The Gospel Proclaimed in Leviticus 23:27–32
By Ya’acov Natan Lawrence
Hoshana Rabbah Biblical Discipleship Resources
Let’s explore Leviticus 23:27–32 where we find the command to observe the Day of Atonement (Heb. Yom Kippur) to see what surprising nuggets we can find here. In the simplicity of this text, we will discover outlined the entire gospel message of salvation prophetically foreshadowed some 1500 years before the birth and death of Yeshua the Messiah.
The text of Leviticus 23:27–32 is highlighted in bold with explanations following.
27 Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement [Heb. kippur].
This day is about atoning, reconciliation and purging, which is the meaning of kippur. Purging who of what? We’ll soon find out.
It shall be a holy convocation for you;
Yom Kippur is a commanded assembly or a sacred convocation for YHVH’s people. It was made holy not by men, but by the Creator of the universe. Men can’t make anything holy, for men aren’t holy. Only the Holy (Heb. Kadosh) One of Israel can do this. The Day of Atonement is also a divine appointment (Heb. moed, Lev 23:2) as determined by the YHVH Elohim. It is a time when the Creator demands to meet with his people. Humans who miss it defy the Creator’s commands.
…you shall afflict your souls,
Afflict is the Hebrew word anah meaning “to oppress with the idea of humility or meekness in mind coupled with the idea of a suffering life rather than with one of worldly happiness and abundance” (The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, p. 682).
First, what is your soul? It is who you are. It is what makes you unique. It is your personality, your emotional makeup, your mental abilities and your willpower. Your soul determines what you say, do and think. Yeshua called it the heart of man (Matt 12:35; 15:19). It is attached to and in charge of the human body. It tells the body what to do, saw and think. The soul is the source of sin in the human (Ezek 18:4).
Why does YHVH command his people to afflict their souls (i.e. to go one day without food and water) on Yom Kippur?
The reason for this is that the soul must be put down, or sublimated and brought under the control of the Word and Spirit of Elohim if man is to have a spiritual relationship with the Creator, which can eventually result in man receiving eternal life and membership into his heavenly kingdom. Yeshua taught his disciples that “he who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for [Yeshua’s] sake will find it” (Matt 10:39), and that “whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [Yeshua’s] sake will find it” (Matt 16:25). The sinful soul (the mind, will and emotions) of men is what prevents man from coming into a spiritual relationship with the Creator. That is why the proud, self-righteous, rebellious, lawless and willful soul of man must be afflicted and humbled, so that it can be brought under the control, power and influence of the Word and Spirit of Elohim, so that man can experience the abundant life in this world and the next (John 10:10). This is why the carnal soul of man has to be starved. By learning to control our physical appetites through fasting, we can learn how to control the passions of our carnal natures. This is what the baptism for the remission of sins ritual is all about. It’s about death to the old sinful man and coming alive to the spirit man through legal and spiritual identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua through the aid and influence of Elohim’s Set-Apart Spirit. In Romans 6:3–11 we read,
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into the Messiah Yeshua were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as the Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with the Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that the Messiah, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to Elohim. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to Elohim in the Messiah Yeshua our Lord.
…and offer an offering made by fire to YHVH.
This is referring to the animal sacrifices that were made on Yom Kippur where animals were slaughtered and laid on the altar in the Tabernacle of Moses as an offering to Elohim. This ritual teaches us two things. The first is that the innocent animal that was sacrificed on the altar was a prophetic shadow or type of Yeshua’s death on the cross. His death atoned for or purged man of his past sins and redeemed man from the death penalty that came upon him because of that sin. We read in Leviticus 16 that on Yom Kippur the high priest sacrificed animals on the altar in the tabernacle as a sin offering for himself and the children of Israel. He then sprinkled its blood before the mercy seat in the holy of holies, which pictured the throne of Elohim in heaven. This in every way points to Yeshua’s atoning death on the cross for man’s sins, and Elohim’s acceptance of that death in payment or exchange for the penalty for man’s sins, which is man’s death.
The next thing that this offering by fire alludes to is that the afflicting the soul is a picture of the saint dying to himself. He must be willing to lay his life on YHVH’s spiritual altar by “present[ing] your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to Elohim, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1). What is it to be a living sacrifice for Elohim? It involves dying to oneself (i.e. one’s carnal and sinful passions) and not only accepting Yeshua as one’s Savior, but as the Lord or Master of one’s life as well. Many people want the Savior part, but not the Master part. It comes as a package. One can’t have the Savior without the Master. If Yeshua is truly one’s Savior, then he will also be one’s Master. This is because he bought and paid for each of us with his life, and he now has the legal right to tell us what to do. When you accepted him, this was a legal transaction. If you want salvation from the death penalty you brought on yourself by your sins, you must also accept heaven’s terms and conditions to free you from that death penalty. There is no other way. People lie to themselves if they think they can chart their own course of “spirituality” and make up their own rules to find a relationship with their Creator some other way. It doesn’t work that way! Every other way is a satanic counterfeit that leads to death and eternal separation from Elohim.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Set-Apart Spirit who is in you, whom you have from Elohim, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify Elohim in your body and in your spirit, which are Elohim’s. (1 Cor 6:19–20)
[K]nowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of the Messiah, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Pet 1:18–19)
28 And you shall do no work on that same day,
Yom Kippur is a Sabbath day of rest when no work is to be done. This phrase is found twice in this passage (in this verse and again in verse 31). This alludes to the fact that there are two kinds of work of which the Bible speaks. There is physical work that man does to support his life, and their are spiritual works of righteousness, which are based on obedience to the Torah-laws of Elohim.
