Once a year, the high priest in ancient Israel would take two goats and cast lots for them (Lev. 16:7,8). One goat would be killed (16:9) and its blood sprinkled on the atonement cover (or “mercy seat”) in the Most Holy Place of the temple to make amends for the people’s sins (16:15,16). (In the Most Holy Place, the high priest, symbolically, came “face to face” with God.)
Next, laying his hands on the other goat, the priest would confess over it all the sins of Israel; then this second goat (the “scapegoat”), carrying upon itself the sins of all the people, would be led away and released in the desert (Lev. 16:10,20,21,22). Symbolically, then, the Israelites’ sin and guilt were transferred onto the goats and completely removed from their presence.
It was on Yom Kippur, also called Yom haPeduth (or the “Day of Redemption,” the holiest day of the Hebrew year), that the high priest performed the sin atonement and removal ceremonies. Thus, it also is known as the “Day of Atonement.” On this day, the fate or destiny of every person was sealed until Yom Kippur of the following year.
It will be on the ultimate Yom Kippur, at the end of the age, that the Great Shofar (Trumpet) will be blown (Lev. 25:9; Isa. 18:3, 27:13; Zech. 9:14). On this day, the world will come “face-to-face” with Jesus when He returns bodily to earth, at the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet (Rev. 11:15), at which time the fate of every person will be sealed forever. At that time, the remnant of Israel finally will receive atonement from their sins (Isa. 27:9,13). (It should be noted that the shofar blown on Rosh haShanah is called the “Last Trumpet,” while the shofar blown at Yom Kippur is referred to as the “Great Trumpet,” even though Yom Kippur follows Rosh haShanah.)
It was ordained by God that Yom Kippur be commemorated once a year on the tenth day of the same month as Rosh haShanah (Lev. 16:29, 23:26-32; Num. 29:7-11), that is, on Tishri 10. It was the only day each year that the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place in the temple (Lev. 16:17,34a) to atone (make amends) for the sins of himself and of his household with the blood of a bull (16:3,6,11,14) and for the sins of the people of Israel with the blood of a goat (16:9,15). God also ordained that no work was to be done on that day, and people were to “deny” themselves (23:28,29), as in abstaining from food consumption (fasting).
Yom Kippur ends the annual Teshuvah season, and a specific future Yom Kippur will end the Day of the Lord judgments for Israel. On this particular, future Yom haPeduth (“Day of Redemption”), “The Redeemer will come to Zion...” (Isa. 59:20). This will be the ultimate Yom Kippur.
Jesus is the world’s Redeemer, saving us from the consequences of sins and trespasses against God and protecting those who believe in, accept, and trust in Him from the wrath of and eternal separation from God. To do this, Jesus had to become 1) our High Priest, 2) the sacrifice for the atonement of our sins, and 3) our “scapegoat.”
Israel’s high priest had to enter the Most Holy Place in the temple once a year, on Yom Kippur, to offer atonement sacrifices, as discussed in the previous section. Since the high priest himself was not perfect and sinless, he had to atone not only for the sins of others but also for his own sins. Furthermore, he had to do it over and over again, year after year, as one single sacrifice would not suffice.
On the other hand, one sacrifice made by Jesus was all that was required for the sin atonement of all people (who would accept it) for eternity. God the Father designated Jesus, the perfect “author” of our salvation (Heb. 2:10c), to be our “high priest” (5:10); and He is our “high priest” forever (6:20b). Jesus became “...a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,...that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (2:17b). He “...entered the Most Holy Place [in heaven] once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (9:12b)—that is, the eternal forgiveness of our sins (Col. 1:14), for those who believe in Him (John 3:15).
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Heb. 9:24-28).Jesus, atonement sacrifice and Redeemer
Not only did the Hebrew high priest and his activities clearly point to an atoning, redeeming Messiah (namely, Jesus), so also did the two goats used to atone (pay for) for and remove the sins of the Israelites point to Him. The two goats represented and completed one sin atonement/removal each year on Yom Kippur.
The first goat, which was sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the atonement cover for the sins of the people by the high priest (Lev. 16:9,15), depicted or foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the cross and shedding of blood. Whereas the earthly high priest entered an earthly copy of the real Most Holy Place, with blood not his own, Jesus actually entered into the true one (located in heaven), offering His own blood (Heb. 9:11,12b,24,25).
The second goat, on which all of Israel’s wickedness and rebellion symbolically were laid (Lev. 16:10,21), portrayed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. While the first goat “atoned” for Israel’s sins, the second goat “removed” them by being led off into the desert (16:22). This was the final sin offering made each Yom Kippur, signifying that none other was necessary. Similarly, Jesus Christ, by means of His resurrection to life, permanently removed our sins (and their eternal penalty) from us, thereby redeeming us. For “...as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Just as the “scapegoat’s” sin offering was final for that year, Christ’s sin offering was final forever, since He “...offered for all time one sacrifice for sins...” and then “...sat down at the right hand of God [the Father]” (Heb. 10:12). Jesus was our once-for-all “scapegoat”; for that we should rejoice and give Him praise!
David exclaimed, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings...” (Psalm 57:1b). Another psalmist concurred: “[God] will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge...” (91:4ab). These wings, I believe, refer to the wings of God’s cherubim, images of whom stood atop the atonement cover of the ancient ark of the covenant (Exo. 25:19; Heb. 9:5a). “[T]heir wings spread upward, overshadowing the [atonement] cover with them” (Exo. 25:20). God told Moses, “There, above the [atonement] cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you...” (25:22). With our faith in the Messiah’s blood atonement, we are overshadowed by God’s “wings” (of His cherubim) and may take protective refuge under these wings, where He will commune with us until He returns again, in person, to reign.
One day, on a Yom Kippur appointed in the future, Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus, the Christ) will return to earth again physically (Isa. 63:1-6; Zech. 14:3-5; Rev. 19:11-16—see “physical return of Jesus”: C-12, P-IV, S-1), bringing with Him real, lasting peace. When He comes again, redemption then will be complete for those who will have believed in and accepted His atonement for and removal of their sins (by His death and resurrection). He will “sprinkle” many nations (Isa. 52:15), as well as the house of Israel (Ezek. 36:25), thereby cleansing them, just as the high priest in Israel sprinkled blood on the atonement cover to cleanse the people of their sins and as the Levites were sprinkled with water to make them ceremonially clean (Num. 8:6,7a). The world will come “face to face” with God, in the physical, glorified form of the Lord Jesus, on that future Yom Kippur.
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.