We are approaching the end of the High Holy Days – the 10 days Most Sacred Days of the Jewish Year – also called the Days of Awe or [yamim nora’im]. They began with the Rosh Hashanah ten days ago – Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) begins at sunset Tuesday evening and continues thru sunset Wednesday.
Just how holy is “the holiest day” on the Jewish calendar? Even Jews who don’t believe in God, observe Yom Kippur “just in case”. More Jews attend synagogue services during these ten days than at any other time. It’s more than “tradition”. Historically, towns have used school absenteeism on Yom Kippur to measure Jewish population.
These “holy days” are especially significant because Yeshua Jesus is everywhere in them, and they give us insight into the End Times and the Final Judgment. In fact, [yamim nora’im] is usually translated as “The Days of Awe”, but “nora” also means Terrible! As in Joel Chapter 2:11, “…For the day of Yehovah is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?” These “Days of Awe” will one day be the Tribulation. So, it’s a feast that one day you definitely will want to miss.
Yom Kippur was the one day each year the High Priest could go through the veil to enter the Holy of Holies with blood from a bull and a goat to make atonement for all of the sins of the priesthood and people. The veil that separated the rest of temple from the holies place represented the separation between God and man due to man’s sin. When Jesus died on the cross at Passover, the veil in the temple was torn in two – eliminated!
As Christians, because of the blood Jesus shed for us, and His death on the cross at Passover, our sins have been atoned! As we repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus, He saves us by grace through faith. We have a new destiny and a new eternity that are determined by our relationship with Him. We celebrate that awesome truth at Passover. So why do we need a Day of Atonement if our sins have already been atoned once for all? He said, “It is finished.”
His job was indeed finished on the earth, but the story isn’t over. 1 John 2:1-3 tells us, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands.”
Did you notice that it said, “He is the atoning sacrifice”, not “He was the atoning sacrifice”? This is where the Day of Atonement come in for each of us. The Spring Feasts of Unleavened Bread, Passover, and Firstfruits all deal with an earthly problem – the sin that led to death for man and eternal separation from God. The death and resurrection of Jesus completely resolved this problem for mankind.
Hebrews 2:14-17 says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death…For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.”
But there was much more to the cross, the grave, and His resurrection that didn’t take place on earth. Many people believe Jesus only fulfilled the Spring Feasts when He came 2,000 years ago; they believe the Fall Feasts will be fulfilled in the End Times. That’s partially true. The Fall Feasts will be fully accomplished in the End Times, but they were already fulfilled with His first coming.
He was born on Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets. His ascension on the top of Olivet mirrors the scapegoat’s yearly disappearance from the same spot on the Day of Atonement. As to Tabernacles, in the simplest of terms, Jesus came to the earth as a baby and lived with us (tabernacled). John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling [tabernacle] among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Day of Atonement isn’t just “The Judgment Day” to come in the End Times, or an unnecessary extra day of sacrifice now that Jesus died on the cross; the Day of Atonement was fulfilled 2,000 years ago because the cross was the earthly part of the Day of Atonement. But there’s more to the cross then we realize.
Sin and death were defeated on the cross for all mankind who would ever live who came to Jesus through His blood poured out on the cross. But how does His blood still do for us what it did for those alive then? We all know the reality of life after salvation – we still fall into sin – and sometimes leap into it!
Unlike the human priests who served at the earthly tabernacle and temple, the good news is that Jesus was alive yesterday, is alive today, and will be forever more, and so the power of His atonement lives on as well. Jesus continues to serve at the original tabernacle in heaven. Hebrews 8:5 says, “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
Hebrews 9:11-12 reveals where Jesus went when He ascended into heaven, “But when Christ came as High Priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”
Paul breaks it down beautifully in the Hebrews 4:14-16, “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God…Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Why do we have hope even though we continue tripping over sins? Hebrews 6:18-20 tells us, “We who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged…It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a High Priest forever.”
And because we do still sin after we have come to Jesus for forgiveness, 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [accomplish atonement].”
