Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest holiday of the Jewish year. It is a day that reminds us of our sin and our need of atonement before a holy God.
In ancient days, the Day of Atonement was a solemn day for Israel. The High Priest first offered a sacrifice for his own sin and the sin of his household. Then, he offered the sacrifice for the nation of Israel. Two goats were brought to him. One was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people. The priest laid his hands on the head of the second goat, called the scapegoat, and confessed all the sins of Israel. This goat was then led outside the camp and released into the wilderness, thus removing sin from the camp. One goat was for forgiveness, the other for cleansing.
Today, Yom Kippur remains a solemn holiday for Jewish people. Since 70 A.D. there has been no temple at which to make the biblical sacrifices, and today, it is a time of seeking God’s forgiveness to ensure reconciliation with Him through the next year.
Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah shed His blood to atone for our sins Jewish people believe that on Rosh Hashanah, God writes in the Book of Life their fate for the coming year, and on Yom Kippur, He seals that fate. The days in between, known as the Ten Days of Awe, are one’s opportunity to alter that fate through repentance. The days leading up to Yom Kippur, then, are spent in reflection and repentance before God, seeking reconciliation with Him for the sins committed against Him and making amends for sins committed against people.
God commanded that Israel “afflict themselves” with a complete fast on Yom Kippur. Therefore, the customary holiday greeting for the Holy Day is, “May you have an easy fast.”
Year-by-year, Jewish people come before God seeking the assurance that their sins are covered. But the shedding of blood has always been required for the atonement of sin (Leviticus 17:11). God instituted the yearly sacrifices of Yom Kippur, and they show us our ongoing need of atonement because of our ongoing sin. Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah shed His blood to atone for our sins, once and for all. He is the complete, perfect sacrifice, and His blood covers all our sin eternally.
Yom Kippur bears a prophetic meaning as well. Yeshua – our atoning sacrifice for sin – will return, Israel will recognize Him as their King, and all the nations will recognize Him as the King of kings and Lord of lords. This solemn time of year, when Jewish people seek a yearly atonement for their sin, is a time to pray for all Israel to receive the Messiah and know the grace and peace of the One who is the full and complete atonement for sin.