Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] You’ve heard of the famous Ark of the Covenant. Archaeologists, historians and treasure hunters still hope to someday find this ancient artifact.
The Ark was originally housed in a tent or tabernacle during the days of Moses. The high priest would go into the tabernacle once a year and enter a chamber called the holy of holies. This chamber housed the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Ten Commandments written on two tablets of stone.
Before entering this sacred place the high priest would bathe and put on a special clothing, a turban and a breast plate containing 12 precious stones. Once in the holy of holies he would sprinkle on the Ark the blood of animals that were sacrificed for the sins of the people.
This mystical ritual took place on the Day of Atonement. In the Jewish community this day is known as Yom Kippur. Among all of the fantastical rituals of this day there is one that may seem most bizarre. Two goats would be presented to the high priest. One would be sacrificed. The other led into the wilderness to be released.
Do the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement have any relevance to Christians?
You may be surprised to discover that the ancient rituals of the Day of Atonement reveal the gospel. Today let’s explore the Day of Atonement and the Gospel.
What we’re going to talk about today will help you experience a deeper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, why He came the first time as a sacrifice for sin and what will happen at His Second Coming.
So what do the ancient rituals of the Day of Atonement have to do with the gospel?
The answer to this question is found in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Hebrews is a fascinating book. It was written to Jewish Christians during a time when the temple still existed in Jerusalem. In the temple the rituals of the Day of Atonement given to Moses around 1,500 years earlier were still meticulously observed by the Levitical priesthood.
Just like the ancient tabernacle the temple was divided into two rooms. The smaller room, the holy of holies, could be entered only once a year by the high priest where he would sprinkle blood on the lid of the Ark which was called the mercy seat. This bloody sacrifice was a substitute for the penalty of the people’s sins before God.
Notice this passage from Hebrews 9. “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 creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place [or holy of holies] once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
What a remarkable statement! Here we discover the real meaning of the temple ceremonies. The holy of holies, or Most Holy Place, was a symbol of the very throne of God “the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands…” The blood of animals sprinkled on the mercy seat, which remember was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, was symbolic of the blood of Jesus Christ as the substitute for the penalty of the sins of all humanity.
The New Testament book of Hebrews shows us that all of these temple ceremonies reveal the work of Jesus Christ.
Yes that’s right, Jesus Christ. This is why the Day of Atonement isn’t just a Jewish observance. It is a proclamation of the gospel and it is vital that Christians understand the meaning and glory of this day.
The symbols of the sacrificial animals aren’t difficult to understand when we know the work of Christ to bring salvation to the world. For most of you this makes sense. But there is something else said in the verses that we just read that we shouldn’t overlook.
Let’s reread this statement again. “Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come…” Jesus Christ by offering Himself as the atonement for the sins of humanity is both the sacrifice AND the High Priest who performs the sacrifice.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…” (Hebrews 9:24-28).
This means that the holy of holies, the real holy of holies, the Heaven of Heavens, is the throne of the Almighty God described as a sea of glass with myriad lights and thundering sounds, angels darting in and out of the presence of God and there Jesus Christ as God’s High Priest intercedes for us, you and me, every day. What the ancient Levitical high priest did on the Day of Atonement was like a dramatic play showing what Jesus Christ does for humanity continually before Almighty God.
What does this really mean for you?
It means that the ancient rituals of the Day of Atonement have importance for Christians today. This is not just a Jewish day. It’s a Christian day.
What the high priest did on this special day reveals what happens when you repent before God, turn your life over to Him and accept Christ’s sacrifice as your atonement. When you accept Christ sacrifice as the penalty for your sins you are given the privilege to literally enter the holy of holies. This means that when you pray you are in the very presence of God.
Let’s look at how the writer of Hebrews sums up his explanation about Jesus as High Priest. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way…having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).
The Day of Atonement is all about the gospel! It is about the grace offered by God revealed in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work the resurrected Christ is DOING right NOW as the High Priest at the throne of God. Today’s program isn’t just about some ancient, irrelevant customs involving priests in strange clothing sacrificing animals. It is about what Jesus Christ is doing today as the High Priest of Almighty God. It’s about having the assurance that your life matters to God. He is offering you the privilege to have a loving relationship with Him as Father and Christ as Savior and High Priest and it is Christ’s role of High Priest that is revealed in the Day of Atonement.
