David H. Linden, July 1999, revised November, 2008
The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar. It truly was the most holy day in the life of Israel, a day whose ceremonies are no longer repeated. Hosea's tragic prediction about Israel's sacrifices has been fulfilled:
For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD in the last days. (Hosea 3:4,5)
The sacrifice of Christ in 30 AD had been rejected by the majority in Israel; in 70 AD the sacrifices of Israel ended with the destruction of the temple. In Hebrews 3 God repeated the warning He made to an earlier generation, "For forty years I was angry with that generation…" (Psalm 95). I leave the math for you to calculate.
In rejecting Christ the Son of David, Israel suffered a double loss. They lost their God Who had come to them in human flesh as promised. They lost the Day of Atonement which cannot now be practiced in the way the Torah stipulated. In this paper I shall seek to show the connection between Christ and the ceremonies of that day. I hope that the ancient ritual will make Christian truth more clear to us.
The Origin of the Day
The Day of Atonement addressed the need of cleansing from sin, and how God may be approached. Leviticus includes details on what animals to sacrifice, where blood was to be shed, and what was to be done with it, and why. Here is a rich exhibition of priest and people before their offended yet forgiving God. Their guilt was removed and blessing secured. The God who lived in their midst kept them back. They could not enter His presence. The Most Holy Place was contaminated by contact with them, yet He had their representative draw near to Him. Because of this, the Lord could stay among them and the place of His worship and His people would be cleansed.
This Day in Relation to Christ
In Leviticus 16, many principles of approaching God are on display. Sometimes truth was stated; sometimes it was illustrated. The intent was to prepare us for our great high priest to come. Christ alone was qualified to go before the face of God for us. Because He offered His blood to God, He made an end of sacrifices by ending the need for them. And in doing all this, He acted alone. He, Who is holy and undefiled and needs no sacrifice for Himself, offered Himself to God for us. The blood He presented would not be of animals but from His own veins. And God His Father shall never require anything more to forgive us.Yes, He requires repentance and faith. Repentance turns from sin so that the repenting soul can turn to Christ. Faith in Christ, the converse of repentance, is receptive, offering nothing to God. Instead, faith reaches for and receives Christ and the benefits of the gospel. Faith becomes productive only when the sinner has been joined to Christ. Neither in repentance nor faith does the sinner make an offering to God to gain forgiveness.
In the Day of Atonement we are shown:
· The insistence of God that He be approached only in the way He dictates.
· The great truth that God is holy and requires the removal of sin as a condition of accepting the people He loves.
· The need for a Mediator Redeemer to go before Him to intervene for us.
· The requirement of a sacrifice.
· The purity the priest needs to approach God.
· The putting away or removal of the sins of the forgiven.
· The command for the people to do no work on that day of sabbath rest..
Ceremonies and Explanations
Leviticus 16 is heavy on visual ceremony. Sometimes there are explanatory words. God would spell out these things in more detail in the New Testament. This is part of the design; visual images were meant to impress vivid scenes in the mind. People of that day saw, and we too can picture, the priest's hands on a victim's head, the raising and plunging of a knife, the squirting of blood, the animal struggling, losing strength and then the stillness of death. Then blood was sprinkled, and fire consumed an offering. The high priest wore special clothes that day when he went out of sight into that forbidden holy place where no one else was ever permitted to go. What was going on?
This activity begs to be interpreted, but first they must make their impact on God's people. These were holy things that spoke to the mind through the senses. In time, God would use more words to explain the things the eyes saw. They had to: 1) Observe all the ceremonial actions, and 2) Connect these to all the explanations attached to the ceremony at the time. Now with New Testament revelation we join reconciliation to the cross with greater clarity. In Leviticus 16 the Lord repeatedly said that the high priest was making atonement.
The Matter of Mere Ceremony
We cannot now follow the line of so many Scriptures (such as Isaiah 1:11-14) on how these holy exercises became dead ritual to Israel except for the believing remnant. Mere ritualistic formality paid no heed to the necessity of obedience to the God who hated sin so much He would require an atonement. They missed the point! Isaiah 1 is a lesson on the deadness of the sinful heart, not a reflection on the vividness or clarity of God-ordained ceremonies to teach the gospel.
