Sanctuary Lesson 18 - The Day of Atonement

Of all the holy days in the sacred Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was the most solemn and significant to the Jewish people.  Why is this day so significant?  Atonement means the reconciliation between God and mankind.  The ten days between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement are known as the "days of repentance."  The Day of Atonement is the final day of judgment when God judges all the people.

Let's turn to Leviticus 16:29-34 to learn more about the Day of Atonement.

- According to these verses. when was the Day of Atonement?

  • Answer (highlight to read): The Day of Atonement was on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishri (roughly September-October, according to our calendar).

Let's turn to Leviticus 16:6-19.

- According to these verses, why did the high priest sacrifice the bull?

  • Answer: The high priest sacrificed the bull as a sin offering for himself and his house.

- According to these verse, why did the high priest cast lots for the two goats?

  • Answer: The high priest cast lots to choose which goat would be the Lord's goat for sacrifice and which goat would be the scapegoat.

- According to these verses, why did the high priest sacrifice the Lord's goat?

  • Answer: The high priest sacrificed the Lord's goat as a sin offering for the people.

- According to these verses, what did the high priest do with the blood of the bull and the Lord's goat?

  • Answer: The high priest sprinkled the blood of the bull and the Lord's goat on the mercy seat seven times.

What is so significant about these sacrifices?  How are they different from the daily sacrifices?  An American author best described the purpose of the daily sacrifices:

"Day by day the repentant sinner brought his offering to the door of the Tabernacle, and 
placing his hand upon the victim's head, confessed his sins, thus in figure transferring
them from himself to the innocent sacrifice. The animal was then slain....The blood,
representing the forfeited life of the sinner, whose guilt the victim bore, was carried by
the priest into the holy place and sprinkled before the veil, behind which was the ark
containing the law that the sinner had transgressed. By this ceremony the sin was, through
the blood, transferred in figure to the Sanctuary. In some cases the blood was not taken
into the holy place; but the flesh was then to be eaten by the priest. . . . Both ceremonies
alike symbolized the transfer of sin from the penitent to the Sanctuary." (1)

In the daily sin offerings, a substitute sacrifice was accepted in place of the sinner, but the blood of the victim did not make full atonement for the sin.  It only provided a means of transferring the sin from the sinner to the Sanctuary.  In making the sin offering, the sinner was acknowledging the authority of God's law and confessing his guiltiness.  The sinner expressed faith that God would take away his sin, but he was not entirely released from the condemnation of the law.

As we have read in Leviticus 16, the high priest, on behalf of the people, goes into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement and sprinkles the blood on the mercy seat, which is situated above the tablets of the Ten Commandments.  By this act, the high priest satisfies the claims of the law, which demanded the life of the sinner.  So, what happens next?

Let's turn to Leviticus 16:20-22.

- According to these verses, what did the high priest do the scapegoat?

  • Answer: The high priest placed his hands on the goat's head, confessed the sins of the people, then released it into the wilderness.

When the high priest placed his hands on the head of the scapegoat, he prayed for God to forgive the sins of all the people.  In doing so, the sins of the people were transferred onto the scapegoat.  The scapegoat was released into the wilderness, carrying the sins of the people away, never to return.

What were the people to do during the Day of Atonement?  Let's turn to Levticus 23:27-32.

- According to these verses, what were the people called to do?

  • Answer: The people were to afflict their souls and make an offering.

- According to these verses, what were the people NOT to do?

  • Answer: The people were commanded not to work on that day.

- According to these verses, what happened if someone did not afflict himself or herself?

  • Answer: That person was to be cut off from the people.

Afflict your soul?  What does that mean?  Was God commanding the people to physically hurt themselves?  No, the people were to afflict their souls in the sense that they were to humble themselves.  The Day of Atonement was a time of reflection, where the people would spend the day praying for forgiveness of their sins.  Those individuals who rebelliously refused to do this, were cut off from being God's covenant people.  While the people who afflicted their souls would be covered by the blood of the sacrifice and "cleansed" of their sins, the rebels would retain their sins and remain unforgiven, dooming themselves.

So, how does the Day of Atonement point to Jesus?

Let's turn to Luke 23:44-46 and Matthew 27:51.

- According to these verses, what happened to the veil in the Jewish temple when Jesus died?

  • Answer: The veil was torn in two from top to bottom.

Let's turn to Hebrews 10:1-4.

- According to these verses, can the blood of bulls and goats take away our sins?

  • Answer: No

Let's turn to Hebrews 9:11-15 and Hebrews 10:5-23.

- According to these verses, how are we cleansed of our sins?

  • Answer: We are cleansed of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was supernaturally ripped from the top to the bottom.  Jesus came as our high priest and entered the Most Holy Place (heaven) once and for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-28).  Believers In Jesus Christ accept His sacrifice on the cross as the final atonement for sin, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-25).  It is through Jesus that we are able to be reconciled with God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  We will repent of our sins and look forward to the day He returns for us (Zechariah 12:10).  On the day Jesus returns, we will rejoice and be created anew (Isaiah 66:7-14; Romans 11:26; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  Ultimately, the blame for sin will be placed upon Satan and he will be banished to a ruined and desolate earth for 1000 years (Jude 1:6; Revelation 20:1-4). 

Friend, will you be willing to receive eternal redemption through the sacrifice and precious blood of Jesus Christ?  Will you let Him make final atonement for you?


 1. White, Ellen. The Great Controversy, p. 418.
























Happy Sabbath!

A Short Prayer