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copyright © 1991, Joseph Good, all rights reserved

Throughout the year one day stands alone as the holiest of days, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On this day all holy things culminated in an ancient ceremony of G-d’s Temple. The holiest land in the world is Israel, and the holiest city within Israel is Jerusalem. The holiest place within Jerusalem is the Temple and within the Temple the holiest site is the Holy of Holies. The holiest man in Israel was the High Priest and the holiest language, Hebrew. On Yom Kippur all of these came together in one focal point as the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies and spoke the sacred name of G-d in Hebrew. The context of this entire ceremony teaches much about the role of the Messiah and of His second coming to earth.

The majority of these ceremonies centered on the festivals found in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus. The spring festivals clearly show the Messiah in His first coming and the fall festivals teach on the second coming. In the book, Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to Come, much was written of the coronation of the Messiah and His wedding on this day. The resurrection of the dead and the catching away of the righteous was discussed. It was also explained that Rosh HaShanah is known as the Day of Judgment when the three books are opened and the court is seated.

Rosh HaShanah lasts for two days, the first and second of the Jewish month Tishri. These two days, along with the next eight, are known as the High Holy Days and the Yamin Nora’im, the Awesome Days. The last day of the Yamin Nora’im is Yom Kippur. Note that there are seven days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. These relate to the seven years of trouble prophesied throughout the scriptures. Most Christians know this period as the “tribulation” while to most Jews it is the Chevlai shel Mashiach, the birthpains of the Messiah. Even as Rosh HaShanah is the beginning of the birthpains, so is Yom Kippur the conclusion. It is on this day that many believe that the Messiah will literally return to earth where His foot will touch down on the Mount of Olives, and He will enter the Holy city once again. In a future article some of these proofs of His second coming literally taking place on this day will be explored. In this article only the Temple ceremony of the High Priest going into the Holy of Holies and the ceremony of the two goats will be discussed.

These particular ceremonies were considered to be the most important of the entire year. They are described in detail in the Tractate ‘Yoma’ of the Mishna. Even though they are not conducted today due to the destruction of the Temple, the liturgy is still recited annually during the Mussaf (additional) service of the Day of Atonement. The term Messiah, which in Hebrew is Mashiach, means the “anointed one.” Possibly a more descriptive definition might be “the empowered one.” This empowered one accomplished the redemption of man and the earth. In Israel kings, priests, and prophets were anointed and each played a part to teach of the coming Messiah who epitomized in one person all of these roles. The Messiah is the King, the Prophet, the High Priest. Every ceremony from G-d that concerned the king taught on the Messiah who would be king. Likewise, the duties and ceremonies of the High Priest did the same.

The word Yoma, Aramaic for ‘day,’ refers to Yom Kippur in present-day Jewish life. It had even greater significance when the Temple stood and the lengthy, involved ritual performed by the High Priest became the focal point of the nation. Only on Yom Kippur was the High Priest permitted to enter the Holy of Holies and only on Yom Kippur was the High Priest required to perform virtually the entire Temple Service.

The week before Yom Kippur the High Priest was taken from his own house to live in his chambers in the Temple. Another priest was made ready as well in case he should die or become Levitically unfit for his duties. In order to become accustomed to the ceremony, he would perform repeatedly each aspect that he would perform when the day arrived. These drills included sprinkling the blood, burning the incense, and preparing the seven-branched candlestick. This was done to assure that no mistake would be made when the day actually arrived and the High Priest alone was responsible for the service. If he failed in his course then disaster was feared for the nation. In order to accomplish this the elders of the court were appointed to see to it that the High Priest fully understood and knew the meaning of the service, otherwise they were to instruct him in it.

On the morning of the ninth of Tishri the High Priest stood at the Nicanor gate. Appointed priests then passed the animals before him that would be used for the sacrifices of Yom Kippur. Toward sunset they limited his meal so that he would not fall asleep during the night. He spent the entire night presenting or listening to a discussion of the Oral Torah and reading or listening to portions of the written Tanach, the Hebrew scriptures.

Before dawn the Temple was filled with people. With the first streak of morning light they spread a linen partition next to the High Priest for privacy. He removed his clothes, immersed himself in a bath, and put on eight golden garments. He then washed his hands and feet and performed all the principle parts of the ordinary morning sacrifices. Once finished, he went to the roof of his chambers within the Temple called the Beit Haparvah, and washed his hands and feet. He removed the eight golden garments, immersed himself, put on the four linen garments and washed his hands and feet.

