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The Day of Atonement

goats, jubilee, Leviticus 16, mo'ed, Leviticus 23, fasting, afflicting, inheritance, forgiveness, Satan bound, sacrifice, fast, afflict

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Arguably the most solemn day of the year for ancient Israel was the Day of Atonement (Heb. Yome Kippur{im}).  It was the only day the Law of Moses required they actually afflict their soul. i.e., punish themselves.  This affliction is generally understood to indicate fasting (Ezr 8:21, Isa 58:5).  Israel was to afflict themselves on this occasion in recognition of their sin and the need to have it removed in order to maintain a relationship with their Creator.

Lev 16:30  “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.”

Lev 23:28  "And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.

Although Atonement (Heb, kippur, root kapar) has often been connected with ‘covering’ or ‘concealing’, this meaning really comes from a somewhat tenuous connection to an Arabic word.  Likely the Hebrew ‘koper’ meaning ‘ransom’ is more closely related to ‘kippur’.  In that case ‘to atone by offering a substitute’ fits much better most of the usage of ‘kippurim’ particularly throughout Leviticus.  Certainly this fits the scheme of the sacrifice of Messiah.  (See TWOT, 1032b kippur)

In order to make atonement through a substitute or be forgiven, it is generally expected that one sincerely regrets his actions (Luke 17:3-4).  In that case the mistake would not be repeated.  Israel was to demonstrate repentance and contrition to show that they recognized their failure and were moved to correct the problem.  Fasting indicated remorse and a change of heart.

Atonement Ritual for Ancient Israel

Leviticus 16 lays out a purification ceremony performed by the Levitical high priest on the Day of Atonement.  First, the High Priest had to slay a young bull as a sin offering to initially purify the tabernacle from his own sin.  Then he took two goats.  These were to be considered a single sin offering.  Their individual function in this offering was determined by lot.  One was ‘for the Lord’ (vs. 8).  The other was for the ‘scapegoat’ (Heb: Azazel, literally a ‘goat of departure’ or one sent away).  The goat for the Lord (also for the people, vs. 15) was sacrificed in the manor of a sin offering (vs. 9).  Its blood was used to purify the tabernacle and holy place (vs. 16) since those had been polluted by their mere proximity to Israel.  Then the altar was purified as well (vs. 18). 

After the tabernacle, etc. was cleansed from the priests and Israel’s sin, the goat of departure was brought forward and Israel’s sins were confessed over it.  It was then sent into a deserted/uninhabited place far from the camp (vss. 20-22).

The high priest after washing and a change of attire, burnt a ram for himself and another for the people to make full atonement for himself and the people (vs. 24, 3, 5).  The slain young bull and goat whose blood purified the tabernacle were taken outside the camp and burned (vs. 27).

As with many other sacrifices, there is in this ritual a connection with Messiah’s ultimate sacrifice.  Sin offerings, like the goat for the Lord, were typically burned outside the camp (Ex 29:14, Lev 4:21).  Of course, Messiah was crucified outside the camp (Heb 13:11-12, Mk 15:20-22).  The blood of the goat also cleansed the tabernacle.  The tabernacle represented the dwelling place of the Creator.  Messiah created mankind (John 1:3, Eph 3:9).  In that way, He was responsible for the chaos/sin mankind has inflicted on earth.  He accepted that responsibility.  His death paid the penalty for mankind’s error.  There are still those that try to hold the Creator responsible for so much suffering in the world today.  With the death of Messiah that cloud of responsibility for human sin no longer hangs over the dwelling place of the Creator. 

Goat of Departure

The sacrifice of the goat for the Lord was only half of this unique sin offering of Leviticus 16.  The other half was accomplished by the goat of departure.  This goat was not killed beside the altar as was typical of animal sacrifices.  Instead, it had all Israel’s sins confessed over it and then was sent into the uninhabited wilderness and released. 