Much of Christendom has fallen into this same hardness of heart. Bread and wine are taken without faith and obedience, sometimes even as magic, as if some substance could make us acceptable to God. The solution is not to dispense with ceremony or sacrament. We must participate in them in obedience and faith, so they may have their God-intended effect. The proper effect is always received by joining God's words to God's ritual. So Christians are to take the bread and the cup, but always with the explanations God attaches. Likewise the Day of Atonement is connected to the work of a high priest to come, a Priest Who is the Lord Himself, prophesied in Psalm 110.
What Happened on the Day of Atonement?
The high priest was to do what was not done on any other day of the year. Only on the tenth day of the seventh month, was he to enter the holiest of holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was located. There he saw carved angels, one on his right and the other on his left. God Himself resided between the gold cherubim. Below them, in that beautiful gold box, were the Ten Commandments in clear human language. That box was the repository of Israel’s covenant documents.
To go in there, the high priest did not wear the colorful garments he wore on other days. After washing himself, he would put on plain white linen clothes. He would have to kill a bull by himself, and take its blood with him into the presence of God through a curtain that separated where priests went every day from where he would go only on this day.
The priest had to open the curtain to enter, but this would expose the presence of God to human sight. So it had to be obscured by smoke on penalty of death if the priest did not do this. The priest would carry a container of coals from the altar outside. He would drop two handfuls of powdered incense on the hot coals. The burning spices would create enough smoke to hide the glory of the Lord from the sinner's view when the curtain was opened. Even the priest of God had to be protected from the sight of God. Only then could the priest go in far enough to sprinkle blood on and before the atonement cover.
He then had to go out and get more blood, this time from a goat. Casting lots to see which one was to be offered, he then killed it. The blood of that goat was also taken into the presence of God and sprinkled where the other blood was already. When that was done, he was through inside; he did not sit down or have a chat. He had to leave that most holy place and could not return for a year. No one else was to be anywhere in the area when he did all this. The high priest was to act alone. He was to stand while making his offerings of blood, and then leave. The other goat was waiting outside.
After making atonement for that most holy place, he went out and put blood on the horns of the outdoor altar. Then he went up to the live goat, laid both hands on its head, confessed out loud all the sins the Israelites had committed that year, all the while keeping his hands on the goat's head. After that, some other man who was not so tired was to take that goat so far away it would never come back again.
Finally it was time to remove those once-a-year clothes, wash up and offer the regular offerings that other priests offered every day. By himself, the high priest had to slay all the other sacrifices of the day which according to Number 29:7-11 comprised nine more animals. He must have been one weary high priest when it was all done. His duties that day were heavy. If he followed the Lord's instructions, when it was all over, he would still be alive at the end of the day, so he would be relieved as well as weary. He had had the privilege to represent his people in their need before God. He had approached their Sovereign Lord in the way commanded. He had made atonement.
What does it mean? Why was it done?
Some explanation lies in the labeling of the offering itself. Making a severe separation between the acts and their meaning is not possible. If a sacrifice is called a sin offering, some meaning is obviously fused with the act. The language "to make atonement" with blood placed on a gold lid labeled the "atonement cover" is clear. These are terms loaded with the idea of bloodshed bringing reconciliation.
God did not intend that we might easily be able to disconnect what He had put together. Sacrificing a sin offering is simply sacrificing for sin. How a sin offering might end up not being a vicarious death for the offender, is a task some theologians these days attempt when they seek to write a different meaning for the cross of Christ. God was making it hard for them to do that. But they still try!
The ritual of the Day of Atonement implied atonement and the attached explanation stated it.
"In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place, because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness..." (Leviticus 16:16)
The atoning cleansing was for the place, not just the people. They were unclean so they made the holy places unclean by contact with them. The sanctuary and the Tent of Meeting needed cleansing, as did the entire community, even the priest and his family. All had sinned and fallen short of the glorious standard of God in that box. Their Savior God was addressing defilement, a defilement we too bring to everything we touch until the day we are perfected in holiness at the second coming of Christ, when our Great High Priest emerges from the presence of God behind the veil.
One cannot miss that that poor innocent goat about to be taken far away, had all the "wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites" confessed over it. Laying hands on its head was significant because God had instructed Moses to confess sins on the head of the goat. Sins were ceremonially transferred to the innocent goat.