A bull owned by the High Priest stood between the Temple porch and the altar. The location of this service of the slaying of the bull is very critical in understanding the eschatology of this festival. During the entire year this is the only service actually performed between the porch and the altar. The prophet Joel spoke of the second coming of the Messiah in relationship to this service.

“Blow the Shofar in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the L-rd, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, 0 L-rd, and give not thine heritage to reproach that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their G-d?

Joel 2.1517

The fast declared in this passage is Yom Kippur. This is established because Yom Kippur is the only one of the festivals that is a fast. Another clue is that it is called a Solemn Festival. The festivals are divided into two groups, the joyous festivals and the solemn festivals. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are the only solemn festivals. Also note that the bridegroom is coming out of the chamber, in Hebrew known as the chedar which was the wedding chamber, and the bride from her closet, which in Hebrew is the Chuppah, another term for the wedding chamber. It was mentioned before that the wedding of the Messiah takes place on Rosh HaShanah. It was the custom to have a seven day honeymoon known as the seven days of the Chuppah. In Hebrew the word for seven is shavuah which can signify seven days or seven years.

Therefore the honeymoon in heaven between the Messiah and his bride is simultaneous with the birthpains or tribulation on earth. The bridegroom, the Messiah, and his bride, the believers, come out of the Chuppah at the end of the seven years of tribulation. It is at this time that He returns to earth. As He and His bride come out of the Chuppah and begin their return to earth the priests on earth ministering between the porch and the altar are crying out to the L-rd. Their cry is for Messiah to come and end the persecution of the people by the False Messiah and his cohorts. This is a direct reference to His return being on Yom Kippur.

Again the bull, referred to earlier, is standing between the porch and the altar. With its body facing the south towards the altar and face turned west in the direction of the Holy of Holies the High Priest approached and laid both hands on the bull’s head. He then confessed his sins and those of his house:

“Ah, L-rd. I have committed iniquity; I have transgressed; I have sinned, I and my house. Oh, then, L-rd, I entreat You, cover over the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before You, I and my house, even as it is written in the Torah of Your servant Moses, ‘For on that day will He cover over for you to make you clean; from all your transgressions before the L-rd you shall be cleansed.’”

From the Yom Kippur Machzor

When the priests and the people standing in the courtyard knew that the name of the L-rd was pronounced they bowed, prostrated themselves, gave thanks, fell to their faces and said, “Blessed is the Name of the honor of His kingdom forever and ever.”

In the preceding confession of the High Priest the actual name of G-d was used. At the time of Yeshua only the High Priest was allowed to mention this name out loud and only during this ceremony of Yom Kippur. The people had not actually heard how the High Priest pronounced the Holy Name because of the distance between himself and them. This day was the only day during the year that the High Priest or anyone else ministered using His name. This leads us to another prophecy of the Messiah returning on Yom Kippur.

And He shall stand and feed in the strength of the L-rd, in the majesty of the Name of the L-rd His G-d, and they shall abide: for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth.

Micah 5.4

After uttering the unmentionable name of G-d in the first confession over the bullock the High Priest returned to the Nicanor Gate where two identical goats stood near an urn called “Calphi,” in which were two golden lots. On one lot was written “L’Adonai,” which means “To the L-rd,” and on the other “L’Azazel,” which appears to mean “To the Wilderness.” Dr. William Gesenius in his classic lexicon of the Hebrew language links the term “Azazel” to a demon.

“By this name is I suppose to be understood originally some idol to be appeased by sacrifice. I suppose from the names of idols being often applied to demons, this name was used for that of an evil demon inhabiting the wilderness, who had to be appeased by sacrifices by this very ancient and Gentile rite. The name “Azazel” is also used by the Arabs as that of an evil demon.”

Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon, Pg. 616-617

The prophet Isaiah in his prophecies concerning the destruction of Babylon, indicates that the wilderness itself was considered as the habitation of demons.

“It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their folds there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there: and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.”

Isaiah 13.20-22

I is no wonder that Yeshua was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Quite contrary to the popular belief that both of these goats represent the Messiah, one goat to die and the other goat to live having carried off the sins of those that have repented, it is seen that one goat is given to G-d but the other goat represents Satan.