Many associate this goat with a fallen angel, Azazel, mentioned in the Jewish apocryphal Book of Enoch.  This work is generally accepted to have originated between 100 and 300 BCE.  Indeed, the text could easily support a perception that this Azazel is the azazel goat of Leviticus 16. Enoch 10:4-10 describes the Creator sentencing this Azazel to be bound and thrown into an opening in the desert, and covered in darkness until judgment day when he will be thrown into the fire.  All sin is attributed to him.  Jewish sources seem to be unanimous in their acceptance of this connection between the azazel of Leviticus 16:8 and this fallen angel, Azazel.

Revelation 20:2-3 also talks of Satan, the ultimate fallen angel, being bound: in this case for a thousand years.  Verse 10 talks of him later being cast into a lake of fire.  However, no mention is made of Satan being responsible for all sin in Revelation or anywhere else in Scripture.  Both these references do tell us that he is a deceiver.  Verse 3 specifically indicates that Satan is being bound “so that he should deceive the nations no more”.  However, verse 10 indicates there are others in the lake of fire with Satan, so his final place of confinement is not an uninhabited place.

This author has been unable to find any indication in Scripture that Satan will carry our sin anywhere in any way.  In the Garden of Eden Satan’s deception led to curses for mankind.  However, Eve and Adam were punished for their part in the sin that took place.  They tried to place the blame on others, but the Creator held them directly and fully responsible for their actions.  There doesn’t seem to be any indication that Satan will ultimately be held responsible for Adam or Eve’s sin even though it seems apparent he encouraged it. 

Eze 18:20  "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

This author has seen many statements putting forth scriptural reasons why the azazel goat represents Satan.  None heard contain solid logic.  For instance, one assertion referenced the account of the death of Uriah the Hittite as proof that the one who actually does the sin is not always the one held guilty of it.  Joab withdrew his troops so Uriah would be killed, but David received the punishment (II Sam 12:9-12).  From what we know Joab was not punished because of this matter.  However, Joab was David’s servant.  Joab was expected to do the will of his master.  The actions of a servant/slave are directly attributable to the master (Ex 21:4).  Joab was simply a tool of David.  Although people may make themselves a slave of sin, this does not make them a slave of Satan.  Satan deceives, but people aren’t required to buy into that deception.

Messiah as Azazel

In all of scripture, this author was unable to find any indication that Satan is directly or indirectly responsible for all sin.  In fact, it is Messiah that is designated as the one who carries our sin.  Other’s sin is laid on Him.

Heb 9:28  “so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

Isa 53:4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5  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. 6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Unlike Satan, Messiah does bear the sins of His people.  They were all laid on Him.

Isa 53:11  “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. 12  Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.”

Ps 103:12  “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  There is no indication that Satan has a part in this removal of sin.

I Pet 2:24  “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed.”

Consider as well that animal sacrifices were to be free of corruption or blemish (Lev 22:18-25, Num 28:3, 9, 11, 19, etc.).  This indicates purity and sinlessness of the substitute offering.  So, the azazel goat was assumed to be pure.  He was brought before the altar that had been purified just moments before.  His arrival did not pollute the altar.  The sins of Israel had to be named over him (vs.21).  He was not inherently responsible for them or already carrying guilt because of them.

Consider that Messiah was also sent to an uninhabited place.  There is no social connection in death.  The dead are separated from the living.

Isa 53:8  “He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.”

Ps 88:5  “Adrift among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And who are cut off from Your hand. 6  You have laid me in the lowest pit, In darkness, in the depths.”

Based on the instruction of Scripture, it is Messiah that fulfills the job of the goat of departure as described in Leviticus 16.  Satan deceives people, but he doesn’t make them sin.  They must accept his deception without seeking verification from the Creator.  When people act on their own, they are responsible for their actions.