This is Old Testament imagery for sin being imputed from the sinner to an innocent victim. In the gospel, God does not impute our sin to us, because Christ "became sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). This means Christ took guilt that was not His. Though it was our guilt and deserved penalty, it was laid on Him. Just as with that goat, sins our Lord died for, are now as far from us as the east is from the west, never to return to haunt our consciences again (Hebrews 9:11-15 and 10:1-4). In the gospel, the conscience is relieved by an effective atonement the sinner does not and cannot make.
After the goat was gone, the priest assumed his regular garments and sacrificed the burnt offering "to make atonement for himself and for the people," verse 24. Obviously the blood taken into the presence of God did not end sacrifices for sin, because before the Day of Atonement had even ended other offerings were required. There was no triumphant cry of "It is finished!" spoken on the Day of Atonement. Many more offerings would follow, many more days of atonement.
The Lord gave His own summary explanation of the purpose of the day: "On this day, atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins" (v.30). Similar words appear twice more before Leviticus 16 ends. I want to say reverently that God said it enough times. If we do not see the necessity of a vicarious blood atonement, it is not His fault.
Did They Understand?
These truths were ingrained into Israel's worship in ritual, promises, prophecies, prayers, and confession. How Israel, told of their rebellion and wickedness and the need of atonement, could ever trust in their own righteousness is a startling example of the frightful dullness of the human heart. But this is precisely what Moses said had been, and would be the case (Deuteronomy 29:21-29; 31:19-29). It was what the prophets later asserted repeatedly. God had given them much to see but, apart from the remnant, He had not "given them a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear " (See Deuteronomy 29:2-6). Christ came and they did not know Him, just as the prophet said in Isaiah 53:1-4. The amazing paradox is that by reading the rituals in Leviticus given to the children of Israel, and which were practiced and preserved by them for centuries, Gentile nations have been made to understand Christ's priestly work far more.
The Levitical priest had sin and had to atone for his sin with blood. He washed and dressed in spotless clothes, in anticipation of the sinless priest to come. Death removed him from office and his sons would have to serve in his place. We are thereby prepared for a unique priest who would act alone, just as the Lord alone is Savior in Isaiah 43:11,12, and the Lord alone led Israel with no foreign god assisting Him (Deuteronomy 32:12). And we are told to expect a priest who would serve forever, One Who would never be replaced (Psalm 110:4).
Before we are out of the Old Testament, we are told of One to come who would be our righteousness in Jeremiah 23:5. He would be the exalted Servant (Isaiah 52:13-15) yet would be humiliated, and in death would be pierced for His people's transgressions, and bear the sins of many (Isaiah 53:5,12). But Isaiah also had reason to ask, "Who has believed our report?" In his day there were not many. From the standpoint of our natural condition, none understand (Psalm 14:2,3)
The Coming and Ascension of Christ
As I child, I thought a room was empty if I saw nothing in it. Learning later that it was filled with nitrogen and oxygen was an amazing scientific discovery to me. Though I lived in that air, I thought nothing of it – unless it was windy. The Day of Atonement teaches reconciliation based on the substitution of an innocent victim. Like air, substitution is everywhere in sin offerings. Something innocent and clean died while a death-deserving transgressor was allowed to live! Can we miss the principle that forgiveness of sinful people by a Holy God must be on this basis? Yet the substitutionary aspect of our Lord's death has been contested and still is. Old Testament ritual leads the mind to accept that One will die in the place of others. Any man may atone for his sin by enduring the wrath of God eternally in hell, but such atoning never reconciles and is never completed. Sinners in hell never cry out, “It is finished!” For them there is no substitution; each man represents only himself. Jesus' death was a gracious substitution; He died “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18). It was a reconciling atonement.
God dwells in light unapproachable (1 Timothy 6:16), yet a man ordained as high priest was allowed and commanded to approach the unapproachable God. He was not welcome to stay. Here is the anomaly of a God who loves His people so was unwilling to forsake them, yet because they were covenant breakers He could not in His holiness walk with them. He is like a faithful spouse who will not sleep with an unfaithful partner and yet will not leave. Distance and closeness coexisted when His people by covenant were morally unclean. The people were kept out of the Most Holy Place, and the only man allowed in once a year, could not stay.
