Meanings of the Day of Atonement

This day is layered with many meanings and much significance – and there still may be more to come….

Institution of the Day of Atonement

Leviticus 23:26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Leviticus 23:27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
Leviticus 23:28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.
Leviticus 23:29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.
Leviticus 23:30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
Leviticus 23:31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
Leviticus 23:32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”

Kept in the New Testament after the Death of Christ

Paul’s comment that “the Fast was already over” refers to the fast on Atonement, which clearly indicates that the New Testament Church was observing that fast (Acts 27:9).


What does it mean when God commands us to “afflict our souls” on the Day of Atonement

Isaiah 58:1 “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.

They were to repent of their sins.

The trumpet is a sign impending calamity.

Isaiah 58:2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As [though not really] a nation that did righteousness, And [one that] did not forsake the ordinance of their God. [all that being said] They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.

They were sinful and did not acknowledge it or realize the way that they were when they approached God.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

They went before God in the wrong way with the wrong frame of mind.

Part of this wrong approach was in the way that they “afflicted their souls”:

Isaiah 58:3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted [humbled] our souls [humble ourselves; humble ourselves before God], and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

Isaiah 58:4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high.

They were using fasting for selfish reasons – as a display of their “righteousness” and demean others that either were not fasting or were not fasting the way that they were.

They were in effect trying to force God to hear them and give them what they selfishly wanted.

Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their moutholy spirit And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,

Notice the correct heart to have:

Isaiah 58:5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down [in obeisance and submission] his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes [in a repentant attitude]? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD? [Yes, this wold be the way to do it, not the way that you have been]

Joel 2:12 “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Joel 2:13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.
Joel 2:14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him— A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?
Joel 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly;

Proper fasting puts in a right frame of mind where we become receptive to what God is trying to show us, teach us, command us, etc. We understand our relationship and subordinate position to God our Father.

Luke 18:9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Luke 18:10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
Luke 18:13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Leviticus 16

This once a year ceremony gives us more insight into this holy day.

Leviticus 16:3 “Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.

Aaron did not bring a whole bull or ram with him into the HOLY OF HOLIES, the sacrificing was done outside of the tent and only the blood was brought in.

Leviticus 16:5 And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering.

These are the two goats of significance.

Just to keep it straight there is also the ram for the burnt offering that we read about initially in :3 and well as the young bull of :3 which is addressed again here in :6

Leviticus 16:6 “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.

This was for Aaron’s atonement, a cleansing and forgiving, so that he could come before God in the HOLY OF HOLIES.

After this was done, then in :7

Leviticus 16:7 He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
Leviticus 16:8 Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat [Azazel; az-aw-zale’]

One is for the Lord and the other is not for the Lord (or Satan in other words)

Why lots? They did not have the holy spirit necessary to make this discernment.

Leviticus 16:9 And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering.

It was to be sacrificed or killed as an offering unlike that Azazel:

Leviticus 16:10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the Azazel into the wilderness.

KJV: Leviticus 16:10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with himand to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

We will see how this goat is used a little later for this purpose

Leviticus 16:15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.

Also note importantly that the sin offering was for the people as a whole. Throughout the year they would make their sin offerings individually, but now this one goat that the lot fell upon would be for all of them as a whole.

Leviticus 16:16 So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

All their sins would be placed upon the one “for the Lord” that represented Christ.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

This foreshadowed what Jesus Christ would do. He would come and pay the penalty for our sins, that we may have life.

This sacrifice points to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for all mankind.

Jesus Christ our Atonement

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [an offering, an atoning sacrifice] for our sins.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

Covering Sin

Leviticus 23:27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement.H3725 It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.

Yom HaKippurrim (plural), a Day of Coverings.

We see this word reflected more accurately:

KJV: Exodus 30:10 And Aaron shall make an atonementH3722 upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements:H3725 once in the year shall he make atonementH3722 upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the LORD.

H3722 כּפר kâphar BDB Definition: to cover, to cover over Part of Speech: verb which means to cover or cancel a debt – in other words to reconcile.

Jesus Christ is our example in this

Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Why do we do it today?

Removal of Satan from our life

We can never fully do this, but we can greatly limit Satan’s influence in our lives

2 Corinthians 4:3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
2 Corinthians 4:4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

Revelation 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
2 Corinthians 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

2 Corinthians 2:11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”

2 Peter 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Ephesians 2:2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
Ephesians 2:3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Luke 22:31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
Luke 22:32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.


Romans 5:10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 5:11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

God’s plan to ultimately reconcile—restore a right relationship between—human beings and Himself.

Psalms 85:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm Of the Sons of Korah. LORD, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
Psalms 85:2 You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin. Selah
Psalms 85:3 You have taken away all Your wrath; You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.
Psalms 85:4 Restore us, O God of our salvation, And cause Your anger toward us to cease.
Psalms 85:5 Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?
Psalms 85:6 Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?
Psalms 85:7 Show us Your mercy, LORD, And grant us Your salvation.

Satan is an impediment to reconciliation

1 John 3:6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
1 John 3:8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
1 John 3:10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,
1 John 3:12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Drawing Close to God

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

John 10:30 I and My Father are one.”
John 10:31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.

John 14:8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.
John 14:11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,
Philippians 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

John 17:20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;
John 17:21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
John 17:22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:


This is what we are looking forward to, the literal fulfilling of this day – reconciling with God and becoming one with Him.

Removal of Effects of Sin

With the coming Day of Trumpets, Christ will begin to put this plan into motion and the rest of mankind will begin their walk with God.

Removal of Cause of Sin

This will be the culmination of the time between blowing of the 7th trumpet and fulfillment of the day of Atonement. Satan’s influence will be quashed, so that the Kingdom of God can move forward in peace.

This ties back in with Leviticus 16

Leviticus 16:20 “And when he has made an end of atoning [everything].
Leviticus 16:21 Aaron [the High Priest] shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat [azazel], confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat [the azazel], and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.
Leviticus 16:22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat [alive; it never becomes a sacrifice] in the wilderness.

So after sending the azazel out the people and the tabernacle were effectively sin free!

This obviously represents a time in the very near future after Christ returns, when he place the sin on the head of Satan, who caused it, where it rightly belongs and Satan is led away from everyone so that he can no longer exert his evil influence. It pictures the time spoken of in:

Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
Revelation 20:2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
Revelation 20:3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

Until this happens mankind cannot readily be at one with God; we cannot have Atonement; mankind cannot be “set at one” with God, because of Satan.

This is what the Day of Atonement ultimately represents. The time when Satan and sin that he is the father of will be taken into a wilderness, a bottomless pit, and left there so that mankind as a whole can now begin their journey of reconciliation and salvation.

The Day of Atonement pictures the removal of the primary cause of sin—Satan and his demons. Satan has influenced every human negatively since he introduced sin into the world.

On the Day of Atonement, we are reminded of the time when we will be fully “at one” with God—when we will completely think as He thinks, completely live as He lives, and be completely perfect as He is perfect.

Salvation is not just for us today, but for whole world, just each in his own order.

1 Corinthians 15:23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.

It is according to God’s timing and plan. The Feast of Trumpets symbolizes the end of our full reconciliation with God. We change from what we were, to what we are now, to what we will be.

Next is the reconciliation for the rest of the world – and that is what the Day of Atonement is about!