Day of Atonement begins tonight

History of Early Christianity


The Christian Day of Atonement is based on the English translation of the Hebrew term for the Holy day Jews tend to call Yom Kippur. It begins at sunset tonight, September 13, 2013 and lasts until sunset September 14, 2013.

In the original Hebrew, the Bible calls the day Yom Hakippurim (which is Hebrew for “Day of the Atonements”).

The day is commemorated with a 25-hour fast by some Jews, but normally a 24 hour fast by Christians, whose health allows it (see also Importance of Fasting. Here is a link to it in Mandarin Chinese 禁食的重要性.). While not observed by the mainstream of professing Christianity, the 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.

Because it is endorsed in the Bible, the faithful in the Continuing Church of God observe the Day of Atonement.

While it is mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament), the focus of today’s article will be the New Testament and post-New Testament.

The Day of Atonement in New Testament Times

Bible believing Christians recognize that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is an atonement sacrifice to reconcile us to God. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote:

18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Christians that 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 upon the sacrifice of Jesus for their salvation, but that Satan does play a role in encouraging people to sin.

The Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God states this about the Day of Atonement (and more detail is in the article The Day of Atonement–Its Christian Significance):

The Day of Atonement, called “the Fast” in the New Testament (Acts 27:9), helps show our own weaknesses and need to be closer to God (Isaiah 58:5,11).  It also helps picture that Satan has a role in the sins of humankind and that he will be bound for one-thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3; cf. Leviticus 16:20-26; Isaiah 14:12-16).

The New Testament shows that the the Gentile Gospel writer Luke knew about the Day of Atonement, when he wrote:

…sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over (Acts 27:9).

What was Luke referring to according to Protestant commentators? Why the day of Atonement. Notice two such commentaries (note italics/bolding are from the sources cited):

Acts 27:9-11… Sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was already past, that is, the famous yearly fast of the Jews, the day of atonement, which was on the tenth day of the seventh month, a day to afflict the soul with fasting (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.).

Acts 27:8-9… The fast to which Luke refers is the Day of Atonement (from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press).

The fact that Luke used that term for a Christian audience (Acts 1:1) strongly indicates that the Day of Atonement was known, recognized, and observed by early Christians.

Post New Testament

This is further substantiated in a Jewish account (reported in the Talmud), as related by a Catholic scholar may also be helpful here. It is recorded that an early second century Christian named Jacob (100-120 AD) with a Jewish scholar discussed the Day of Atonement and the Christian Jacob explained how it helped show “Christ head of the angels” (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p.97).

And of course, when God has an angel bind Satan (Revelation 20:1) this will be another related fulfillment for the Day of Atonement.

Furthermore, it is known that in the first and second century, Polycarp of Smyrna kept both the Spring Holy Days and the Fall Holy Days.

The keeping of these days, however, was condemned by John Chrysostum near the end of the fourth century. He specifically condemned observing the Day of the Fast that the Jews also kept (see Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?):

The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts.

This condemnation, though, is specific proof that some who professed Christ still observed the Day of Atonement into the fourth century.

Additionally, comments by Jerome and Epiphanius near that time concerning the Nazarene Christians would also seem to support that those who kept the Holy Days, such as Atonement, were located in several areas at that time (see Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).

Notice that the Sabbath-keepers in Transylvania in the 1500s (and probably later) kept the Fall Holy Days such as the Day of Atonement:

The Sabbatarians viewed themselves as converted Gentiles..They held to the biblical holidays…The Day of Atonement was a day of fasting, although they emphasized that pentinence is more easily acheived by a peaceful and quiet meditation on the law and one’s life than by fasting. (Liechty D. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs (MI), 1993, pp. 61-62).

People attempting to be faithful to the Bible have observed the Day of Atonement and we faithful in the Continuing Church of God continue to do so in the 21st century.

Jesus and Paul observed this day, do you?

Those who have more interest, may wish to study the following articles:

The Day of Atonement–Its Christian Significance The Jews call it Yom Kippur, Christians “The Day of Atonement”. Does it have any relevance for Christians today?
Video Sermon: The Bible and the Day of Atonement  The Jews call it Yom Kippur, Christians “The Day of Atonement.” Does it have any relevance for Christians today? Was it observed in the New Testament? What did some of the ancient Hebrew ceremonies surrounding it mean? Does one goat in Leviticus represent Jesus and the other Satan? How does the New Testament help answer this?
Michael’s Feasts and Fasts Quiz 15 questions, amusing wrong answer screens.
Michael’s Day of Atonement Quiz Another free on-line Bible quiz by my son Michael.
Michael’s Feasts and Fasts Quiz 15 questions, amusing wrong answer screens.
Importance of Fasting An old article by Herbert W. Armstrong on this subject. Here is a link to it in Mandarin Chinese 禁食的重要性.
Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? The ‘Fall’ Holy Days come every year in September and/or October on the Roman calendar. Some call them Jewish holidays, but they were kept by Jesus, the apostles, and their early faithful followers. Should you keep them? What does the Bible teach? What do records of church history teach? What does the Bible teach about the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day? Here is a link to a related sermon: Should you keep the Fall Holy Days?
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? Are they related? Is so how? If not, where not? What does the Feast of Trumpets, which the Jews call Rosh Hashanah, help teach?
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today’s Christians? What is the Last Great Day? What do these days teach?
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time to Learn the Law The Bible teaches that every seven years that the law should be read at the Feast of Tabernacles. This is what I did at the first Feast site were I gave an actual sermon (as opposed to a sermonette) in 2006.
Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2013 This is information on the expected Feast of Tabernacles’ sites for the Continuing Church of God for 2013. The Feast in 2013 begins the evening of September 18.
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur 🙂 In the Spanish/Español/Castellano language: Calendario de los Días Santos.

Get news like the above sent to you on a daily basis

Your email will not be shared. You may unsubscribe at anytime.