In our continuing study on the holy days, we have seen the plan of God broaden from our personal redemption and removal of sin in Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread to the founding of the church and giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Trumpets pictures the return of Christ, the changing of the saints into immortal spirit beings and God's judgment on all mankind. But one more hurdle must be overcome before salvation can be made available to everyone. God must remove the archenemy, Satan the Devil, to produce unity between Him and humanity.
The Day of Atonement depicts the accomplishment of this step in God's purpose. Though this prodigious feat deserves our joyous praise and thanksgiving to God, Atonement is the most solemn of the seven festivals. On this day, Christians fast—afflict their souls—to show that only when man sees himself in proper comparison to God will he have the right attitude to be truly at one with Him. When Satan is bound and men live humbly before God, then God's Word and Spirit will work wonders among the people of the world!
1. Is Atonement a commanded feast of God? Leviticus 23:26-32.
Comment: God emphasizes this day's solemnity by threatening death to those who fail to afflict their souls or who do any work on this day. Nothing is more important than being at one with Him!
2. What is it to "afflict your souls"? Isaiah 58:3.
Comment: Fasting puts us in a proper attitude to submit to God. When we deprive ourselves of the necessities of life, we see how dependent we are upon God's providence. This is why in a true, spiritual fast we neither eat nor drink anything for the whole 24 hours of the day (Deuteronomy 9:18; Esther 4:16). God desires such a humble spirit in us so that we can walk in harmony with Him (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 66:2).
3. What are we trying to accomplish when we fast? Isaiah 58:3-12.
Comment: The members of Isaiah's audience were fasting for all the wrong reasons! They fasted to get things from God and hypocritically appear righteous. God says, though, that we should fast to free others from their sins, to intercede with God for their healing, to help provide for their needs and to understand His will. Fasting is a tool of godly love we are to use for the good of others, and any benefits we derive from it are wonderful blessings! On the Day of Atonement, we fast to implore God to bring to pass the greatest blessing of all upon ourselves and the world: unity, oneness, with Him!
4. Did the early church keep this Fast? Acts 27:9.
Comment: Luke, writing this over 30 years after Christ's death, makes it very clear that the early church observed this holy day.
5. What unusual ritual did the Aaronic high priest perform on the Day of Atonement? Leviticus 16.
Comment: This lengthy, involved ritual depicts all of the steps that must be accomplished before mankind can truly be at one with God. In short, the following must occur:
» A high priest must be pure and sinless to mediate between God and man (verse 4). Christ, having lived a sinless life, is our eternal High Priest.
» The high priest must enter God's presence with blood to open the way between God and man (verses 3, 14-16). Christ, by His own sacrifice, gains us entrance before God's throne, having rent the veil (Matthew 27:51).
» The sins of men must be covered by the offering of an innocent victim (verses 9, 15). Christ's blood covers our sins, and God grants us forgiveness.
» The cause of man's sins must be removed (verses 10, 20-22). After Christ returns, Satan—the being who first sinned and has been broadcasting his sinful, rebellious nature to all mankind—will be imprisoned so he cannot deceive men.
6. How long will Satan be bound? Revelation 20:1-3.
Comment: Mankind will have a thousand years of freedom from the Devil's attitudes of pride, rebellion, vanity and strife! What a peaceful, blessed time the Millennium will be!
7. What will be the result of Satan's removal? Acts 3:19-21.
Comment: Once the Deceiver is neutralized, refreshing and restitution can begin! Christ and the saints will immediately work to restore the earth to its beauty and productivity (Isaiah 35). God's perfect government and laws will be reinstituted, bringing peace and prosperity to all who submit to them (Isaiah 2:1-4). In a spirit of harmony, everyone will pitch in to rebuild the waste places and ruins caused by man's and Satan's sins (Isaiah 58:12; 61:4; Amos 9:14). This is the wonderful World Tomorrow that all of God's people have looked toward since the Garden of Eden! All that is good—very good (Genesis 1:31)—will be restored!