Origins of Atonement sacrifices

The Atonement sacrifices of Leviticus 16 are tied directly to the Levitical priesthood, like most of the other required sacrifices.  Without the Levitical priesthood, these sacrifices could not be offered.  In fact, they were not offered before Aaron was anointed.  The instruction to implement them came shortly after the death of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1, 16:1).  They were the sons of Aaron killed shortly after they assumed the duties of priests. 

For Israel, the Day of Atonement was inseparable from the ritual of these Leviticus 16 sacrifices.  This is certainly understandable since this day marked the cleaning of all Israel’s sin (Lev 16:30).  It was a very solemn and reflective day for Israel.  Certainly they had plenty over which to be remorseful.

Ex 32:7  “And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8  "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’" 9  And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10  "Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation."

Jer 32:30  “For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD. 31  For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face, 32  Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33  And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.  34  But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. 35  And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

Deu 9:7  "Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD….  24  "You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.

However, we should ask, ‘was Israel not forgiven before the Leviticus 16 ceremony?’  Certainly they upset their Creator on multiple occasions as they traveled through the wilderness.  Likely Israel’s conduct with the golden calf was the tipping point.(Ex 32:7-10)

Jer 7:22  "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23  "But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ 24  "Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.”.  

Clearly, it was not the intention of the Creator to require animal sacrifices of Israel (See also Ps 40:6, 51:16-17).  The exhortation to ‘obey my voice’ and ‘walk in the ways that I have commanded you’ harkens back to Exodus 19:5 where Israel was told to “obey My voice and keep My covenant”.  Doing that would make them a holy nation of priests (vs.6).

Later on in Exodus 20:20 Israel was told that the awesome display of the Creator on Mount Sinai was designed to impress upon them the need to not sin.  That was the expectation of their agreement to abide by the Sinai covenant.  So, the plan was that Israel not sin.  In that case they would have not needed Atonement offerings.  Abraham, the father of the faithful or his sons, Isaac and jacob, obviously did not have the tabernacle or the Levites to offer the Atonement sacrifices for them.  It was Israel’s failure to obey that prompted the need to ‘atone by substitution’. 

Timing of the Day of Atonement

Although there is some overlap of time in the appointments of the Creator, they are generally in time order according to fulfillment.  The occasion of Passover occurs before the Wave Sheaf was offered.  The firstborn, wave sheaf of Unleavened Bread, was accepted by the Creator before the rest of the first fruits on Pentecost.  The First fruits will be accepted before the great harvest of Tabernacles/Sukkot.  Many of these occasions looked forward to multiple future fulfillments.

The Atonement ceremony of Leviticus 16 was not the ultimate fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.  It looks forward to a greater day of cleansing and forgiveness for Israel.  It especially looks forward to a return of Israel to their original inheritance.  This is not an occasion of remorse, but joy!

Lev 25:9  “Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.  10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.” ‘

From Mourning to Joy!

Jer 31:9  “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.   10 ¶  Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. 11  For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” 19  “Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.”

Eze 7:16But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity. 17  All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water. 18  They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads.”

Jer 50:4In those days and in that time," says the LORD, "The children of Israel shall come, They and the children of Judah together; With continual weeping they shall come, And seek the LORD their God. 5  They shall ask the way to Zion, With their faces toward it, saying, ‘Come and let us join ourselves to the LORD In a perpetual covenant That will not be forgotten.’ 6  "My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill;  They have forgotten their resting place.

Eze 20:39  “As for you, O house of Israel," thus says the Lord GOD: "Go, serve every one of you his idols--and hereafter--if you will not obey me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols. 40  "For on My holy mountain, on the mountain height of Israel," says the Lord GOD, "there all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, shall serve Me; there I will accept them, and there I will require your offerings and the firstfruits of your sacrifices, together with all your holy things. 41  "I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles.  42  "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers. 43  "And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed. 44  "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel," says the Lord GOD.’"

Isa 61:1  “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3  To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.  4  And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.”

Isa 60:21  “Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.”