How will God ever keep His promise to Israel when His covenant requires obedience and all they have is sin? "If … you are careful to keep my commands…I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people" (See Leviticus 26:3-12). That this unresolved tension should be a constant unchanging predicament is impossible. God was determined to reach his goal of resuming the fellowship lost when man first sinned. Some day the Holy God will walk with holy humans (Revelation 21:3). An effective atonement must precede such a transformation.
The ultimate restoration would be based on the One Who came from the Father's side, the One sent to be our priest. He could and did go into the Presence of God with His own blood. He was accepted there on his own merits, no sacrifice being needed for Him. In His purity He would remain in the presence of God without rejection. Since this holy Person has become one of us, the matter of human approachability has been solved. One of us has made it – Christ, the Lord Who became man. But it is also true that all who are in Him are seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). There is a resurrected man in heaven. In His incarnation He became one of us. Denial of human access is the backdrop of the Day of Atonement. It begged to be resolved, and in Christ it has been.
In the heavenly sanctuary, Christ could sit at His Father's side, put His feet on a footstool, and stay. Imagine, a man in the presence of God! In Jesus’ case, it was His home, where He had come from, where He belongs, and to which He returned. The Old Testament priest went through that curtain with fear, especially if he remembered Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-5). Israel's priests entered from outside the curtain. But Christ came to earth from the inside, from the Father's bosom (John 1:18). In the tabernacle in the wilderness, God's place was above the atonement cover between the cherubim. One day, a Person Who also was the offended Lord, Who had been approached on earth by priests with sins and animal blood, would leave His Father and come here. He would offer Himself for us and thereby secure reconciliation and forgiveness. When He returned home, the Father told Him to sit down and take His place again. The One born in Bethlehem has gone home. He will not return to atone; there will never be another Day of Atonement.
A One Goat vs. Two Goat Atonement
In our day there is a distorted delight in the benefits that come from the death of Christ: forgiveness, new life, peace, love, and joy – all good things. These are related to us or found within us. Our instinct is: “What does the atonement do for me?” This is the chief interest reflected in much worship in our time. It is, however, a dangerous reduction of the real picture. The scapegoat was taken away, carrying the sins of the people to the wilderness, and the poor goat was never to be seen again. We like the thought of forgiveness and its relief from condemnation. On the Day of Atonement, before the scapegoat was released, the other goat was sacrificed. Its blood had been taken into the presence of God. We need to see that the sacrifice of Christ was to God as well as for us. In our time the for has swallowed up the to! God must be satisfied before He can forgive. He must have His justice answered so that He may release us from our guilt. The first goat pictured satisfying God and the second showed the great benefit to us. The two doctrines must be united or else we will present a tolerant God unmindful of His warning of death to Adam. God’s sentence of death for sin was not idle talk. The Father sent Him and Christ accepted our sentence and was executed because of it. God forgives the sinner who trusts in Christ because He did not forgive the Lord Jesus Who was executed in our place. Jesus without sinning accepted our guilt. That is why He died. Thus our forgiveness rests on a foundation of divine justice truly and fully met. We live in an age where the foundation is not seen as very relevant, the center matters less than the periphery, and the fruit matters more than the root. Evangelicalism today is increasingly falling into a one goat doctrine of salvation, one that is all benefit to us but lacking Christ’s satisfaction to God.
Principles of the Gospel: Addressing the Broken Law
The blood of animals was placed on the atonement cover or, "mercy seat", as it was referred to in older Bible versions. This was an auspicious place. Above the lid was the invisible Lord Himself (Psalm 80:1). On each end of the atonement cover was a gold angel. They looked in the direction of the cover over the box. They looked where the blood would be sprinkled. These were cherubim, the same kind of angels that kept our first parents out of Eden after they sinned. They were looking in the direction of broken commandments. This is a setting of impending vengeance, because cherubim are the kind of angels God has used as enforcers. The blood was applied between their gaze and the broken law.
Under the lid on that box were two copies of the law – God's and Israel's. Those Ten Commandments stated their covenant obligation. Yet at Sinai, Israel no sooner had the law than they made idols and bowed before them. Those tablets were witness of a covenant broken, one God was determined to salvage. The blood was sprinkled in the presence of God, between the molded cherubim, who in real life were astounded that humans could disobey God and still be alive.
