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Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Day of Atonement

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. 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."
They add,
"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.

HWA has made it a point to emphasize Leviticus 16: 29-34 and Leviticus 23: 26-32.

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!


Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in this topic has got to go and read the one on Shadows of WCG:

Day of Atonement 2008

Anonymous said...

"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. Does that description not perfectly fit Christ?"

This perspective holds up, even viewing the texts as allegorical, and not literal. Something for me to think about, at least.

The Valentinian texts always left me cold, because of their seeming reliance on literalism. But if he and his adherents were taking an approach like the above (only allegorically instead of literally), maybe I should examine the texts again. Thanks for the thought-provocation! :-)

Or maybe it's just that I have been reading Thunder, Perfect Mind, and as usual, it is doing odd things to my mind. :-)

"Why do you allow a day that so completely pictured Christ's death be transformed into a day that pictures Satan's death?"

Because they worship the Demiurge.

"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."

This is actually very in line with apophatic theology and the concept of via negativa. Pity the rest of the text (the canonical version at any rate) has been so badly butchered. (IMO)

Questeruk said...

You are not going to get a full understanding of the Day of Atonement if you restrict your view of it to Jewish understanding only. Clearly, they do not accept the reality of Jesus Christ.

You recommend the Shadows of WCG Blog – I have copied here the contribution that I posted there on the subject:-

The reason that you feel that the Day of Atonement has no relevance today is your belief that God is trying to save the world now, and has been these last 2000 years.

As I have said previously, in the past 2000 years untold billions of people have lived and died without even hearing the name of Jesus. God would seem to have failed them in His efforts to save the world now. So many that never even had a chance, and so many others never understood completely.

Understanding that God is not trying to save the entire world at this time gives complete meaning to the Day of Atonement.

Christ has made His sacrifice on our behalf. The veil has been torn, and Christians have access direct to the Godhead. Yes, absolutely.

But God is not trying to save the entire world at this point – many are not even aware of the name of Jesus Christ. Understanding this, the meaning of the Day of Atonement becomes much clearer, and you just are not going to ‘get it’ if you believe that God is trying to save the entire world now, and failing rather badly at it.

Call it Armstongism if that pleases you, but I just read it in the Bible. The Day of Atonement follows the Day of Trumpets, and precedes the Feast of Tabernacles – so the time setting is pretty obvious.

Jesus at that point has returned to a world in turmoil, and then shows clearly that the world, everybody, is not lost, that they have hope, and that as a part of that hope Satan is restrained, removed from influencing people, and every individual has access to God.

From being access that was basically restricted to those that God was calling over these last 2000 years, access will then available to every individual on the entire planet.

As Isaiah wrote ‘Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.’

In other words Jesus will return with His reward with Him, but also work before Him – that is the time when God actually will turn His hand to save the nations – and that is the time when He will ‘have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth’.

Once God sets His hand to save the world in its entirety, He will not fail.

Anonymous said...

Glad I could spark a thought, PH! :)

Anonymous said...


First off, thanks for commenting. There are (at least) two sides to this, and they should be looked at.

That said, I'm not going to completely disagree with you. I do NOT feel Christ is actively attempting to save everyone today. I touched briefly on that in a previous post, stating that not everyone will accept Christ at this time. If He was, you would be dead right to say He fails.
I would say my belief as it stands is that what Christ had to do, which Atonement very much appears to picture, has passed; the invitation has already been sent to all and salvation is available, many are called, but that invitation at this time will not be generally accepted, few are chosen. Hence the 1,000 year reign and two resurrections plainly shown in scripture (despite people who say the word "millennium" isn't in the Bible.) You are right to say Christ has work He planned to do. So I do at least half agree with you.

That does not mean I agree with HWA on the Day of Atonement. We can read a lot into it. It has always made sense the way Armstrong described it, and the way you appear to describe it (I think I see you agreeing with Armstrong in this point anyhow). But making sense doesn't mean much if I can't find Bible verses that prove out the theory. I suppose I am saying I can see both sides of the issue, and either side could be right, but I reserve setting my opinion firmly concerning Atonement until some solid Biblical proof comes forward supporting Armstrong. Right now HWA has a good idea with circumstantial evidence and not much else.

Even so, understanding the Holy Days and keeping the Holy Days, at least to me, are two separate things. I feel that I can gain vast and important understanding by studying the sacrifices - yet I have no need or obligation to perform them in order to benefit from them.

Questeruk said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and measured reply – that doesn’t happen a lot on most of the other ex cog boards.

Extremely refreshing.

James Pate said...

I understand why people have a problem with a bunch of people going to hell. But where's the Bible explicitly say that God will resurrect people and give them a chance to be saved?

Anonymous said...


That's a good question. Do you have some insight to share with us to answer that?

James Pate said...

Me? No, I don't. I personally don't see what Armstrongites see in Romans 11, Ezekiel's dry bones, or the white throne judgment: a chance for salvation after death. I don't rule out that God may do that in his mercy and grace. I know Christian universalists point out that olam and aion don't always mean "forever," so that may leave us some lee-way on the eternal punishment question. At the same time, the Bible does appeal to our fears an awful lot, so people shouldn't get too comfortable with universalism or the "second chance" doctrine, as if they can sin with impunity.