Amos 9:14  “And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 15  And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.”

These accounts seem to be talking about a physical Israel that will return to the Promised Land sink their roots and live in peace.  They will come from wherever they were scattered with weeping and supplication because they realize how they have formerly rejected the Creator. 

Eze 34:12  “"As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13  "And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14  "I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15  "I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down," says the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment."

Ezekiel 34:12, above, indicates this will happen after the “cloudy and dark day”, a reference to the day of the Lord’s wrath (Zep 1:15).  That event is represented by the day of Trumpets/Teruah which occurs just before Atonement.  So the timing of the Day of Atonement is linked to the return of Messiah.  It stands to reason that He will not restore the inheritance of Israel until He is fully in charge of this world.  So the timing of the ultimate Atonement is based on Messiah’s return as king and the timing of the gathering of Israel to their inheritance, not the sacrifice of Messiah represented by the goat sin offering of Leviticus 16.  Messiah was sacrificed at the occasion of Passover, but generally Israel did not respond appropriately to that sacrifice.  It won’t be applied to the great bulk of Israel until they are gathered back to their inheritance.

There is certainly sufficient reason to fast and humble ourselves on the Day of Atonement.  All the sins of Israel will be named upon the innocent One that will carry them away.  Bringing to mind all the ugly offenses against the Creator and our fellow man should cause Israel and all of us to pause and be embarrassed and humbled.   This rejection of the Creator goes on to this day.  Yet it is the Creator’s intention to forgive and restore Israel.

The Atonement ritual of Leviticus 16 looks forward to a time when Israel will be cleansed from all their sin and corruption in the eyes of the Creator.  Certainly the jubilee of Leviticus 25 will follow that.  The day of affliction and mourning will become a day of joy and singing.  Israel will be restored clean and pure in the eyes of the Creator.

Generally speaking Israel did not recognize the sacrifice of Messiah.  As far as timing goes, that sacrifice had no immediate impact on Israel.  Certainly a return to inheritance at the jubilee will have an impact.  The application of His sacrifice is delayed for Israel.

In order for Israel to dwell safely and productively in their land they will need a great leader and protector to bring them from wherever they have been scattered and guide them in righteous living.  That can only mean that Messiah has taken charge in a very real way.  Indeed, the Day of Trumpets (Heb. Yome Teruah) is the appointment (Heb: mo’ed) of the Creator just before the Day of Atonement.  That seems to look forward to the day of battle when Messiah takes control of the earth (Zep 1:15-18).  That would pave the way for the gathering of remnant Israel, their forgiveness and fresh start in the Promised Land.

Isa 43:25  “"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

Isa 49:13  “Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted .”

Isa 1:16  “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17  Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18  Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

The ultimate fulfillment of Atonement then, is a future event.  It looks forward to the return of physical Israel to their land of inheritance.  It is enabled by a gracious Savior who cleanses the slate of those who humble themselves and provides them a fresh start in their land.  It occurs after the events of Yome Teruah/Trumpts and before the Great Father comes down to dwell among men, the 8th day.  This makes sense given that Trumpets and the 8th day are also future events. 

First fruits and Atonement

Believers now have already been forgiven, justified before the Creator and sanctified by Messiah’s life and death as the Passover lamb.  Therefore believers mark the occasion of His sacrifice, Passover as a memorial of that event.  Through that sacrifice and the new covenant that Messiah holds out to mankind, He brings believers under His protection now.  They are able to make a fresh start now.  The spirit of God that the faithful have is the guarantee of life in the age to come (John 5:24, 11 Cor 5:4-5, Rom 8:11).  Before Messiah moves to take charge of the earth the first fruits are already representing His kingdom (I John 2:6, II Cor 5:20, 6:16-17).  When the world is still under the hand of the Beast and false prophet the first fruits will be in Zion above (Rev 13:4-8, 14:1-4).  Messiah does not move to physically rule on earth until later (Rev 19:11-15, 19-21).   The first fruits do not need to be cleaned again on the ultimate Day of Atonement.  They are already sanctified.  Messiah’s sacrifice will finally be applied to Israel so they can return to their inheritance clean and pure.  Israel will evidently finally recognize their Messiah.