That blood also came between the broken covenant and the covenant-keeping Lord. Rebellion against God is a recipe for vengeance to break loose, but God's grace intervened to have blood presented there to propitiate the wrath of the loving, holy, and just God. On the Day of Atonement this blood stayed God's wrath only in ceremony. How would God's perpetual law-breaking people ever really be saved? A non-ceremonial offering would have to be made to propitiate God in reality, not just ritual. The ritual anticipated the real thing. If God did not have the real thing in His plan, He would just be playing games. Animal blood cannot take away sin. That old system had a substitution for man by a mere animal. The situation begged for a real man to be the real substitute, but no righteous man was available. So God would send one!
It is the Old Testament that tells us that God would not keep a record of sins, and that with Him there is forgiveness (Psalm 130). But He also declared He would not clear the guilty (Exodus 32:6,7), so how can He avoid clearing the guilty unless He charges us with sin and punishes us? Such Old Testament statements are incapable of resolution unless there is a third party to bear the sin of the guilty. For God's Word to hold, both penalty and forgiveness must happen.
The Old Testament not only predicts an atoning Redeemer, it lays out theological coordinates whereby God committed Himself to intervention on behalf of all sinners He intended to save. God is the offended party, and we are the transgressors. Yet He would provide the mediator for us. Thus He fulfilled His goal of reconciliation. The atonement shows that God did not overlook sin, and yet He guarded His holy justice. Such a Lord as this should be loved, believed, and worshipped.
What Does Propitiation Mean?
God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. He is just and therefore must respond to it according to His holiness. If He is to forgive (a mercy He does not owe anyone), He must satisfy His justice. Grace does not dictate that God’s justice be suspended; rather justice dictates what grace must accomplish. To satisfy divine justice, the divine penalty for sin (announced in the Garden) cannot be suspended; it must be carried out. The sinner must die. However, the sacrifice of Christ was a vicarious death for His people. Blood is a simple and common reference to a sacrifice which has been made. We are saved by Jesus’ bloodshed for us. The death of the Substitute satisfied forever the wrath of God Who detests our sin. It is a necessity of His holiness that He react against sin. On the cross God poured His wrath on Christ instead of us. Thus God was propitiated. Because of this satisfaction God can sincerely extend forgiveness to sinners. He does it with good conscience. (The word propitiation in some form appears in the New Testament only 4 times: Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; & 4:10.)
In short, in order for the holy Lord God to forgive sinners: His justice must be satisfied by the death penalty carried out. Christ took this burden for us when He died. He propitiated the Father and met all the demands of the justice that condemned us. Based on the mediatorial intervention of Christ, God forgives the guilty when they believe. Our appeal for mercy is the Son Whom the Father sent for this very purpose. To reject Christ is to reject mercy and there is no other mercy God extends.
The Day of Atonement in the Book of Hebrews
The Old Testament is like a room with dim light. In the New, the furniture is the same as in the Old, but all is seen in a clearer light. The New Testament is not only the fulfillment of promises, in the book of Hebrews it is further explanation of truth present in the Old.
Psalms 2 & 110 say that the Messiah is the Son and a Priest. Hebrews takes those two truths and builds the structure of salvation on these roles of Christ (Heb. 5:5,6). It is His priestly office that connects with Leviticus 16. The temporary priest, a man with sins, a man who lost his role in death, was a priest who offered inferior blood which could not remove sin – such a priest was no more than a shadow of the ultimate Priest to come! (Heb. 5:3; 7:23; 10:4).
A major theme in Hebrews is that Christ entered the real sanctuary, heaven itself (Heb. 8:1,2). There He sat down, after His offering had been made. He had accomplished purification for our sins by Himself (Heb. 1:4 KJV). He shared our humanity and became like us in every way but sin, that He might make atonement for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:17). Our great high priest did not go through the curtain in the Temple. Instead, He went through the heavens (Heb. 4:14,15). Our hope is anchored in the place where our priest has gone – the inner sanctuary (Heb. 6:19). Clearly, Hebrews has the Day of Atonement in mind.
