What Does Yom Kippur Have to do With Christian Faith?

Quite a lot.

Yom Kippur began this past evening and continues until sundown today. You’ve probably seen it on calendars and maybe you know what it’s all about. I figured I’d offer a brief look at what it is and what it means for Christians.

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) marks the day on the Jewish calendar where The Lord forgave the Israelites’ sins each year. Leviticus 16 tells us that on this day and this day only, The Lord met the High Priest inside the Holy of Holies at the lid of the ark, also called the Mercy Seat (Hebrew word kapporet). Every year, the high priest offered a sacrifice for sin on behalf of the Israelites. You can read the Lord’s direction on how to build the tabernacle and its contents in Exodus 25-40. Here is what it looked like:


Interestingly, the word “mercy seat” appears twice in the New Testament. The first is Romans 3:25. Messianic Jewish translator, David Stern translates the verse in this way: “God put Jesus forward as the kapparah for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.”

The second place the term occurs is Hebrews 9:5, where it is used in discussing the presence of God descending onto the Mercy Seat (the lid of the ark).

What does this mean? Simply put, God deals with the penalty of sin through sacrifice. In the Old Testament, no sin could be atoned for without the shedding of blood. In order to redeem and reconcile the world to himself, God had to shed blood. But it is not our own blood that is shed, even though we are most deserving of that punishment. Rather, in his unfathomable love He shed his own blood to atone for the sins of all people. The reason why this sacrifice is so complete is because the offering was perfect. The requirement was fulfilled once and for all. As Leviticus 16 tells us, the priest had to be ritually and ceremonially clean in order to enter the Holy of Holies and the sacrifice he offered had to be given every year. Jesus is so much more than ceremonially pure and his sacrifice does not need to be repeated.

With that in mind, read Hebrews 9:11-14. Spend a moment praying over this Scripture.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV)

Amen. Amen. Amen.
Thank you Jesus.


If you’re interested, here’s some books that might help you if you’d like to learn more:
Jewish New Testament and Jewish New Testament Commentary – David Stern
Jewish Background of the New Testament – J. Julius Scott
Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament – Christopher J. H. Wright
How to Worship a King – Zach Neese


One comment

  1. Pingback: New Years Resolutions and Their Shortcomings « The Advancement

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