Christian Churches of God

No. CB99




The Day of Atonement


(Edition 1.0 20060917-20060917)


The purpose of the Day of Atonement was to consecrate (or make holy) the Temple and atone for and reconcile the congregation to God on a yearly basis.  Therefore, it has a direct relationship to the elect as the spiritual Temple of God.






Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA






(Copyright ã 2006  Ruwani Wijesuriya, ed. Wade Cox)



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The Day of Atonement


Atonement and the Temple


The Day of Atonement is the highest of all the Sabbaths of the year. It is referred to as “Shabbath Shabbathown” which means that it is a Sabbatised Sabbath. Its holiness is emphasised by combining these two words.


Leviticus 23:26-32 And the LORD said to Moses, 27 "On the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present an offering by fire to the LORD. 28 And you shall do no work on this same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For whoever is not afflicted on this same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And whoever does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31  You shall do no work: it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves; on the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your sabbath.” (RSV)


Why does Atonement stand out and is holier than the other Sabbaths of the year? It’s because the Atonement sacrifice reconciled all physical beings as well as spiritual beings to God. This Atonement sacrifice is Christ, without whom we would not have access to God.  This is why those who do not observe the Day of Atonement are cut off from the Body of Christ, or the Church (v. 29).  Once a person is cut off from the Body of Christ, it means that they will not be part of the First Resurrection, which is the better resurrection.


Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.  (KJV)


The Altar of Incense


Exodus 30:1-6 "You shall make an altar to burn incense upon; of acacia wood shall you make it. 2 A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth; it shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height; its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 And you shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides round about and its horns; and you shall make for it a molding of gold round about. 4 And two golden rings shall you make for it; under its molding on two opposite sides of it shall you make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with you. (RSV)


The veil was to separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (see Ex. 26:33) or the Holy of Holies. It stood as a barrier to the congregation of Israel. At this time Atonement could be made only once a year. At the very moment when Christ died the veil was torn in two (see also Mk. 15:38; Heb. 6:19-20; 10:19-22). From then on we could meet God in the Holy of Holies, meaning we could pray directly to God in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.


The Atonement Sacrifice


God gave the Israelites very clear instructions as to who would be allowed to perform the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. 


Exodus 30:7-10 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. 9  You shall offer no unholy incense thereon, nor burnt offering, nor cereal offering; and you shall pour no libation thereon. 10  Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year; with the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations; it is most holy to the LORD. (RSV)


It was only the High Priest (Aaron) who was allowed to make an offering and perform the Atonement sacrifice. This was to point towards Christ who was to come, and he would become the Atonement sacrifice by giving his life to make atonement for us and redeem us from sin.  On this day no one else in Israel was allowed to give an offering (v. 9).  This is because nothing we do or say is worthy enough to make atonement for our sins.  By requiring that we do not make an offering, God is teaching us that only the sacrifice of the High Priest matters on this day and is accepted as worthy before God. 


The perpetual incense symbolised the prayers of the saints as intercession for Israel (see Ps. 141:2; Lk. 1:10; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4).


The altar was not to be profaned by unholy incense or unholy offerings on this day.  This is why we do not give an offering on the Day of Atonement.  It would be an offence to God and an insult to Christ’s sacrifice to throw our offerings into the mix. This is because our offerings are always mingled with sin since we are all sinners by nature.


Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (KJV)


So by not giving an offering that day, we are allowing Christ’s perfect and sinless offering to redeem us from sin and make us holy before God the Father. Christ’s sacrifice was perfect not only because it was sinless, but also because it demonstrated the highest level of selflessness and love.


John 15:13 shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. (NLT)


The most important significance of this day is that we understand and always keep in mind that it is only Christ’s blood that could reconcile us to God and give us access to Him (Heb. 9:22-28). Without it we would die and be destroyed since the punishment for all sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The beauty of Christ’s sacrifice is that it not only redeems humankind, but also the Spirit beings that rebelled against God. Christ was qualified to do so because he has the same origin as both human and spirit kind. He was created spirit just like his spirit brothers and he had a human birth just like his human brothers. This qualified him to atone for both the spirit and human host by giving up his life.


The Two Goats


The Day of Atonement also signifies the binding and removal of Satan before the Millennium.  This is signified by the two goats that were part of the Atonement sacrifice (Lev. 16:1-34). These two goats represented the judgment of two like beings, and the success of one and the failure of the other. See the paper Azazel and Atonement (No. 214).