But what about the strange ceremony involving the two goats?
Surprisingly, understanding the symbolism of this ceremony helps Christians understand the world that you and I live in.
Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first high priest of the physical tabernacle. On the Day of Atonement he was told to bring two goats to the door of the tabernacle. There he was to cast lots and one goat would be chosen “for the LORD” and the other was to be designated as what is commonly translated in English the “scapegoat” (Leviticus 16:6-10).
The goat chosen for God was to be sacrificed for a sin offering. That’s just another obvious symbol for the sacrifice of Jesus for sin. What the priest was to do with the second goat was different than any other ceremony done throughout the year. Aaron was to lay his hands upon the second goat, confess over it all the sins of Israel, and then have the goat led into the wilderness where it was to wander in the wastelands (Leviticus 16:21-22).
So what does this second goat represent?
All sin sacrifices involve the killing of an animal with purification through blood. But this goat is not killed. This is very important. As God deals with the sin of humanity He will also deal with the originator of sin.
I know many people don’t like to hear the word sin. It’s considered too judgmental. Yet the Bible, this book that all Christians say to follow, is filled with definitions and explanations about sin. Sin is what separates us from God. If we have no sin then Christ’s sacrifice was in vain. Without the bad news of sin, the good news of the kingdom of God has no meaning.
Where does this lie that the gospel is not about sin, where does it come from?
It comes from the originator of sin. Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But even 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” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Satan is real. He is the god of this present age. As the originator of sin he doesn’t want you to know about the gospel message revealed in the Day of Atonement. He wants you to reject Jesus’ message that there is something dramatically wrong in your life. He doesn’t want you to repent of sin and turn to God as your Father. He doesn’t want you to experience God’s love and healing and discover your Creator’s purpose for your very life.
Let’s go back to the book of Hebrews. Listen to what Hebrews says about the work of Jesus Christ. “Inasmuch then as the children [that’s us, human beings] have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Christ left His eternal abode to come to this earth. Unbelievably to become like us to conquer death and Satan who has the power of death. Death entered into human experience because God has allowed Satan to be the present god of this age. Satan has deceived humanity, kidnapped us from our Father and deceived us into thinking that sin doesn’t matter. In reality it is sin that separates us from God, makes our lives miserable, and eventually kills us.
To be an authentic Christian, you are going to have to learn about sin. Accept your sin. Repent and ask God for forgiveness. You will also need to understand that Satan is real and that he is the originator of sin.
In the ceremony of the two goats one goat is slain as a sin offering picturing the work of Christ. The second goat is dragged into the wilderness and separated from the people. This ceremony involves a second goat and is a prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled.
A prophecy explained in the book of Revelation shows where John had a vision of Christ’s second coming and concerns this time period we’re talking about. John wrote, “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, 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. But after these things he must be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:1-3).
We’ve seen that Satan is the god of this present age and Jesus came to conquer him. Jesus will return to remove Satan freeing us from the kidnapper. Christ returns to confine Satan to the wilderness, the second goat of the Day of Atonement ceremony. In Revelation, we do see that Satan is released for a little while after the millennium but then God removes him forever.
These prophecies concerning Satan are an important part of the gospel of the kingdom. Christ is returning in power to remove Satan and establish God’s kingdom here on this earth.
As we’ve seen the Day of Atonement is really about the gospel of the kingdom of God. There are three major points we’ve discussed.
First, the animal sacrifices performed on this day teach us about the gravity of sin and the price paid by Jesus Christ to save us from sin.
Secondly, the work of the High Priest represents the present work of Jesus Christ in reconciling humanity to God.
And thirdly, the two goats represent Jesus as the sin offering and Satan as the originator of sin who will be cast into the wilderness by Jesus when He returns.
I’m now joined by Steve Myers and Darris McNeely as we continue our discussion of the Day of Atonement and the Gospel.
So how would you answer someone who came to you and said oh the Day of Atonement that’s just a Jewish observance, has nothing to do with Christianity?
