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Day Of Atonement

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The Day of Atonement was a solemn religious event in Old Testament time. It was held annually by the Israelites, God’s people then. It was known in the Jewish year as Yom Kippur. It was, of all the holy days in Judaism, perhaps the most important one.

The main ceremony on that day consisted in the high priest offering a sacrifice on behalf of himself and the people. He took the blood of a young bull and went behind the veil that separated the holy from the holiest place in the tabernacle to make an atonement for his own sins. He sprinkled the blood upon and before the mercy seat seven times after censing it. Then, he came out and cast lot to determine which one of the two male goats the people would have brought was to be sacrificed. And he took the blood of the goat to be sacrificed back inside the veil and sprinkled it on and in front of the mercy seat seven times to make atonement for the people. He then came out again and placed his hands over the head of the live goat (the scapegoat or Azazel) and pronounced upon it all the sins of the people and then someone led the goat out in the wilderness for it to bear away the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:1-21, see v. 8).

The word “atonement” means “covering over.” Through animal blood the sins of God’s people were covered over from the sight of God for a period of a year yet not in the absolute sense. Thus, the high priest repeatedly offered the sacrifice every year to have the sins of the people forgiven continually (Hebrews 10:1).

This atonement took place in anticipation of the Lamb of God who would pay the price for all human sins for all time. Hence the Hebrew writer said, “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28, cf. Isaiah 53:6). The consequence of this truth is that Christians do not have their past sins put before us from time to time as was the case with the Israelites. The New Testament of Christ teaches us that God has forgiven our sins and promised never to remember them (Hebrews 8:12).

Sin has under the New Covenant been taken away (John 1:29). What a great blessing! You too, dear non-Christian reader, can enjoy this blessing if you believe that Christ died for the remission of sin and submit to Him in water baptism. This is God’s will for all responsible individuals (John 3:16, Mark 16:16) as “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Constant Coulibaly

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