Hebrews 7:25-27 tells us that Jesus is, “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them…He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.” And where does Jesus make intercession for us? According to Hebrews 8:1, In the heavenly tabernacle!
“We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected…” It’s always the “Day of Atonement” in heaven since Jesus ascended, because there is no passing of time there.
Ephesians 2:6 makes it even more exciting, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” The Day of Atonement is the day God has set aside each year for us to celebrate the breathtaking reality of this intimate relationship with Him! And our part in this day is really special.
Leviticus 23:28-32 tells us what God expects of us on this day: “You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is [Yom Kippurim – the Day of Atonement], to make atonement for you before Yehovah your God.” So, no work, complete rest.
God repeats that command, defines it, and repeats it a few more times: “…You are not to do any kind of work; it is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.
It will be for you a Shabbat of complete rest…” So, no work, complete rest, forever. He means it.
“…and you are to afflict your souls [deny yourselves]; you are to rest on your Shabbat from evening the ninth day of the month until the following evening.” So, absolutely no food!
Yom Kippur is the only holiday that Fasting is explicitly commanded by God: Leviticus 16:31 adds, “It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.” Afflict [ʿānâ] doesn’t mean to punish yourself but to be occupied with being afflicted or humbled (the root of the word means to answer or testify as a witness). It is your answer or testimony to God of your true condition – you have nothing to offer – no defense).
Traditionally it means to fast entirely or absolutely. It’s not a partial fast “of this or of that”, so not everyone can do that aspect of it. ***The Yom Kippur fast is never allowed to jeopardize health. Those too ill to fast fully are prohibited from fasting. Medications are allowed, as is small amounts of water.
The most important part of Yom Kippur isn’t just resting and fasting (even though that’s our part). It’s understanding WHY resting and fasting is so crucial and significant!
The Jews plead for mercy from judgment – Jesus took our judgment on Himself because no one can become right with God (righteous) from what they do or even obedience to the law. Righteousness comes by faith – trusting in Jesus to remove our sin – to be in charge of us. We rest in confidence. This resting is encountering Christ intimately – becoming one with Him and His will.
In Colossians 2:16-17 Paul says, “Don’t let any man judge you in respect to holy days, new moons, Sabbath days: Which are all a shadow of things to come; for the substance is of Christ.” In other words, Sabbath days and Feast Days are just a shadow of things still to come. Substance creates a shadow. The substance is Jesus. Sabbath days and Feast Days were all looking forward to Jesus who would bring rest.
When we take the day off from all labor – we are providing a testimony for God, for ourselves,
and everyone else. What is the testimony? That we completely rely on God for every breath and for eternity.
Rosh Hashanah was when God created man. 10 days later – Yom Kippur was probably the Fall of Man. This was the day that Adam missed his appointment with God (to walk in the cool of the day). This was the day God killed animals to make skins for Adam and Eve.
Why do we to Fast ? Because we have learned from the failure of Adam and Eve. We are choosing not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge as we return to the Garden spiritually to start anew our walk with God.
In the Torah Yom Kippur is written in the plural, Yom Ha-Kippurim – The Day of Atonements. Why? Because it’s a Corporate Fast and Rest. You don’t repent for your own sins or bring a sacrifice for your own sins. You’re not fasting and resting for yourself, but for everyone. Just like Jesus on the cross!
The entire prayer of confession in Jewish synagogues is written in the plural. WE have sinned…, WE are guilty…, WE have rejected… We are doing what Jesus asked His disciples to do in the Garden of Gethsemane – to watch and pray.
How do we Rest? (In Hebrew sleep or rest is the same word for dead). Resting represents death so white is worn to represent death – (to symbolize a white burial shroud) to “live all day” as if you were dead (the dead don’t eat so fasting makes sense). Burial Clothes Have No Pockets (no possessions can be taken – only the Word and good works).
As Christians, we wear white because we will all die, but we will also be clothed in white robes of righteousness, and white for our marriage to Yeshua our Bridegroom, and we will wear white while we ride on white horses with Jesus to bring the sword of His judgment.