[Steve Myers] Well you hope that people would ask that question. Is it a Jewish thing or is it a Christian thing? And if they’re honest with themselves, they should check their Bibles. Get into your Bible. Look at Leviticus 23. It lists these days of God and it doesn’t say they’re Jewish, it doesn’t say they’re just for the Israelites. It says there very specifically these are the Feasts of the Lord and so that starts us down a path to realize this was something for all mankind. It wasn’t just for a specific group of people but for everyone. So I think if people are honest with themselves and start looking at the real evidence that’s there they’ll see that these days that carry over into the New Testament Church and you’ll find them referenced throughout the New Testament as well. So they’re for everybody and they are for today as well.
[Darris McNeely] Even the Day of Atonement is mentioned in the book of Acts as kind of a place marker of the Apostle Paul on his way to Rome. Luke the recorder, the writer of Acts, refers to several of the Holy Days but even the fast of the Day of Atonement that Paul was on his way to Rome during that time. Steve makes a good point. These are days that, frankly, are for all mankind. They are God’s feasts for the world and frankly even today a lot of people are beginning to look at the festivals and understand that they do have a significance and meaning for people today and as you are bringing out about the Day of Atonement, Christ is right in the center of the meaning of the Day of Atonement when you look at the book of Hebrews and all. So one needs to be very careful not to just kind of shove this off as something Jewish because where that’s been done by people in the past it leads to some other problems of anti-Semitism or difficulties there and you want to be very very careful about that, that Christ was of the Tribe of Judah and there is a very important role for those people in the overall plan of God but these days are not just Jewish.
[Gary Petty] What I find so important about the Day of Atonement as a Christian is the idea of Jesus Christ as the High Priest and of course that’s brought out in the New Testament. That wouldn’t have been brought up in the Old Testament. So here in the New Testament we have this teaching that Jesus Christ is the High Priest and He now acts as High Priest. He is the High Priest every day before God interceding for us. We don’t need another intercessor. No human being needs any other intercessor except Jesus Christ because He is the High Priest. So when you study what the High Priest did in the Old Testament and especially on this day, when he was the only one who could go into the Holy of Holies and intercede for the people. We have a high priest that intercedes for us every day so that we can go into the Holy of Holies. That’s just incredible! And it’s New Testament.
[Steve Myers] Yes, and I think that contributes to the really amazing part about the Day of Atonement. You read just the Old Testament you’ve missed this great spiritual intent of the day. Yes there were certain physical aspects in the Old Testament that they did these physical rituals but they showed the way to the spiritual intent of this and even Christ said He came to show the fulfillment of the law. To show the important aspects of the spiritual side of things and so to recognize Christ as our High Priest and then you see these connections to Old Testament practices, it changes everything that we have access to God and prior to that time of Christ’s death and crucifixion and resurrection we didn’t have that. We didn’t have that and now we do. We can go directly to God by our High Priest Jesus Christ.
[Darris McNeely] You make a very good point Gary. In your program you talked about the work of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. Out of the Book of Leviticus chapter 16 there is a reference to it as a Holy Day in chapter 23 of Leviticus but chapter 16 really expands on it. But as you just said, the fullness of that understanding is brought out in the book of Hebrews. You can do a study and as we have all done giving sermons to Christians on the Day of Atonement as we’ve observed that, we can give a sermon and teaching about the Day of Atonement without ever turning to the Old Testament. By staying in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews explaining the full meaning as it’s been fulfilled by Christ He is our High Priest. Hebrews walks a person right through that. It is through and through a festival for those who are under the New Covenant today and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Day of Atonement is right in the center of it and frankly you cannot have a fullness of the relationship with Jesus Christ unless you understand the meaning of the Day of Atonement and keep it in the spirit and the intent that the New Testament shows.
[Gary Petty] Now you just said about observing the Day of Atonement. I think most Christians would be shocked that there’s actually other Christians, and there are. As you said there are Christians all over the place who are beginning to discover this and do this. So how has observing the Day of Atonement, which the three of us do, how has that helped you in your Christian walk?
