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Series 4 - God's Plan for You and the Entire World: Unlocking the Secrets of God's Festivals

Hi, friends! Welcome to this lesson about the meaning of the biblical Day of Atonement. What does this Holy Day picture in God's plan of salvation? What does it mean for us today? Though some of the biblical rituals that were part of the ancient sacrificial system may seem mysterious today, we'll see that the book of Revelation makes clear how the meaning of this fifth festival of God fits into end-time prophecy. This solemn day has great positive meaning for the relationship between humanity and our Creator.

We pray this study will be helpful to you. Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can serve you in any way.

Lesson 7: Atonement: Satan Bound, Humanity Freed!

The biblical Day of Atonement, also called Yom Kippur, has many lessons for Christians. Few understand its connection to an important end-time prophecy about Satan, the great deceiver. Where does the meaning of the Day of Atonement fit in God's plan of salvation?

Atonement: Satan Bound, Humanity Freed!Satan the devil has meddled in human affairs from the very beginning. Here is the story of the first temptation from Genesis 3 in the New Living Translation:

"Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. 'Really?' he asked the woman. 'Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit of the garden?'

"'Of course we may eat it,' the woman told him. 'It's only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.'

"'You won't die!' the serpent hissed. 'God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.'

"The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness...

"The Lord God called to Adam, 'Where are you?'

"He replied, 'I heard you, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.'

"'Who told you that you were naked?' the Lord God asked. 'Have you eaten the fruit I commanded you not to eat?'

"'Yes,' Adam admitted, 'but it was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit, and I ate it.'

"Then the Lord God asked the woman, 'How could you do such a thing?'

"'The serpent tricked me,' she replied. 'That's why I ate it'" (Genesis 3:1-7, 9-13).

Satan has been perfecting his temptations, and humans have been practicing their excuses ever since.

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What Does the Bible Say About Atonement?

What is the fifth festival God commanded us to celebrate?

Leviticus 23:27, 32
"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...
"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."

What does "afflict your souls" mean?

Psalm 35:13
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer would return to my own heart.

Ezra 8:21
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.

The word afflict in Leviticus 23:27 comes from the Hebrew word anah, which means "to be afflicted, be bowed down, be humbled, be meek" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, "To Be Humbled, Afflicted"). The same word is translated humbled and humble in the verses above, both of which connect it with fasting. Fasting means to go without food and drink (Esther 4:16).

Did the New Testament Church also observe the fast of Atonement?

Acts 27:9
Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them...

Biblical scholars recognize that this "Fast" was the Day of Atonement in the autumn, after which sailing in the Mediterranean Sea was considered dangerous. Obviously, Luke, a gentile, would not have been inspired to write about the Day of Atonement if the Church of God was no longer observing this Holy Day.

Why does God want us to fast? What attitude should we have?

Isaiah 58:6-7
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?"

Joel 2:12-13
"Now, therefore," says the Lord, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." 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.

Daniel 9:3-4
Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession...

These examples are talking about fasts in addition to the Day of Atonement, but they demonstrate the attitude that God is looking for. As we saw in Psalm 35:13 and Ezra 8:21, fasting can humble us. When we fast in the right attitude, we see how small and weak we are, how much we need God. This helps us to submit to Him, to repent and seek to reconcile with Him and become more like Him.

What is "atonement" and why do we need it?

Psalm 79:8-9
Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for Your name's sake!

Atonement is necessary because of our sins—the breaking of God's laws that condemns each of us to eternal death (Romans 6:23). Atonement, or removing of sins, is made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who paid our death penalty for us (Romans 5:6-10). His sacrifice is evidence of God's mercy and makes it possible for us to be saved. It removes the barrier of sin that has separated us from God, reconciling us (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 2:13).

The festival of Passover also reminds us of our need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God. While Passover focuses on our personal reconciliation, Atonement seems to have a larger focus of reconciling all humanity to God. Let's consider the additional meaning the Day of Atonement adds to God's plan of salvation.


What Does the Day of Atonement Mean in God's Plan of Salvation?

We saw in the previous lesson that the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Trumpets includes the return of Jesus Christ to become King of Kings (Revelation 11:15; 19:16).

What is the next major prophetic event in the book of Revelation?

Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 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.

How does the Bible describe Satan's influence on humanity?

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.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 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.

2 Corinthians 11:3
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Ephesians 6:12
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

From the time of Adam and Eve, this powerful spirit being and his henchmen have blinded and deceived humanity into following his wrong attitudes and actions. He has led each human being to choose to break God's good and beneficial laws. He has made the way of sin look enticing, while in reality it is an abomination to God. Satan drove the wedge of sin between humans and our Creator, and so his influence must be removed to make reconciliation and atonement complete.

How did the sacrificial rituals on the Day of Atonement foreshadow the end-time binding of Satan?

Leviticus 16:7-10, 20-22
"He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat [Azazel]. And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord's lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness...
"And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, 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, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness."

The book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus Christ's sacrifice renders the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament no longer necessary (Hebrews 9:12; 10:4, 11-14). But that does not diminish the fact that they foreshadowed things to come.

The goat that was sacrificed, like all the other burnt offerings required of ancient Israel, represented Jesus Christ's sacrifice for us. But what of the goat that was left alive? The word scapegoat has taken on a meaning in English that the Hebrew word Azazel did not have. In fact, many scholars see Azazel as being derived from the name of an evil spirit. Whether or not you accept this, comparing Revelation 20:1-3 with Leviticus 16 gives clear indication that the rituals of the banishment of the Azazel goat on the Day of Atonement reflect the binding of Satan after Christ's return.

Though we all bear complete individual responsibility for our own choices and sin, Satan is the ultimate source of the evil thoughts and temptations. Thus placing the blame for instigating sin on its ultimate source is justified. Like the live goat, Satan is sent away but not killed.

Can you imagine a world without the evil influence, wrong attitudes and enticements of Satan? How would family life be different? How would the relationships between ethnic groups and nations change? What about those who find it hard to resist the temptations to do illegal and immoral things today? Without the outside influences, will they be able to make the changes they really want?

Having Satan locked away will make an incredible difference for individuals and for society in general, loosing the bonds of wickedness and giving newfound freedom and clear vision to all those who have been blinded and shackled by sin. This vital step in God's plan of salvation will set the stage for the next step, pictured by the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.


Apply Now

Even now in this world under Satan's control, we can resist the devil and seek God's help to defeat his devices. Read "How Can We Resist the Devil?" and write down three specific things you can do today to overcome Satan's influences. Then follow up and do them.

Remember that God is much stronger than Satan, and He is very willing to provide the help we need.

Next Lesson: Feast of Tabernacles: Picturing the Millennium of Peace

Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

Atonement: Removal of Sin's Cause and Reconciliation to God

God's Plan to End Evil and Suffering

The Binding of Satan Pictured on the Day of Atonement

Why should Christians celebrate the Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur)?

The Azazel Goat and Atonement

How Can We Resist the Devil?

Fasting: A Spiritual Power Tool