Yom Kippur: The Beginner’s Guide
Why and How Christians Should Keep the Feasts
When I began celebrating the Lord’s feasts years ago, I didn’t really understand Yom Kippur, and I sure didn’t want to celebrate it. For one thing, it’s not a typical feast day. In fact, it’s the anti-feast – a fast! It wasn’t until I began to understand the significance of the days leading up to it, that I even considered keeping this holy day.
While today it is called Yom Kippur, in Scripture it is referred to as the Day of Atonement, and while it is not a proper feast where there is celebration and actual food, it is one of the most significant holy days of the year.
Beginning with Elul 1, God commanded his people to spend 40 days seeking Him, praying, repenting and making amends. This time, also called Selichot, is an important season where God’s people make a conscious and focused effort, more so than the rest of the year, to be sure they are right with their Heavenly Father.
Not coincidentally, the first 33 days lead up to and include the Feast of Trumpets which prophetically represents the Day Messiah will call his Bride home. Feast of Trumpets is followed by 7 more days known as the Days of Awe, of which Yom Kippur is the finale, and by which date Jews know they must make themselves ready for their Messiah, who is said to be expected on Feast of Tabernacles, a few more days later.
While Feast of Trumpets is a celebratory event and Feast of Tabernacles is a time of great rejoicing, Yom Kippur, also called the Day of Atonement, is a time for afflicting oneself.
Historically speaking, The Day of Atonement was the day, each year, when the High Priest at the Temple would enter the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the sins of Israel. Prior to entering, the priests make a special effort to sanctify themselves, offering atonement for their own sin, and being sure they are cleansed before approaching a holy God.
The Christian Perspective
As believers in Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus, as he is commonly called), we know our sins are atoned for once and for all! We know that He has made us clean and nothing we can do can reconcile us to Him beyond His own sacrifice. We have no other priest, besides Jesus, to enter the Holy of Holies on our behalf, yet, we know Jesus enters on our behalf still today as he is ever interceding for us. That is why, I still believe that recognizing this holy day and treating it with the respect and reverence it deserves by sheer fact that God Himself commanded it, is a good practice.
While Jesus has cleansed us already, I still contend it is a good practice to spend a day fasting, repenting, quietly reflecting on His sacrifice, re-surrendering our lives, and generally afflicting ourselves as we seek to take up our own cross and follow Him.
How Should a Christian Keep The Day of Atonement?
While there may be other perspectives on this, my belief is that we are to do three things. (Leviticus 23:27-28)
- Fast & Pray. While I understand there may be physical limitations to fasting, we can all afflict ourselves in some way, as is commanded, and we should. We can all, by a small token sacrifice, remember Jesus’ considerable sacrifice of His life on our behalf. We can all pause to reflect on Jesus’ great sacrifice, confessing our sins and turning from them and spending time meditating on God’s Word.
- Give. Exodus 30 speaks of making a gift to the service of the Tabernacle (today, the church) as an atonement offering. The offering was never ascribed any special powers or guaranteed blessings; however, it is commanded as a memorial of thankfulness for our redemption, our freedom. Scripture commands a half shekel, which does not translate well to this day and age, so I suggest seeking God and giving the amount you feel led to give. Remember in Exodus, the offering amount was the same regardless of wealth, so let God speak to you in this matter.
- Hold a Sacred Assembly. Yom Kippur is not merely a day to play. While you are commanded not to work and not to seek personal gain or pleasure, we can remain in reverence by seeking an assembling of His people. Find other believers who will celebrate with you in worship, fasting and prayer or attend a worship service. Messianic Synagogues most certainly have a service that day.
In the end, Yom Kippur, prophetically speaks to a Day of Judgement. The days leading up to it speak to the seven years of great tribulation the earth will experience as God afflicts unbelievers. While no man’s fate may be sealed by Feast of Trumpets, it could very well be sealed, as is believed, by Yom KIppur, so take that to heart each year and pray for the lost.
In consideration of the feasts being dress rehearsals, it is wise to be familiar with these days, to keep them holy, celebrate them as commanded and remain on God’s timetable.
Blessings to you in this season! May your fast be easy!