Sadly, for the Jews it’s not a day of rest but of even more religious service. Most of Yom Kippur is spent at the synagogue praying and listening to chants. Yom Kippur is the only Jewish Holiday that requires five separate services for the observant Jew to attend! They believe it is your last chance to change the judgment of God and to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.
Isaiah 58 describes what God calls fasting on a Holy Day: “Turn away your foot from doing your pleasure on My holy day. Call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of Yehovah honorable. Honor Him by not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words.”
Isaiah 58 also describes what God calls fasting on an Ordinary Day: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens; To let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke; To share your bread with the hungry, to bring to your house the poor who are cast out, when you see the naked, to cover him; To not hide yourself from your own flesh.”
Jesus said that He came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father. He fasted from His glory and heaven, to come to serve and not to be served. This is an example to us – We fast – deny ourselves – so that we can grow in the desire to serve others.
The Day of Atonement is unique among all of the Feasts of Yehovah. During the Spring and Summer Feasts, God commanded them to: “Bring an offering”, “bring a sheaf”, “bring a lamb”, “bring bread…, etc.” And in each of those cases, they were supposed to be looking at the lamb, or sheaf as the Messiah, standing in for them, representing them before Yehovah and paying their debt of sin.
The rules changed; instead of bringing sacrifices, the sacrifices would be supplied. Your job is: don’t eat, don’t work – what you need will be done for you. Our Resting and Fasting on Yom Kippur represents that Jesus alone was worthy and able to do all we needed, while we couldn’t help ourselves.
The most important realization you will ever have is this: You can’t do anything to fix yourself.
You have to stop, turn your eyes on Jesus, ask Him to save you from yourself, and from your sin. That is the only atonement for sin which will lead each of us to judgment, death, and hell.
Judgment Day came when Yeshua Jesus came for us. Justice was served to Him for us through His sacrificial offering for our sins. And now our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Leviticus 17:11 is clear, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” It’s really clear: No blood – No Atonement!
And this is why we need to pray for those Jews who don’t follow Yeshua Jesus. Those who try to bypass the cross of Jesus won’t find atonement for their sins. They mourn the loss of the Temple which eliminated their ability to make sacrifices. But their real problem is much deeper.
Over the last 2,000 years the rabbis of the party once called Pharisees who rejected Yeshua Jesus as Messiah and arranged His crucifixion have created countless traditions of works to take the place of the blood of atonement.
They’re trapped in the most treacherous of lies, that they will be judged in the scales of good and evil, so they must avert an evil decree by various good works and human energy. They pray and ask forgiveness for their sins, and then try to earn that forgiveness so their names will be written in the Book of Life.
So, they celebrate every Feast from Spring through Fall in obedience to God but neglect the one obedience that actually matters the most. John 14, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me…He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”
As Christians we don’t observe any of the rabbinic traditions that come from the oral law. Those who are still trapped in the rabbinic, orthodox, and other subgroups of religious Judaism have no idea who Yeshua Jesus was and is or that He is their Messiah. Most Jews fled the harsh legalism of Modern Judaism that robbed them of knowing God, or even speaking His name “Yehovah” which is written in their scriptures 6,828 times.
Sadly, their wounds continue to rob them of a relationship with the One who loves them most; the majority of Jews consider themselves Jews-“ish” and many are now atheists. The Ten Days of Awe (Great and Terrible Days) are also called Days of Repentance [Teshuvah]. The Sabbath that occurs during the Ten Days is called [Shabbat Shuvah] (Sabbath of Return) or Shabbat Teshuvah (Sabbath of Repentance). The prophetic scripture (Haftarah) is Hosea 14 which begins with the word Shuvah or Return.
“Return, Israel, to Yehovah your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to Yehovah. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in You the fatherless find compassion.”
“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine – Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of Yehovah are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”
So, as you rest and fast, pray for those currently stumbling that soon their days may be awesome. Especially for those who don’t believe in God but observe Yom Kippur “just in case”.
Ray, thank you so much for another exceptional lesson.
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