What is Yom Kippur? Why is the importance of Yom Kippur for Christians to better understand? As a Believer, you know there is a connection between the Old and New Testament. The God of the old is the same God of the new. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). He does not change. So then, when you explore the feasts He laid out in Leviticus, we must ask ourselves how they apply to Believers today.
Let’s discover the significance of Yom Kippur and why it is important for Believers to understand this High Holy Day better.
What Is Yom Kippur?
As with many biblically-based holidays, Yom Kippur is first mentioned in the book of Leviticus, specifically Leviticus 16. Further, it is one of the three Fall Feasts that God ordained as an everlasting ordinance.
Also known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur served as the yearly cleansing of sin for the priests and all of God’s people. A time for repentance and return to God, it acted as a moed—an appointed time.
- “‘This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day… you shall afflict your souls, and do no work… whether a native of your own country or a stranger… For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you… that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest… the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement… he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary… the tabernacle of meeting and the altar… for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for… all their sins, once a year.’ …”—Leviticus 16:29-34
Originally, as was part of God’s ordinance, sacrifices were made before God. Two goats were chosen for a portion of the sacrifices, and a lot was cast between the two. One goat would be sacrificed to God, while the other—the scapegoat—would have the sins of the people placed upon it before being released into the wilderness.
As Believers, we know that through Yeshua’s sacrifice, He not only became our Passover Lamb, He became our Yom Kippur scapegoat—He became sin for us—taking our sin far from us (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).
And because our Lord Jesus, Yeshua, has become sin for us, by His death, the blood of bulls and goats are no longer needed for the remission of our sins. Yet, this moed of Yom Kippur still serves as a most holy and meaningful day for us—an appointed time in this season that God has set before us to right ourselves and return to Him…
- “For if the blood of bulls and goats… sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”—Hebrews 9:13-14
What Are the Symbols of Yom Kippur?
Throughout each season of the year, the biblical holidays hold a variety of purposes, and this is often shown through the symbols associated with them. For instance, Yom Kippur, has three common symbols which all tie to not only the holiday itself but to themes throughout the Word.
- White—worn on Yom Kippur, white symbolizes purification and dying to self
- Shofar—announces the end of Yom Kippur with one long blast
- Torah—God’s Word; portions are read during Yom Kippur; God’s command to observe Yom Kippur is found there
Isaiah 1:18 is one of the main reasons people wear white on Yom Kippur…
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’”
Because Yom Kippur is focused on seeking the forgiveness of sin and finding atonement and redemption, the desire for changing scarlet sins to white is displayed by the white garments worn. Some individuals will even wear a kittel, a white robe that resembles a shroud for burying the dead, in order to show their wish to bury fleshly desires.
For us as Believers, this reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus and our atonement through Him; that in Him, our scarlet sins become white!
One of the most literal reasons the shofar is a symbol of Yom Kippur is the long piercing blast announcing the end of Yom Kippur. Yet, a deeper meaning for Believers is tied to the fact that shofars are made from the horn of innocent creatures. Innocent blood not only cleanses but separates the pure from the impure.
One example of the power of innocent blood is the Passover lamb. God first commanded man to sacrifice a Passover lamb and spread its blood in Egypt. Those who spread the innocent blood on their doorposts had their firstborn spared, but those who did not mourn their loss.
The innocent lamb’s blood separated those who were in sync with God—those who were pure and obedient—from those who were not—the impure and disobedient. This is a powerful example of how innocent blood speaks, and it is part of the reason we believe that Jesus is our Passover Lamb.
Innocent blood also speaks at Yom Kippur: from the sacrifices given to God in days of old, to the scapegoat of our Messiah, to the very shofars used to speak forth God’s truth…
Innocent blood removes, restores, and cleanses. It tells God who we serve: Him, through the Blood of Yeshua, or the enemy.
Shofars represent innocent blood speaking out, and the sound that emanates from the horn of an innocent creature cleanses the air, removes the past, and brings hope of restoration in God.
One reason the Torah is an important symbol during Yom Kippur is because of its prominent display during the last service of this holy day. It is meant to act as a reminder of why we are there at Yom Kippur—to repent and to seal ourselves, our family, our community, and our country in God’s Book of Life.
Yet, this is not the only reason the Torah is symbolized. It is also because the command to repent was given by God’s Word. And it is His Word that promises the hope of forgiveness. It is His Word that gives life!
God’s Word is a beautiful connection to His heart and is why the Torah is read over Yom Kippur. To draw us closer to Him and help us understand the weight of what has been done against God in the past year…
Common readings from the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Jonah are meant to remind us that it is God’s goodness that leads to repentance. Not to condemn us, but to save us!
“… do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”—Romans 2:4
Yom Kippur | Important for Christians
It is easy for Believers to assume that we are not expected to do anything written in the Old Testament aside from obeying the Ten Commandments. After all, most of what is in the Old Testament was for the Jews and does not apply today, right? No…
When God gives something as an everlasting ordinance, it is meant to be just that, something done throughout all generations… because everlasting does not have an expiration date.
We, as Christian believers in Yeshua, are grafted into our Jewish brothers and sisters, not the other way around (see Romans 11). Even Jesus observed biblical feasts, and while He allowed us circumcision of the heart instead of the flesh and forgiveness through His Blood instead of physical sacrifice, He never said we were to stop observing God’s calendar. Jesus never expected Gentiles to suddenly become Jews… but He desires Jews and Gentile Believers to come together. Not forgetting who God created each to be, but still being as ONE BODY whose heart is for God and His will, not their own.
Yom Kippur, therefore, being one of God’s everlasting ordinances, was not spoken by Jesus as being useless. Yes, while we are not going to be sacrificing animals… Yom Kippur continues to serve a special purpose. It syncs us to God’s times and seasons. It allows us to repent at God’s moed, not because He will not forgive our sins any other day, but because this is a season where we need to draw near to God…
Ten days before Yom Kippur is Rosh Hashanah, the biblical new year and our awakening blast. When we reach Yom Kippur, we have JUST entered a new year in God, a fresh season where we can shake off the old and go higher into all God has for us through repentance and return to Him. This is vital preparation for our calling and relationship with God, but also for the final Fall Feast, Sukkot, where we abide with God. Because it is important to be clean before we abide with Him.
Each of these feasts holds importance, and God has placed them in this order—Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot—for a reason. We have to be awakened to the idea that we are shifting into something new. We have to be cleansed before we can dwell with God and accept our new mantles, plans, and promotion for the year. We have to abide with God if we are going to have the strength and peace to answer His call…
Being a Believer does not make these feasts less important, in fact, due to the knowledge and Blood of Jesus, they become more important. Because the fullness of what they are becomes clearer.
We pray that this Fall Feast season, God awakens you, redeems you, and dwells with you! We pray that through this moed you understand who you are, the roots of your faith, and most importantly, the truth of God’s purpose and plans for you!
- “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”—Jeremiah 29:11