I would like to investigate this annual holy day to see if what Herbert Armstrong taught is true or not.
To get a better understanding of what the Day of Atonement is all about, we have to go to those to whom it was given - the Jews.
AskMoses.com answers the question "What is Yom Kippur?" thusly:
"Yom Kippur [aka Day of Atonement] commemorates the day when G-d forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. Forty days after hearing from G-d at Mount Sinai, "You shall not have the gods of others in My presence; you shall not make for yourself a graven image," Jews transgressed and committed the cardinal sin of idolatry. Moses spent two forty-day stints on top of the mountain pleading with G-d for forgiveness, and on the tenth of Tishrei it was finally granted. From that moment on, this Day of Atonement is observed annually as a commemoration of our special relationship with G-d, a relationship which is strong enough to survive any rocky bumps it might encounter. This is a day when we connect with the very essence of our being, which remains faithful to G-d regardless of our outward behavior."
"On Yom Kippur, we complete the Teshuvah steps we began in the Hebrew month of Elul—we express regret for last year’s misdeeds, and express resolution to be better this year. Yom Kippur thus comes on the heels of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year; we want to start the year with a clean slate."
In answering the question "How is Yom Kippur Observed?", they say:
"On Yom Kippur we are commanded to "afflict yourselves"2. This is understood to mean we should refrain from animalistic/humanistic pleasures, and instead focus on humanistic/angelic behaviors. We do the things that make us like angels the most and like animals the least. That’s why we refrain from eating, drinking, bathing, wearing leather shoes3, applying creams, perfume or colognes, and marital relations. "
In answer to "How do we fast on Yom Kippur?", they say:
"A. Fasting on Yom Kippur is mandated by the Torah and is Positive Mitzvah #164. The Torah1 commands us to “afflict” ourselves on the “Tenth of Tishrei,” i.e. Yom Kippur. The Mosaic tradition teaches us that “afflict” (in this context) means de-emphasizing the body’s needs in five areas: bathing; using creams, oils, perfumes or other skin accessories; wearing leather shoes; sexual relations; and eating and drinking.
B. What’s the big deal about eating and drinking? Actually, it’s a very big deal. Yom Kippur is G-d’s designated annual day of total spirituality. On Yom Kippur, we get into things that make us like angels the most, and out of things that make us like animals the most: we spend the whole day in Tefillah, and we put our bodily cravings on the back burner. Tefillah is what makes us most like angels, and eating/drinking is what makes us most like animals. On Yom Kippur, we try to soar as high as we can. Not worrying about what’s to eat helps keep that in focus.
On Yom Kippur, a day of Moshiach in microcosm, we divorce ourselves from our needs for physical maintenance and rely on G-d...
C. Ultimately, fasting on Yom Kippur is an expression of pure faith in G-d. Yom Kippur is compared to Shabbat [Sabbath], and Shabbat is compared to the Era of Moshiach [Moshiach=Messiah] In the Era of Moshiach, G-d will obliterate hunger, starvation, need and blight from mankind. On Yom Kippur, a day of Moshiach in microcosm, we divorce ourselves from our needs for physical maintenance and rely on G-d, as we will when Moshiach comes."
Now, notice that these things only slightly resemble what Herbert Armstrong instituted for the Day of Atonement. Today the COGs will read a few verses about affliction and repentance, talk about how the sacrifices relate to Jesus Christ, and ask for "holy day offerings" contrary to Deuteronomy 16.
But what really was the Day of Atonement?
We have to start in Exodus 30 where the Atonement rituals begin to be relayed. We also get a great deal of information from Hebrews which explains how the first covenant was merely a shadow of the second covenant. It is important to know those things were merely copies of the true (HEB. 9: 23-24).
In EXO. 30: 10, God sets the yearly ritual for the High Priest to cleanse the altar. According to HEB. 9: 24-28, Jesus has once and permenantly fulfilled that in His own blood. Doesn't that in itself say it all? Once a year at Atonement the High Priest performed a ritual that in no way could grant atonement (HEB. 9: 9-10), but now, once and for all time, we have attained that very thing?!
According to LEV. 16: 11-14, the High Priest had to make a blood offering for himself before he could enter. Hebrews 9: 6-10 deals with this. But Jesus has fulfilled that and needs no annual sacrifice.
(HEB. 9: 25-26) 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Exodus 30: 11-16 speaks of ransom money for the atonement of the people. Acts 20: 28 tells us the ransom was paid in Jesus' blood. He gave His life as a ransom for us (MATT. 20: 28; I TIM. 2: 6). We were all ransomed for a great price (I COR. 6: 20; I COR. 7: 23).
According to LEV. 16: 2, even the very High Priest was not to come before God at just any time. HEB. 10: 19-23 says we all may now boldly go before God at any time. We know we should pray as often as possible (ROM. 12: 12).