We do have such a high priest who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord not man. (Hebrews 8:1,2)
The physical structure in the wilderness depicted a higher sanctuary, the very presence of God Himself. The tabernacle in the desert was a replica, a little model of the real thing if you will, "a copy and shadow of what is in heaven," according to Heb. 8:5. We read of this earthly structure and ministry in Hebrews 9:7:
· Only the high priest entered the inner room,
· Only once a year,
· Never without blood,
· The priest offered for himself and the sins of the people
Then Hebrews speaks of Christ. Note how the earlier pattern approximates the real. "He went through" is curtain language in Heb. 9:11 "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). Jesus Christ was not in the line of Aaron, so He never entered the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple. The only sanctuary Jesus entered was the real one, “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence” (Hebrews 9:24).
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest slaughtered the animal outside and took in its blood. The Lord Jesus offered Himself on earth and took His blood, (meaning the reality and merits of His sacrifice) and, in a non-literal sense, brought that blood and placed it in the Presence of God. His entry into the heavenly sanctuary is literal. The blood shed on earth was literal blood. He then could appeal for our forgiveness, because when He died He bore the penalty of our sin.
Christ did not literally carry blood to heaven. But by going there after His sacrifice He was the priest Who represented us. He sat down and stayed. The Father's word telling Him to sit (Heb. 1:13; 10:11,12) shows that His sacrifice has been accepted on our behalf. So too are all who trust in it. (I personally need and make no other claim for acceptance by God.)
After the blood of the bull and the goat was taken inside, their bodies were burned outside the camp. That was standard with sin offerings. Hebrews 13:10-13 links locations. Jesus as our sin offering died outside the camp, outside the wall of Jerusalem. This is more support that Christ was both priest and offering (Heb. 7:27).
Christ is the reality, while the succession of previous priests were a long display of model priests (like "model" airplanes unable to carry passengers) to prepare Israel for the ministry of the Savior. He offered His own blood once for all and achieved genuine cleansing, not merely ceremonial. He purchased an eternal inheritance for us (Heb. 9:15), plus the right of entry for all His people into the presence of God (Heb. 10:19,20). God, by means of Christ, has met the requirements of His nature and our need.
God would never let up on His demand of righteousness from us and for justice for Himself. We could not meet either demand. That He might be just (Romans 3:26) God has supplied the ground for accepting sinners in two ways:
1) With His obedience Christ has met meet our covenant obligation by obeying for us. His gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17) is credited to the believer (Romans 4:5,6). Obedience is the requirement of the law.
2) With His blood, He has endured for us the penalty of justice. Death is the sanction of the law.
For our justification there is nothing we can contribute. The provision is absolutely complete. All that is left to us is a life of gratitude.
Christ having finished His work of obedience and sacrifice as a man, returned and sat down. From heaven He poured out His Spirit, sent to produce new covenant faithfulness in us (Heb. 10:16). With our status settled, the process of living in the new relationship is addressed. But we need to remember that all consequent blessings for His believing people are already secured, and we have only begun to enjoy them. The Spirit has us fix our thoughts on Jesus, the "Sent One" and high priest we confess (Heb. 3:1). At one time God’s holy law was written on stone tablets and deposited in the ark of the covenant. He writes the same law on our hearts and makes us walk in obedience to it (Ezekiel 36:24-32; Jeremiah 31:31-34). Jesus Christ our Great High Priest fulfilled the demands of the old covenant for us, and God's Spirit makes His people holy in the new.
And What Did the People Do?
While the high priest was wearying himself in his work (Note 2 Corinthians 13:4 “crucified in weakness”), the people were explicitly ordered not to "do any work" (Leviticus 16:29). Atonement was being made "for them" (v.30). The Israelites did not offer for themselves; their priests did. Atonement that day was not based on their participation in the Most Holy Place, rather they were represented by someone appointed to be their priest. They were not in the atoning business. God's anointed priest would have to do that for them.
The sermon by C.H. Spurgeon (http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0095.htm ) is very valuable and highly recommended. In that sermon Spurgeon points out that the trumpet sounding liberation on the Day of Jubilee happened on the tenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 25:9). It happened on the Day of Atonement. The atonement of Christ brings the rejoicing of freedom from bondage to sin; it secures the inheritance man lost in the fall. [Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania, USA.]