Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is observed on the 10th day of Tishri on the Hebrew calendar. Jews all over the world will go to their local synagogue on that day for the purpose of achieving atonement. However, the Tanakh says Yom Kippur as celebrated by Jews today will not achieve atonement with God. Unfortunately, the synagogue ceremonies, as beautiful and inspiring and uplifting and culturally Jewish as they are, do not conform to what God said about the Day of Atonement in the Law of Moses as specified in the Jewish Bible. They are manmade substitutes and are no longer acceptable to God for atonement. “And the Lord said: Forasmuch as this people draw near, And with their mouth and with their lips do honour Me, But have removed their heart far from Me, And their fear of Me is a commandment of men learned by rote. Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvellous work among this people, Even a marvellous work and a wonder; And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the prudence of their prudent men shall be hid. ” (Isaiah 29:13-14)
What was the prophet Isaiah talking about?
In ancient times on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal on the Mercy Seat between the Cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant. None of that is possible for Jews in this age. Without an Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat, a Holy of Holies in a Jerusalem Temple, an Aaronic priesthood to officiate, and the blood of a sacrificed animal to be offered on the altar, it is not possible for Jews to observe the Day of Atonement as God commanded through Moses. Today on Yom Kippur, Jews are simply following manmade traditions developed by rabbis after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. What they are doing is not God’s way of achieving atonement as specified in the Tanakh. However, God, in his mercy and love for his chosen people, has provided a way that modern Jews can achieve a blood atonement in the way that the God of Israel has specified as acceptable.
The concept of atonement (salvation) originated with the “seed promise” given to Abraham in Genesis. In its most basic form, the promise said God’s blessing for all families of the earth would one day come through a descendant of Abraham. That basic promise was first made to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3 (also see Gen. 13:14-15, Gen. 15:1-18, Gen. 17:1-13). After Abraham’s death, the seed promise was passed to Isaac in Gen. 26:1-5; then to Jacob, renamed Israel, in Gen. 28:1-4 (also see Gen. 28:10-15, Gen. 35:9-15), and specifically to the tribe of Judah in Gen. 49:10. Later, it was reaffirmed to the nation of Israel in Ex. 19:1-8 and Deu. 29:1-30:20. Even later in the history of Israel, God stipulated that the blessing of the seed line would pass through King David, who was promised a son whose throne would be established forever. It is in those promises taken together that the two-fold nature of the Messiah—a Redeemer Messiah who would bring blessing to the families of the earth and a King Messiah who would occupy the throne of David forever—can be clearly seen.
From the list of Scripture references above, it is obvious that the seed promise was fulfilled multiple times as the blessing (i.e., the honor of being a progenitor of the Messiah) was passed from generation to generation. The first fulfillment was accomplished when Isaac was born to Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and the child’s birth was the event that caused his father Abraham to rejoice. It meant that God was faithful to fulfill his promise to bless the nations through the seed of Abraham by making a first installment on that promise in the person of Isaac, the son of barrenness whose conception was miraculously caused by God to begin the seed line [Was Isaac’s conception by a 90-year-old barren Hebrew woman any less miraculous than the later pregnancy of a young Jewish virgin?] Subsequently, a picture of how the nations would be blessed in the future was given by the sacrifice of Isaac, when God asked Abraham to show his faith in him, the One who promised the seed of blessing, by obeying the command to sacrifice his son, who represented the entire seed line, on an altar of wood. After Abraham offered Isaac, and God himself saved Isaac through a substitution of animal blood, a picture of how God would redeem mankind through the seed of promise was acted out as a picture of what God would one day do through his Son, the Redeemer of Israel.
After the Children of Israel (the seed nation chosen to nurture the seed line) left Egypt at the end of four-hundred years of bondage, they journeyed to Sinai, where the concept of substitutionary sacrifice to achieve forgiveness of sin and atonement (understandable simply as “at-one-ment” with God) was codified in the Law given by God through Moses. Thereafter, both individual Israelites and the nation of Israel could achieve atonement only through an offering of animal blood on the altar or mercy seat in the Tabernacle, later in the Jerusalem Temple, as stipulated in no uncertain terms in the Law.