And why was all of that necessary? Because the way through the veil and direct access to God was not yet made available to mankind. It has been, however (MATT. 27: 51; 2 COR. 3: 16). The time of reformation is not future, as HWA would have us believe, it is clearly past; fulfilled by Christ at His death. Christ paid the price already; He is High Priest now. The rituals and sacrifices of the Day of Atonement are clearly no longer needed. The driving force of Hebrews is to make this very thing clear. If it wasn't so, then we are not only in our sins to this very day, but exceedinly so!!
A root reason why HWA believes the fulfllment of Atonement is yet future is because he interprets the identity of the scapegoat (Azazel goat) of Leviticus 16 as Satan, and he explains how Satan will not be punished until far in the future (REV. 20: 7-11). And thus he says the meaning of the Day is in the putting away of Satan forever and that is why the day is still to be kept. But I ask, why is the day picturing the putting away of Satan when it so clearly points to what Christ did for us at His death?
Are these things HWA taught so self-evident in the Bible? Why, then, does a person need to understand the plan of God in order to know the Holy Days must be kept; while at the same time the Holy Days must be kept in order to understand the plan of God?
The meaning of the scapegoat has been argued for millennia. But to throw my 2 cents in, the two goats were for a sin offering (LEV. 16: 5). It is no stretch to say that all of the offerings pictured Christ in some way. That is the very claim that the COGs make. So why this exception? In recent times, the idea of a scapegoat became one of a person wrongly blamed for something. Doesn't that description perfectly fit Christ? The sins of Israel were laid on the scapegoat, and it bore their sins (LEV. 16: 21-22). Does that description not perfectly fit Christ (I PET. 2: 24)? Hebrews 9, a chapter dealing with the Day of Atonement, even directly associates the bearing of sins, which the scapegoat did, to Christ (HEB. 9: 28). I propose (as many of you in the COGs also believe) the scapegoat also pictured Christ and not Satan at all. But this undoes HWA's theories because, once again, this fulfilment is already past.
(HEB. 9: 8-10) "8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation."
The "time of reformation" was the time of the giving of the New Covenant. We are in that time now, but some resist it. I want to emphasize what a risk it is to misinterpret what Christ has done. To cling to the Old Covenant, especially only in part, may perhaps bring an undesirable result.
(2 COR. 4: 3-4) 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 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.
The good news of what Jesus did is indeed veiled when we reject it.
Notice how those verses state the Day of Atonement is eternal. Yet, few have stopped to ask "what does that mean?" I will get deeper into that in another post, but I just want to point out a couple things in that direction since it relates to this topic. First, the temple, the Aaronic priesthood, the sacrifices both in these verses that we've covered and in Numbers 29, and all else, are no longer.. they are gone, kaput, fulfilled, removed. Those things were "eternal" as well. So, how do we understand this?
We must understand that there was a changing of ages when Jesus died and was resurrected. Those things instituted at that time were never intended to be truly eternal, meaning on into all eternity, but were only meant until the end of that Old Covenant period. They were passing away from the time Moses gave them (2 COR. 3: 7-13). Instead, it is the reality that they pointed to, which is Christ and His priesthood, that is truly eternal. Read through Hebrews 9 and see how the Day of Atonement was kept with things that were temporary, but what Christ did in fulfillment of those things is truly eternal.
(2 COR. 4: 18) 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Truly, you who are still there in the COGs see clearly that those things were fulfilled, or else you would be doing all of them. So I ask you, why do you allow someone to teach you that all those things were fulfilled yet you must still go on partially keeping the day? Why do you assign a meaning to the day that is nowhere laid out in scripture nor in the Jewish interpretation? Why do you allow a day that so completely pictured Christ's death be transformed into a day that pictures Satan's death?
I will tell you something - HWA, in misunderstanding the New Covenant in Christ, looked at all of the things that were taken away and decided to salvage what he could of the day. That is why the COGs only fast on this day and do none of the other rituals. But Paul and James say if you set out to keep the law then you are bound to keep it all (GAL. 5: 1-4; JAS. 2: 10). In no way do you keep it all! If you wish to fast on this day in remembrance, I cannot find a reason why you shouldn't, unless you intend to keep it as a law (which the COGs do), then you take the risk of falling from grace! Is that really what you want? Is that really the end to which you labor? You think you're obeying the law and teaching the truth, but you know you only keep a fraction of the law. I know that you don't see it that way; but that is because you weren't ever taught it that way. Yet the reality of Paul's clear words remains. And what's more is this: Jesus Christ alone - not the law, not the prophets, not the Apostles, not the human leaders of this age - is the only way to God the Father (JOHN 14: 6), He is the only door by which we may enter (JOHN 10: 1-7), and He is the only salvation (ACTS 4: 12). Have we heard nothing that is said in Hebrews? Christ is the reality! Christ is the fulfillment! Those shadowy things were taken away that the reality could come in! The Day of Atonement is all about foreshadowing Christ!
I emplore you who are in the COGs, pray about this and ask God to open your mind to whether this is true or not. God loves you and cares deeply about you. He has done so much for you. This day pictures those things He has accomplished. He has extended an invitation to the New Covenant in His blood - for the love of God, walk in through that door!