At this point in the ceremony the High Priest stood between the two goats and drew the lots simultaneously with both hands, laying one on the head of each goat. When placing the lot on which “LAdonai” was written the High Priest proclaimed that goat “to Adonai.” Those who heard him responded by blessing the Name as described earlier. He tied a scarlet woolen band on the horns of the goat marked “L’Azazel.” This goat was to be sent to the desert and was, therefore, turned to face the eastern gate.

The High Priest then returned to his bull. He laid both his hands on it again and made a confession on behalf of all the priests. He repeated exactly as he had said the first time, except this time he said, “I and my house, the seed of Aaron, Thy holy people” in the confession instead of “I and my house.”

He killed the bull and quickly received its blood in a vessel. He handed the vessel of blood to another priest to stir so that the blood would not congeal before the time to sprinkle it.

The procedure of bringing the additional embers for Yom Kippur was next. The High Priest ascended the altar and filled a golden shovel with embers. He brought the shovel to a point near the entrance of the Temple porch and placed it on the floor. As he stood before the porch a priest brought him a large empty vessel with a long handle, a makhtah. Another priest brought him a shovel called a kaf, as well as a large amount of fine incense. The High Priest filled both hands with the incense and placed it into the kaf.

With the golden shovel of embers in his right hand and the kaf of incense in his left, the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies. There is a misconception that the High Priest wore bells at the bottom of his garment and a rope tied around his leg. This is believed so that in the event of error causing his death, the High Priest could be removed without anyone having to enter the Holy of Holies. The bells supposedly were for the purpose of informing priests nearby that the High Priest was fine. However, the truth is that the bells were part of the golden vestments that had to be removed before the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies. The idea of a rope is nowhere to be found in either the scriptures or the Jewish literature, and, in fact, goes contrary to the very concept of the priest entering the Holy of Holies clothed only in the white of purity. The High Priest was extensively trained in the ceremonies that he was conducting and if tragedy did occur, his assistant would take over the completion of the rites. Within the Temple during the time of Yeshua, there was a double veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. As the High Priest walked between these two veils and entered the Holy of Holies, the aspect of coming before the throne of G-d and His presence must have been awesome.

In the Second Temple period there was no Ark of the Covenant; however, the ceremony was conducted as if it was there. The High Priest put the shovel of embers down directly in front of where the Ark of the Covenant once sat. He filled his hands with the incense and heaped it onto the hot embers. He remained there until the chamber was filled with fragrant smoke. After leaving the Holy of Holies he said a short prayer for the welfare of the people. It was as follows:

“May it please You, 0 L-rd our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers, that neither this day nor during the year any captivity come upon us. Yet, if captivity befall us this day or this year, let it be to a place where the Torah is cultivated. May it please You, 0 L-rd our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers, that want come not upon us, either this day or this year. But if want visit us this day or this year, let it be due to the liberality of our charitable deeds. May it please You, 0 L-rd our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers, that this year may be a year of cheapness, of fullness, of intercourse and trade; a year with abundance of rain, of sunshine, and of dew; one in which Your people Israel shall not require assistance one from another. And as to Your people Israel, may no enemy exalt himself against them. May it please You, 0 L-rd our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers, that the houses of the men of Sharon may not become their graves.”

From the Yom Kippur Machzor

The High Priest then left the Holy Place and took the blood of the bull from the priest who was stirring it. He immediately entered the Holy of Holies and stood before the veil. He dipped his finger into the blood and sprinkled once upwards and seven times downwards. The first sprinkling was to be counted “one.”

For the second sprinkling, he counted “one and one,” for the third “one and two,” and so on.

He left the Holy of Holies and placed the vessel of bull’s blood on a stand in front of the veil. He then went to the front of the Temple porch, where a priest now brought the goat for Adonai, making sure that the goat was standing north of the Altar. He killed it and quickly received its blood. This goat would later be burned outside the Temple with the bull. He then went into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood in front of where the Ark once sat. Whereas in his first journey into the Holy of Holies the High Priest had sprinkled for himself, his second journey was for the cleansing of the nation. Several Hebrew words are used in this passage for sprinkling. All these words derive from the word nazah, which means ‘to sprinkle or to spatter upon or at.’ A derivative form of this word in a future tense with apocalyptic intent, y’zeh, means ‘to sprinkle in the future,’ and is found in one of the most profound prophecies of the scriptures concerning the second coming of the Messiah.

“Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; So shall He sprinkle (y’zeh) many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for that which had nor been told them they shall see; and that which they had nor heard shall they consider. ”

Isaiah 52.13-15

This passage is one of the strongest proofs for the Messiah returning on Yom Kippur as it is only on Yom Kippur that there was a sprinkling of this type. Also, here the Messiah is seen as fulfilling the role of the High Priest who has borne the blood of the sacrifice of the L-rd (His own) into the Holy of Holies.

Returning to the Temple service the High Priest sprinkled the blood in the same manner as he did the bull’s blood. He then left the room and put the blood of the goat on a second stand in front of the veil.

The High Priest then took the blood of the bull and sprinkled in front of the veil, following the same outline as for sprinkling in front of the Ark. He did likewise with the blood of the goat. He poured the blood of the bull into the vessel that contained the goat’s blood, and the mixture of the two into that which had held the bull’s blood, so as to thoroughly mix the two. He sprinkled the mixture onto each of the horns on the altar of incense. He dipped his finger into the vessel of blood before each sprinkling. After clearing away the ashes of the daily incense from the golden altar, he sprinkled the blood on it seven times. The remaining blood was poured onto the southwest base of the brazen altar. Upon completion of the sprinkling and pouring of the blood, the High Priest went to the east side of the courtyard where the goat designated to the wilderness stood. He pressed down on the goat with his blood stained hands covering the goat’s head. He then confessed on behalf of the entire nation the following prayer.

“Ah, L-rd. They have committed iniquity; they have transgressed; they have sinned, Your people, the house of Israel. Oh, then, L-rd, cover over, I entreat You, upon their iniquities, their transgressions, and their sins, which they have wickedly committed, transgressed, and sinned before You, Your people the house of Israel. As it is written in the Torah of Your servant Moses, ‘For on that day shall it be covered over for you, to make you clear; from all your sins before the L-rd you shall be cleansed.’

From the Yom Kippur Machzor

The prostrate multitude worshipped at the Name of the L-rd; the High Priest would finish the prayer by saying to them, “You shall be cleansed.”

The High Priest then sent the goat along with a priest who had been prepared for the task through Solomon’s porch, through the Eastern Gate to the fierce desert, to carry the sins of the nation to the wilderness. The goat and his escort, as well as the most eminent men of Jerusalem, traveled out the Eastern Gate of the Temple and across a special bridge over the Kidron Valley on a twelve mile journey to a high ridge called Mount Tzok or Mount Azazel. From the beginning of the journey until Mount Tzok there were ten different stations or booths called Sukkot along the way. At each Sukkah the escort was formally offered food and drink, which he refused. On approaching the tenth Sukkah the prominent men of Jerusalem halted and only the priest assigned for the final leg made the treacherous ascent up Mount Tzok and pushed the goat backwards off the cliff. Before throwing the goat off the cliff, the priest divided the band of scarlet wool and tied one half to a rock known as the rock of Chudo, and the other half between the horns. When the priest cast the goat off the cliff, the goat was torn into pieces by the sharp rocks long before he ever hit bottom.

It is recorded in the Talmud that a great miracle occurred here as the goat was cast to his death. The scarlet colored cloth hanging on the rock turned white, being a fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the L-rd: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. ”

Isaiah 1.18

When the cloth turned white the priest signaled to the men in the last Sukkah that the goat was dead. They in turn passed the signal by kerchiefs and flags from Sukkah to Sukkah until the news reached the Temple mount. Crowds stood over the Temple Gate where a white thread was now suspended. The young people of Jerusalem anxiously waited on the hillsides of the city for the good news and on its arrival celebrated the event by dancing, singing and rejoicing.

Earlier it had been mentioned how Azazel stood for a demon god. It is this ceremony of the expulsion and death of the Azazel goat that speaks most of Yeshua’s coming. In the century before Yeshua came, there was an explosion of Jewish writings concerning the coming of the Messiah and the events of the end times. The most popular of these writings was The Book of Enoch, which is even quoted in the Epistle of Jude. In this book Azazel is mentioned in relationship to the coming of the Messiah.

“Then I looked and turned to another face of the earth and saw there a valley, deep and burning with fire. And they were bringing kings and potentates and were throwing them into this deep valley. And my eyes saw there their chains while they were making them into fetters of immense weight. And I asked the angel of peace, who was going with me, saying, “For whom are these imprisonment chains being prepared? And he said unto me, “These are being prepared for the armies of Azazel, in order that they may take them and cast them into the abyss of complete condemnation, and as the L-rd of the Spirits has commanded it, they shall cover their jaws with rocky stones. Then Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel themselves shall seize them on that great day of judgement and cast them into the furnace (of fire) that is burning that day, so that the L-rd of the Spirits may take vengeance on them on account of their oppressive deeds which (they performed) as messengers of Satan, leading astray those who dwell upon the earth.”