The Temple Tax


Exodus 30:11-16 The LORD said to Moses, 12 When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14 Every one who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD's offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD's offering to make atonement for yourselves. 16 And you shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tent of meeting; that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for yourselves. (RSV)


On the Day of Atonement, Israel was required to give a Temple tax or a census tax. Every adult 20 years and older had to give half a shekel as a tax to the Temple. The purpose of this tax is for a census or the numbering of the people of the congregation of Israel. This was NOT an offering, but merely a tax. Unlike an offering where people give according to the blessings they have received, this census tax had a set price.  Everyone gave the same amount – half a shekel.  The rich and the poor all gave the same amount. The set fee meant that all men were equal before God and that it takes the same price (Christ’s blood) to pay for every individual’s salvation. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our physical blessings and therefore cannot be bought. God gives us specific instructions about this because He doesn’t want it to be mistaken as an offering and thus profane the only offering or sacrifice of Atonement, that is Christ.


This census tax was taken in Israel up until the death of Christ. After Christ’s death, there was no need for it any longer. By his sacrifice Christ paid the Temple tax for all the Host, both physical and spiritual, once and for all.


1Peter 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (KJV)


The Fast


The Day of Atonement is one of two occasions in the year when we fast as a Church. The fast on the 7th day of the First month is for the sanctification of the nations. See the paper Sanctification of the Simple and Erroneous (No. 291). The fast on the 10th day of the 7th month (Tishri), which is Atonement, is a commanded fast. As already stated above, if we don’t fast and keep this day holy we will be cut off from God’s people.


Numbers 29:7 On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and afflict yourselves; you shall do no work. (RSV)


God gives us a command to fast, so we should be willing to afflict ourselves. By so doing we soon realise how frail and weak we are both physically and spiritually. We afflict ourselves by fasting and denying ourselves the bread and water that our physical bodies require. The main purpose of the fast on Atonement is to break the bonds of wickedness that Satan has placed on everyone. 


When we fast we realise that of and by ourselves we are nothing, and it is only through God’s grace that we are kept alive. Through this activity we realise that our bodies cannot function without physical food. The spiritual significance is that we cannot have life without the spiritual food, which is God’s Holy Spirit.  It is a very humbling experience and we are reminded of that when we fast. It helps us to draw close to God in awe and humility.


Isaiah 58:1-5 talks about what happens when we fast inappropriately and lose the purpose and intention of afflicting ourselves. We need to be careful that we understand and respect the seriousness of this day. Verses 6-14 go on to explain God’s powerful promises to us when we do obey Him and humble ourselves before Him with the right attitude of love and hope.


The Jubilees


Another purpose of the Day of Atonement is to announce the beginning of the Jubilees. It is appropriate that Atonement is used for this purpose because the Jubilee system is what God uses to regulate the affairs of mankind on Earth. In a spiritual sense, Atonement, by the sacrifice of Christ, regulates all of creation.


Leviticus 25:8-12 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. 9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth [day] of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. 10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout [all] the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. (KJV)


A Jubilee means 50 (omer) and 50 is one tenth of an ephah, from Exodus 16:36. This is another significance of connecting the Jubilee with Atonement. Let’s look at what the Atonement sacrifice consisted of. 


Numbers 29:7-11 On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and afflict yourselves; you shall do no work, 8 but you shall offer a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing odor: one young bull, one ram, seven male lambs a year old; they shall be to you without blemish; 9 and their cereal offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the one ram, 10 a tenth for each of the seven lambs: 11 also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement, and the continual burnt offering and the cereal offering, and their drink offerings  (RSV)


There were a total of ten animals and the number ten represents completeness and new beginnings.  See the paper Symbolism of Numbers (No. 7). This could also be related to the fact that Atonement is on the 10th day of the month. Each of the ten animals of the sacrifice represented a portion (these portions were also measured in tenths) of an ephah.  We know that an ephah is 50x10, from Exodus 16:36. The number 50 represents divine grace (same as number 5). So an ephah, or 50x10 represents completeness and new beginnings that come from God’s divine grace. This is so true of the Atonement sacrifice since that’s exactly what it does. It gives us new life through God’s grace.  So we see why God has chosen the ephah to represent the Atonement sacrifice. The various parts of the sacrifice equalled an ephah. We see that God does everything with so much symbolism and meaning.


So now we see why the Day of Atonement is the holiest of all the days in God’s Calendar.  It reconciles us all to God and gives us hope of a wonderful future under Messiah’s just and righteous system.