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Another important facet of the Day of Atonement was that it was called a Sabbath of Sabbaths.

Leviticus 16:31
It shall be a sabbath of rest [Hebrew—a Sabbath of sabbatism, a rest of rests] unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.

This emphatic description for a day of rest is only used of the weekly Sabbath, the Sabbath year, and the Day of Atonement. Other holy days were Sabbaths, days of rest; but these were special. They were the Sabbath of Sabbaths. But of them all, it was on the Day of Atonement that they were commanded to afflict their souls. How were they to do this? From the Hebrew, fasting is understood in the phrase “afflict your souls.”[1] Through fasting, they would humble themselves before God and deny their natural tendencies.

Leviticus 23:27-29, 32
27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire.
28 Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God.
29 Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people.
32 It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.” NIV

Self-denial was intrinsic to the observance of the day. Failure to do so cut one off from the covenant community. This is interesting to consider in light of the fact that the year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement.[2]  On that day in the commencement of the fiftieth year, they would sound the shofar proclaiming liberty in the land. In the year of Jubilee all debts were forgiven, all lands were returned, and all slaves were set free. By association, these nuances attach themselves to the Day of Atonement, a day of rest, forgiveness, inheritance, and liberty. But all these were only entered into through death to self. It is only in taking up our cross and following Him that we find true rest, forgiveness, liberty, and yes, an inheritance that shall not fade away.

With all this background behind us, we are now ready to look at the type of the Old Testament in comparison with the antitype of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Type and the Antitype
Though Jesus was crucified during the time of Passover, He also fulfilled the requirements of the Day of Atonement. Unlike all the other high priests that preceded Him, Jesus didn’t offer up substitutionary sacrifices for Himself and the people. He offered up Himself. He was (and is) the High Priest and the sacrifice. If the people had had eyes to see, they would have recognized His fleshing out of the shadows of that day. Thank God we have the benefit of the Holy Spirit and 20/20 hindsight!

The Change of Clothing
On that day during temple times, the high priest would change his clothes five times. This began with the removal of his ordinary layman’s dress to don the golden vestments of the high priestly office to offer the morning sacrifice. He then changed into the white linen garments to offer the incense, the sin offerings, and to send away the goat for Azazel. This completed, he would change back into his golden vestments and offer up the burnt offerings for the day. But there still remained the regular evening service to perform. To do this, he needed his censer which was still smoking away in the holy of holies. Putting off the golden vestments, he donned the white linen garments for the last time and retrieved his censer from the holy of holies. This accomplished, he changed back into his golden vestments and offered up the incense and the sacrifice for the evening service.[3]

In the course of His offering, our Lord’s vestments were changed five times. When He was taken before Herod, the king and his men of war mocked Him and arrayed Him in a “gorgeous robe.”[4]  Sent back to Pilate, He was stripped, scourged, and then clothed with a scarlet robe.[5] When the soldiers were done mocking and beating Him, they removed the scarlet robe and placed His own clothes back on Him[6] and then led Him away to be crucified. Once on Calvary’s mound, all His garments were removed and the soldiers cast lots for His raiment.[7]

Each change of vestment after His scourging would remove any scabs that had formed, leaving the furrows on His back open and weeping. The bleeding was profuse, running from the embedded thorns around His head, the open flesh where His beard had been, and the raw meat of His entire backside from neck to ankles. He probably left footprints of blood all the way to Golgotha. By His stripes we were healed! Thank You, Jesus! His last vestment before being entombed was a sheet of white linen lovingly wrapped about His body by Joseph of Arimathaea.[8]

The Offering of the Incense
The high priest was to offer up incense on that day “that he die not.” Prior to His crucifixion, the Lord offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death.[9]  His prayers were true incense rising up to the Father, preparing the way for His offering. In response, the Father sent a ministering angel to Him to strengthen Him for the ordeal ahead.[10]