I Enoch 54.1-6

“When I would give consent so that they should be seized by the hands of the angels on the day of tribulation and pain, already I would have caused my punishment and my wrath to abide upon them – my punishment and my wrath, says the L-rd of the Spirits. Kings, potentates, dwellers upon the earth: You would have to see my Elect One, how he sits in the throne of glory and judges Azazel and all his company, and his army, in the name of the L-rd of the Spirits!”

I Enoch 55.3-4

In these passages Azazel is seen as the False Messiah and his armies or cohorts. The scriptures state that the day the Messiah returns, which will be a Yom Kippur, the False Messiah will be defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire even as the goat was cast to his destruction. G-d had given this ceremony to illustrate this and to prepare people for the events of the Messiah’s coming. As this day arrives and these events take place, all the world which has rejoiced in G-d’s Messiah will break forth in dancing and song.

Until this news came, nothing else could happen within the Temple. As the people of Jerusalem waited for the news of the destruction of the goat, Azazel, so will people in the future, at Messiah’s coming, await the news of the destruction of the False Messiah. Azazel is the epitome of evil and sin. With his destruction, all of Jerusalem will again rejoice even as described by the prophet Jeremiah in his prophecy of the second coming.

“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the L-rd. ”

Jeremiah 31.13-14

Now with the rejoicing in Azazel’s death the High Priest moved forward with the rest of the ceremony. The High Priest removed the innards of the bull and the goat whose blood had been sprinkled in the Holy of Holies and placed them in a receptacle. He twisted the bodies of the two animals and four priests carried the bodies out of Jerusalem on two poles to a place called “The place of the Ashes.”

The High Priest went into the court of the Women and read Leviticus 16:23, 27-32; and recited by heart Numbers 29:7-l 1.

“And Aaton shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: . . . And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung. And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp. And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: for on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the L-rd. It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments. ”

Leviticus 16.23, 27-32

And ye shall have on the tenth day of this seventh month an holy convocation; and ye shall afflict your souls: ye shall not do any work therein: but ye shall offer a burnt offering unto the L-rd for a sweet savour; one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year; they shall be unto you without blemish: and their meat offering shall be of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals to a bullock, and two tenth deals to one ram, a several tenth deal for one lamb, throughout the seven lambs: one kid of the goats for a sins offering; beside the sin offering of atonement, and the continual burnt offering, and the meat offering of it, and their drink offerings.

Numbers 29.7- 11

Following this recitation of scripture a number of prayers were pronounced by the High Priest. Then he recites eight benedictions: for the Torah; for the (sacrificial) service; for the thanksgiving; for the forgiving of sins; for the Temple separately; for Israel separately; for Jerusalem separately; for the Kohanim (priests) separately; and for other matters of prayer.

The High Priest then returned to the roof of the Beit Haparvah and removed his linen garments, immersed himself in the bath and put on the golden garments. He washed his hands and feet before removing one set of garments and after putting on the other.

Immediately, he went to the north side of the altar, where he offered up his ram and a ram of the people as burnt offerings. Next he performed all the principle parts of the ordinary evening sacrifices. He also burned the innards previously removed from the bull and goat.

The High Priest again returned to the Beit Haparvah, immersed himself in the bath and changed to the linen garments. He washed his hands and feet before removing one set of garments and after putting on another.

The High Priest returned to the Holy of Holies to remove the kaf and shovel. For the last time he went to the Beit Haparvah, removed his linen clothing, immersed himself and put on the eight golden garments. He washed his hands and feet before removing one set and after putting on another. He put the linen garments away never to be used again.

He repeated all that was done for the daily ceremony in the morning. He kindled the seven-branched candlestick which burned throughout the night. When he completed the ceremony he washed his hands and feet for the tenth time. Then he changed back into his regular clothing and returned to his home.

Yom Kippur is so alive with pictures and messages of the coming of the Messiah that it would take a book to develop them. Its message of repentance and purity before G-d is in a class by itself in Biblical studies. Be encouraged to examine this great appointed time of G-d and learn its worth. An ancient greeting verbalized between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is extended to you: “May you be sealed until the Day of Redemption.”

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