Mt 23:39  "for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’"

With regard to Satan being represented by the Azazel goat:  It makes no sense to this author that those scattered among the nations who return to Israel, need to lay blame on Satan, while believers now receive forgiveness solely by the sacrifice and cleansing action of Messiah.  Satan, if he is the azazel goat does not need to be put away for believers to receive their reward.  Either Satan is directly responsible for everyone’s sin or he is not directly responsible for anyone’s.  Lacking any scriptural statement asserting that he is responsible, it seems without basis to conclude that he is.  Certainly, Messiah accomplished for believers now a restoration of the relationship the Creator has been seeking with mankind from the beginning that is implemented for all Israel in the Day of Atonement.  Believers now are cleansed by His blood and He bore their sins to the void of death at His crucifixion.  It was not necessary that Satan be bound to remove the first fruits sin. 

There is very little additional explanation of the day of Atonement outside of Leviticus 23, 25 and 16.  It is not clear if there will be a special ceremony or other unique events on an Atonement immediately after Messiah takes charge of the earth.  This author sees nothing in Revelation that clearly indicates the events of Atonement.

Satan bound

Based at least partly on the assumption that Satan is the Azazel goat released in an uninhabited place, it is often believed that Satan will be bound away from any others on the Day of Atonement.  Of course, the reason for this binding according to Scripture is stated as Satan; “should deceive the nations no more”, not because he is directly responsible for everyone’s sin (Rev 20:3).  In spite of the misunderstanding of the Azazel goat, Satan may indeed be bound on or just before Atonement. 

The Beast and False Prophet will be captured and tossed into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20).  It is easy to understand this will happen quickly after Messiah moves to exercise direct and active authority over the earth.  This event seems to fit with the Day of Trumpets (Zeph 1:14-18, Rev 19:19-20).  It seems to be just a short time later that Satan is captured and thrown into an abyss (Rev 20:1-3).  Of course, Atonement is just a few days after the Day of Trumpets (Lev 23:24, 27).  The sequence of events as recorded in Revelation is not a guarantee of the actual timing of events.  However, at least this binding about the time of Atonement is possible. 

It is also not clear exactly why the great change of heart among Israel.  The Creator has been trying for thousands of years to get Israel to see the error of their ways.  With Israel’s return to the Promised Land as part of the Jubilee, Scripture seems confident that they will finally get the message.  Certainly if Satan is not around to deceive, that will help them see the truth more clearly.  So it is logical that Satan will be removed from influence at least by the time Israel is purified on the fulfillment of this great Day of Atonement.

It is also possible that if Messiah moves to return Israel to their inheritance, they might actually recognize Him as Messiah.  No wonder they will be greatly ashamed.

While the capture of Satan would help explain why Israel finally repents the link to the azazel goat of Atonement is unlikely.  There are as many differences between Satan and the role of the Azazel goat as there are similarities in Scripture.  Also, one would expect something in the New Testament and especially Revelation to make a clear connection with the event of Atonement.  This coincidence with the binding of Satan seems to be the only link.  Could it be the Day of Atonement is not as significant in the plan of the Creator as are His other appointments?

Atonement is all about the nation of Israel.  Israel was scattered.  The good news is they will be regathered.  The sad part is they had to be scattered in the first place.  If they had obeyed there would have been no reason for this occasion.

Ezekiel’s Temple and Revelation

As it turns out, there is more in the Hebrew Scriptures to be considered which may indeed connect with Revelation.  The inheritance allocation for the tribes of Israel are laid out with the future city and temple of Ezekiel 40-48

Eze 45:1  "Moreover, when you divide the land by lot into inheritance, you shall set apart a district for the LORD, a holy section of the land; its length shall be twenty-five thousand cubits, and the width ten thousand. It shall be holy throughout its territory all around.”

