When we read through the Lord’s instructions for Israel’s commemoration of Holy Days in the Old Testament, we often just read through—sometimes skipping over—not understanding its meaning for us today. But there is a New Testament connection which God had ordained in the celebrations of the Holy Days that, upon a closer look, points to Jesus as the Messiah.
In the book of Leviticus God ordained five major Holy Days: Passover (with the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Feast of First Fruits); Pentecost or Shavuoth; Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah; The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur; and The Feast of Tabernacles or Succoth or Feast of Ingathering.
We can look at each of these in particular to examine the Christ symbolism, but for the sake of brevity, let us just take a look at one: The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. “This is considered Israel’s most solemn Holy Day since it was exclusively concerned with atoning for the sin of the people” (biblestudytools.com). To read the stipulations of this covenant in full, the texts can be found in Leviticus 16 and 23:10-32.
In short, “The Day of Atonement comes in the 10th of the seventh month and is a day of awe or fasting and repentance. It is the day that the High Priest would enter into the Holiest of Holies and offer the sin offering for the whole nation” (Edwards, 117).
The high priest would have two goats, and with the casting of lots (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24), would choose one to sacrifice and the other as a scapegoat, which would be released into the wilderness to symbolize the taking away of our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
The high priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed goat and a sacrificed bull onto the mercy seat of God, which was on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, between the two Seraphim. The Ark was placed behind the inner veil of the tabernacle, called the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt.
The Book of Hebrews, Chapter 9, explains this entire concept in further detail. Christ is our high priest who, “did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).
“The Gospels, similarly, teach that the curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place split open at the moment of Christ’s death in proof that the final and perfect atonement for sin had been made ( Matt 27:51 ; Mark 15:38 ; Luke 23:45 )” (biblestudytools.com).
- Yom Kippur: Christian parallels with the Day of Atonement (Video) (examiner.com)
- Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement 2013 (citytosimple.wordpress.com)