Two Goats, One Messiah
On the Day of Atonement, two goats were presented; one to be sacrificed and one to be set free. The children of Israel were offered two choices on that fateful day: Barabbas and Jesus. Though these men were worlds apart, they shared superficial similarities. For starters, they were both Jewish men who were deemed to be dangerous to the established authorities. Furthermore, they shared a name. Most English versions of the Bible have left out what several Greek manuscripts contain—Barabbas’s first name was Jesus.[11] Barabbas is a compound name composed of bar—son and abba—father. The insurrectionist and murderer that stood by our Lord’s side was Jesus son of the father. Our Lord is Jesus the Son of the Father. Two men were presented that day; One to be led to slaughter, the other to be set free. Murderer though he was, Barabbas took the symbolic place of the scapegoat until such time as the Lord fulfilled the type of the living goat perfectly in the resurrection.

The goats were for the atonement of the iniquities, sins, and transgressions of the people. These had been confessed over both of them. The people couldn’t see the high priest sprinkle the blood of the sin sacrifice on the mercy seat. But they could see the scapegoat being led away into the wilderness.

Leviticus 16:21-22
21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness…
22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

As the live goat bore their sins out into the wilderness, the children of Israel could experience what the psalmist had sung. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”[12] In like manner, Jesus bore our sins, iniquities, and transgressions[13] and was put to death for them. The testimony of the cross is that our sins are forgiven. This He spoke Himself while nailed to the tree. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[14] Not knowing the evil that one is doing is to sin in ignorance. We’ve already seen that He was our sin sacrifice. But thank the Lord that He also fulfilled the sacrifices for the Day of Atonement and died for our iniquities and transgressions as well![15]

The live goat was to be led into the wilderness by the hand of a fit man. In the days that Jesus walked the earth, it had become the custom to hand the scapegoat over to a Gentile to lead it out into the wilderness. In like manner, the chief priests delivered Jesus into the hands of the Gentile authorities.[16] As they led Jesus out of the judgment hall to be crucified, they laid hands on a fit man to carry His cross for Him the rest of the way. Simon of Cyrene’s life was changed that day by a dramatic encounter with the cross![17]

The scapegoat was to carry the iniquities of the people into a “land not inhabited,” the wilderness of the desert. The desert is presented in Scripture as the abode of demons.[18] And though they no doubt dwell in such desolate places, the Lord Jesus presented Himself to the evil spirit kingdom in all their spheres of habitation to show that their end was near because the sins of mankind had been atoned for once and forever.[19] Scripture informs us that from death to ascension, Jesus visited Tartarus, Hades, and the heavenlies.[20] At each step along the way, He openly triumphed over the enemy.[21] By carrying the atoned-for sins of mankind from the depths to the heights, He declared to the devil and his entire kingdom that their hold on the human race was broken. Because of the innocent blood, sins could now be truly forgiven.

[1] See Ps 69:10
[2] Lev 25:9-10
[3] Edersheim, The Temple, p. 246-261.
[4] Luke 23:11
[5] Matt 27:28
[6] Matt 27:31
[7] Matt 27:35
[8] Matt 27:59-60
[9] Heb 5:7; Luke 22:41-44
[10] Luke 22:43
[11] Matt 27:16-17 New Revised Standard Version and Today’s English Version are two of a very few versions that accurately reflect the Greek text of these verses.
[12] Ps 103:12
[13] Is 53:5-6
[14] Luke 23:34
[15] Is 53:11-12
[16] John 18:28-32
[17] Luke 23:26 and Mark 15:21 with Rom 16:13. It is supposed from the familiar reference to Alexander and Rufus and the mention of Rufus in the letter to the Romans that this encounter brought salvation to Simon’s household.
[18] Is 13:19-22; Matt 12:43; Rev 18:2
[19] Heb 9:25-26
[20] 1 Pet 3:18-20; 2 Pet 2:4  hell = Tartarus; Acts 2:27 hell = Hades; Eph 4:9-10
[21] Col 2:15