God’s seven annual festivals picture His plan of salvation for mankind. The first three—Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost—occur in the spring. These days picture the preparation, training and reaping of the firstfruits—the 144,000 called in this age to live God’s Way—into the Family of God.
The Feast of Trumpets, the first of four fall festivals, pictures God working with the rest of humanity, which ultimately leads to salvation for the vast majority of human beings. This Holy Day shows us that Jesus Christ will triumphantly return to Earth and save mankind from destroying itself. With the saints, He will establish and lead a world-ruling supergovernment. Victory will be achieved by the living God.
Yet there remains a vitally important task: dethroning Satan the devil, who has been deceiving man for nearly 6,000 years. He currently rules the kingdoms of this world (II Cor. 4:4; Matt. 4:8-9) and holds mankind hostage to his way of get .
The fifth annual festival, the Day of Atonement, reveals that, soon after He returns, Christ will remove Satan from his seat of rulership. The devil will be bound for 1,000 years, unable to deceive humanity and influence people to sin, until he is released for a “little season” (Rev. 20:3). Once Satan is imprisoned, mankind will finally be reconciled to God—made “at-one” with Him.
Let’s examine this unique Holy Day in God’s Plan.
(1) Where is the command to observe the Day of Atonement found in Scripture? Leviticus 23:26-31. How are God’s people to properly keep this day? Verse 32. What is meant by the word afflict? Isaiah 58:3; Ezra 8:21.
Of all the Holy Days, the Day of Atonement is perhaps the most unique. On no other specific day does God command us to fast, to go without food and water for 24 hours (Ex. 34:28). Fasting is a form of affliction. Its purpose is to humble oneself and draw close to God. Remember that “God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble” (Jms. 4:6). Fasting on the Day of Atonement forces us to ponder the state of mind necessary—humble, contrite, wholeheartedly seeking to live God’s Way—to be close to God and ultimately to receive salvation. Most of the world will be forced into this humble state by the calamitous events leading to the Return of Christ.
No work of any kind was to be done on this day. During all other Holy Days, no servile work was allowed, but work involving food preparation was permitted. Since Atonement is a time for fasting, food preparation is not necessary, thus the command in Leviticus 16:29 that “no work at all” should be performed.
(3) Why is this day to be kept in a solemn manner? Leviticus 23:28.
Think of the word atonement as “at-one-ment.” The Day of Atonement pictures the entire world being made “at one” with God, reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ—certainly a solemn event! But humanity cannot be at one—in full agreement—with God until Satan is removed from his position of power and influence.
In Leviticus 16, God gave the Levitical priesthood detailed instructions concerning the Day of Atonement. Let’s examine the connection of this day’s activities in Old Testament times with Satan’s future banishment and the world being reconciled to God.
(4) What strong warning did Moses give to Aaron about the Holy of Holies? Leviticus 16:2.
Aaron and high priests that followed were forbidden from entering the Holy of Holies, where the glory of God resided, at any time other than on the Day of Atonement.
(5) What was the high priest required to do first on the Day of Atonement? Leviticus 16:3-4.
The high priest was to find a young bullock for a sin offering for himself and his house, and a ram for a burnt offering. Once these animals were gathered, he was to wash himself and don attire specifically for the high priest to wear on Atonement.
These two goats are central to the meaning of the Day of Atonement. Lots needed to be cast to determine which one represented the Lord—the sin offering for the people of Israel—and which one would be released into the wilderness. Only God could decide this matter, since the two goats were indistinguishable.
(7) Why did one of the goats need to be released? Leviticus 16:10.
The English word scapegoat is not a proper translation of the Hebrew word Azazel. Hebrew references reveal that Azazel was the name for an evil demon—Satan. Strong’s Concordance defines this word as “the goat of departure.” This is indicative of Satan departing from God and becoming His adversary.
In modern English, scapegoat is defined as one who bears the guilt of another. This mistranslation depicts Satan as unjustly bearing the sins of mankind. Instead, he is the author of sin and deserves to bear all of the guilt. Actually, “scapegoat” should be translated as “escape goat.”
(8) Did the high priest offer the goat representing the Lord as a sin offering for the people? Was Jesus Christ slain for the sins of mankind, and did He then become our perfect High Priest in heaven? Hebrews 2:17; 6:20; 7:26. Did the high priest in ancient Israel perform in type the duties of the New Testament High Priest, Jesus Christ? Leviticus 16:15-19; Hebrews 9:7-14.
At various times during the year, the sins of Israel were symbolically transferred to the Tabernacle. Each year on the Day of Atonement, this incredible amount of sin needed to be purged from the Tabernacle (again, symbolically) so God could continue to dwell with His people. Remember that sin separates man from God (Isa. 59:2).
The slain goat represented Jesus Christ being slain for the sins of humanity. By taking the blood of this goat into the Holy of Holies, the Old Testament high priest was a type of Jesus Christ, who has ascended to the true Holy of Holies in heaven and, as our perfect High Priest, makes intercession for our sins. Jesus purges our sins so God may abide with us.
Jesus, who was sinless, willingly took the guilt of mankind’s sins upon Himself when He was crucified. This allowed man to be freed from the penalty of sin (with qualifications of course), which is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Although every human being has sinned and is responsible for doing so, Satan the devil is the co-author of all sin. He is not only the father of lies, but of every sin committed under the sun. The ceremony of the high priest placing the sins of Israel onto the Azazel goat pictures all of humanity’s sins being placed on Satan, where they truly belong.
(10) Was the Azazel goat to be killed as well? Leviticus 16:22.
Satan is an immortal spirit being, and as such is not able to die. To signify this, the Azazel goat was permitted to live. But notice that he was to be released “unto a land not inhabited.” This goat was turned loose in an area where no one lived.
The uninhabitable desert wilderness to where the Azazel goat was banished was a type of the “bottomless pit,” or abyss, where the devil and his demons will be restrained, unable to influence man to sin. They will no longer be able to broadcast evil attitudes (Eph. 2:2) throughout the earth and into people’s minds.
Once Satan is chained by an angel of God (typed by the “fit man” in Leviticus 16:21), the minds of human beings will be much more fertile for the Spirit of God to dwell and build holy, righteous character. At that time, humanity will begin to understand God’s Master Plan. People will desire to repent from their evil ways and to serve the living God. Man will finally be at one with his Creator!
The Day of Atonement, and the command to fast on this day, is a vivid reminder of this soon-coming momentous event. The binding of Satan and his demons makes possible the millennial rule of Christ and the saints, pictured by the next fall festival—the Feast of Tabernacles.