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Day of Atonement (Christian holiday)

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This article is about a Christian holiday. See Yom Kippur known as the "Day [of] Atonement" about Judaism's Day of Atonement Jewish holiday.

The Christian Day of Atonement is an English translation of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. The Bible calls the day Yom Hakippurim (Hebrew, "Day of the Atonements"). The day is commemorated with a 25-hour fast by Jews, but normally a 24 hour fast by Christians who observe it. While not observed by the mainstream of Christianity, the small Christian groups (mostly those with origins in the old Worldwide Church of God) that do observe it usually refer to it as the Day of Atonement.

Some Christians with an interest in Biblical Eschatology believe that the Day of Atonement, the sixth of the Feasts of Israel, will mark the very last day of this age. They believe that the Day of Atonement will be the final day to repent and that this epic future day in holy history will come on the eve of the Last Judgement.


In the Hebrew calendar the Day of Atonement begins at nightfall starting the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (which falls in September/October), and continues until the next nightfall. It is always observed as a one day holiday, both inside and outside the boundaries of the land of Israel, in contrast with many other Jewish holidays, which are observed for two days in the Diaspora.

The generally accepted dates for the Day of Atonement will occur on the following dates in the next few years:

  • 2009: September 28
  • 2010: September 18
  • 2011: October 8
  • 2012: September 26
  • 2013: September 14
  • 2014: October 4

similar to the Jewish observance. Some groups keep the biblical holy days on slightly different dates according to their understanding of when the first day of the month occurs. Those who believe the first day of the month is at the first appearance of the crescent moon will keep the Day of Atonement and the other Holy Days on slightly different dates than those listed here.

Biblical origin

The original rites and practices for the Day of Atonement are set forth in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus (cf. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 23:27-31, 25:9; Numbers 29:7-11). It is considered to be a time for fasting, on which no food or drink are be consumed. Leviticus 16:9-10,20-22 states,

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. (NKJV)

Christians who observe it note the parallels between the first of the two goats with Jesus and the second of the two goats with Satan (the Azazel goat). Specifically, regarding the latter, they cite the following passage from 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.

Those who observe it believe that the suitable man in Leviticus 16 is a parallel to the angel that binds Satan and casts him away in Revelation 20.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul refers to it as "the Fast" (Acts 27:9).


Jewish groups typically teach, "The Day of Atonement absolves from sins against God, but not from sins against a fellow man unless the pardon of the offended person be secured" (Mishnah tractate Yoma 8:9). Hence the custom of terminating on the eve of the fast day (or in the 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) all feuds and disputes. Even the souls of the dead are included in the community of those pardoned on the Day of Atonement. It is customary for children to have public mention made in the synagogue of their departed parents, and to make charitable gifts on behalf of their souls." Many believe that Jewish tradition is not scripturally valid in all aspects of its teaching. Much of Jewish practice is not strictly based on scripture itself.

Some believe proper observance of the Day of Atonement according to scripture requires the following:

  • A person must be validly baptized by a valid baptizer according to scriptural mandates
  • Fasting
  • Asking God to bring to memory any sins committed and honestly repenting of them
  • Assembling as a Holy Congregation and making an offering to the Lord

Christians who observe the Day of Atonement normally teach that on that day they are to be at one with God and that fasting humbles them and makes them realize how dependent they are on God for all their needs. They also believe that they are dependent on the sacrifice of Jesus for their salvation, and that Satan plays a role in encouraging people to sin.

One group that observes the Day of Atonement, the Living Church of God, states in their booklet The Holy Days:

Old Testament meaning
A day of fasting and repentance, known to the Jews as Yom Kippur (Leviticus 23:26-32)
New Testament meaning
Pictures the binding of Satan at the beginning of the Millennium and the world becoming at one with God.

The Christian Day of Atonement, comes after the Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Hashana) and is considered to be part of God's plan of salvation as shown in the biblical holy days given the 12 tribes of Israel, including Judah. The fasting day also gives them pause before the Feast of Tabernacles which is a time of rejoicing and feasting that begins 5 days later. It can also be said that fasting cleanses the body in preparation for the feasting that takes place at the Feast of Tabernacles, as well as a spiritual cleansing (including repenting of sin) ready for the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Day of Atonement and Eschatology

Some Christians believe that the Day of Atonement, the sixth holiday on the Hebrew calendar, will come into its ultimate New Covenant fulfilment on a climactic day in future history. Not only will it wrap up affairs between God and His covenant people for the year, the sabbatical year, and the 50 year Jubilee cycle, but this future day of awe will be a climactic Day of Atonement that will come on the last day of this age and on the eve of the Last judgement.

Bible scholars believe that the next feast to be fulfilled, the Feast of Trumpets, which is Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year, will be the epic peace treaty of Daniel 9:27. In this seven year covenant the sovereign land of Israel will be divided up and ceded to a coming global peacemaker for a period of seven years. This seven year covenant, which promises peace to the Middle East, is the event which initiates the 70th Week of Daniel, the final seven years of this age.

The reason they believe this to be so is that the timespan encompassing the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement when they are seven years apart and when they comprise 86 moons on the metonic cycle, (and not 87 moons), is 2550 days.

86 moons = 86 x 29.530589 days + 10 days = 2550 days (inclusive). This is the timespan that begins on Tishrei 1 in year X and extends out seven years to Tishrei 10 on year X + 7.

2550 days is a very significant time period. This is precisely the timespan of the 70th week of Daniel along with the 30 day extension which goes out beyond the 1260 day second half of the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks to reach the 1290 days we see prophesied by Daniel. (Dan.12:11). 1260 days + 1290 days = 2550 days exactly.

This is quite remarkable. The timespan of Daniel's 70th Week with its 30 day extension, appears to be marked out precisely by the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement seven years later. This is for those seven year Tishrei to Tishrei timespans that see 86 and not 87 moons. This a very significant discovery. It is not likely to be a coincidence.

The calculations of these feast to feast timespans across 86 moons and seven years are uncomplicated and easily verifiable. They can be confirmed quite readily using the new moon lunar data from the United States Naval Observatory or by using the Hebrew Calendar Converter available online at

Book of Hebrews

In the book of Hebrews (chapters 8,9,10) there is a commentary on the Temple ceremony of the Day of Atonement. The author's subject throughout the book is Christ, His priesthood, His works. The author is at some pains to establish that Jesus is the High Priest even though, in the flesh, He comes from the tribe of Judah, not Levi. However, this is easily overcome by virtue of the fact that Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, according to chapter six, verse 20, which is subsequently explained by the fact that Abraham paid homage to Melchizedek, thus establishing a hierarchy. And in the process of explaining and developing the priesthood of Christ, the author incidentally gives us a Christian commentary on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and tells us what it actually means to a Christian.

Book reference

The Bible, King James Version, The Authorized Version of 1611 published by Kregel Publications. The New King James Version, and all versions of the Holy Bible.

See also

Further reading

  • Edward Chumney. The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. Treasure House, 1994. ISBN 1-56043-767-7
  • Howard, Kevin. The Feasts Of The Lord God's Prophetic Calendar From Calvary To The Kingdom. Nelson Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7852-7518-5

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