[Steve Myers] When you think about the book of Hebrews, as we were talking about, Hebrews 9 would be section of scripture to read through that really makes that spiritual connection, that we do have a High Priest and if Hebrews hadn’t been written and recorded for us we wouldn’t know that Jesus is our High Priest and so it makes that point that we have a Savior. That through His death and His resurrection we can be justified. We have access to the Father and so we wouldn’t know that and it would change really everything. It changes everything when we recognize that very fact that as our High Priest we have direct access into the throne room of God and we have that Intercessor in our Savior.
[Darris McNeely] Another way that it really has always hit home with me is understanding that on that day as you brought out on the story of the two goats in Leviticus 16, when you turn to Revelation 20 and you see the binding of Satan at a time after the return of Christ, prior to Christ beginning to restore this earth to what it was, Satan is bound and the Day of Atonement shows us that on that day, or that day pictures that event really, described in Revelation 20 of Satan being bound and his influence being removed from this earth. The god of this world, the god who has deceived the world, that Revelation 12 talk about, will be removed and people will have the scales of deception lifted off their eyes and also they will begin to understand God. Also by keeping the Day of Atonement you know why there is evil in this world today. Great question that people struggle with and blame God for, cannot have faith because of the evil that has stalked the earth. It’s because of Satan. Christ labeled that. There will be a day he will be chained and bound and the source of evil will be removed from humanity and it will be a different world where people will have the opportunity to know God. That’s what it’s meant to me to through the years, understand that, share it, teach it with other people so they understand the world as it is today, why it is, and have that hope that there will be a better time.
[Gary Petty] So as a New Covenant Christian we obviously do not do what the Old Testament did as far as Levitical priesthood and sacrifices in the temple and all that. What is it you do on the Day of Atonement though, that is special?
[Steve Myers] Well we get together. It’s a commanded assembly it’s a time that we collectively come together as God’s people and we worship Him, we honor Him, we praise Him, we have a church service, and we recognize these great truths. We recognize we’ve got a solution for sin in our Savior Jesus Christ. The fact we’ve had our minds opened to this truth, there’s coming a time when He’s going to open everyone’s mind. Everyone will have an opportunity at one point to understand, really, the solution to sin and it is such an amazing promise that it represents a very specific part of God’s plan.
[Darris McNeely] Well, it’s a day to worship God in spirit and in truth and again I just go back to a point I made. You cannot really have a fullness of a relationship with Christ until you keep the Day of Atonement. That’s what it means to me.
[Gary Petty] To help you understand more about how the ancient day with its ancient rituals of the Day of Atonement reveal the message of the gospel, we would like to send you a copy of our free Bible study aid: “God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind .”
This important, free, easy-to-read booklet explains how our Creator has a wonderful plan for humanity which He reveals through an annual cycle of festivals described in the Scriptures. I highly encourage you order your free copy by calling toll-free, 1-triple-eight-886-8632. That’s 1-triple-eight-886-8632. If a representative doesn’t answer your call right away, please try again a little later when the lines are less busy. So jot down the number right now 1-triple-eight-886-8632. Or, you can go online to beyondtoday.tv or write to us at the address shown on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
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[Steve Myers] Hi! I’m Steve Myers. We would love to have you come and visit and worship with us. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. We’re committed to growing in our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, as well as fellowshipping with each other. We’ve found God’s way is the best way to live. We’re looking forward to meeting you soon. Come and join us!
[Gary Petty] The ceremonies of the ancient Day of Atonement can seem strange to those of us living in the modern age. A priest wearing a turban, bloody animal sacrifices, a holy room containing the Ark of the Covenant and a ceremony involving two goats.
We began the program with this question, “Do the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement have any relevance for Christians?”
In this short explanation we’ve been able to see that the answer is YES. The Day of Atonement is really about the gospel. Once again, the three main points we covered today:
1. The animal sacrifices performed on this day teach us about the gravity of sin and the price paid by Jesus Christ to save us from sin.
2. The work of the High Priest represents the present work of Jesus Christ in reconciling humanity to God.
3. The two goats represent Jesus as the sin offering and Satan as the originator of sin who will be cast into the wilderness by Jesus when He returns.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in constantly praying, “Thy kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
[Narrator] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to beyondtoday.tv