The Day of Atonement occurred on the 10 day of the 7th month of the Jewish (religious) calendar. It was the most solemn day of the year. Atonement means covering (for sin) which refers to the animal sacrifices that were offerred at the Day of Atonement. The Hebrew name for the Day of Atonement and by which it is probably better known today is Yom Kippur. A key characteristic of the Feast Day of the Day of Atonement was for the Jewish people to "afflict their souls" which means for them to humble themselves and reflect on and be sorry for and ask God's forgiveness for their sins over the past year. God took this mourning for sin very seriously and as in this passage commanded that anybody that didn't mourn for their sins (afflict their souls) was to be cut off from their people. This could mean excommunication from the Jewish people and society or perhaps being put to death for irreverance to God. A similiar warning applied against doing any work on that day. This is because this was to be considered the most holy day of the Jewish calendar and God didn't want the people to be distracted from Him and spending time before Him with earthly or routine work. There is an even stronger warning against doing work on the Day of Atonement. This is because the expression "be destroyed from among his people" is used instead of "be cut off from among his people". While the expression cut off from among his people could readily mean just excommunication the expression for doing work on the Day of Atonement to "be destroyed from among his people" certainly meant to be put to death in disgrace. The scripture text for this background description of the Day of Atonement is found in Leviticus 23 as follows:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in the same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsover soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. Leviticus 23:26-32
The background of the instructions for the Day of Atonement is the death of 2 of Aaron the first High Priest's sons for attempting to bring an offering and approaching God's holy place in the Temple or House of the Lord in a way other than what God set out or permitted in His law (or word.) Aaron's two sons were also priests themselves. Aaron and future high priests were commanded to not come any time to the holy place within the veil or "holy of holies" but as God states at the end of Leviticus 16 only on the Day of Atonement which was the 10 day of the seventh month. The veil was an object of separation from the glory of God's presence which was in the cloud of incense over the mercy seat in the holy of holies. This appearance of God is sometimes known as "The Shekinah Glory" and is the glory of the LORD or especially God the Father. The mercy seat was on top of the Ark of the Covenant which contained the stone tables of the law (10 commandments). Aaron as the high priest and other high priests after him were to come only on the Day of Atonement with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The sin offering was an offering before God for the sin nature of the people and the burnt offering was an offering of consecration or full holy devotion to the LORD (God). The high priest was first to completely wash his body which was also symbolic of cleansing his heart before he came into God's presence with the sacrifice into the holy place on the Day of Atonement. The high priest was also to wear special linen clothes that were white which probably symbolize purity and righteousness. The high priest was also to take two young goats for the people of Israel as well as another ram and come into the holy place with them. The scripture reference from Leviticus 16 of the high priest's preparation to go into the holy place on the Day of Atonement is as follows:
And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died; And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall bring with a linen girdle(sash), and with a linen mitre (special hat) shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on. And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. Leviticus 16:1-5
The high priest, Aaron or one of the later high priests, was to offer a bullock for a sin offering for his own sin and his house. A sin offering meant an offering to God to cover his sinful nature. The high priest (Aaron or a later high priest) was also called of God to get two goats and cast lots to choose one to kill for a sacrifice to God (the LORD) for a sin offering for himself and perhaps his house. This also portrays the sacrifice at Calvary of the Lord Jesus Christ to take away our sin nature for both Jews and Gentiles. The high priest (Aaron or others) was then to take the other goat (the scapegoat) and offer him as a live offering to the LORD for his sins and that of the people of Israel. He was then to let it go into the wilderness to carry away their sins from them into the wilderness. This could symbolize the LORD Jesus Christ carrying our sins with Him into the wilderness of Hell or the heart of the Earth. Although there are people in Hell there are no people in Hell that are trying to have their sins removed or kept away as people on the Earth. Also when Jesus rose from the dead although He wasn't carrying the sins anymore, He still had the nail prints in His hands and feet and when He went to Heaven. Jesus will also have these nail prints forever including when He comes as the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world in power and great glory to set up God's 1000 year Messianic Kingdom on Earth through His Son Jesus Christ. The scripture reference of these sin offerings including the scapegoat offering for the priest and people of Israel (and indirectly for the whole world) in Leviticus 16 is as follows:
And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:6-10
Aaron or the other high priest was to take the bullock for his sins and the sins of the people of Israel representing all the people of the world in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and kill it. In the book of Hebrews Jesus Christ is also the high priest and gives up His life for our sins as the sacrifice to take away the sins of all people especially that ask him to do this for us personally. Aaron or the high priest was then to bring a censor within the holy place or "holy of holies" with burning coals of fire and sweet incense within the veil that he not die when he went into the holy place. He was then to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat seven times. Incense is a type or representation of prayer and this means we are to pray when we come into God's presence in Heaven to ask His forgiveness and taking away our sins through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. Putting the blood on the mercy seat means for the New Testament believer that we have to ask Jesus Christ to realize His shedding of His blood personally for our sins when He shed His (God in the flesh's) perfect blood on the mercy seat of the cross of Calvary. The mercy seat was also upon the testimony which was the ark of the covenant which contained the tables of the Ten Commandments or the Law of Moses. The Ark of the Covenant and the Tables of the Law only condemned us and the high priest and people of Israel because we are all sinnners but God could have mercy upon them and us. This is because God saw the blood of the animal sacrifice applied to the mercy seat above the ark of the covenant and the law symbolizing the Lord Jesus Christ or the Messiah shedding His blood on the mercy seat of the cross. Jewish people and Gentiles or people of the nations that will live on Earth at the end of the Great Tribulation or 70th week of Daniel will also eye witness the Lord Jesus the Messiah (Christ) coming in the clouds of Heaven with nail prints in His hands and feet. Jesus endured these nails in his hands and his feet and His shedding of blood for our sins and people will and we should mourn because of Him similiar to what the Jewish people were to mourn for their sins and the sin offerings on the Day of Atonement. The scripture reference from Deuteronomy 16 with details about the bullock sin offering are as follows:
And Aaron(or other high priests) shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and spinkle it with the finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Leviticus 16:11-14
After killing and offering the sin offering of the bullock in the holy of holies the high priest was then to kill the goat to be offered to the LORD for a sin offering on the Day of Atonement. The high priest was also to apply the blood of this goat on the mercy seat as he had with the sin offering of the bullock. The sin offering of the bullock was more for the sin of the high priest while the sin offering of the goat was more for the sin of the people of Israel( or in a wider sense through the Lord Jesus the Messiah for the entire human race). Again we as individuals have to ask the Lord Jesus the Messiah to apply His (God in the flesh's) blood shed on the mercy seat of Calvary for our sins. The high priest was to be the only one in the tabernacle when he offered the sin offering to the LORD(God) on the Day of Atonement. This symbolized God the Father sending darkness of the Land of Jerusalem and Israel in the three hours when He was pouring out His wrath for our sins on His Son Jesus Christ as our sin offering. This darkness in the land likely prevented other people from seeing the Lord Jesus Christ being offered for our sins to take them away. This was just as the commandment to not have any other person in the tabernacle when the high priest gave the goat sin offering on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) would prevent other people from seeing the high priest's sacrifice of the goat sin offering on the Day of Atonement. The high priest was also to apply some of the blood of this goat sin offering to cleanse the holy place, the altar and the tabernacle. This will also take place in the Tribulation and Millennial Temples but with an understanding that the Messiah the Lord Jesus shed His blood to cleanse them in a more complete and final way. For Christians the Lord Jesus the Messiah now cleanses through His blood shed on the cross the temple of our bodies which are the temple of the Holy Spirit and His spiritual Temple of the complete Church of Jewish and Gentile believers. Members of the true Church are one in and under the head of the Lord Jesus the Messiah in this age. In this age the glory of God in the Temple of the Church is the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus Christ is the chief or main cornerstone. The scripture reference to the offering of the goat sin offering for the sin of the high priest and the people of God and to cleanse the tabernacle, the altar and the holy place from Leviticus 16 is as follows:
Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of their uncleanness when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. Leviticus 16:15-19
After the high priest had finished reconciling to or cleansing of sin to God and cleansing of the holy place, the tabernacles and the altar (and the high priest, his household and the people of Israel representing the entire human race), the high priest was then to carry out the ceremony of the live offering before the LORD of the scapegoat. This represents the Lord Jesus the Messiah reconciling to God the Temple, the Holy Place and the Altar, the high priest his household (the Levites and the people of Israel (the physical descendents or Israel and their spiritual descendents through faith in the Lord Jesus the Messiah). This reconciliation is with the ultimate sin offering of the Lord Jesus the Messiah's or God Incarnate or in the flesh's offering for sin on the altar or in the holy place on the cross of Calvary about two thousand years ago. Then Aaron or other high priests were to lay their hands on the head of the live goat, the scapegoat, and confess all the sins, transgressions or iniquities (lawlessness) of the children of Israel and so transfer all those sins, transgressions etc to the scapegoat. The scapegoat was then to be released and sent away into the wilderness into a land not inhabited and carry their sins away from them. This represents the high priest the Lord Jesus the Messiah carrying all our sins away at His death into the lower parts of the Earth, Hell, although it is inhabited is far away from people on Earth or in Heaven and that might be seeking to have their sins removed or kept away. The Lord Jesus the Messiah although having already carried the sins away continued to indicate His bearing our sins with His scars of the nailmarks in His hands and feet. These marks continue in His resurrection body on Earth, in Heaven, when He comes again in power and great glory, in the Messianic Kingdom and forever. The scripture reference in Leviticus 16 of the high priest transferring our sins to the scapegoat that took the children of Israel's (our) sins to the wilderness is as follows:
And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:20-22
The Day of Atonement sometimes better known today by its Hebrew name Yom Kippur is the 10th day of the seventh month which is usually in late September in the western calendar. On that day and at least in current Jewish practice in the days leading up to that day from Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year or Feast of Trumpets Jewish people have the most solemn time of the year and a time or self examination before God. These days are sometimes called the ten days of awe. At least on the day of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur the Jewish people and the people that were not Jewish that were living or visiting Israel then (the stranger that sojourneth among you) were not to do any work. This was meant to help people spend time with God or the LORD at the Jewish Temple when it was standing or when it is built again and now in synagogues. On that day the high priest made an atonement or sin offering that would cover their sins and cleanse them before God's presence on the mercy seat in the holy of holies. When God was with Israel as in the time of the tabernacle and Solomon's Temple the LORD's or God the Father's glory was in the holy of holies above the mercy seat.