Eze 47:13  “Thus says the Lord GOD: "These are the borders by which you shall divide the land as an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions.”

A district for Yahweh will be determined along with the territorial inheritance of the tribes of Israel.  It is apparently the home of Messiah and the government after His return.  Although Israel’s inheritance is mentioned, there is no mention of any special event of return for Israel.  However, after the altar is cleansed, offerings for others will be accepted.  It makes sense that acceptance of Israel would be a high priority.

Eze 43:26  “Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves. 27  And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.”

Specifically the one being accepted is Ezekiel.  However, it is his job to describe this complex and its workings to Israel (Eze 43:10-11).  Certainly, the Creator is expecting all Israel to turn from their former ways.  He will then accept them and dwell among them (vs. 9).

There are a number of interesting similarities between this district for Yahweh in Ezekiel and descriptions of people and structures in Revelation.  In particular, the sons of Zadok in Ezekiel seem to be in the place of the first fruit of Revelation.

Eze 44:15  "but the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me; and they shall attend on me to offer me the fat and the blood, says the lord GOD;”  (see also Eze 40:46) 

Consider that Ezekiel does not include Zadok along with his sons as receiving the honor of serving the Prince, Messiah.  Did he not qualify?  More likely in mentioning only the sons of Zadok, Ezekiel is intending all the faithful regardless of family linage.  Certainly Zadok would be included.  This seems to be exactly the group called first fruits in Revelation.

Rev 14:1-4  “then I looked, and lo, on mount Zion stood the lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his father’s name written on their foreheads. … 4  it is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for god and the lamb ,”

Certainly all the faithful are included in the first fruits of Revelation including the patriarchs.  Both groups are directly attached to Messiah, the Prince.  They serve Him directly and personally wherever He happens to be.

Note that these sons of Zadok purify the altar and themselves before anyone else can be accepted (Eze 43:26-27, above).  They are officiating when the rest of Israel has likely not yet been accepted.  It seems the return to inheritance of Atonement is not for these first fruits or the sons of Zadok.  They have already received an inheritance (Mat 19:29, 25:34, Rev 21:7).  Certainly their sins would have been cleansed without the cleansing of the ultimate Atonement.

There is also another group to consider.  They are separate from the 144 thousand. 

Rev 7:9 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,…13  “then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?" 14  I said to him, "sir, you know." and he said to me, "these are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. 15  therefore are they before the throne of god, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence.” 

This great multitude was not sealed/protected with the 144 thousand.  Consequently, they had to deal with the tribulation.  However, they evidently came to fully appreciate Messiah’s sacrifice before the great bulk of Israel.  So they were also cleansed before Satan was bound, entirely by the sacrifice of Messiah, the Lamb (vs.14).  They serve Messiah in His temple, not necessarily wherever He goes (vs.15).  This is similar to the Levites of Ezekiel 44:10.

Eze 44:10  "And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity. 11  "Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them. 12  "Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them," says the Lord GOD, "that they shall bear their iniquity. 13  "And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place; but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. 14  "Nevertheless I will make them keep charge of the temple, for all its work, and for all that has to be done in it.

The Levites who keep charge of Ezekiel’s temple have had problems.  Those who serve within the temple of Revelation also have something of a cloud over them.  Both are in a place of responsibility, but not the highest responsibility. 

There are other similarities between the district of Ezekiel 40 and the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21.

Eze 40:2  “and brought me in the visions of god into the land of Israel, and set me down upon a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city opposite me.”

Rev 21:2  “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

The Ezekiel complex is on a very high mountain.  This is at a time when every mountain is to be brought low (Isa 40:4).  Certainly at some point the New Jerusalem must seem to be very high above the rest of the earth.  Also the gates of these places are both named after the twelve tribes of Israel.

