Why Don’t Christians Celebrate the Day of Atonement?

If God commanded the Day of Atonement to be a lasting ordinance, then why don’t Christians, who regard the Book of Leviticus as the inspired word of God, celebrate this holy day?

The reason, quite simply, is that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the purpose of the Day of Atonement by the New Testament writers. In the Gospel of Matthew, the author refers to the curtain in the temple being torn in two when Jesus died, thus destroying the separation between God and man that was remembered every year on the Day of Atonement.

In the Book of Hebrews, the central theme is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement in Jesus Christ. There are several passages in Hebrews that compare Jesus’s death to the rituals of the Day of Atonement.

Hebrews 7:26-27 reads, “For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do — first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself.”

As the perfect high priest, Jesus did not need to repeat sacrifices for himself and for his people, as Aaron did. Once was enough for Jesus.

Hebrews 9:11-14 reads, “But the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?”

The blood of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, is so much more powerful than the blood of goats and cows.

Hebrews 9:25-26 reads, “He did not do this to offer Himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, He would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Jesus’s one sacrifice is all that was needed for the removal of mankind’s sins. When his sacrifice was made, he declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Hebrews 10:11-12 states, “Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.”

What does all of this mean for the believer?

God says, “I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts. Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin” (Heb 10:17-18). The writer of Hebrews adds, “Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water” (Heb 10:19-22).