“Who is a God like Thee, who pardons
iniquity and passes over the rebellious act
of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
because He delights in unchanging love.
He will again have compassion on us; He
will tread our iniquities underfoot.
Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the
depths of the sea”
Micah 7:18, 19
The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, as revealed in Leviticus 16, is
the most solemn Old Testament ritual. It is deliberately placed in the
heart of the book of Leviticus, which is itself at the center of the Five
Books of Moses, in order to help to illustrate the “most holy”
character of this ritual. Also referred to as the Sabbath of Sabbaths
(Lev. 16:31), the day calls for the cessation of all work, which is
unique for an Israelite yearly festival. This fact places the day
squarely within the concept of the Sabbath—it is a time to rest in
what God, as Creator and Redeemer, has done (and will do) for us.
This lesson we will study what happened on the Day of
Atonement in the earthly sanctuary, specifically the rituals with
the two goats, which helps us to better understand deeper
truths regarding salvation and the final disposition of sin.
Exodus Leviticus Numbers
Why was that chapter placed in
the center of Leviticus?
The process of cleansing the sin from the people ends in the Day of Atonement.
1. Daily sacrifices: The sins were TRANSFERRED
to the Sanctuary.
2. The Day of Atonement: The sins were
REMOVED from the Sanctuary.
The priest’s purification offering: The High
Priest must be clean when carrying out
the rites of purification.
Purification offering; the goat “for the
Lord”: It cleansed the Sanctuary with its
Removing the sin; the goat “for Azazel”: It
was sent to the desert with the sins of
Israel on it.
Let’s study this rite by studying its main characters:
The High Priest.
The goat “for the Lord”.
The goat “for Azazel”.
“And the priest, whom he shall anoint, 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” (Leviticus 16:32-33)
The High Priest was the mediator
between God and His people.
His first task in the Day of
Atonement was to offer sacrifice
for himself and the whole clergy.
The MEDIATOR must be without
“For we do not have a High Priest who
cannot sympathize with our
weaknesses, but was in all points
tempted as we are, yet without sin”
Jesus Christ is our High Priest in the
“Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people,
and bring his blood within the vail, 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” (Leviticus 16:15)
There was no laying hands or confessing
sins or sprinkling the blood on the horns
of the brazen altar.
The blood of that animal was without
That blood was brought before the Ark
of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place.
It was sprinkled on the mercy seat.
So that blood was not used to forgive
sins but to purify the Sanctuary only.
E.G.W. (The Great Controversy, cp. 24, pg. 420)
“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 the 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)
“Azazel” was a name used to call Satan. He is
responsible for the birth of sin in the Universe.
THE SANCTUARY AND THE PEOPLE HAD ALREADY BEEN
PURIFIED when the sins of the people were confessed
on the head of that goat.
There is no expiatory death there. Satan is the ultimate
responsible for the sins he provoked.
Just like Amman was hung in the gallows he set up for
Mordecai, the great accuser will suffer the punishment
he wanted the innocent ones to suffer (i.e. those who
washed their sins away with the blood of the Lamb)
“And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month,
on the tenth day of the month, ye 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” (Leviticus 16:29)
What should the Israelites do in that day? What can we learn?
If someone in ancient Israel did not
follow these instructions, he was to be
cut off and destroyed (Lev. 23:29, 30).
The Day of Atonement was truly about
nothing less than life and death. It
demanded the believer’s complete
loyalty to God.
They should afflict their souls (to
They should not to work at all.
They should come before the
Sanctuary and to pay attention to the
rites the High Priest carried out.
As we struggle with all
our God-given strength to
put away all sin,
how can we learn to lean
totally on Christ’s merits
as our only hope of
Isaiah’s Personal Yom Kippur
In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah sees
the heavenly King sitting
on a throne in the temple,
“high and exalted.” The
vision is a judgment scene
that presents God as
coming for judgment (Isa.
5:16). Isaiah beholds the
true King, identified in the
Gospel of John as Jesus
Christ (John 12:41).
Even though Isaiah was God’s prophet and he called others to repentance, he
understood that in God’s presence he was doomed. Confronted with God’s
holiness and glory, Isaiah perceived his own sinfulness and also the
uncleanness of his people. Holiness and sin are incompatible. Like Isaiah, we
all need to come to the conclusion that we cannot pass through the divine
judgment on our own. Our only hope is to have a Substitute.
What parallels to the
Day of Atonement
appear in Isaiah 6:1–6?
The combination of a temple filled with smoke, an altar, judgment,
and atonement for sin and uncleanness recalls strongly the Day of
Atonement. Isaiah experienced his own “personal Day of
Atonement,” as it were.
Functioning like a priest, a
seraph (literally “burning
one”) took a burning coal
from the altar, presupposing
some kind of offering, to
purge the prophet’s sin.
This is an apt image for the cleansing from sin that is possible
through the sacrifice of Jesus and His priestly ministry of
mediation. Isaiah recognized this as a cleansing ritual, and he kept
still as the coal touched his lips. Thereby his “iniquity is taken
away” and his “sin is forgiven” (Isa. 6:7, NASB). The passive voice
in verse 7 shows that forgiveness is granted by the One sitting on
the throne. The Judge is also the Savior.
God’s work of cleansing
brings us from “Woe is me”
to “Here am I, send me.”
In other words, understanding the heavenly work on the Day of
Atonement leads to a readiness for proclamation because a true
understanding leads to assurance and surety. This is because we
know that in judgment we have a Substitute, Jesus Christ, whose
righteousness alone (symbolized by the blood) will enable us to
stand without fear of condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Gratitude
motivates mission. Acquitted sinners are God’s best ambassadors
(2 Cor. 5:18–20) because they know what God has delivered them
“We are now living in the great day of
atonement. In the typical service, while the
high priest was making the atonement for
Israel, all were required to afflict their souls
by repentance of sin and humiliation before
the Lord, lest they be cut off from among the
people. In like manner, all who would have
their names retained in the book of life
should now, in the few remaining days of
their probation, afflict their souls before
God by sorrow for sin and true repentance…
E.G.W. (Christ in His Sanctuary, cp. 9, pg. 126)
… There must be deep, faithful searching of heart.
The light, frivolous spirit indulged by so many
professed Christians must be put away. There is
earnest warfare before all who would subdue the
evil tendencies that strive for the mastery. The
work of preparation is an individual work. We are
not saved in groups. The purity and devotion of
one will not offset the want of these qualities in
another. Though all nations are to pass in
judgment before God, yet He will examine the case
of each individual with as close and searching
scrutiny as if there were not another being upon
the earth. Everyone must be tested and found
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing”
E.G.W. (Christ in His Sanctuary, cp. 9, pg. 126)
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