The system of animal sacrifice for achieving atonement with God continued until the Temple system was made obsolete, as stipulated by the Messiah Prophecy in Daniel 9:27b, which foretold the end of the age of animal sacrifices for atonement. A new covenant had been prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (in Jeremiah 31:31-34), and it was the advent of that new covenant that was the marvelous work promised by God in Isaiah. It made an end of animal sacrifice for remission of sins and substituted faith in the ultimate sacrifice of the Redeemer Messiah for forgiveness of sins as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who had written: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53)
The death of Jesus during Passover in 30 CE was proof to the ancient Jewish religious and political leadership (the prudent men from whom Isaiah had said understanding would be hidden), and to many ordinary Jews in the first century, that he could not have been the Messiah. Having been subjugated to the authority of the Romans since Pompey had captured Judea in 63 BCE the Jewish people were looking for a King Messiah who would throw off the shackles of Rome and establish the glory of the Kingdom of Israel as it had existed under David and Solomon. They had no expectation of a Servant Messiah who Jewish leaders would despise and reject and who would be humiliated and crucified by the Romans in fulfillment of the Messiah Prophecy, even though Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel had foretold exactly what would happen … and precisely when.
After the Romans overran and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE during the First Jewish-Roman War, the Jewish people there were still hoping for divine deliverance. To their dismay, deliverance did not come in the form of their expected King Messiah, and subsequently the Jewish people were carried away captive to the ends of the Roman Empire, left without a land, without a priesthood, and most important without a way to offer a blood sacrifice. The loss of the Temple was a catastrophe for the Jewish nation, making it impossible to continue a relationship with God under the Law as God himself had stipulated through Moses. Without a priesthood offering animal sacrifices in the Temple, the people and the nation had no means for achieving atonement with God in the way stipulated by the Law. In the first few decades after the destruction of the Temple, when Jews were banned from Jerusalem and the Temple environs, leading rabbis began to explore alternative ways to achieve forgiveness of sin and to achieve atonement. Without a prophet to tell them they had God’s approval, however, all of the traditions and rituals established by well-meaning rabbis were essentially manmade substitutes. What rabbi had the authority to change what Moses had written?
The only God-ordained pathway for achieving forgiveness of sin and reconciliation for iniquity that remained was the way offered by the New Covenant foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, a new covenant confirmed by the sacrificial blood of Jesus, the Servant Messiah.
It has only been possible to fully understand the chrono-specific prophecies in the Book of Daniel—including the Messiah Prophecy in Daniel, chapter 9, that specifies the exact time for the appearance of the Messiah—since June 7, 1967. A pivotal event on that date in Jewish history (the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount) provided the key needed to understand the prophecy found in Daniel, chapter 8, verses 1-14, which in turn proved to be the key that unlocked the chronology in all of the chrono-specific prophecies in Daniel, including the Messiah Prophecy in chapter 9. It is those prophecies that show how God, for more than four millennia, has been and still is working to fulfill the promise made to Abraham, to bring salvation through repentance and faith to both the Jewish people and the non-Jewish families of the world.
God’s plan for mankind to have life, not death, has been revealed progressively since the time that he commanded Abraham to journey with Isaac to Mount Moriah and there to offer his son as a sacrifice. Instead, God provided an animal sacrifice so that Isaac could live. That act of substitution was a picture of what God would one day do for all mankind through the Servant Messiah, when God would do what he asked Abraham to do in order to fulfill the promise of blessing to the families of the world. How God’s act of offering his own beloved Son as a substitutionary sacrifice, a sin offering for mankind, was realized in history is explained in the B’rit Hadashah so that everyone alive in this age can have the assurance of life in fellowship with God in the age to come. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)
The words of the Tanakh testify that two-thousand years ago Jesus came as the Servant Messiah, the seed of Abraham through whom God had promised that the world would be blessed. It is through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, the Anointed One of Israel, that each person can today attain atonement for sin and everlasting Oneness with the God of heaven and earth.
If you are Jewish and find all of this hard to believe, you might ask your rabbi what person in Jewish history had the authority to replace the offering of blood for atonement in the Jerusalem Temple specified by the Law of Moses with the manmade rituals and prayers observed on Yom Kippur in synagogues around the world today. He or she won’t have an answer. On the other hand, if you would like to read about the Messiah and his atonement as specified by the prophets in the Tanakh, you can read The Messiah Prophecy.