First, on Yom Kippur YHVH commanded man to stop his routine physical work activities and to focus solely on his Creator by giving him full attention. If we want the benefits and blessings YHVH Elohim has to offer us, then we have to obey his rules. This means that jobs, school, sports, entertainment and all the other secular activities that we normally engage in must cease on YHVH’s sabbaths including Yom Kippur. Scripture enjoins man to put Elohim in first place in all areas of his life. Yeshua said, “But seek first the kingdom of Elohim and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33). This is a hard thing for carnal humans to do.
The second thing that resting on the Day of Atonement teaches us is that we’re not saved by our own works. We can never do enough good works to earn our salvation (Eph 2:8–9). If we want spiritual salvation, we must rest in Yeshua’s good works to save us from the evil works of our past sin. This is the righteousness of Yeshua being imputed to our spiritual bank account. Paul discusses this in Romans chapter four. This is the message, in part, of Hebrews chapter four. Yeshua and the apostolic writers teach us that there is a place for good works in the saint’s life, but it’s not for the purpose of earning their salvation. Good works are the good fruits in our lives as a result of our salvation and proof that we’re living our lives under the influence Spirit of Elohim. As such, the Bible teaches that our good works will determine our level of rewards in his heavenly kingdom (e.g. Matt 5:19; 16:27; Rom 2:6; 2 Cor 5:10; Eph 6:8; 1 Pet 1:17; Rev 2:23; 19:8; 20:12; 22:12). Our good works of righteousness are proof that we love Yeshua (John 14:15), that we know Elohim (1 John 2:3), that we love our fellow man (Rom 13:8–10), and that we have the love of Elohim in us (1 John 2:5).
…for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before YHVH your Elohim.
As noted above, the word atonement is the Hebrew word kippur meaning “atoning, reconciliation and purging.” What does man need atoning and purging from? From sin. To whom does he need to be reconciled? To the One he has sinned against—YHVH Elohim. The atonement for man’s sin occurred when Yeshua died on the cross as the writer of Hebrews discusses in great details in chapters nine and ten of that book (note also Matt 26:28; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:12; 10:19–22; 12:24; 1 Pet 1:2, 18–19; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5).
29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.
The spiritual lesson here in light of our discussion above is that those who don’t bring the carnal, sinful nature of their soul under control of the Word, Spirit and lordship of Yeshua will be cut off. To be cut off from the nation ancient Israel was tantamount to the death penalty. One could neither survive in the desert wilderness or outside of the protection of Israel among the hostile Canaanites. Similarly, there is no salvation outside of a relationship with Yeshua the Messiah and outside the nation or commonwealth of redeemed Israel (Eph 2:11–19), which is the Israel of Elohim (Gal 6:16), and the spiritual body of Yeshua (Eph 5:30) and is called the one new man (Eph 2:15), and is the spiritual olive tree of Israel into which all humans (both Jews and non-Jews) must be grafted (Rom 11:16–24). Those who are outside of the spiritual nation of redeemed Israel are without Elohim and without hope (Eph 2:12) and will perish in their sins.
30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
Those who refuse to humble themselves by afflicting their carnal soul man and accepting Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice will perish in their sins and will be cut off from Elohim and from the potential of being rewarded with the gift of eternal life. They will eventually receive divine judgment for their actions by being cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:11–15).
31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
The Torah-law of Elohim emphasizes the fact that Yom Kippur is a rest day. No work is to be done on this day. Again, this teaches us that no man can be saved by his good works. All of man’s righteous works is as filthy rags before Elohim (Isa 64:6; Phil 3:9; Tit 3:5). We are only saved and justified by the merciful grace of Elohim alone (Tit 3:5–7), which then leads us to do the good works of obedience to YHVH’s commandments (Tit 3:8; John 14:15; Eph 2:10; 1 John 2:3–6).
32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate [Heb. shabat meaning “to rest, or (cease) working”] your sabbath [Heb. shabbat].
Yom Kippur is a day to completely cease from all work and to focus completely on Yeshua’s atoning work of the cross to save man from his sins and to reconcile him to YHVH Elohim, his Creator.
When carefully examined, the seven verses of this brief passage in Leviticus about Yom Kippur reveal some glorious spiritual nuggets. In prophetic shadow form, these verses teach the whole message of the gospel and what man must do in order to be saved from the death penalty imposed on him because of his sin. The results of this atonement or salvation results in the person being reconciled to his Creator, which, as we learn elsewhere in the Scriptures, leads to eternal life as a glorified child of Elohim and member of his eternal kingdom and family.
[W]hoever believes in [Yeshua the Messiah] should not perish but have eternal life. For Elohim so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:15–16)
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of Elohim abides on him. (John 3:36)
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)
Yeshua said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. (John 11:25–26)
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
[I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Yeshua and believe in your heart that Elohim has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For “whoever calls on the name of YHVH shall be saved.” (Rom 10:9–11, 13)
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Yeshua the Messiah for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Whoever believes that Yeshua is the the Messiah is born of Elohim, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of Elohim, when we love Elohim and keep His commandments. (1 John 5:1–2)
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of Elohim; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24–29)