Questeruk said...

Don’t disregard Ezekiel 37 just because HWA used it!

Billions of people have died in the last 2000 years never hearing of Jesus Christ. Of the 6.5 billion people alive at this moment, only around 2 billion would claim any form of Christianity.

Yet God says in Ezekiel 18v23 ‘Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

And in the New Testament 2 Peter 3v9 ‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

That is God’s aspiration, that none should perish. It would make no sense if God then allowed 70% of the population to never even understand how they could be saved.

With this in mind, surely Ezekiel 37 makes perfect sense, of people being resurrected, physically, and having a chance to understand.

Eze 37:10 ‘…. and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.

The preceding verses show this is a physical resurrection.

Eze 37:11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

So those resurrected think they have no hope

In verse 13 God reveals himself to them ‘You shall know that I am the Lord’

And then in verse 14 ‘And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live,’

At that time they receive the Holy Spirit of God, and have the opportunity of life.

Or would you prefer to believe that God wants people to be saved, but is incapable of getting His message to 70% of the population, so they fall through the net, and have no chance.

For a perfect God, that would be pretty imperfect.

Anonymous said...

This is a pretty good conversation.

I do want to clarify that I personally do not oppose all things Armstrong. I just see that he was dead wrong on a bunch of things - most importantly to me is law vs grace. He probably plagiarized a few great truths along the way. We just need to search out which those were.

James Pate said...

I'm not discounting Ezekiel 37. I'm just saying I don't see what Armstrong saw in it. The chapter itself says it's about the restoration of Israel from exile--that's what the resurrection of the dry bones represents.

But answer me this: II Peter 3:9 says God doesn't want anyone to perish. The context of that passage is Peter explaining why Christ hasn't come back yet. For Peter, Christ hasn't come back yet because God's giving people a chance to repent--before Christ comes back. Why would this be necessary if people got a chance at salvation after their resurrection (and Christ's second coming)?

James Pate said...

I'm just writing this so I can follow any responses by e-mail.

Anonymous said...

We are all having some wonderful discussions here and over at Shadows of WCG's blog. Thanks everyone for participating!

If anyone is interested in this topic, see the comments over there as well as here. (Follow the link in my very first comment above.)

Just remember, we don't have to all agree with each other to follow Paul's admonition to live at peace with everyone as much as it is possible. :)

Anonymous said...

From the comments people are leaving I'm seeing 3 possibilities:

1) God isn't trying to save everyone right now; but since He has come to make salvation available, He can and will complete this later after the first resurrection. This is pretty much Armstrong's take. I like this best right now, but as James Pate asks - where is/are the direct Bible verse(s) fleshing this out?
I've studied this so many times, but only from HWA's perspective. I clearly need to go over this again now. I am hesitant to answer with any standard Armstrongist canned responses, seeing as that is all I have at this time.

2) God is trying to save everyone now, but those who are ignorant or won't go along get no nachos. Personally, I don't like the way this paints Christ as a failure and accuses God of creating billions of people for no reason. (What I like doesn't change anything, however.)

3) God has saved everyone already, they just don't know it yet. All will be informed at a later date. I think the universal salvation of this sounds heartwarming, but then what consequence is there to anything? Is this "once saved in 31AD, always saved"?

Russell Miller said...

As you know, I pay no attention to the bible. I do pay attention to what my heart says, as even the bible says that God is in that "still, small voice", not in the tornados or hurricanes or awe-inspiring events.

And my heart tells me that any God worth following is not vindictive or punishing, that any God worth following cares less about sin than love, and that any God worth following would not leave one person that could be saved unsaved. Period.

You can parse words and partake in legalism all you want, but I think my heart is more trustworthy.

Anonymous said...

"any God worth following cares less about sin than love, and that any God worth following would not leave one person that could be saved unsaved. Period."

Well, Russell, that phrase is exactly what I'm finally coming to see in the grace of the New Covenant. I hope beyond hope that your words are exactly what we all come to find is reality.

Anonymous said...

"I know Christian universalists point out that olam and aion don't always mean "forever," so that may leave us some lee-way on the eternal punishment question."

Question for James Pate: What exactly do Christian universalists define "aion" as? (And they've spelt it wrong BTW.)

James Pate said...

Aggie, I can't put an omega in English! And if I make it aione, people wonder if "ne" is in Greek. Unless you mean that the word for eternal is aionios.

But, to answer your question, I think they may believe aionios can mean eternal, but it doesn't always. For example, there are places that say God will destroy a city and it will be ruined forever, right before he says it will be rebuilt. And I've heard universalists do the same as annihilationists on forever. That slave in the law who didn't want to be free and had to serve his master forever, for example, didn't do so for all eternity. So universalists say eternal punishment can mean a punishment limited in duration.

Anonymous said...

Wow.......I think we may have crossed wires somewhere, James: I see "aions" and I think "aeons" (from Gnosticism) --- are we speaking about the same term, or is it different in the original Greek?

"So universalists say eternal punishment can mean a punishment limited in duration."

That's......messed up.