The command to afflict their souls was symbolic of the Jews afflicting their souls when the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was offered up to the LORD as the one perfect sacrifice of God Himself in the flesh bearing our sin. This evant also involved God the Father's wrath poured on His co-divine Son Jesus the Messiah for the three hours from noon to 3pm. This time was also the time of the beginning of the evening sacrifice and their was darkness over the land for the those three hours even in the middle of the day. In the New Testament it is spoken of the time since sunrise from the 6th hour (noon) to the 9th hour (3pm). At 3 pm when the Lord Jesus the Messiah finished paying for our sins God miraculously ripped the veil of the temple, which was about 4 inches thick, from top to bottom. This indicated Jesus in His death on the cross has achieved freer access to God to all who come to God the Father the LORD through the Lord Jesus Christ and faith in Him. We are to believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead to give us eternal life. The Jews and people of the nations will also afflict their souls or mourn or wail when the Lord Jesus the Messiah comes in power and great glory still with the nailprints in His hands and feet. This will occur at the end of the 70th week of Daniel or the Great Tribulation to set up God's or the LORD's Messianic Kingdom over all the Earth for 1000 years or peace, prosperity and justice and righteousness.
The Day of Atonement was also considered a sabbath or day of rest so the Jews and the stranger in the land were to rest on the Day of Atonement as they would on a sabbath day only in a more solemn way. This was to be done by their afflicting their souls, mourning and repenting, confessing their sins and, committing themselves to do better to live for God in the next year. The high priesthood was to be a hereditary office and passed down from father to son starting with Aaron the first high priest and his sons. The high priest was to wear specially set apart or holy garments especially on the Day of Atonement when he went into the Holy of Holies.
Again the high priest at that time was also to cleanse by the blood of one of the animal sin offerings the tabernacle or later the temple, the altar and the holy place or holy of holies and, all the people of Israel and the people of the nations among them. The Lord Jesus the Messiah has done this both for all the Jewish people but also for all the Gentiles or people of all the nations for all time. He has also taken away our sins by His blood instead of the temporary atonement or covering of sins by the animal sacrifices that looked to His perfect sacrifice.
In the first half of the tribulation and in the messianic age their will also be animal sacrifices that will be a reminder and look back to the already accomplished sacrifice for the Lamb of God Jesus the Messiah(Christ). However there might not be the Day of Atonement and its sacrifice in the Messianic Kingdom. This is because the Day of Atonement is not mentioned in the last chapters of Ezekiel or elsewhere in the Old Testament or New Testatment concerning the Messianic Age as far as I know or have heard from any Bible teachers. Although it does say the Day of Atonemnent was to be an eternal statute for the Jewish people, God could have altered His plans later as only the Feast of Passover and Feast of Tabernacles are mentioned in the last chapters of Ezekiel. The Day of Atonement was the one time or day in the year that atonement or covering of their sins for the previous year was to be made.
Lastly it said Aaron the first high priest was faithful to carry our his high priestly duties as God commanded Moses and as recorded in the five books or Moses and the first five books of the Bible. The scripture reference of the Feast of the Day of Atonement as a time or mourning and solemnness foreshadows a solemn time in the future in the fulfilled death of Jesus the Messiah the Son of God and God in the flesh for our sins almost two thousand years ago. The Day of Atonement also foreshadows the soon to be fulfilled Second Coming of the Lord Jesus the Messiah in power and great glory with the nailprints for our sins at the end of the Great Tribulation or 70th week of Daniel in Leviticus 16 as follows:
And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye(you) shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:(visits with or stays with you) 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. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. And the priest, whom he shall annoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments: And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses. Leviticus 16:29-34
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