Eze 48:31  “three gates, the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi, the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel.”

Re 21:12  “it had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed;”

Both these places send out water to heal the sea and/or land.  This water seems similar to the water Messiah said would flow out from His believers. 

Rev 22:1  “then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of god and of the lamb 2  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

Eze 47:1  “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar…   7  When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8  Then he said to me: "This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9  "And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.”

John 7:37  “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38  "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Some of the holy city description in both Revelation and Ezekiel appears to be very literal and physical.  However, considering that Messiah described the flow of the Spirit as living water, one must wonder if these accounts are all figurative.  The comparison between the sons of Zadok with the first fruits, the Levites with those that weren’t ready to be sealed from the tribulation and the possible connection between a city on a very high mountain and New Jerusalem in the heavens, make it easy to believe Ezekiel is not being shown the full clear meaning of what he sees.  What he sees is symbolic of something much more profound.

Eze 43:8  “In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. 9  Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever. 10  Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. 11  And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.”

It seems highly unlikely that the physical structure and dimensions of this complex are going to shame Israel into changing their ways.  Certainly this description is symbolic of righteousness, wisdom and the ways of the Creator.  He is seeking to restore His relationship with Israel and return to them their place with Him.  The return of Israel to their inheritance is part of the plan for this structure.  Certainly it is only understanding the Creator and walking in His ways that will enable an unshakable relationship with Him.

Atonement  and God’s plan

We saw that animal sacrifice was not required in the original covenant of Exodus 20-23 (Jer 7:22-24).  Sacrifice was accepted with that covenant, but not required (Ex 20:24-26).  The Creator doesn’t really like animal sacrifices (Ps 40:6, 51:16-17).  They were later commanded because of the graphic example they are of the price of Israel’s egregious transgression. 

 The three feasts; Unleavened Bread, Pentecost/Harvest and Tabernacles were to be observed as part of the Sinai covenant (Ex 23:14-17).  The Sinai covenant of Exodus 20-23 did not mention the Day of Atonement!   That covenant agreement was fixed as of the confirmation in Exodus 24.  The Creator took Israel’s word that they would obey.  Sacrifices and/or scattering Israel was not part of that plan.  Sacrifices were required later because Israel went backward (Jer 7:22-24).  Israel was sent into captivity and scattered by the Creator because of egregious disobedience (Ex 32:7-10, Deu 29:28, Jer 31:10). 

The first fruits of the kingdom are given their reward before the final fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.  If Israel had been faithful they would have been among the first fruits.  The sacrifice of Leviticus 16 would not have been required.  Furthermore, if Israel had obeyed, they would not have been scattered.  There would have been no need to return to their inheritance.  They never would have left it.  The events pictured in the Day of Atonement would have had no basis in reality.  Atonement is not required by the Sinai covenant because the Creator took Israel at their word that they would abide by it.  There would have been no need to scatter or restore/gather them again.

Unfortunately, Israel continues their rebellion in ignorance to this day.  We have all contributed to that to one degree or another.  The Day of Atonement was set aside by the Creator to remind us of our failure and the need to carefully consider our conduct and recognize our part in the rebellion.  The fast the Creator really wanted was “To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh” (Isa 58:6-7).

As with the Law of Moses, the appointment of the Day of Atonement and the solution it envisions were added because of transgressions.  It was a reminder to Israel of the cost of their failure.  Our merciful and patient Creator modified His plans in order to accommodate a self-centered and arrogant people.  He has set His mind to bring about the cleansing and return of Israel and He set the Day of Atonement to mark its fulfillment.  Certainly He is looking forward to that day.  Those of His same mind would certainly do the same.

All have sinned.  We have all contributed to the decay of this world.  It seems entirely fitting that we continue to humble ourselves in concern for the rest of mankind that is yet to learn their lesson and say; ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’