The Bible Insights Weekly e-letter is freely available upon request.

Yes! Please Subscribe Me

Bible Insights Weekly

Enrich your spiritual thinking.

UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, September 09 2021

The Day of Atonement: Removing the influence of evil and suffering

The Day of Atonement portrays an essential step in God's plan of salvation, which must occur before humanity can experience true peace on earth.

by Darris McNeely

Have you ever looked at the evil, the suffering, the problems of today's world and wanted to see it come to an end? Have you wanted to do something, wave a magic wand, do something on your own, some action that you would take to see it all go away? Certainly, you have, I have, and we've all done what we can, and should do what we can to alleviate suffering and evil and problems in this world. But there's one thing that God's Word tells us that we should do as Christians looking for the hope in the coming of a better age and a better world, and it is embedded in the Holy Days that the Bible describes and calls the Day of Atonement.

We've been talking about the Holy Days of God and we're in that season of the year. Leviticus, chapter 23, talks about all of the festivals God gave, not just to Israel but to all mankind, and for a Christian today wanting to understand the plan of God and the purpose of God, these Holy Days are critical. The Day of Atonement, one of the glorious Holy Days, takes us to an understanding of how God is going to remove evil from this world.

The Day of Atonement is described in Leviticus 23, beginning in verse 26, "On the 10th day of the month, the Day of Atonement is to be observed" (Leviticus 23:26-28). It is a day, actually, of fasting. As you go through this, there's no work to be done. It's a day of affliction, which is a biblical term meaning to fast. And what happens, a Christian keeping the Day of Atonement goes without food and water for a 24-hour period. I know that's difficult. I know that that can be a challenging thought for any of us, but it is part of what God's teaching is for us in order to draw close to Him and to discipline our lives for spiritual reasons and purposes. Fasting on the Day of Atonement meets God's teaching and instruction on how it is to be kept, but it is the "why" behind that that is extremely important.

On the Day of Atonement, the high priest in the temple of God entered in with special sacrifices for the sins of the people, for his own sins, and then there was a very special ceremony where others' sins were placed upon another animal, a goat, and a live goat was let off into the wilderness. These are described in Leviticus, chapter 16. It's a very elaborate ritual. Now, we don't do any of those today because we don't have a priesthood, we don't have a temple, but most importantly because Jesus Christ fulfilled all of those symbols, and yet, we still keep the Day of Atonement.

The critic might say there is no need to keep the Day of Atonement. I've heard that. I don't agree with it, and I can show you many biblical reasons for that, but let me point you to the reason why we do keep the Day of Atonement. It's in the Book of Hebrews, chapter 9, where in this book we have a wonderful description of the role of Jesus Christ as our high priest. And beginning in verse 24, it says this regarding the role of Christ, "Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands which are copies of the true, but into Heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).

The old covenant, the Old Testament, a high priest entered into the holy of holies of a physical temple. When Christ entered into Heaven with his own blood as an atoning sacrifice, that fulfilled for once and for all the one sacrifice to forgive sin and to reconcile man to God. Again, the critic would say there's no need for us, then, to keep this biblical festival, but that critic would be wrong. There is a need because as Christ stands today as our high priest, atoning and his blood made available for any and all who claim that sacrifice, we look around our world today and we still see suffering, we still see evil, we still see people suffering the results of broken laws, a world that is not at one with God.

When we keep the Day of Atonement, when you keep the Day of Atonement, when you fast, when you keep it as God teaches us to keep it today as a Christian, with this understanding of Jesus Christ firmly in the middle of that Day of Atonement, it points us to the time when Christ will return and Christ will remove the one influence that has caused the suffering of mankind, Satan, the Devil. It is because Satan, the Devil, is still alive and well on this planet Earth, instigating evil and suffering, that we look forward to the Day of Atonement and we observe it with the understanding that we have of Jesus Christ as our high priest and our soon-coming king, who when he does return, will bind that evil, Satan, and remove his influence from mankind, and the world will then begin the process of becoming at one with God.

That's why we keep the Day of Atonement. That's why you should understand it and keep it with those symbols and with that deep truth.

With time, he also came to understand the days observed by most of Christianity are not commanded in the Bible, and Scripture backed up his realisation that associating the name of Jesus with these days did not make them more acceptable: "... in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).

While in high school, he also discovered that in the King James Version of the Bible the word translated as "Easter" in Acts 12:4 was an erroneous translation of the Greek word ‘pascha’, a word clearly meaning the Passover (described in Leviticus 23:5). It was not until the second century, long after the New Testament was written, that people began to replace the Passover observance with Easter.

Jesus and His family observed the Holy Days of the Bible, travelling to Jerusalem, when He was twelve years old, to observe the Passover (Luke 2:41, 42). John 7 also shows Christ keeping the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (described in Leviticus 23:33-36) in spite of the threat of bodily harm. Jesus kept all of the annual festivals, not only because He was a devout Jew, but because God commanded them and He was setting an example for Christians today (Matthew 28:20).

These Holy Days were also observed following Christ's ascension. The disciples were gathered together to observe the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent (Acts 2:1), because Pentecost was still a "holy convocation," a commanded assembly (Leviticus 23: 15- 16, 21).

Gentile Christians also observed the biblical Holy Days. More than 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion, about the year A.D. 55, the Apostle Paul gave important instruction to the Church in the gentile city of Corinth, where most church members were gentile. A man was involved in an immoral relationship, and Paul instructed them to expel him from the church:"...Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with ...the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

The Corinthians had put out leaven to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but had not applied the spiritual lesson. Paul’s intent, by instructing them to "keep the feast," was not to spiritualize away the Days of Unleavened Bread, but to magnify them. The New Testament builds on the foundation of the Old by emphasizing the spiritual intent of the Holy Days.

Colossians 2:16, 17 is perhaps the most oft-quoted New Testament Scripture used to discredit the Holy Days: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."

Paul was not saying not to keep the Holy Days, he was addressing their proper observance. The Colossians had been introducing ascetic practices on the Holy Days, as they were being influenced to follow the commandments and doctrines of men (verses 18-23). If anything, these verses corroborate the practice of God's true Church in the first century was to observe these days,

Another misunderstood text is Galatians 4:8-10. Verses 8 and 9 refer to the practices of the Galatians before they knew the true God, and after learning the truth, they were beginning to return to these ‘weak and beggarly elements’. To say God's laws are weak and beggarly is blasphemous. These "days and months and seasons [times] and years" were pagan practices, possibly similar to astrology today.

When a person looks into the commands and examples in the Bible to determine which religious festivals to observe, there is only one choice to be found: the annual festivals and Holy Days of God. If we are to build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will faithfully observe these days, and come to learn more about God's plan of salvation for humanity.