while the demons will be imprisoned separately from him. Thirdly, removal of Satan, the source of all the world’s sins, and the demons means that they will no longer be around to influence humanity into sin during the 1000 years of God’s Kingdom. Fourth, because of Satan’s removal and his sinful influence, all of humanity can be reconciled with God the Father on a universal basis, and become at-one with Him. Fifth, Jesus Christ as our High Priest now advocates on our behalf with God the Father. Sixth, we now have direct access to God the Father, not only through the High Priest, but we can go to Him directly in prayer. And finally seventh, because of the removal of Satan and his demons, lasting peace will be possible on earth.  

Day of Atonement Kept by the Early Church

Acts 27:9 states: “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them.” Margins of most Bibles and commentaries note that Paul’s reference to the “fast” is a direct reference to the Day of Atonement.

Paul here was referring to a time of dangerous sailing – which in the Mediterranean is the autumn season – it becomes quite clear that Luke, the author of the Book of Acts was referring to the Day of Atonement. The New Testament Church could not have been keeping track of time by referring to the Day of Atonement if they were not observing it. When the timing is carefully checked with the understanding that Paul was referring to a time of dangerous sailing—the autumn in the Mediterranean Sea—it becomes apparent that the New Testament Church was, in fact, tracking time by this Day of Atonement. God’s holy spirit would not have inspired a reference to a holy day if it was done away with!

How the Day of Atonement is Kept 

God’s Church keeps the Day of Atonement by fasting for 24 hours, totally abstaining from food and drink, including water. We also keep in mind that the proper reason for fasting is not to bend God to our will. It helps us remember how temporary our physical existence is as we would perish without food and water. It helps us realize how much we need God as the giver and sustainer of life.

Daniel set the perfect example of the attitude we should have while fasting in Daniel 9:3-4: "Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession." We should always fast on the Day of Atonement in a repentant frame of mind, setting aside time for prayers and supplications to draw near to God.  

God’s Church also attends Church services for about two hours during which we learn more about the meaning and significance of the Day of Atonement, and how best to keep it.




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